Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
The election of remedies doctrine is an equitable principle intended to prevent excessive and repetitive litigation. It prevents a party who has two inconsistent remedies and elects to pursue one to a conclusion from later seeking recovery under the other theory.
Melvin and Louise Stratman are the owners of real property located at 2208 E. Walnut St. in Evansville, Indiana. The property next door, at 2210 E. Walnut St., is owned by Hartig. The instant dispute centers around a shared driveway that is located on both parcels of property, with the majority of the driveway being on Hartig's property. Problems began when Hartig started blocking the Stratmans’ access. They sued, alleging a perpetual easement under a written agreement and trespass. The agreement had been recorded by a former owner of Hartig’s property a minute after the deed transferring it. Hartig did not know of the agreement when purchasing his property. His summary judgment motion was denied. Hartig appealed.
Did the trial court err in denying Hartig’s motion for summary judgment on election of remedies issue?
The court reversed in part, holding the easement agreement was not within Hartig's chain of title so he could not be deemed to have constructive notice of it, and granted partial summary judgment on that issue. But it affirmed in part, holding the election of remedies doctrine did not bar the Stratmans’ suit. After their original complaint was dismissed pursuant to Trial Rule 12(B)(6), the Stratmans filed an amended complaint within the allotted time. Therefore, the dismissal of their original complaint did not act as an adjudication on the merits, a prerequisite to invoking the election of remedies doctrine, as claimed by Hartig. Additionally, pursuant to Trial Rule 15(A), a party may amend his complaint to adequately reflect alternate claims with the court's leave, and such leave must be granted "when justice so requires." Ind. Trial Rule 15(A). In keeping with the policy of this state to liberally allow the amendment of pleadings, the trial court here permitted the Stratmans to amend their complaint to include a claim of easement by agreement. Therefore, the court held that the Stratmans' claim is not barred by the election of remedies doctrine.