Brown v. Penn Cent. Corp., 43S03-8707-CV-695

CourtSupreme Court of Indiana
Citation510 N.E.2d 641
Docket NumberNo. 43S03-8707-CV-695,43S03-8707-CV-695
PartiesBronson G. BROWN, Loma Jean Brown, Donald H. Puff, Carolyn E. Puff, Hobart Steward, Ruth Steward, Ralph D. Felger, Bronson G. Brown, and Loma Jean Brown, Appellants, v. The PENN CENTRAL CORPORATION and Keystone Concrete, Inc., Appellees.
Decision Date22 July 1987

William M. Bloom, Bloom, Bloom & Fleck, P.C., Columbia City, for appellants.

Wayne L. Witmer, Barrett, Barrett & McNagny, Fort Wayne, for appellees.

PIVARNIK, Justice.

This cause comes to us on a petition to transfer from the Third District Court of Appeals. The petition is brought by Plaintiffs-Appellants, owners of several lots of real estate in Churubusco, Indiana. The lots are contiguous to a railroad right-of-way running through the town. Defendant-Appellee, Penn Central, is the successor in interest to the land in question.

Plaintiffs brought suit to quiet title to these lots in themselves. The trial court found that Penn Central's right-of-way was extinguished, but that Penn Central was vested with fee simple title to a certain strip of land contiguous to the right-of-way. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's determination. The issue in this petition is whether the strip of land in question was originally conveyed in fee simple or as an easement. Because we disagree with the lower courts' determination, we grant transfer, vacate the opinion of the Court of Appeals and reverse the trial court.

The facts set out by the Court of Appeals are as follows:

"On July 6, 1871 the Detroit, Eel River and Illinois Railroad (railroad) acquired by deed an interest in certain lands in the Town of Churubusco, Indiana from Western and Caroline Ackley. The land described in the deed included both a right-of-way, 100 feet in width, and a strip conveyed for "depot and railroad purposes." This depot ground and railroad property was originally 200 feet in width and extended 1000 feet in length along the south side of the right-of-way. The appellants are the owners of several lots of real estate in Churubusco, which are contiguous to the railroad right-of-way and the ground designated "for depot and railroad purposes." The appellee, Penn Central Corporation (Penn Central) is the successor to the original grantee railroad corporation.

Penn Central ceased operating the railroad through Churubusco and abandoned the right-of-way on November 30, 1973. However, it continued to collect rents from two tenants which were occupying space on the depot and railroad property. Subsequently, the appellants brought an action to quiet title to these lands in themselves. The trial court held that the railroad received nothing more than an easement as to the right-of-way, which was extinguished when it was no longer used for railroad purposes. The court, however, ruled against the appellants as to the depot and railroad property, and held that Penn Central was vested with fee simple title to this strip."

Omitting the formal portions, the deed in question reads as follows:


That Western Ackley and Caroline Ackley, his wife of Whitley County, Indiana in consideration of the location and construction of the Detroit, Eel River and Illinois Railroad, and three hundred dollars, to them in hand paid by the Detroit, Eel River and Illinois Railroad Company, the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, do give, grant, bargain, sell and convey to said Company, the Right of Way for the use of the Railroad of said Company over and across:

[The North West quarter of the South West quarter of Section Thirteen (13) in Township Thirty-Two (32) North of Range Ten (10) East. Also the East 1/2 of the North half of the South West quarter of said Section Thirteen (13) and the West part of the North half of the South East quarter of said Section Thirteen (13) in said County of Whitley. Also a strip Two hundred feet in width on the South Side of the Right of Way hereby conveyed and adjoining the same and one thousand feet in length extending from the Public Highway on the East line of said road being for Depot and Rail Road purposes.]

for the width of fifty feet on each side of the center line of said Road, as located by the Logansport and Northern Indiana Rail Road Company, and as now located, and for the distance between the limits of said track, to include, also, the right of said Company to take materials, except timber, for the construction and repairs of said Road at any point within fifty feet of said line, together with the Right of Way over said tract of land sufficient to enable said Company to construct and repair its Road, and the right to conduct water by aquaduces, (sic) and the right of making proper drains.

To Have and to Hold the same Rights and Privileges to the use of said Company, so long as the same shall be required for the use and purposes of said Road, in as full, perfect, and ample a manner as may be required for that purpose."

The portion of the deed contained in our brackets was handwritten. The remaining portion of the deed was pre-printed. It appears that the deed was designed in this manner so that a description of the land acquired could be inserted in hand-written form. This particular deed form was prepared by the railroad for use in acquiring railroad right-of-ways.

There are several rules of construction to be used when construing the meaning of a particular deed. The object of deed construction is to ascertain the intent of the parties. Hemenway Memorial Presbyterian Church v. Aigner (1982), Ind.App., 443 N.E.2d 93, 94. In so...

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41 cases
  • Memmer v. United States
    • United States
    • Court of Federal Claims
    • 2 Noviembre 2020 a right-of-way in such a conveyance generally leads to its construction as conveying only an easement.Brown v. Penn Cent. Corp., 510 N.E.2d 641, 643-44 (Ind. 1987) (citations omitted); accord Ross, Inc. v. Legler, 199 N.E.2d 346, 348 (Ind. 1964) ("A deed, when the interest conveyed is de......
  • Close Armstrong, LLC v. Trunkline Gas Co.
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    • 21 Enero 2020 an ambiguity in the deed, the parties' intention must be determined from the language of the deed alone. Brown v. Penn Cent. Corp. , 510 N.E.2d 641, 643 (Ind. 1987).Both sides advocate the plain language of the right-of-way agreements. Together, the landowners alternatively offer several......
  • Penn Cent. Corp. v. U.S. R.R. Vest Corp., 91-2608
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    • 3 Marzo 1992
    ...right of way, that is, an easement, terminable when the acquirer's use terminates, rather than a fee simple. Brown v. Penn Central Corp., 510 N.E.2d 641, 644 (Ind.1987); Ross, Inc. v. Legler, 245 Ind. 655, 199 N.E.2d 346 (1964); Highland Realty Co. v. City of San Rafael, 46 Cal.2d 669, 678,......
  • Hefty v. All Other Members of the Certified Settlement Class, 61S05-9507-CV-799
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Indiana
    • 2 Junio 1997
    ...the meaning of a deed in general, and of a deed conveying a strip of land to a railroad in particular, in Brown v. Penn Central Corp., 510 N.E.2d 641 (Ind.1987). In Brown, owners of a strip of land contiguous to a railroad right-of-way running through Churubusco sought to quiet title to the......
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