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Woman’s claim for reformation of deed fails

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A Vanderburgh County woman who filed a lawsuit for reformation of a deed 46 years after receiving the warranty deed lost her appeal of a trial court ruling in favor of neighboring property owners.

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the grant of partial summary judgment for Kent and Marjorie Powelson on Betty Angel’s claims for reformation of a deed and adverse possession. In 1964, Kent Powelson’s grandmother executed a warranty deed transferring 73 acres, “more or less,” to Angel and her husband. The Angels were also granted an easement for roadway purposes. The remaining 7 acres, “more or less,” were conveyed to Kent Powelson’s father in the 1970s, who later conveyed it to the Powelsons. The Powelsons also had an easement to the roadway.

After the Powelsons allowed a cell phone company to put a tower on their property, Angel sued the Powelsons in 2010, claiming, among other things, that the legal description of the property boundaries in her 1964 deed should be reformed because she was misinformed by Kent Powelson’s grandmother as to how much land she was receiving. Angel claimed that she only received 71.6 acres. She also claimed that she established ownership to the roadway through adverse possession.

Vanderburgh Superior Judge Robert Tornatta granted partial summary judgment on these two claims, finding the doctrine of laches bars Angel’s claim for reformation of the deed. Tornatta also found that the claim for adverse possession failed because her use of the roadway was not exclusive or hostile.

The Court of Appeals affirmed in Betty J. Angel v. Kent H. Powelson and Marjorie A. Powelson, 82A04-1205-PL-292, pointing to how long Angel waited to file her claim for reformation of the deed and that the deed was recorded and a matter of public record. Her failure to give heed to the “more or less” language in the deed does not defeat the application of laches, the judges held. In addition, the Powelsons were prejudiced by her delay in bringing the claim because witnesses such as Kent Powelson’s grandmother and father were deceased.

The judges also upheld the grant of summary judgment to the Powelsons on Angel’s claim of adverse possession of the roadway because she couldn’t show the elements of control and intent. Both Angel and the Powelsons were granted an easement to use the roadway and both used it for ingress and egress purposes.

 

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