Angel v. Powelson (IN)


Summary: Action for reformation of deed was barred under the doctrine of laches, because a 46 year delay in filing the claim was inexcusable based on the facts. Action for adverse possession was barred, because both parties were granted an easement to use a roadway thus negating the elements of control and intent.


Angel v. Powelson, 977 N.E.2d 434 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012).


Facts:  The appellee (“the Powelsons”) and the appellant (“Angel”) each own parcels of land divided from an 80-acre parcel owned by the appellee’s grandmother, Nora Powelson. In 1964, Nora conveyed and recorded a deed for “73 acres, more or less” to the appellant, Angel and in 1974, Nora Powelson conveyed the remaining 7 acres of her original parcel to the appellee’s parents. Both deeds contained an easement for a roadway for ingress and egress. In 1978, the 7-acre parcel was conveyed by Powelson’s parents to Powelson and included the easement to use the roadway for “roadway purposes” and later Powelson conveyed the parcel to himself and his wife as tenants by the entireties. In the 1980s, Angel bought additional parcels to the north of her land and in 2006 she sold a portion of the parcel to a third party, all using the roadway easement for ingress and egress. In December 2008, the Powelsons granted a public easement to T-Mobile for place a cell tower on their property, which led to the present lawsuit because Angel believed the power lines were trespassing and encroaching on her property.

Angel filed a four-count complaint against the Powelsons in June 2010 including a reformation of the 1964 warranty deed because the property boundaries in the deed actually described 71.6 acres instead of 73 and a declaratory judgment that she adversely possessed the roadway and established a prescriptive easement in relation to the parcels acquired in the 1980s. The trial court denied Angel’s motion for summary judgment and granted Powelson’s motion for summary judgment on the reformation of a deed finding that there was no fraud in the deed and the claim was barred by laches. The court also granted summary judgment to the Powelsons for the adverse possession claim because Angel failed to satisfy all elements of the claim. Angel appealed, contending that the trial court erred by (A) considering Powelsons designated evidence; (B) granting Powelsons summary judgment on the reformation of a deed; and (C) granting summary judgment to the Powelson for the adverse possession claim.


Holding:  Affirmed by the appellate court. Angel first contended that the trial court erred by considering the Powelson’s designated evidence because it failed to provide a specific reference to the designated evidence pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 56(C). The appellate court determined that Angel waived her right to review the designated evidence because she failed to provide a citation to the record on appeal showing where the trial court entered an order denying her request to strike or disregard the designated evidence or otherwise make a ruling on Angel’s objection to the designated evidence.

The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the Powelson’s on the reformation claim based on the doctrine of laches which can bar a plaintiff’s claim if a defendant establishes 1) an inexcusable delay in asserting a known right; 2) an implied waiver arising from knowing acquiescence in existing conditions; and 3) a change in circumstances causing prejudice to the adverse party. Here the court found that the 46 year delay on this claim was inexcusable because Angel had knowledge of the acreage because the face of the deed said “73 acres, more or less” and it was recorded giving her notice. The court also explained that equity should not intervene where the complaining party failed to read the instrument or failed to give heed to its plain terms. The court also stated the delay in the claim prejudiced the Powelson’s because witnesses who could have provided “valuable testimony” regarding the conveyance had died.

Regarding adverse possession, the appellate court found no error in granting summary judgment in favor of the Powelsons. The undisputed designated evidence revealed that both Angel and the Powelsons were granted an easement to use the roadway and that both used it for ingress and egress purposes; thus, the elements for adverse possession in Indiana of ‘control’ and ‘intent’ were negated.

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By: ATG Underwriting Department | Posted on: Tue, 01/08/2013 - 3:58pm