Friday, April 13, 2018
It's not often that I can make quitclaim deeds look like a sexy topic in Property. This semester in particular, the conversation about warranty of title (or lack thereof) dragged on for a good bit longer than I had planned. As always happens, one student asked why anyone would transfer property via a quitclaim deed. While I was explaining that the value of the interest an individual has in a tract of land might be less than the cost of determining the exact scope of that interest, I could see the glaze over my students' eyes growing. I was saved by the bell, but fretted returning the next day to a bored group of students.
That is when this news story hit the press.
A lawyer from near New Orleans wanted to make a buck and what better way to do it than through a few quitclaim deeds. More than a decade ago, the property lawyer decided to write up some false quitclaim deeds on a few properties that appeared to be abandoned. The lawyer put his business partner's name in as the seller, the lawyer's name in as the buyer, put the deed in valid form under Louisiana, and presto! The quitclaim deeds were filed in the public records and a couple of years later, the lawyer aka alleged buyer of the abandoned properties sold the properties to unsuspecting third parties. Making up quitclaim deeds and selling them off became like going to the ATM.
Fast forward to the present day when those unsuspecting third party buyers resell the property to new unsuspecting third parties who are unable to get clean title to the properties and the gig is up. Louisiana has a notably long period for adverse possession (or acquisitive prescription as it is referred to in this civil law jurisdiction), so the new buyers can't be saved by adverse possession. The original attorney re-enters the scene and files a defamation lawsuit against all of the buyers of the property. Why? Because the buyers of the property have been asserting that the lawyer made the original sin in this whole transaction. To top it all off, the lawyer has a bizarre coffee shop meeting with the buyers he is suing for defamation. During the coffee shop meeting, the lawyer does a time warp to the 1990s by literally giving the buyers an Ace Ventura loser sign. (Seriously. Read the story. The loser part is even included.)
Needless to say, the lawyer involved is in a heap of trouble, facing possible disbarment. And the buyers aren't much better off, at least financially. But my Property class, I am happy to say, is now wide awake and totally enthralled in quitclaim deeds.