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Mortensen v. Lingo

    Brief Fact Summary. On February 20, 1941, McCain conveyed real property to Anglin. The deed was recorded in the office of the recorder for the Anchorage recording district, but was not indexed as the statute directed. Then, in 1947, McCain conveyed the same property to Defendant, who then conveyed the land to the Plaintiffs who allege that Anglin threatens to evict Plaintiffs.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. All the prescribed steps, including indexing, had to be performed before the record could constitute constructive notice.

    Facts. On February 20, 1941, McCain conveyed the real property to Anglin. The deed was recorded in the office of the recorder for the Anchorage recording district, but was not indexed as the statute directed. Then, in 1947, McCain conveyed the same property to Defendant, who then conveyed the land to the Plaintiffs who allege that Anglin threatens to evict Plaintiffs. The Plaintiffs then filed suit against Defendant for breach of covenants of title. The facts do not evidence that Defendant ever had actual notice of the prior conveyance to Anglin.

    Issue. Did the Defendant have constructive notice of the prior conveyance to Anglin by McCain such that the Plaintiffs, subsequent innocent purchasers for value, may recover from Defendant for breach of covenants of title?

    Held. No. The recording of the deed to Anglin without indexing was insufficient to give constructive notice to the Defendant.
    The court began by noting that the adoption of the recording statute for Alaska by act of Congress in 1949 provided for a book which recorded the deeds in long form in the order in which they were received, and also, for a separate index in alphabetical order in which the recorder will enter the name of every party to each and every instrument recorded by him with a reference to the book and page where the long form is recorded.
    The court had before it an old case from Oregon (where the Alaska recording statute was taken from), which held that the indexing was not a part of the record. If that were applied here, the recording of the deed to Anglin from McCain in long form alone would be sufficient to put Defendant on constructive notice and the Plaintiffs could recover.
    However, the court cited another case from Washington in which the Washington court found that all the prescribed steps, including indexing, had to be performed before the record could constitute constructive notice.
    The court found that it would be unreasonable to hold that every party to a transaction in land would have to manually search the entire long form deed books in order to ascertain whether any prior conveyances had been made.

    Discussion. The court made it fairly clear that the result achieved by its ruling would prevent damage to innocent purchasers for value, such as the Defendant. The Defendant had no way, other than to look through the entire long form deed books, to discover that McCain had previously conveyed the property to Anglin.


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