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Shields v. Town of Perrysville

Court of Appeals of Indiana

December 9, 2019

Scott Shields, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
Town of Perrysville, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          Appeal from the Vermillion Circuit Court The Honorable Robert M. Hall, Special Judge Trial Court Cause No. 83C01-1706-MI-16

          Attorney for Appellant Ronald J. Severt Covington, Indiana

          Attorney for Appellee Jon P. McCarty Covington, Indiana

          BAILEY, JUDGE.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] Scott Shields ("Shields") challenges a judgment entered in favor of the Town of Perrysville (the "Town") upon its action to quiet title. The action concerns the location of an alley adjacent to Shields's property. The dispositive issue is whether the court clearly erred in concluding the alley was located where the Town contended-which means Shields built a fence outside his property line.

         [¶2] We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶3] Shields has an interest in property within the Town that the parties refer to as Lot 4. Shields obtained a survey of Lot 4 (the "Survey"), which shows a stone drive within Lot 4 running roughly north-south. The Survey shows an alley several feet west of the stone drive-running north-south, between Lots 4 and 5. The Survey shows an outbuilding on Lot 5 almost entirely obstructing the alley.

         [¶4] After obtaining the Survey, Shields built a fence along the purported western boundary of Lot 4 depicted in the Survey. Shields built the fence a few feet from the Lot 5 outbuilding and began parking on the stone drive east of the fence. Neighbors complained, contending Shields was parking in the alley.

         [¶5] The Town filed the instant action to quiet title, alleging Shields "erected a fence [that] has completely obstructed the believed location of the alley" in which the Town obtained interest through a platted and recorded deed. App. Vol. II at 9. The Town also alleged it had an enforceable right to remove the fence due to the doctrine of title by acquiescence. A bench trial was held, which included testimony from Mike Bowman ("Bowman"), President of the Town Council.

         [¶6] Bowman testified that, as a child, he rode his bicycle down an alley east of the Lot 5 outbuilding. He testified that the outbuilding was once used as a mechanic's garage, with the garage facing the alley. Bowman testified that he went to the area and measured, and that if the alley was located where the Survey shows-west of the stone drive-the location would not accommodate the widths of lots to the west. He testified that if one instead begins measuring at the edge of the stone drive-"where the old alley would have been"-and measures to the west, "there's enough footage for all [the] lots." Tr. at 49.

         [¶7] There was also testimony from the surveyor who completed the Survey. He testified that he used 170-year-old records and that there were no obvious "monuments" or landmarks to use to correlate those records with the current observed conditions. Id. at 9-10. His conclusion as to the location of the alley was his "educated opinion," and he estimated the location of the property lines with a three-foot uncertainty in the east-west dimension. Id. at 17-18.

         [¶8] The trial court entered judgment in favor of the Town, ordering (1) "that the alley shall remain as designated by the Town and not by the [S]urvey," and (2) "that the Town has title to the area by acquiescence." App. Vol. II at 11. The trial court also ...


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