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Walters v. Tucker

    Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiff and Defendant are neighbors. Plaintiff sued to quiet title to property. Plaintiff claimed that their deed which that provided “[w]est 50 feet of lot 13” meant that the 50 feet should be measured in accordance with the width of the lot. The Defendant claimed that the 50 feet referred to frontage along a road, which would make the Plaintiff’s land only about 42 feet wide.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. When there is no inconsistency on the face of a deed and, on application of the description to the ground, no inconsistency appears, parol evidence is not admissible to show that the parties intended to convey either more or less or different ground from that described.

    Facts. The Plaintiff and Defendant are neighbors. Plaintiff sued to quiet title to property. Plaintiff claimed that their deed which that provided “[w]est 50 feet of lot 13” meant that the 50 feet should be measured in accordance with the width of the lot. The Defendant claimed that the 50 feet referred to frontage along a road, which would make the Plaintiff’s land only about 42 feet wide. Both Plaintiff and Defendant traced their title back to a common grantor in 1922. In 1924, Wolf and wife, grantor, conveyed to Plaintiff’s predecessors in title the following described land, “[t]he West 50 feet of Lot 13 of West Helfenstein Park, a Subdivision in United States Survey 1953, Twp. 45, Range 8 Ease, St. Louis County, Missouri.” The Plaintiff’s property contains a one-story frame house, 450 Oak Street. In 1925, Wolf and wife built a 1 1 1/2 story stucco dwelling house on the portion of lot 13 retained by them, which is now owned by Defendants. The lower court admitted evidence regarding the meaning of the Plaintiff’s deed and found that it was unclear as to whether the property conveyed was the fifty feet along the street line or fifty feet from the western edge of the lot. The lower court found that the conveyance was to be of the fifty feet fronting Oak Street from the western edge of the lot, which, due to the angle of Oak Street to the lot, meant that the Plaintiff’s land was only 42 feet wide. The Plaintiff appealed.
    Issue. What is the proper construction of the description in the deed?

    Held. That the deed of Plaintiff clearly indicates ownership of 50 feet of width of the lot from its western edge. Judgment reversed.
    • When there is no inconsistency on the face of a deed and, on application of the description to the ground, no inconsistency appears, parol evidence is not admissible to show that the parties intended to convey either more or less or different ground from that described.
    • Extrinsic evidence is to explain the latent ambiguity or to point out the property described on the ground. Such evidence must not contradict the deed, or make a description of other land than that described in the deed.

    Walters v. Tucker
    • The court found no ambiguity in the deed of the Plaintiff. The description when applied to the ground fits the Plaintiff’s land and no other land.
    – The house of the Defendant, under the 50 feet wide measurement from the western edge of the lot, lies within one foot of the property line. However, since the Defendant’s house was not built until after the land of the Plaintiff was already conveyed, it does not appear to be that the original grantor made a mistake in constructing the Defendant’s house so close to the property line.
    – In a quiet title action the trial court may not undertake to “reform” the deed by construing the deed in such a manner as to make it say something it does not say.
    Discussion. On page 1055 of the text, is a map of the lands in question, which is essential to a clear understanding of the dispute herein. The angle of Oak Street, in connection with the lot, is important to understand why the Defendant’s interpretation of the deed would result in Plaintiff’s portion of the lot being only 42 feet wide when the deed clearly stated 50 feet.


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