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Short v. Texaco, Inc

    Brief Fact Summary. An act of the legislature of Indiana, called the Mineral Lapse Act (the Act), put an end to interests in minerals, which have not been used for twenty years. The lower court found the Act to be contrary to due process, equal protection and the guarantee of just compensation for property taken for the state.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The courts may not sit as a super legislature to judge the wisdom or desirability of legislative policy, where such determinations do not impact fundamental rights nor a suspect classification.

    Facts. The Act put an end to interests in minerals, which have not been used for twenty years. The lower court found the Act to be contrary to due process, equal protection, and the guarantee of just compensation for property taken for the state.

    Issue. Is the Act unconstitutional?

    Held. No. Judgments of trial court reversed and cases remanded for enforcement of the Act.
    The Court first stated that its power to declare an act of the legislature invalid would be exercised with caution and the burden of proving an act unconstitutional is a high burden requiring strong and clear proof, with any doubts to be resolved in favor of the act.
    Because the Act does not require adjudication before a tribunal for its operation, the Act does not provide any tribunal with any process. The Act simply spells out the conditions, which when existing mandate the extinguishment of an interest. Thus, procedural due process is not offended by the Act.
    The Court found that the Act did not amount to an unconstitutional taking without due process of law because the legislature was acting within its police power and the Act is used to protect the public order, health, morals, safety or welfare and has some reasonable relation to such public interest. Here the interest is the economic welfare of the public.
    Because the Act is merely an act of limitation and does not terminate fee simple interests, the Act is not per se unconstitutional as impairing the obligation of contracts or denying a person property without due process of law.
    The courts may not sit as a super legislature to judge the wisdom or desirability of legislative policy, where such determinations do not impact fundamental rights nor a suspect classification.

    Discussion. This case provides a good discussion of the mechanisms of constitutional procedure where an act is challenged. The police power of the legislature was found sufficient to support the Act and the parties challenging the Act could not make the required showing that the Act was unconstitutional.

    H & F Land, Inc. v. Panama City-Bay County Airport
    and Industrial District
    Citation. 736 So. 2nd 1167 (Fla. 1999).

    Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiff, H & F Land, Inc. (Plaintiff), filed a lawsuit to assert a way by necessity 56 years after its predecessor in title conveyed land to the Defendant, Panama City-Bay County Airport and Industrial District (Defendant), but left a small portion of land in itself, which belongs to the Plaintiff and is landlocked and waterlocked. The Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment based on the Marketable Record Title to Real Property Act (MRTA), which provides that when a right of way by necessity is not asserted within thirty years the claim is extinguished. The trial court and the intermediate appellate court granted and affirmed the Defendant’s motion and the Plaintiff appealed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A way of necessity results from the application of the presumption that whenever a party conveys property he conveys whatever is necessary for the beneficial use of that property and retains whatever is necessary for the beneficial use of the land he still possesses.

    Facts. The Plaintiff filed a lawsuit to assert a way by necessity 56 years after its predecessor in title conveyed land to the Defendant, but left a small portion of land in itself, which belongs to the Plaintiff and is landlocked and waterlocked. The Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment based on the MRTA, which provides that when a right of way by necessity is not asserted within thirty years the claim is extinguished. The trial court and the intermediate appellate court granted and affirmed the Defendant’s motion and the Plaintiff appealed.

    Issue. Does the MRTA operate to extinguish an otherwise valid claim of a common law way of necessity when such claim was not asserted within thirty years?

    Held. Yes. The MRTA applies to extinguish the common law way of necessity if such way is not asserted within 30 years.
    A way of necessity results from the application of the presumption that whenever a party conveys property he conveys whatever is necessary for the beneficial use of that property and retains whatever is necessary for the beneficial use of the land he still possesses.
    The effect of the MRTA, which was designed to limit the length of title examinations and to clear up titles and reduce the number of quiet title actions, is to shift the burden to those claiming an interest in property to come forward in a timely fashion and assert such interest publicly.
    There are exceptions to the MRTA, one of which being the preservation of interests disclosed in the root of title. Here, the 1947 transaction, which created the potential for a way by necessity did not disclose any such way and was not within the exception.
    The second exception is that the MRTA preserves interests filed with proper notice under the Act. The Plaintiff argued that a way by necessity is exempt from recording requirements provided by the Florida Recording Statute and that, therefore, the way by necessity should not be required to be noticed under the MRTA. The Court found that the MRTA was worded broadly and did not limit itself to interests required to be recorded under the recording act and that the easement herein claimed was included in the provisions of MRTA.

    Discussion. The Court based its decision on the public policy concerns, which the MRTA was designed to address. The Court found that, despite the common law right, the MRTA would control the case. Under this ruling, a person claiming a way by necessity, has to assert such claim within thirty years of the creation of circumstances, which made the way necessary. Is it fair to a recent purchaser of landlocked property to have no way by necessity under the law when the predecessors in title neglected to assert such a claim?


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