Court Holds That Three Year Statute of Limitations Applies to a Quiet Title Action Where Plaintiff Challenged the Validity of a Joint Tenancy Deed
In Walters v. Boosinger, a California Appellate Court held that a quiet title action was subject to a three-year statute of limitation and, thus, time-barred as the claim was not brought within three years of actual notice of the facts constituting the basis for a fraud-based quiet title claim.
The action involved a dispute over ownership of real property between the son, who was the administrator of his father’s estate, and his father’s former girlfriend. A deed reflected that the father and his former girlfriend owned the property as joint tenants, but the son asserted there was no joint tenancy.
The matter was complicated by the fact that the father had initiated the action as a partition action, claiming he owned a 66.7 percent interest in the Property and requesting that the Court require the former girlfriend to purchase his interest or conduct a forced sale. The father died while the action was pending and his son substituted in as the plaintiff. When the son filed an amended complaint, he inserted a claim for quiet title, in addition to partition.
Upon the father’s death, the former girlfriend claimed that she was the sole owner as the surviving joint tenant. The son’s quiet title claim asserted that the deed was void ab initio, and claimed that his father had not intended to create the joint tenancy and that the broker’s representative knew or should have known that the father was an alcoholic during the refinancing process from which the deed was created. The former girlfriend filed a demurrer, challenging the son’s amended complaint and asserting that the three year statute of limitations for fraud or mistake under Code of Civil Procedure Section 338 applied to the son’s claim. The former girlfriend relied on judicially noticeable court documents from April 2007, which demonstrated that the father had actual notice that she was claiming half of the property as a joint owner. Under these facts, the former girlfriend claimed that any action for quiet title had to be brought by April 2010.
The son argued that the claim could be brought “at any time.” The Court rejected this argument and affirmed the trial court’s decision to sustain the demurrer without leave to amend, holding that the three-year statute of limitations for fraud applied to his claim. In determining the statute of limitations applicable to quiet title claims, courts will examine the underlying theory of relief. Since the claim was not filed within three years of April 2007, it was time-barred.
In addition, as the father had died, the son had no interest in the property and could not assert a claim for partition. The son also claimed that the joint tenancy had been severed by his father and the former girlfriend. The Court held that the son failed to allege sufficient facts demonstrating any such severance and he could not amend his complaint to do so.
Kendra J. Pappas, firstname.lastname@example.org