Woman breached settlement in trail construction dispute

December 4, 2015

The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court that a Yorktown resident breached the terms of a settlement she reached with the town over easements to construct storm sewers and a residential trail when she declined to donate the easement for the trail unless other conditions were met.

The town of Yorktown sought to condemn portions of Sara Ellison’s property in order to obtain two permanent easements and one temporary construction easement to construct a storm sewer and residential hiking trail. The sewer was needed to deal with runoff from a nearby sports park. The two reached a settlement, in which Yorktown would pay Ellison $15,000 and she would donate the residential easement for the trail.

While she executed the storm sewer and temporary construction easements, she did not execute the trail easement. She sent letters to the town seeking more assurances as to the construction of the trail, saying she had issues about its impact on her property value.

Yorktown then sought to exercise eminent domain on the easement and enforce the agreement negotiated through counsel. The trial court granted the town’s motion for summary judgment.

“Ellison proposed a final settlement agreement which, if accepted, required Yorktown to pay her $15,000, to relocate the storm sewer to the southern boundary line, and to make certain assurances in regards to the storm sewer’s construction and engineering. If Yorktown agreed, Ellison promised to execute all three easements. Yorktown agreed to Ellison’s terms, and Ellison had a contractual duty to execute and deliver all three easements as agreed by the parties,” Judge Margret Robb wrote.

“Ultimately, however, Ellison declined to donate the residential easement unless Yorktown provided additional assurances in regards to the residential trail easement — assurances that were never a part of the bargained-for-exchange. Therefore, we conclude the parties formed a valid settlement agreement and Ellison breached the agreement by failing to donate the residential trail easement.”

And the appeals court found the parties formed a valid settlement agreement that satisfies the Statute of Frauds, so summary judgment was appropriate in favor of Yorktown.

The case is Sara Ellison v. Town of Yorktown, Indiana, 18A02-1504-PL-233.


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