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Messersmith v. Smith

    Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiffs, members of the Messermith family (Plaintiffs), filed suit to quiet title to property. The Defendants, Smith and Seale (Defendants), purchased mineral rights to the property in question from women with no title in property.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The recording of an instrument affecting the title to real estate that does not meet the statutory requirements of the recording laws, does not give constructive notice.

    Facts. The Plaintiffs owned the property in question. Ms. Messersmith, Mr. Messersmith’s aunt, by quitclaim deed conveyed to Mr. Messersmith her interest in the property in question in 1946. This deed was not recorded until 1951. During this period when the quitclaim deed was not recorded and Ms. Messersmith no longer had any interest to convey, she assigned to Smith a mineral deed concerning the same property. The Smith recorded the deed in 1951. However, this deed was not properly acknowledged. The Smith conveyed a portion of his interest to Seale, who recorded his deed. Plaintiffs filed suit to quiet title to the land. The trial court found for Seale and the Plaintiff appealed.

    Issue. Whether Seale properly recorded his mineral deed.

    Held. Reversed, the deed that Seale relied upon was defective and thus could not give notice and is invalid.
    As a general rule, the recording of an instrument affecting the title to real estate that does not meet the statutory requirements of the recording laws does not give constructive notice.
    A deed must be acknowledged. To constitute acknowledgment, the grantor must appear before the officer for the purpose of acknowledging the instrument and make an admission to the officer of the fact that he had executed such instrument.

    Discussion. The court’s analysis focused on the material defect in the recording of the instrument. First, the court noted that Ms. Messersmith had no title to convey to Seale. Second, the deed Seale sought to record was defective. Although it had the stamp of the notary, the notary had not personally witnessed Ms. Messersmith sign the deed and thus it was defective. In the court’s decision not to rehear the case, the court again stated that because the deed was defective, the court could not analyze whether Seale was an innocent subsequent purchaser entitled to protection.


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