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Stoller v. Doyle

Law Dictionary

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 257 Ill. 369, 100 N.E. 959 (1913)

Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff Stoller sued children of the life tenant claiming that he had been conveyed fee simple title and that the children’s contingent remainders had been destroyed.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. The original deed in this case was a conveyance of fee with limitations over and did not create contingent remainders subject to destruction by the act of the grantor in subsequently conveying the reversion to the grantee.

Facts. In an 1882 warranty deed, Lawrence Doyle (original grantor) and wife conveyed land to Frank Doyle subject to the following limitations: “Said Frank Doyle shall not have the power to reconvey this land, unless it be to the grantor. He shall not have the power to mortgage this land, and in case the said Frank Doyle should die before his wife dies, and any children survive him, the surviving children and his wife shall have the use of the land. . . during the lifetime of his wife, when it shall go to his children, if any are living, but, if at the death of the grantee no children survive him, the title shall be in the grantors. Should any children survive the grantee and his wife also survive him, she shall have no [an?] interest in the land only so long as she remains unmarried and is his widow.” In 1897, Lawrence Doyle, then a widower, executed another deed to Frank Doyle which purported to give title in fee simple and remove the restrictions. In 1902, Frank Doyle and his wife
executed a warranty deed of the land to Plaintiff John Stoller (defendant in error). Then, Plaintiff John Stoller agreed to convey the land to Bauman in fee simple, clear of all incumbrances. Bauman refused to accept the proffered deed and Stoller sued Bauman for specific performance of the contract for sale of land. Bauman prevailed in that lawsuit with the court holding that in the 1882 deed a contingent interest in the real estate was conveyed to the children of Frank Doyle and that the latter deed to him (the 1897 deed) could not affect that interest. Thus, the court held that the proffered title from Stoller to Bauman was not merchantable title. This action was filed in 1909 by Stoller against Doyle’s children alleging that in the first deed Frank Doyle did not take an estate in fee simple, but only a life estate. Also, it was alleged that Doyle’s wife took only a life estate, contingent upon her outliving her husband, and that the children took a contingent remainder in fee; tha
t in the event no children survived Frank Doyle there was a reversion in fee interest held by the grantor, which was ultimately conveyed by the grantor in the second deed such that the life estate was merged in fee and the intervening contingent remainders were destroyed. Plaintiff Stoller prayed that he be found to be the owner in fee simple of the title free from any claims of the children of Frank Doyle and that his title be quieted. The adult Defendants defaulted, but the minor children of Frank Doyle did answer the complaint by a guardian ad litem. The trial court found for Stoller and found that Stoller was the owner in fee simple of the land free from claims of the children. Stoller’s title was quieted. The adult children refused to proceed with an appeal, but the minor’s did appeal.

Issue. Did the original deed create in the children of the life tenant a contingent interest in the property which was, by the grantor’s subsequent deed to the life tenant which conveyed the reversion interest, merged into the estate of the life tenant in fee and destroyed?
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