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Johnson v. City of Wheat Ridge

    Citation

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    Bloomberg Law

    Brief Fact Summary. In two separate conveyances Samuel Johnson conveyed land to the Wheat Ridge Lions Foundation (five acres) and to Jefferson County, for the custody and management of the Wheat Ridge Recreation Department (fourteen acres), subject to the condition subsequent that the land was to be used for a public park named for the grantor and that the fourteen acre grant was subject to the condition that public water supply and lavatories be placed on the premises within two years of the grant.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The breach of a condition subsequent does not cause title to automatically revert to the grantor or his heirs and that no undue influence could be shown in the original conveyances.

    Facts. Samuel Johnson conveyed, by deed in 1955, five acres to the Wheat Ridge Lions Foundation and then, by deed in 1957, fourteen acres to Jefferson County for the custody and management of the Wheat Ridge Recreation Department. Thereafter, in 1969, the City of Wheat Ridge was incorporated and took the interest in both parcels. The original deeds were subject to conditions subsequent. Both of the deeds state that the lands are to be used for a public park to be named for grantor, Samuel Johnson. The fourteen acre deed also adds that there is to be a clearing of the land performed and that a public water supply and lavatories are to be added within two years of the conveyance. The water supply and lavatories were not added to the fourteen acre parcel at the time of the grantor’s death, and the executor and heir, Plaintiff Paul Johnson, filed suit in 1971, seeking to quiet title in himself due to the breach of the condition subsequent. The lower court dismissed the suit and the Plain
    tiff appealed.

    Issue. Has the statute of limitations run such that the Plaintiff’s action to quiet title in himself on the lands conveyed under a condition subsequent is barred?

    Held. Yes. Judgment affirmed.
    The specific language of the deed in question stated that the failure of the compliance with the conditions set out (public water supply and lavatories within two years) in the deed “shall constitute a condition subsequent terminating the estate of the Grantee and its assigns. . . and the Grantor, his heirs and assigns may re-enter and take possession of said premises.” This language is an attempt to create an automatic right of re-entry in favor of the Plaintiff, as an heir of the grantor.
    However, The Court held that the breach of a condition subsequent does not cause title to revert automatically to the grantor or his heirs and that the use of a lawsuit to enforce the provisions of the deed is subject to the statute of limitations.
    Under the statute of limitations effective at the time of the filing of the lawsuit, the action was barred because the statute provided that any such actions resulting from the terms of any restriction concerning real property must be brought within one year of the violation alleged. In this case, the breach would have occurred in 1959, or two years after the deed. Thus, the statute of limitations ran out on this action around 1960. The action is barred.
    The Court found that although the grantor, a former Judge Samuel Johnson, was old at the time of the deeds, there was no evidence presented to support a finding of undue influence.

    Discussion. This case again illustrates the need for caution in drafting conveyances. The grantor, or his attorney, seemed to want to create an automatic right of reversion, or a fee simple determinable, but they used the language of a fee simple subject to a condition subsequent. This could have defeated the intent of the grantor.

    532 P.2d 985, *; 1975 Colo. App. 1000, **


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