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Moyer v. Title Guarantee Co.

Decided: February 14, 1962.

MOYER ET UX.
v.
TITLE GUARANTEE COMPANY



Appeal from the Circuit Court for Baltimore County; Raine, J.

Brune, C. J., and Henderson, Prescott, Marbury and Sybert, JJ. Prescott, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.

Prescott

The chancellor's decree reformed a policy of title insurance, issued by appellee to the appellants, whereby the land covered by said policy was reduced from 16.68 acres to 10.2 acres; and enjoined the prosecution of an action at law, instituted by appellants against the appellee, claiming a breach of said policy by the appellee in that appellants had been evicted from 6.48 acres of land insured to them.

On July 8, 1955, appellants entered into a contract with one Leonard Boyd, and his wife, for the purchase of certain property fronting on the north side of Liberty Road in Baltimore County. The description of the land to be conveyed was somewhat unusual, so we summarize it in pertinent part:

"being approximately ten (10) acres, more or less, and specifically including land bounded by existing fences on North and East sides of the property, and improved by a * * * dwelling, * * *, including driveway, better known as the * * * Boyd property * * * and better described in the Land Records * * * in Liber R.J.S., 1420, folio 214 [this deed was from one Ruff, et ux, to the Boyds and conveyed 16.68 acres in one description, which description was the same as that of the property named in the title policy and the deed from the Boyds to the Moyers, both to be mentioned shortly hereafter] * * *."

One week after the execution of the contract, the then attorney for appellants filed an application with appellee's predecessor for a title insurance policy. Under the heading "description of property" therein was "10 acres Ns [north side] Liberty Road above Randallstown," and under "reference to title" was "R.J.S. 1420, folio 214," the same deed mentioned above in the contract of sale. On August 4th, appellee submitted a report to appellants' attorney, which at its beginning referred to "In re: 10 acres -- NS Liberty Road," but then went on to report good (with certain exceptions

not here involved) in the Boyds the "fee simple title to all that lot of ground * * * more particularly described in the enclosed copy of the deed [which deed was the one proposed to consummate the transaction, and had been prepared by the appellee, containing the same description of 16.68 acres as that in the deed recorded in R.J.S. 1420, folio 214] * * *."

Settlement took place on August 25th. Sometime during the period between when application for the policy was made and the settlement, Maurice Elliott, an attorney and title examiner for the appellee, called Hamilton Whiteford, counsel for the appellants; and, as a result of their conversation, Elliott made this notation on the application, "according to Mr. Whiteford all prop of Boyd is to be conveyed, which is 16.68 acres." Neither Elliott nor Whiteford had any independent recollection of the conversation, the date when it occurred, or what brought it on; hence, the best either could do was to testify as to "apparently" what had occurred.

The deed executed and delivered to the appellants at the settlement, and subsequently recorded, purported to convey 16.68 acres in one perimeter, it being a duplicate of the proposed deed sent out with the title report; and the appellee issued its title insurance policy to the appellants covering the "16.68 acres, more or less" described in said deed.

Some four years after the settlement, appellants discovered that in 1947 the Boyds had conveyed 6.48 acres of the land, described in their title policy and deed, to a certain James Doyle, III, and his wife. This was an irregular shaped corridor located to the rear of the main Boyd property. The appellee freely and frankly admitted, and still admits, its mistake in overlooking this conveyance-out by the Boyds; but, after negotiating, the parties were unable to reconcile their differences, and the law action mentioned above and this suit followed.

The chancellor decided the title policy should be reformed upon two grounds, namely, mutual mistake and equitable estoppel. After setting forth the standard of proof required by law before the granting of the extraordinary relief of the reformation of a written ...


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