COA: Adverse possession gives farm owner title to Boone Co. property

The Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled that a farm owner is the legal title holder of a disputed 61-foot-wide portion of a Boone County property, holding that the doctrine of adverse possession gives him the title.

In Boone County, Castle Farm Inc.’s property sits adjacent to property owned by Blaine and Amy Boyland and David and Susan Jones. In 1992, Corner Grove Farms Inc. sold Castle Farms certain property that included a field to the north of The Woods, a subdivision in the county.

The Joneses and Boylands acquired lots 1 and 2, respectively, located along the northern border of The Woods in 1993. In 2007, Blaine Boyland contacted Terry Castle, owner of Castle Farms, with questions about the location of a boundary line, but Castle said he did not wish to sell any of his land and further felt that he rightfully owned the property in question.

In 2014, Castle Farms filed a trespass complaint against the Boylands, alleging that they had placed large quantities of wood on his portion of the property. The Joneses moved to intervene in 2015, alleging counts of quiet title, trespass and conversion and requesting the court to decree that they were the fee simple owners of a strip of land 61 feet in width adjacent to Lot 1 in The Woods.

The Boone Circuit Court ultimately found Castle Farms to be the owner of the disputed property by adverse possession. Among its 207 findings was that Castle Farms “intended to pay the property tax on the strip and had a reasonable and good faith belief that it actually had paid them since 1992.”

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed that judgment on Tuesday, with Judge Elaine Brown writing that under Fraley v. Minger, 829 N.E.2d 476, 486 (Ind. 2005), adverse possession can be established through proof of control, intent, notice and duration for a 10-year period.  Further, under Indiana Code 32-21-7-1(a), possession of real property is not adverse to the owner unless the adverse possessor pays all taxes it “reasonably believes in good faith” to be due.

Based on the evidence in the case – including a 1992 land survey depicting the boundaries of the land, a fence line and tax statements – the trial court’s findings that the survey included the 61-foot strip within the property that Castle Farms purchased and that Castle Farms has paid all property taxes are supported, Brown wrote. Similarly, the court’s conclusion that Castle Farms had a reasonable and good faith belief that it had paid the property taxes is not erroneous, the judge said.

The case is Blaine Boyland, Amy L. Boyland, David K. Jones, and Susan E. Jones v. Castle Farms, Inc., 06A05-1511-CC-1867.

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