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Parr v. Worley

    Brief Fact Summary. Parr (Plaintiff) conveyed to Worley (Defendant) a portion of land described as “lying to the East of” the highway, “containing 25 acres, more or less.” Plaintiff then purported to convey to a third party the mineral interest under both sides of the highway with a description of the land in that deed as being “west of the east right-of-way line of” the highway. Plaintiff sued to quiet title in himself of the mineral interest occupied by the highway, and Defendant counter-claimed to quiet title in himself of the mineral interest from the centerline of the highway to the east.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. It is a rule practically without exception that a conveyance of land abutting on a road, highway, alley, or other way is presumed to take the fee to the centerline of the way. The presumption is rebuttable. It depends on the intention of the parties to the deed, as ascertained from its language and viewed in light of surrounding circumstances.

    Facts. Plaintiff, in 1949, conveyed to Defendant a portion of land described as “lying to the East of” the highway, “containing 25 acres, more or less.” Then, later, Plaintiff purported to convey to a third party the mineral interest under both sides of the highway with a description of the land in that deed as being “west of the east right-of-way line of” the highway. Plaintiff sued to quiet title in himself of the mineral interest occupied by the highway, and Defendant counter-claimed to quiet title in himself of the mineral interest from the centerline of the highway to the east. A survey performed for the lawsuit showed that the actual area of land conveyed to Defendant if measured from the eastern edge of highway was 25.80 acres. The same survey revealed that if Defendant’s land was measured from the centerline of the highway the plot would be 31.57 acres.

    Issue. What is the proper measure of the land conveyed to Defendant?

    Held. The land is measured to the centerline. Judgment for Defendant.
    It is a rule practically without exception that a conveyance of land abutting on a road, highway, alley, or other way is presumed to take the fee to the centerline of the way. The presumption is rebuttable. It depends on the intention of the parties to the deed, as ascertained from its language and viewed in light of surrounding circumstances.
    The theory that a small, narrow strip of land was of little value to the grantor grew out of a line of cases involving, essentially, subdivisions where larger plots of land were sold by lot, usually with provisions for alleys, highways and roads. Frequently the roadways were subsequently abandoned and questions arose as to the title to them. Thus, the courts developed the presumption that, in the absence of language to the contrary, a conveyance of land abutting a right of way gave title to the centerline of the right of way.
    The court found that the statement of the area in the deed (25 acres) was not sufficient, in and of itself, to show the parties’ intent. The court held that the deed in question did not clearly and plainly disclose an intention to exclude the east side of the highway from the description.
    Acquiescence in a boundary line requires some form of knowledge. In the absence of some indication that Defendant was or should have been aware of the subsequent filing of mineral leases by Plaintiff, the doctrine of acquiescence does not apply.

    Discussion. This case further illustrates the need for precision in drafting deeds. All that Plaintiff had to do was describe with particularity the boundary of the parcel. Note that the result of the court’s decision is to hold the deed from Plaintiff to Defendant as 31.57 acres when the deed only recited 25 acres, more or l


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