Monday, December 29, 2014

Suit to Quiet Title - Elements of Proof


To prevail in a suit to quiet title, a plaintiff must prove: (1) he has an interest in a specific property; (2) title to the property is affected by a claim by the defendant; and (3) the claim, although facially valid, is invalid or unenforceable. See, e.g., Vernon v. Perrien, 390 S.W.3d 47, 61 (Tex. App.-El Paso 2012, pet. denied); see also U.S. Nat'l Bank Ass'n v. Johnson, No. 01-10-00837-CV, 2011 WL 6938507, at *3 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] Dec. 30, 2011, no pet.) (mem. op.).

"[T]o contest a bank's foreclosure of a deed of trust, a party must, at the time of the foreclosure, either (1) be the mortgagor under the deed of trust or be in privity with the mortgagor, or (2) have an ownership interest in the property affected by the foreclosure." Ursic v. NBC Bank S. Tex., N.A., 827 S.W.2d 334, 336 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 1991, writ denied) (citing Goswami v. Metropolitan Sav., 751 S.W.2d 487, 489 (Tex. 1988)). And the plaintiff must recover on the strength of his own title, not on the weakness of his adversary's title. Fricks v. Hancock, 45 S.W.3d 322, 327 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 2001, no pet.) (citing Alkas v. United Sav. Ass'n of Tex., Inc., 672 S.W.2d 852, 857 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 1984, writ ref'd n.r.e.)).

He "must allege right, title or ownership in himself with sufficient certainty to enable the court to see that plaintiff has a right of ownership that will warrant judicial interference." Ellison v. Butler, 443 S.W.2d 886, 888-89 (Tex. Civ. App.-Corpus Christi 1969, no writ); see Wright v. Matthews, 26 S.W.3d 575, 578 (Tex. App.-Beaumont 2000, pet. denied). The plaintiff has the burden of supplying the proof necessary to establish his superior equity and right to relief. Essex Crane Rental Corp. v. Carter, 371 S.W.3d 366, 387-88 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.], pet. denied) (op. on reh'g); Ellison, 443 S.W.2d at 888-89.

SOURCE: CORPUS CHRISTI COURT OF APPEALS - Nos. 13-12-00474-CV, 13-12-00753-CV - 2/13/2014


"To prevail in a trespass-to-try-title action, Plaintiffs must usually (1) prove a regular chain of conveyances from the sovereign, (2) establish superior title out of a common source, (3) prove title by limitations, or (4) prove title by prior possession coupled with proof that possession was not abandoned." Martin v. Amerman, 133 S.W.3d 262, 265 (Tex. 2004) (citation omitted). "The pleading rules are detailed and formal, and require a plaintiff to prevail on the superiority of his title, not on the weakness of a defendant's title." Id. (citation omitted).

A suit to quiet title is an equitable remedy to clarify ownership by removing clouds on the title. See Ford v. Exxon Mobil Chem. Co., 235 S.W.3d 615, 618 (Tex. 2007). To establish a claim for suit to quiet title, a plaintiff must show the following: (1) an interest in specific property; (2) that title to the property is affected by a claim by the defendant; and (3) that the claim, although facially valid, is invalid or unenforceable. Sadler v. Duvall, 815 S.W.2d 285, 293, n.2 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 1991, pet. denied). An adverse claim, to constitute a cloud on the title removable by the court, must be one that is valid on its face but is proved by extrinsic evidence to be invalid or unenforceable. Id.

Plaintiffs also bring a suit to quiet title and/or action for trespass to try title on the premise that they are the rightful owners of the Property because the foreclosure was improper.

Plaintiffs have failed to produce summary judgment evidence of their superiority of title. It is undisputed that the Property was purchased at a foreclosure sale. Plaintiffs have offered no summary judgment evidence that there was a defect in the foreclosure proceedings. When Plaintiffs defaulted on the Note, causing Defendants to foreclose on the Property, Plaintiffs lost any interest they could claim in the Property, and Plaintiffs have no evidence to establish they have an interest in the Property. Defendants' interest in the Property was valid and enforceable. The Court has already rejected Plaintiffs' other claims. Since Plaintiffs have abandoned their allegation that Defendants lacked authority to foreclose, the only bases for these claims are alleged violations of TILA and the TDCA. Plaintiffs have conceded their TDCA claims, and the Court has found that their TILA claim fails as a matter of law. Although Plaintiffs contend they have superior title to the Property because the foreclosure is void, they fail to identify any defect in the foreclosure proceeding which would render the sale void. Thus, Plaintiffs have no basis for an action based upon trespass to try title or quiet title.

SOURCE: Brewer v. Bank of America, NA, Dist. Court, ED Texas January 7, 2015.  

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