When it came down to fraudulently selling a piece of land, Mahrenholz v. County Board of School Trustees is considered one of the biggest nightmares in property law.
These are simple facts of Mahrenholz v. County Board of School Trustees. Here are the parties: The plaintiffs are Herbert L. Mahrenholz and Betty Mahrenholz (Plaintiffs) and the defendants is County Board of School Trustees. Further, this case asked a Court to quiet title to property. Parties to this case wondered, “Is the property a fee simple determinable or a fee simple subject to condition subsequent?”
Here’s the issue in this case. Did the language of a conveyance properly convey an interest in real property?
The Court ruled this way. The Court rules the language of the deed conveys a fee simple determinable followed by a possiblity of reverter, which belongs to Harry Hutton, son of the plaintiffs.
That being said, this case is about fraud too. In this case, Harry Hutton sold an interest in land which he did not own, since this case ultimately ruled the land conveyed was a fee simple subject to condition subsequent. Nevertheless, in the end, the County Board of Trustees got the land, but previous Harry Hutton sold his interest in the land to the Jacqmains, which Harry did not own. It should be noted that Harry missed the statute of limitations to obtain his right of entry.
Furthermore, this case teaches law students the importance of legal language in legal instruments. In this case of a fee simple determinable verses a fee simple subject to condition subsequent, the difference in legal language of the instrument comes down to a simple comma where if there is comma in the language of the deed, that is a fee simple subject to condition subsequent.
Additionally, it should be noted that legal language has changed considerably from 1800s. Today, commas might be left out of legal instruments without too much thought, but, in the past, a simple comma in legal language can make all the difference in the world. A comma can determine who owns a piece of real property. As well, it should be mentioned that grammar and punctuation has changed from 2020 to 1800.
Notably, it should be said, land can gained without having title. One way is adverse possession (title is sold after obtaining it) where a squatter can get title to land after squatting on it a number of years. Also, under the doctrine of conquest, land can be taken by force, which includes all title or claims to the land. These are just some ways of getting land without having title to it, which some may call fraud.
Briefly, I liked this case. It showed the difference between a fee simple determinable and a fee simple subject to condition subsequent. It all came down to a simple comma; nevertheless, this is the case with defeasible estates.