Appeal from the Circuit Court for Montgomery County (SHOOK, J.).
The cause was argued before Henderson, Hammond, Prescott, Horney and Sybert, JJ.
SYBERT, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.
We are called upon in this appeal to determine whether the Circuit Court for Montgomery County erred in ordering reformation of a deed from the appellants to the appellees for certain lots in a subdivision.
The appellants, Joseph A. Mattingly and Marion Mattingly, his wife engaged a firm of civil engineers in 1952 to prepare a preliminary plan of resubdivision for a part of a development owned by them in Montgomery County. The plan was approved by the appropriate authorities and the engineers marked with iron pipes the boundaries of the resubdivision, known as Block 2-C, Hillmead-Bradley Hills. The engineers' certificate on the recorded plat stated that pipes were placed in the resubdivision as shown thereon. The appellants proceeded to sell various lots, retaining at least one for their own home.
Early in 1959 the appellee, Charles W. Houston, approached the appellant, Joseph Mattingly, with regard to purchasing land in the resubdivision. The two visited the development together
and Mattingly showed Houston two contiguous lots, numbered 15 and 18, which at that time were heavily wooded. According to a plat of the resubdivision, which Mattingly had brought along, both lots fronted on the south side of Ridge Road, and the west side of lot 18 abutted Fallen Oak Road. Neither street had been graded or improved. After studying the plat and the land, Houston told the developer that he did not believe he would be able to fit his contemplated house on lots 15 and 18, due to the slope of the ground and the type of house he desired to build. Mattingly thereupon agreed to sell and additional 30 foot strip along the entire south boundary, or rear, of lots 15 and 18. Houston testified that Mattingly pointed out the boundaries of the two lots and of the additional 30 foot strip, and in so doing, showed him two iron pipes intended to locate the northeast and southeast corners of the 30 foot strip. One of the pipes marked the southeast rear corner of lot 15 and the other was some 30 feet to the south of the first and marked a common rear corner of two lots -- 13 and 12 -- which faced to the east. The result was that approximately one-half of the rear boundary of lot 13 would become the easterly boundary of the 30 foot strip.
The parties entered into a contract for the sale of lots 15 and 18 and the 30 foot strip and a deed from the appellants to the appellees was executed on February 20, 1959. The deed described lots 15 and 18 only by reference to their lot numbers and the block number as shown on the recorded plats of the resubdivision; there was no metes and bounds description. The additional lot was described as follows: "All that parcel or strip of land 30 feet wide adjacent to and South of the South boundary line of aforesaid Lots 15 and 18, said parcel being bounded on the North by said Lots 15 and 18, on the East by Lot 13 in said Block and Subdivision as shown on said Plat Book 45, plat 3385, on the West by Fallen Oak Drive, and on the South by a line parallel to the said South boundary line of said Lots 15 and 18, and 30 feet South thereof." There was no reference to any pipes in the deed. Thereafter, the three lots were cleared and a road (Ridge Road) was constructed in front of their north or front boundary. The appellees then built a house on the lots, using the two pipes heretofore mentioned as points of reference in determining the boundaries of their land.
In the summer of 1959 Joseph Mattingly called the firm of civil engineers which had platted and located the resubdivision and complained that while attempting to lay out a tennis court on his lot (which adjoined the Houstons' 30 foot strip), he had discovered that the pipes marking the boundaries of the resubdivision were not properly placed. In the spring of 1960 the civil engineers again surveyed the resubdivision and found that there was approximately a 10 foot discrepancy between the plats as recorded and the pipes as set. Throughout the resubdivision, the pipes had been placed approximately 10 feet south of the points where they should have been located according to the plats. Thus, the rear line of the appellees' land, as based on the pipes and as occupied, was about 10 feet further south than it should have been if located in accordance with the plats. As a result the house that the appellees had constructed would be, by reference to the plats, in violation of the set-back requirements of the county zoning law as being too close to the rear lot line.
After an attempt by the appellants to induce the appellees to buy the strip of land approximately 10 feet wide between the true and the erroneous south boundaries, the appellees sued in equity for reformation of their deed so that it would include the strip in question, which was described in the bill of complaint in accordance with a survey thereof. After a hearing the Chancellor found mutual mistake on the part of the parties, and that it had been their true intent to establish the rear property line of the appellees in accordance with the pipes located on the land at the time of the sale. Accordingly, the Chancellor granted reformation and ordered that the 30 foot strip adjacent to the south boundaries of lots 15 and 18 be extended in a southerly direction so as to include the additional strip of land approximately 10 feet wide. From that order, the appellants entered this appeal.
The appellants' main contention is that, in granting reformation, the lower court acted "contrary to the evidence and the Maryland law". We do not agree. In the often cited case of Hoffman v. Chapman, 182 Md. 208, 34 A.2d 438 (1943), this Court affirmed a decree granting reformation of a ...