Summary of Luthi v. Evans, Supreme Court of KS (1978)
Parties: DF – Appellee – International Tours – thought it had acquired all grantors rights in a given county.
Burris – appellant – acquired land from grantor after a thorough title records search revealed no encumbrances.
Cause of action/remedy sought: The following is an equitable cause of action for declaratory judgment to quiet title.
Procedural History: Burris won in trial court on basis that the deed inadequately described the interests that were conveyed and so he did not have constructive notice. The Appeals court found that the description was sufficient to give constructive notice to a BFP. This court reverses.
Facts: DF International tours acquired rights to all Owens and the Vanockers’ oil and gas interest in a given county (Coffee county, Kansas) via a written instrument designated “Assignment of Interest in oil and Gas Lease”, which specifically described 7 leases, and in its second paragraph stated it included All interests in Oil and Gas leases in Coffey County, whether or not specifically enumerated. This assignment was recorded and filed for record in the office of the register of deeds 2/71.
Four years later in 1975, same grantor (Grace V. Owen) executed and delivered an assignment in a Kufahl lease (which was not enumerated in the deed to Tours) to Burris. Prior to acceptance, Burris personally checked the records, and obtained an abstract of title, neither of which reflected the prior assignment to tours.
Issue(s): Under KS law, does the recording of an instrument conveyance which uses a “Mother Hubbard” clause to describe the property conveyed, constitute constructive notice to a subsequent purchaser?
Holding: Yes. Based on statute, the recording of the assignment from Owens to Tours did not describe with sufficient specificity the property conveyed, and was not sufficient to impart constructive notice to Burris. Burris prevails over Tours. Next time, a grantee like Tours, in order to prevent subsequent purchasers from getting the interest may want to do one of 2 things: 1) take possession of the property or 2) as soon as a specific description can be obtained identify the specific property covered by the conveyance by filing an affidavit or other appropriate document with the register of deeds.
Court’s Rationale/Reasoning: Mother Hubbard Clauses upheld in Kansas.
As between parties to the instrument, The Assignment did include the Kufahl lease. also concurred with appellate court several interests with specific descriptions or general descriptions capable of being made specific, could be conveyed by one instrument. Also, that a subsequent purchaser with actual notice of the document takes subject to the rights of assignee or grantor. Burris was not a party to the instrument. And he was a BFP.
Looked to the Kansas statutes as to what was required. All seemed to require some description of the interest. Hence to constitute constructive notice, the property conveyed must be with sufficient specificity so that the land could be identified.
That was not the case with paragraph 2 of the assignment. Legislature intended for recorded instruments of conveyance to give constructive notice to subsequent purchasers.
Rule: A Mother Hubbard transfer is not effective as to subsequent purchasers or mortagagors unless they had actual knowledge of the transfer.
Did court avoid issues?: No.
Dicta: This is a case of first impression.