Summary of Brown v. Lober, Supreme Ct. of IL (1979)
Parties: PL (subsequent land purchaser) v. DF ( executor of the sellers- who got the land from someone else)
Cause of action/remedy sought: The following is a cause of action for breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment through constructive eviction; remedy is damages.
Procedural History: Trial court found in favor of DF. Appellate court reversed and the case went before the Supreme court.
Facts: In 1947, the owner of 80 acres of land conveyed that amount to William and Faith Bost, reserving 2/3rd‘s interest in the mineral rights. 10 yrs later (1957), the Bosts conveyed the 80 acres to Brown and his wife by a general warranty deed with no exceptions. In 1974, the Browns contracted with a coal co to sell the mineral rights for $6K. Upon finding out that the Browns had only 1/3 of the mineral rights, the parties had to renegotiate the K for the payment of $2K. The prior grantor never attempted to exercise his mineral rights. The 10 yr SOL prevented a suit on the present covenants, so the Browns sued the Bosts’ executors (because the Bosts had died) seeking $4K in damages for breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment.
PL’s argued that since they as covenantees were unable to sell their interest in land because they found out that they did not own what the warranty deed purported to convey and thus had suffered constructive eviction entitling them to bring a suit for breach of the covenant of constructive eviction.
Constructive eviction is the inability of a purchaser to obtain possession because of paramount outstanding title; such an eviction usually constitutes a breach of the covenants of warranty and quiet enjoyment. For the PL’s to allege breach of covenant of quiet enjoyment (which is a future covenant), he had to have been evicted from the property (that is why they came up with constructive eviction).
Issue(s): Under IL property law, did the Plaintiffs present facts which showed that there was constructive eviction on the part of the DF’s which would create a breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment?
Holding: No. The mere fact that the PL had to modify its K with the coal company was not enough to constitute the constructive eviction necessary for a breach of the covenant of enjoyment.
Court’s Rationale/Reasoning: The court looked at the case of Scott v. Kirkendall (although that case dealt with surface rights while this dealt with subsurface mineral rights) where the court held that the mere existence of a paramount (overriding) title, does not constitute a breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment when there has been no assertion of adverse title and the land has always been vacant.
- the court said although the PL’s had possession of the surface area, they could not be said to possess the subsurface mineral area (because to do so required removing minerals from the ground or doing some act which show the community that the interest is in that person’s exclusive use and enjoyment.
- The court concluded further that the subsurface area was vacant since no one had tried to remove minerals from it and that the PL’s had in no way been prevented from enjoying the property by anyone with a better right and PL’s at any time could have taken peaceable possession of it.
- There could be no constructive eviction and thus no breach of the covenant quiet enjoyment until one holding superior title interfered with the PL’s right of possession (for instance by beginning to mine the coal).
Court does not wish to expand the protection afforded by this covenant, especially since the PL had a remedy in the present covenants, that of seisin (the grantor warrants that he owns the estate he purports to convey), which grantor clearly violated when grantor delivered the deed to P. For covenant of seisin (which is a covenant of title), if at the time of conveyance the grantor did not own the land, the covenant is broken immediately and in order to recover no eviction or ouster needs to be proven.
- It is PL’s oversight that he did not secure a title opinion before the statute of limitations had run.
· – PL’s contention that having to modify the contract selling the mineral rights to the third party was not sufficient to constitute the constructive eviction necessary to a breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment.
– CAUSE OF ACTION IS PREMATURE (ripeness issue?)
Rule: The mere existence of a paramount (overriding) title, does not constitute a breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment when there has been no assertion of adverse title and the land has always been vacant.
Did court avoid issues?: What if this cause action arose from the paramount title holder exerting his rights.