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Mayor and City Council of Ocean City v. Taber

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Taber’s heirs sued for ownership of land claiming that the government had no right to the land after the land ceased being used as a Life Saving Station as required by the landowner.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A fee simple determinable automatically reverts to the grantor after it terminates.

    Facts.

    When Taber acquired land to Ocean City, Maryland, Taber devised a portion of the estate to the government to be used as a life saving station. Taber stipulated that once the tract of land ceased being used as a life saving station, the land would return to Taber and his heirs. The government later issued a quitclaim deed that stated the land would no longer be used as a life saving station. Taber’s heirs sued for ownership of the land and the trial court ruled in favor of the heirs. The government appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether a fee simple determinable automatically reverts to the grantor after it terminates?

    Held.

    Yes. The trial court’s judgment is affirmed. The original deed that created a fee simple determinable to the government was valid and the government only had a right to the property as long as the property was being used as a life saving station. When the property ceased being used as a life saving station, the property is reverted back to Taber and his heirs.

    Discussion.

    A fee simple determinable occurs when a limitation is created where a fee simple estate expires on the occurrence of an event. The quitclaim deed transferring the property to Ocean City stated that the property was no longer being used as a life saving station and the fee simple determinable thus terminated and automatically reverted to Taber’s heirs.


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