COA orders judgment in favor of woman on adverse possession claim

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Because there is evidence that both the woman who purchased land from a trust and the trustee paid taxes on a disputed 1.8 acres of land for at least 10 years, the woman’s claim for adverse possession of the land should be granted, the Indiana Court of Appeals held.

Neighbors William and Mary Ann Henry and Margo Liebner went to court over who owned a 1.786-acre triangular parcel of farmland. It is located to the south of the Henry’s property and to the north of Leibner’s property. Leibner obtained her property via auction in 2004 from a living trust set up by previous owners Charles and Marguerite Niblock, who purchased the land in 1962.

The Henry’s purchased their land in 2011 after it was foreclosed upon. The previous owners, Kenneth and Kathleen Gibbs, purchased the land in 2001. The land was originally owned by the Niblocks and later conveyed in 1990 via warranty deed to David and Cheryl Ide, who sold it to the Gibbs.

Leibner, believing the triangular portion of land belonged to her, rented it to a farmer. When the Henrys moved in, they believed the land belonged to them and sought to have the farmer pay them or quit farming the land.

The trial court determined that the Henrys did not have title to the parcel and that the Niblocks had obtained title via adverse possession. The trial court did not conclude that Liebner had obtained title to the parcel by adverse possession, but that the Niblocks or their heirs may have an interest in the parcel.

In William Arnold Henry and Mary Ann Henry v. Margo Liebner, 09A02-1401-PL-53, the Henrys don’t dispute that Liebner had adverse possession over the land for the seven years she lived on her property, but challenge her attempt to meet the necessary 10-year period required to establish adverse possession by tacking on the Niblocks’ possession. They argued she did not show her predecessors had paid taxes on the parcel in question, and the COA agreed.

“Our review of the record reveals that there is simply no testimony or other evidence regarding the Niblocks’ or the Trustee’s payment of taxes during the relevant period of June 1990 to June 2000. Thus, there is no evidence to support a finding (even an implicit one) that they had substantially complied with the adverse possession tax statute during the required ten-year period from 1990 to 2000 in order to support the trial court’s conclusion that ‘Niblock’ had acquired title to the triangular parcel in June 2000 based on adverse possession,” Judge Rudolph Pyle III wrote.

But there is evidence to support a determination that there was compliance with the adverse possession tax statute after the property was purchased by the Gibbses in May 2001 until March 2004 when Liebner purchased her property from the trustee. Kathleen Gibbs testified that she believed the land belonged to the trustee and the trust paid taxes on it and that she and her husband never paid taxes on it.

Because there is evidence that Leibner and her predecessor paid taxes and complied with the adverse possession tax statute from May 2001 until 2011, the judges remanded to the trial court to enter judgment in favor of Liebner on her claim of adverse possession.


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