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Boyland v. Castle Farms, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

February 28, 2017

Blaine Boyland, Amy L. Boyland, David K. Jones, and Susan E. Jones, Appellants,
v.
Castle Farms, Inc., Appellee.

         Appeal from the Boone Circuit Court The Honorable J. Jeffrey Edens, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 06C01-1401-CC-37

          Attorney for Appellants Jeffrey A. Boggess Greencastle, Indiana

          Attorney for Appellee Kent M. Frandsen Parr Richey Obremskey Frandsen & Patterson LLP Lebanon, Indiana

          Brown, Judge.

         [¶1] Blaine and Amy L. Boyland and David and Susan Jones appeal the trial court's findings of fact, conclusions, and judgment in favor of Castle Farms, Inc., ("Castle Farms") regarding title to certain real property. They raise several issues which we consolidate and restate as whether the court's judgment is clearly erroneous. We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] Castle Farms owns real property north of and adjacent to real property owned by the Boylands and the Joneses in Boone County, Indiana, and the Boylands' property is located to the east of the Joneses' property. In 1959, a subdivision plat and dedication for a residential subdivision, The Woods, was recorded with the Boone County Recorder, and Lots 1, 2, and 3 were located along the northern border of the subdivision.[1] In 1960, a quitclaim deed conveyed to the owner of Lot 1 "[a] strip sixty-one (61) feet in width immediately adjacent to, alongside and north of Lot No. 1 in The Woods, " and a quitclaim deed conveyed to the owner of Lot 2 "[a] strip sixty-one (61) feet in width immediately adjacent to, alongside and north of Lot No. 2 in The Woods." Defendant's Exhibits E, G.

         [¶3] In 1992, Castle Farms purchased certain farm property from Corner Grove Farms, Inc. ("Corner Grove"), and the purchased property included a field to the north of The Woods subdivision. The field north of The Woods is separated from the residential lots by an old fence and tree line. At the time of the purchase, Castle Farms obtained an ALTA minimum standards detail survey from Anderson & Associates Land Surveyors depicting the property conveyed by Corner Grove to Castle Farms (the "1992 Survey").[2] The legal description of the property purchased by Castle Farms set forth on the 1992 Survey stated that the southern boundary was located, in part, "along an existing fence, . . . the North line of the Himmelein Property . . . and the North line of the Jones Property."[3] Plaintiff's Exhibit 20. Also, the 1992 Survey depicted Elizaville Road as located south of The Woods and indicated that the distance from a point on Elizaville Road[4] to the southern boundary of the property conveyed to Castle Farms as 700.3 feet. Dean Jackson farmed the field north of The Woods prior to its purchase by Castle Farms and continued to farm the field after 1992 pursuant to a sharecrop agreement with Castle Farms.

         [¶4] In 1993, the Joneses acquired a residential lot which included part of Lot 1 and a strip sixty-one feet in width immediately adjacent to and north of Lot 1. In 2002, the Boylands acquired a residential lot which included part of Lot 2 and part of a strip sixty-one feet in width immediately north of and adjacent to the north line of Lot 2.

         [¶5] Terry Castle, one of the principal owners of Castle Farms, first learned there was a question about the location of the boundary line when Blaine Boyland contacted a member of his family on November 26, 2007. Terry met with Blaine at the Boylands' property, looked at some drawings, and walked out on the field with Blaine. Terry indicated he did not wish to sell any land to the Boylands. At that time, Terry did not notice any dumping of logs or other items across the fence row, observed that the fence or fence remnants existed, felt comfortable with his ownership and did not see anything that was in question, and had not noticed the Boylands trying to occupy any of his property. On December 7, 2007, the Boylands re-recorded the warranty deed they received in 2002 but attached a modified legal description which indicated: "Also 61 feet in width immediately North and lying adjacent to the North line of the above described real estate."[5] Plaintiff's Exhibit 9.

         [¶6] In 2013, Jackson informed Terry Castle he was unable to farm the property, and Terry visited the field and noticed that logs, cut wood, ash, and leaves had been placed or dumped north of the fence line, that there was no fence in the area where the Boylands placed their drive, that the Boylands' driveway had been extended to the north from where it had been located in 2007 and where he thought the boundary between the properties was located, and that the logs and other debris extended north thirty or forty feet from where he thought the boundary existed. A letter was sent to the Boylands on behalf of Castle Farms in October 2013; the Boylands did not make any changes.

         [¶7] On January 31, 2014, Castle Farms filed a complaint for trespass against the Boylands alleging it was the legal owner and in possession of certain real property, [6] that the Boylands had placed or caused to be placed upon a portion of its property large quantities of wood, tree stumps, lumber, and other materials, and that no action had been taken by the Boylands to remedy the trespass. The Boylands filed an answer and counterclaim, and the counterclaim alleged that they and their predecessors in title have possessed a tract of land "sixty-one (61) feet in width immediately North and lying adjacent to the North line of the real estate described in Paragraph 4"[7] and that they are the legal owners of the strip as a result of adverse possession. Appellant's Appendix at 74. Castle Farms filed a reply to the Boylands' counterclaim denying the Boylands had acquired any lawful interest in the sixty-one-foot-wide strip and alleging that any attempt by the Boylands to acquire an interest in its land by virtue of the 2007 revision and re-recording of a deed fails as a matter of law. It alleged that the Boylands' purported attempt to add sixty-one feet to their property was undertaken without lawful consideration and without the consent, authority, or knowledge of Castle Farms.

         [¶8] On January 30, 2015, the Joneses filed a motion to intervene which stated that the dispute between Castle Farms and the Boylands involved "[a] strip sixty-one (61) feet in width immediately adjacent to, alongside and north of Lot No. 2 in The Woods, " that "[t]he Joneses' chain of title includes an identical conveyance, with the sixty-one (61) feet lying immediately adjacent to, alongside, and north of Lot No. 1, " and the court granted the motion to intervene. Id. at 80. The Joneses' complaint alleged counts of quiet title, trespass, and conversion and requested the court to decree that they are the fee simple owners of a strip sixty-one feet in width immediately adjacent to and north of Lot No. 1 in the Woods.

         [¶9] On March 2, 2015, the Boylands filed an amended answer and counterclaim alleging counts of quiet title, trespass, conversion, and adverse possession. They alleged that they are the owners of a sixty-one-foot-wide strip "lying adjacent to the North line of the real estate described in Paragraph 4"[8] and requested a judgment that they are the fee simple owners of the strip. Id. at 100.

         [¶10] On March 9, 2015, Castle Farms filed a reply to the Boylands' amended counterclaim which included affirmative defenses and alleged: "It is Castle Farms which has occupied and farmed the 61-foot strip of land in issue for more than the past 10 years and such occupation and use has been open and exclusive and adverse to any claim of the Boylands. Hence, Castle Farms has acquired ownership of that land by adverse possession, if it does not own it outright." Id. at 107. Castle Farms also filed an answer to the Joneses' complaint which stated: "If the 61-foot strip of land referenced in the Jones' complaint includes any land north of the fence row that has historically separated The Woods subdivision, as amended from the adjacent farm field, Castle Farms has occupied that land continuously and openly for more than 10 years and has acquired ownership thereof by adverse possession." Id. at 111.

         [¶11] On April 6 and 9, 2015, the court held a bench trial at which the parties presented testimony and documentary evidence regarding title to the parcels, the tree and fence line, and Castle Farms' farming activities. The court admitted into evidence the property record cards for the tax parcel related to Castle Farms' field for a number of years between 2001 and 2014, and the cards showed a "Parcel Acreage" of 64.780 to 64.789 acres, "Total Acres Farmland" of 64.000 to 64.001, and "Measured Acreage" of 61.732 to 62.060. See Defendants' Exhibits BG-BQ. The court also admitted Castle Farms' tax statements from the Boone County Treasurer dated 2013 and 2014, both of which stated, under the parcel's description, the figure "64.78."[9] Plaintiff's Exhibit 14.

         [¶12] Terry Castle testified that his company obtained the 1992 Survey when it purchased the land from Corner Grove, the survey included a reference to The Woods, and it showed that the southern boundary of Castle Farms' property was approximately seven hundred feet from Elizaville Road. He indicated that the property tax statement to be paid in 2013 points out a legal description of just under sixty-five acres and that, from what he could tell and as far as he knew, Castle Farms had been paying property taxes on the land it had purchased pursuant to the 1992 Survey. When asked "[h]as there ever been any adjustment in the . . . tax bills to reflect ...


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