Countrywide Home Loans v. Holland (IN)

Summary: Abandonment does not divest the fee simple owner of legal title to the property such that a third party could acquire it by merely taking possession and making improvements.


Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. v. Holland, 993 N.E.2d 184 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013).


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Facts: On October 4, 2010, Robert Holland filed suit against Joslyn Washington, Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., and all other interested parties regarding an abandoned property in Gary, Indiana. Holland claimed that Washington and Countrywide abandoned the property in late 2009 and, as a consequence, it fell into disrepair and became an attractive nuisance for criminal activity. Holland took possession of the property to maintain and repair it. In Holland’s complaint, he sought to quiet title and foreclose on a common-law lien for the costs of abating the property.

On November 29, 2010, Washington filed an answer admitting she abandoned the property after Countrywide foreclosed but no sheriff sale occurred. Furthermore, she asserted that she surrendered her legal and equitable interest in the property to Countrywide after her bankruptcy. On December 6, 2010, Holland moved for judgment on the pleadings regarding quiet title.

On December 17, 2010, Countrywide filed an answered denying all Holland’s allegations and counterclaimed for slander of title and damages for injury of recording a baseless lien. Three days later, Countrywide filed a motion to dismiss alleging Holland does not hold title to the property, Indiana law does grant compensation for voluntarily repair to another’s property, and pointed out that Holland did not attach a lien to the complaint required by Ind. Trial R. 9.2. In response, Holland filed motion for summary judgment. Countrywide did not answer Holland’s motion for summary judgment and on February, 24, 2011 the trial court granted Holland’s motion. The trial court also granted Countrywide’s motion to dismiss Holland’s lien claim. On December 28, 2011, the trial awarded Holland nominal damages in the amount of one dollar for abating the property. Countrywide appealed.


Holding: Affirmed in part, reverse in part. On appeal, the court held that Holland was not entitled to summary judgment even though Countrywide did not file a response. The court cited precedent that the party requesting summary judgment still bears the burden of showing the propriety of summary judgment even if there is a lack of opposition. Furthermore, it was evident from the trial court record that the only reason for granting Holland’s motion was because Countrywide failed to respond.

The court held that abandonment does not divest the fee simple owner of legal title to the property such that a person like Holland could acquire it by merely taking possession of it.

The court also held that Holland did not acquire title to the property by adverse possession, state a public nuisance claim upon which relief could be granted, or hold a common law lien on the property. For Holland to obtain ownership of the property by adverse possession, he would have to prove among other things, that he continuously possess the land for ten years, which he did not. In order for the court sustain a claim of public nuisance, Holland must have shown a special or peculiar injury beyond that suffered by the public. He failed to do so because, in his complaint, Holland failed to differentiate his harm caused by the abandoned property from any other citizen of Gary. Lastly, Holland’s common law lien claim was correctly denied because the debt he asserted that was owed to him was for a public nuisance claim, of which he had no right to relief.


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By: ATG Underwriting Department | Posted on: Fri, 01/16/2015 - 12:51pm