from the Clark Circuit Court Trial Court Cause No.
10C01-8906-CP-214 Honorable Richard Striegel, Special Judge
Attorney for Appellants John A. Kraft Young, Lind, Endres
& Kraft New Albany, Indiana
Attorney for Appellees Matthew J. McGovern Anderson, Indiana
Vaidik, Chief Judge.
Indiana Rule of Trial Procedure 60(B)(7) allows a court to
grant relief from a judgment if (1) "the judgment has
been satisfied, released, or discharged, " (2) "a
prior judgment upon which it is based has been reversed or
otherwise vacated, " or (3) "it is no longer
equitable that the judgment should have prospective
application." Rule 60(B) provides that a motion for such
relief "shall be filed within a reasonable time."
In this case, the trial court granted relief under the third
clause of Rule 60(B)(7)-the "no longer equitable"
provision-and the appealing parties argue that the motion was
not filed within a reasonable time. We have said that what
constitutes a "reasonable time" under Rule 60(B)
depends on the specific circumstances of each case. Here, the
motion was filed more than twenty-five years after the
judgment was entered. That is a long time. But under the
unique circumstances of this case, it was not an unreasonable
time. We therefore affirm the decision of the trial court.
and Procedural History
In 1949, Anthony, Emil, and Fred Kirchgessner acquired a
large tract of land in western Clark County. The land is
situated north of St. John Road, and members of the
Kirchgessner family have accessed the land using Kruer Road,
which runs north from St. John Road. The large tract was
gradually broken up, and Wayne and Donna Kirchgessner
purchased a forty-acre parcel from Anthony Kirchgessner's
estate in June 1984.
Just over a year later, Wayne and Donna filed a lawsuit
against the owners of nearby parcels, including numerous
other Kirchgessners, and the Clark County Board of
Commissioners. Regarding the non-government defendants, Wayne
and Donna alleged that their parcel was "landlocked,
" that Kruer Road was "the only way of ingress and
egress, " and that defendants Albert and Betty
Kirchgessner "have harrassed [sic] and physically
prevented use of Kruer Road and have denied Plaintiffs access
to their property[.]" Appellants' App. Vol. II p.
16. They asked the court to "[q]uiet title to the
easement claimed by Plaintiffs known as Kruer Road" and
sought damages related to the alleged blocking of the road.
Id. at 17-18. As to the county commissioners, Wayne
and Donna claimed that Kruer Road "has been maintained
as a Clark County road since at least 1967, " that
before they bought their parcel one of the commissioners
"represented" to Wayne "that Kruer Road was a
County road and would be maintained as such, " that
Wayne "relied upon said representation at the time he
purchased his property in 1984, " and that the county
"has since failed to maintain said road to the detriment
of Plaintiffs and as a result thereof Plaintiff[s']
property value has decreased." Id. at 16. Wayne
and Donna asked the court to "[d]eclare the roadway
known as Kruer Road a County Road and order the Clark
County Board of Commissioners to resume the maintenance of
Kruer Road as a County Road for the benefit of Plaintiffs and
Defendants." Id. at 18.
What happened with the case over the next four years is
unclear from the record, but in September 1989, Wayne and
Donna filed an amended complaint. Their allegations with
regard to the non-government defendants remained largely the
same, but they added further detail to their claim that Kruer
Road was a "county road." Id. at 24, 26.
In an answer to the amended complaint, a group of the
non-government defendants, including Albert and Betty
Kirchgessner, explained that they were not opposed to having
their property crossed by Wayne and Donna but that there was
a dispute regarding the appropriate path of the crossing. The
same defendants later entered into a Stipulation of Facts
with Wayne and Donna, which in turn was attached to a motion
for summary judgment that Wayne and Donna filed in April
1990. The parties stipulated that Kruer Road was a
"Clark County road" and that, even if it were not,
it "may be used by Wayne and Donna Kirchgessner [and]
their heirs, successors and assigns to gain access to their
property[.]" Id. at 35, 36. The stipulation
also included provisions addressing how future obstructions
of and improvements to the road would be handled. In light of
the stipulation by the non-government defendants, Wayne and
Donna's memorandum in support of their motion for summary
judgment was directed entirely at the government defendants,
focusing on the claim that Kruer Road was a county road.
In their response to Wayne and Donna's motion, the
government defendants disputed that Kruer Road was an
official "county road, " a designation that they
said only the county itself could make, and one that would
impose heightened maintenance burdens and legal liabilities
on the county. Id. at 55-63. However, they
acknowledged a history of county maintenance of the road, and
they indicated that they would have no objection to the court
declaring the road a "public highway by use" and
ordering them to perform limited maintenance on the road
(laying gravel "from time to time"). Id.
at 61-63. The government defendants described this as
"[a]n ideal resolution of the family dilemma that
brought this matter to court[.]" Id. at 62-63.
On October 1, 1990, the trial court issued its order on Wayne
and Donna's motion ("1990 Entry"). The court
declared the road a "public highway by use" and
"approve[d] the agreement of the governmental
defendants" to maintain the road as proposed.
Id. at 67. The court added that "[t]he
previously tendered Stipulation between the plaintiffs and
the non-governmental defendants is hereby ordered
withdrawn[.]" Id. at 68. The court concluded,
"That Judgment is now hereby entered in favor of
plaintiffs in accord with the terms hereof. Further, upon
plaintiffs' motion, the remainder of this entire action
is hereby ordered dismissed with prejudice."
Fast forward twenty-two years. In late 2012, the county paved
a new Kruer Road adjacent to the original road. Three years
later, in December 2015, Richard and Theresa Williams filed a
Motion to Vacate Summary Judgment Entry of October 1,
1990. They claimed that the original Kruer Road
runs through their property, that "the newly paved Kruer
Road is the primary access road over which vehicles regularly
travel and it replaced the former 'roadway, '"
and that "the need for any commissioner involvement on
the former 'roadway' from 1990 is no longer in
existence." Id. at 70-71. They argued that
"[t]here is no legal reason to continue the existence of
the 'roadway' and to, by extension, continue this
burden or cloud on the title of the real estate owned by your
movants" and that if the ...