Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Indiana
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court denying Indiana Land Trust's motion to set aside a tax deed, holding that the LaPorte County Auditor gave adequate notice reasonably calculated to inform Indiana Land Trust Company of the impending tax sale of the property.From 2009 to 2015, the owner of vacant property did not pay property taxes. Through a third-party service, the county auditor sent simultaneous notice of an impending tax sale by way of certified letter and first-class mail to the address listed on the deed for the property. The owner, however, had moved and had not updated its address. Later, notice was published in the local newspaper. The property eventually sold and a tax deed was issued to the purchaser. The original owner moved to set aside the tax deed due to insufficient notice. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's denial of Indiana Land Trust Company's motion to set aside the tax deed, holding that the county auditor provided notice reasonably calculated, under all circumstances, to apprise the owner of the pendency of the action and afforded them an opportunity to present their objections. View "Indiana Land Trust Co. v. XL Investment Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the trial court awarding attorney's fees to Defendants in this dispute over the proposed construction of seven billboards, holding that the trial court's decision to award attorney's fees was an abuse of discretion.River Ridge Development Authority (RRDA) sued Defendants seeking a declaration that seven billboards that were set to be constructed near the planned entrance of RRDA's $25 million expansion to The River Ridge Commerce Center violated the Town of Utica's zoning ordinance. During the litigation, the relevant portion of the road along which the billboards were to be constructed was approved to become a scenic byway. Thereafter, RRDA voluntarily dismissed its complaint with prejudice. Defendants filed motions to recover attorney's fees, claiming that RRDA's behavior during litigation justified such an award. The trial court granted the motions in full. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) on the record, Defendants failed to show that any exception to the American Rule requiring each party to pay its own attorney's fees applied; and (2) therefore, the trial court abused its discretion in awarding attorney's fees. View "River Ridge Development Authority v. Outfront Media, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this dispute over the ownership of a criminal justice center the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court ordering that the title of the center be given to Floyd County, holding that the turn-over provision in the lease between the County and the Building Authority was valid and enforceable.In 1991, the New Albany, Floyd County Indiana Building Authority issued bonds to finance a criminal justice center (the Center). Pursuant to an inter-local agreement, the Building Authority would own the Center, the County would lease it, and the City of New Albany would sublease space from the County. In 1992, the County and the Building Authority executed a lease with a fifteen-year term. The lease included a turn-over provision providing that if the County did not exercise its option to purchase the Center and to renew the lease then upon expiration of the lease the Center should become property of the County. After the lease expired the Building Authority declined to transfer title. The County filed suit seeking declaratory judgment and specific performance. The Supreme Court held that the turn-over provision in the lease was valid and required that title be given to the County. View "City of New Albany v. Board of Commissioners of County of Floyd" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the trial court concluding that Plaintiff, who purchased a gravesite and later discovered that the cemetery resold the gravesite and allowed someone else to be buried there, was not entitled to the relief provided by Indiana's wrongful burial statutes, holding that Plaintiff was entitled to correction of the wrongful burial.Three decades after purchasing five contiguous gravesites, Plaintiff learned that a stranger was buried in one of those gravesites. The cemetery refused Plaintiff's demand to move the stranger's remains. Plaintiff brought this lawsuit seeking an order for the cemetery to remove the stranger's remains from the graveside and restore it to her. The trial court concluded that Plaintiff failed to show the cemetery committed wrongful burial. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's denial of damages and attorney's fees but otherwise reversed, holding that the trial court erred in concluding that Plaintiff failed to prove a wrongful burial and that the relief Plaintiff should receive is that the cemetery owner correct the wrongful burial by removing the stranger's remains from the gravesite and restoring it for Plaintiff's use. View "Salyer v. Washington Regular Baptist Church Cemetery" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the trial court dismissing a lender's complaint seeking to recover on an accelerated promissory note, holding that, under either of two statutes of limitations, the lender can assert its claim.As explained today in Blair v. EMC Mortgage, LLC, __ N.E.3d __ (Ind. Feb. 17, 2020), two statutes of limitations apply equally to a cause of action upon a promissory note. Further explained in Blair is that the Supreme Court will not impose an additional rule of reasonableness on a mortgage lender's ability to bring an action upon a closed installment contract. In the instant case, Borrower executed a promissory note and mortgage to be paid in monthly installments over twenty-five years. After Borrower stopped making payments on the note Lender accelerated the debt, demanding payment in full. Borrower did not pay, and Lender sued. Borrower moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the claim was barred by Ind. Code 34-11-2-9. The court of appeals affirmed and held that Borrower waived its argument that Ind. Code 26-1-3.1-118(a) should also apply. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Borrower did not waive its argument under section 26-1-3.1-118(a); and (2) Borrower can equally recover amounts owed under either statute of limitations. View "Collins Asset Group, LLC v. Alkhemer Alialy" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court foreclosing a mortgage but finding that Lender was entitled to recover only payments and interest that accrued after a certain date due to Indiana's six-year statute of limitations to bring an action on the note underlying a mortgage, holding that there is no need to judicially create additional time constraints on a lender's ability to bring an action upon a closed installment contract.Lawsuits to enforce obligations under closed installment contracts are subject to multiple statutes of limitations. Borrowers in this case asked the Supreme Court to impose an additional rule of reasonableness. The trial court granted partial relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) imposing additional, judicially-created time constraints upon a lender's ability to bring a claim on a closed installment contract is not necessary; (2) two statutes of limitations apply to a cause of action upon a promissory note; and (3) Lender sued within the applicable statutes of limitations. View "Blair v. EMC Mortgage, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning the State's civil complaint for forfeiture of Defendant's Land Rover the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the trial court deciding that forfeiture of the vehicle would be grossly disproportional to the gravity of Defendant's dealing offense and established an analytical framework for courts to determine whether a punitive in rem forfeiture is an excessive fine.Specifically, the Court held (1) a use-based in rem fine is excessive if (a) the property was not an instrumentality of the underlying crimes, or (b) the property was an instrumentality but the harshness of the punishment would be grossly disproportional to the gravity of the underlying offenses and the owner's culpability for the property's misuse; (2) Defendant's Land Rover was an instrumentality of the underlying offense of drug dealing; and (3) the case requires a remand for the trial court to answer the question of gross disproportionality based on the framework set forth in this opinion. View "State v. Timbs" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court ruling that Indiana's Civil Forfeiture Statute was constitutional, holding that the General Assembly may decide how and when forfeiture proceeds accrue to the "Common School Fund," which consists of, among other sources of revenue, "all forfeitures which may accrue."Indiana's Civil Forfeiture Statute, Ind. Code 34-24-1-4(d), directs the transfer of proceeds from seized property "to the treasurer of state for deposit in the common school fund." At issue in this case is whether the portion of the statute permitting the allocation of forfeiture revenue to reimburse law enforcement costs before these proceeds accrue to the Fund is constitutional under article 8, section 2 of the Indiana Constitution. The trial court concluded that the statute is constitutional. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that article 8, section 2 permits the legislature to determine how and when forfeiture proceeds accrue to the Common School Fund. View "Horner v. Curry" on Justia Law

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In this municipal-annexation case, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court against the Town of Brownsburg, holding that a trial court hearing a remonstrance proceeding on judicial review must consider the evidence submitted by both the municipality and the remonstrators.In 2013, the Town adopted an ordinance to annex 4,462 acres of property adjacent to the Town. A group of affected landowners acting through a political action committee remonstrated, seeking a declaration that the Town did not meet the statutory annexation requirements. The trial court entered judgment for the Remonstrators and against the Town, determining that the Town had not met all statutory requirements for annexing the proposed territory. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) on appellate review, the reviewing court asks not whether the record supports the municipality's decision to enact the annexation ordinance but whether it supports the trial court's decision to uphold or reject the annexation; (2) a trial court assessing the legality of a disputed annexation must equally weigh and balance the evidence submitted by both sides; and (3) the trial court did not satisfy its threshold burden to prove it met the requirements of either Ind. Code 36-4-3-13(b) or (c). View "Town of Brownsburg, Indiana v. Fight Against Brownsburg Annexation" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the Fee Exemption, a provision in Ind. Code 36-1-20-5 that allows the cities of Bloomington and West Lafayette to charge local landlords any amount to register rental properties, is unconstitutional special legislation that must be struck down but that the remainder of section 36-1-20-5 remains in force.While the Fee Exemption singles out the cities of Bloomington and West Lafayette for preferential treatment, all other Indiana localities are restricted to charging only $5 under another provision - the Fee Restriction - in section 36-1-20-5. The City of Hammond challenged the Fee Exemption as unconstitutional under Ind. Const. art. IV, 23. The Supreme Court agreed with the City and held that the Fee Exemption is unconstitutional but that the remainder of the statute, including the Fee Restriction, remained in effect and now operates statewide. View "City of Hammond v. Herman & Kittle Properties, Inc." on Justia Law