COA: Couple not entitled to land easement to landlocked pole barn

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A Mooresville couple requesting a land easement of necessity for easier access to their pole barn will not be granted any such relief from the Court of Appeals of Indiana.

The case of Kevin D. Albertson and Pamela L. Albertson v. Richard Cadwell and Lisa Cadwell, 22A-PL-782, started in 2018, when Pamela and Kevin Albertson bought a lot on Hickory Hill Trail in a new subdivision in Mooresville.

At some point, the Albertsons contacted Richard and Lisa Cadwell, who owned 24 acres east of and contiguous with the Albertsons’ lot, and asked them to sell them a portion of their property.

In June 2019, the Albertsons and Cadwells executed a purchase agreement for approximately one-half of an acre of the Cadwell property. The agreement provided, “This is not a recorded easement or recorded agreement just a friendly agreement between neighbors.”

The Albertsons then hired surveyor Mike Sheppard, who discovered a small gap, less than 3 feet wide, between the Albertson lot and the Cadwell property. According to Sheppard, “It’s just a big mess created by poor quality surveying and I don’t see any way to fix it without a survey[,] and even that wouldn’t fix the gap issue.”

The Albertsons passed along that information to the Cadwells, but neither party addressed the “gap issue” before they closed on the sale of the new parcel.

Then in February 2020, the Albertsons submitted an application to the Hendricks County Building Department for a permit to build a pole barn that would be built “directly east of 8585 Hickory Hill Tr[ai]l” and that they would access the barn “from that property.” Additionally, the Cadwells constructed a driveway across their property that connected the Albertsons’ barn to County Road 825 East.

In mid-2020, the Cadwells decided to sell their property. The Albertsons expressed an interest in buying some of it, but in April 2021, the Cadwells found a buyer for the entire parcel.

Around that time, the Albertsons were trying to get a mortgage on their property. On July 30, Pamela texted the Cadwells asking if they knew anything about a 2-foot strip of ground that was between their lot and the property sold to them.

The Albertsons then asked the Cadwells to execute affidavits stating that the Albertsons owned the gap parcel. The Cadwells did not execute the affidavits.

The Albertsons filed a complaint for declaratory judgment against the Cadwells seeking an easement of necessity toward County Road 825 East over the Cadwell property on the theory that the new parcel was landlocked by virtue of the gap parcel.

The Cadwells executed a quitclaim deed to transfer title of the gap parcel to the Albertsons, then filed a motion for partial summary judgment on the easement of necessity issue.

Following a hearing, the Hendricks Circuit Court entered partial summary judgment for the Cadwells.

At the Court of Appeals, judges affirmed.

“We agree with the Cadwells that, because the parties agreed at the time of the conveyance of the new parcel that the Albertsons would not have an easement across the Cadwell property, the Albertsons’ claim to such an easement now fails as a matter of law,” Judge Paul D. Mathias wrote.

“… Here, the undisputed designated evidence established the parties’ intention that the Albertsons would not have an easement over the Cadwell property,” Mathias continued. “The purchase agreement provides that the Albertsons would have only ‘occasional access’ across the Cadwell property for the listed reasons and that that access was ‘not a recorded easement’ but ‘just a friendly agreement between neighbors.’”

The appellate panel concluded the Albertsons did nothing to resolve the gap issue before they closed on the purchase of the new parcel and knowingly bought a landlocked parcel without securing an access easement.

“Put simply, the law will not support an implied easement where the parties’ explicit intent is otherwise,” Mathias concluded. “We hold that, given the parties’ clearly-expressed intent that the Albertsons would not have an easement across the Cadwell property, the trial court did not err when it entered partial summary judgment for the Cadwells on the Albertsons’ alleged easement of necessity. Because we may affirm the trial court on any theory supported by the designated evidence, we need not address the Albertsons’ challenges to the court’s specific findings.”

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