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Brown v. Lober

    Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiffs brought suit for breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment after discovering they were not in possession of all of the mineral rights to the property they purchased.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Until one holding a paramount title interferes with Plaintiff’s right of possession, there can be no constructive eviction and no breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment.

    Facts. In 1947, the owner of 80 acres conveyed it to the Bosts, but reserved 2/3 interest in the mineral rights on the land. In 1957, the Bosts conveyed the land by general warranty deed to the Browns, the Plaintiffs (Plaintiffs). In 1974, the Plaintiffs attempted to sell the mineral rights to the land and learned they were only in possession of 1/3 of the mineral rights. Plaintiffs sued the Defendant, the executor of the owner’s estate, Lober (Defendant), for breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment. The trial court ruled in favor of the Defendant. The appellate court reversed, and the Plaintiffs appealed.

    Issue. Whether the plaintiffs have alleged sufficient facts to constitute a constructive eviction?

    Held. Reversed. To have a breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment, Plaintiffs would have to demonstrate that someone holding a paramount title interfered with Plaintiffs’ right to possession.
    Possession of the surface area does not carry possession of mineral rights. To possess the mineral estate, one must undertake the actual removal thereof from the ground or do such other act that will apprise the community that such interest is in the exclusive use and enjoyment of the claiming party.
    Until one holding a paramount title interferes with Plaintiffs’ right of possession, there can be no constructive eviction and no breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment.

    Discussion. The court focused on the premise that even if an individual is aware that there is a person holding paramount title to his own, that person must actively interfere with their right to possession before the covenant of quiet enjoyment can be breached. The Plaintiffs in this case have been in no way hindered as of yet in their enjoyment of their land. They merely were put on notice that there existed another individual with rights in their property.


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