Summary of Harper v. Paradise, Supreme Court of GA (1974)
Parties: Appellant – Remainderman of life estate via the lost deed
Appellee – direct chain of title to the foreclosure on the life estate.
Cause of action/remedy sought: The following is an equitable action for declaratory judgment to quiet title.
Procedural History: Trial court granted directed verdict for appellees. Reversed in this court.
Facts: 2/22: Susan Harper conveys by warranty deed to daughter in law Maude a life estate with a remainder in Maude’s named children, for $5 + love and affection. Maude lost this deed. Grantor dies some time prior to 1927.
3-19-28: Maude records deed from Grantors heirs who execute an instrument meant to redeed the property to Maude. This deed refers to the lost deed.
2-27-33: Maude Harper executes and records a security deed for a $50 loan implying a FSA
1936: Thornton forecloses on the property for the default of the $50 loan, receiving an executed and recorded sheriff’s deed.
1940: actual possession by the Thornton chain of title
1955: Unbroken chain of title from Thornton to appellee’s paradise, who took by warranty deed recorded in 1955
1957: One of the appellant remaindermen finds the original deed in an old trunk, records 7-57
1972: Maude Harper dies, and her life estate ends
Issue(s): Under GA property law, did the reference in the 1928 deed constitute constructive notice and raise a duty to inquire regarding the 1922 deed, such that Paradise should have known his interest was in a life estate pur autrie vie?
Holding: Yes. The recorded 1922 deed raised at least a duty in Thornton to inquire as to grantor’s interest in the land. Judgment reversed with direction to enter judgment for appellants (remaindermen).
Court’s Rationale/Reasoning: The 1928 deed incorporates reference to the 1922 deed, hence Maude must have taken with knowledge of it. These references are a disclaimer warning others of the remainderman’s interest in the land. Claims statute protecting purchasers for value w/o notice of unrecorded deeds. However, the 1928 deed refers to the 1922 deed, hence there is constructive notice. The 1928 deed gave notice to check the other deeds it mentioned.
Here, Paradise does not assert they made a diligent attempt to search the record and were unable to discover the interest referred to. Since they are not claiming that such an inquiry would be futile, it is presumed that due inquiry would have discovered the existent facts.
Paradise and predecessors did not establish prescriptive title by adverse possession because prescription does not begin to run in against the Remainderman until the life estate ends.
Rule: A deed in the chain of title, discovered by the investigator, is constructive notice of all other deeds which were referred to in the deed discovered, including an unrecorded plat included in the deed discovered.
Did court avoid issues?: No.