Brief Fact Summary. In this case, the Plaintiff, Wineberg (Plaintiff), sued to quiet title and for other relief to 880 acres of land, which the Plaintiff alleged that he purchased from Barker in May 1948 for $6,000. However, the Plaintiff failed to record his deed until May 1951. In the interim between the Plaintiff’s purchase and recording, Barker made a contract for the sale of timber on the land to the Defendant, Construction Engineers (Defendant No. 1), the contract recorded in 1950. In 1951 Barker sold the property again deeding the property to the Defendant, Natural Resources, Inc. (Defendant No. 2) and that deed was likewise recorded prior to the Plaintiff’s deed. Also, several judgment creditors had obtained judgments against Barker during this period, some of which were also made Defendants.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Possession is notice not only of whatever title the occupant has, but also of whatever right he may have in the property. Also, the knowledge chargeable to a person after he is put on inquiry by possession of land is not limited to such knowledge as would be gained by examination of the public records.
Issue. Was the Plaintiff’s possession sufficient to impart notice to Defendant No. 1 and Defendant No. 2?
Held. Yes. Judgment awarded to the Plaintiff on the issue of title.
The California recording statute requires the second purchaser to be without notice, actual or constructive, of the interest of the prior purchaser. A deed not recorded is nevertheless valid between the parties thereto, and persons who have notice thereof.
When a party purchases real property where a third party is in possession, there is a presumption that the purchaser acts with full notice of all the legal and equitable rights in the premises of the third party and in subordination of those rights. The presumption is only rebutted by a showing of clear and explicit proof on the part of the purchaser of a diligent, unavailing effort by the purchaser to discover or obtain actual notice of any legal or equitable rights in the third party in possession.
Possession is notice not only of whatever title the occupant has, but also of whatever right he may have in the property and the knowledge chargeable to a person after he is put on inquiry by possession of land is not limited to such knowledge as would be gained by examination of the public records.
The possession required to impart notice to a subsequent purchaser in California must be open, notorious, exclusive and visible and not consistent with record title.
The burden of proof as to what acts of dominion will suffice to establish notice by possession rests with the person claiming such possession. In this case the Plaintiff was able to show the Court the necessary elements of possession of the 880 acres of property. Thus, Defendant No. 1 and Defendant No. 2 should have been on notice of the rights of the Plaintiff.
Discussion. This case provides further illustration of the need to promptly record deeds to property. The Plaintiff here was able to maintain his ownership despite his mistake in not recording the deed, but he had to go through a legal process, which requires money and time. It would have been far better for the Plaintiff to record his deed and avoid the aggravation of a quiet title suit.