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Title - Chain of - Demonstration of

Thursday, September 01, 2016 @ 8:00 PM  

Appeal by Naugle from a decision quieting the title to competing ownership claims to real property and issuing a certificate of title to the respondent trustee. Of the 300 acres involved, the appellant claimed ownership to approximately 100 acres. The trial judge was of the view that the competing chains of title were close in quality, with the trustee’s title being no worse and perhaps just a bit better than that of the appellant. The 300 acre parcel was landlocked and was comprised of multiple lots. When the bordering property became developed, the trustee sought to sell the property and brought an application under the Quieting Titles Act. The appellant then set about to solidify the transfer of lands from his uncle in 2013 and the prior chain of title which included a 1936 deed to the uncle’s mother. The competing chains of title went back a generation behind two brothers to the will of their father and the wording of his will. The trial judge found that even if the appellant had a good chain of paper title, the trial judge was not able to locate his lands on the ground and within the 300 acre parcel the trustee sought to quiet. The approximate 100 acres in dispute had always been woodland. The trial judge placed a great deal of weight on the estate inventory and the absence of any express reference to woodland therein.

HELD: Appeal allowed. New trial ordered. The trial judge elevated the estate inventory to, in effect, a document in the chain of title. It was incorrect and an error of law for him to do so. The trial judge’s repeated reference to the significance of the estate inventory evidence was supportive of the appellant’s claim that his use of it tipped the scales. The trial judge’s incorrect interpretation and application of the estate inventory undermined the stock he placed on the appellant’s paper title and the opinion evidence provided by the appellant’s expert respecting the ownership and location of the disputed property. This error was material and sufficient to set aside the trial judge’s decision. The record was insufficient for the Court to determine the competing claims.