Walters v. Boosinger - statute of limitations on quiet title; joint tenancy not severed merely by filing suit

Walters v. Boosinger

Two key issues:  There is a statute of limitations on quiet title claims; and joint tenancy doesn’t get severed merely by filing a lawsuit.

In this case a girlfriend and boyfriend Valerie Boosinger and Randy Walters owned real property together.  A 2003 deed named Boosinger and Walters as joint tenants to the real property.  In April of 2013, Walters sued Boosinger alleging he was 2/3 owner and asking to buy-out Boosinger’s share of the property or for a court ordered partition.  Thereafter, Walters died.  

Walters’s son substituted in and continued the suit as administrator of his father’s estate, but Boosinger argued that the joint tenancy ended as a matter of law at the death of Walters and that Boosinger therefore owned 100% of the real property.  Boosinger demurred at the trial court level and won arguing that Walters had no standing (post-death) to bring forth a partition claim.   The court granted Walters’s son leave to file an amended complaint and he did. 

Walters’s son’s first amended complaint brought forth claims for quiet title and partition.  In his complaint he acknowledged that the 2003 deed grants ownership of the Property from "[Randy], an Unmarried Man as to an undivided 2/3 interest, and [Boosinger], a Single Woman as to an Undivided 1/3 interest as tenants in common," to "[Randy], an Unmarried Man and [Boosinger], a Single Woman as Joint Tenants." (Italics added.)

Even with such language in the deed Walters’s son argued the real property was not held in joint tenancy.  He contended, amongst other things, that his dad never intended to create a joint tenancy.

In the alternative, Walters’s son alleged even if there was a joint tenancy it was severed upon Walters filing suit and Boosinger’s filing an answer.

Another demurer was filed by Boosinger alleging the statute of limitations as a defense under the premise that the underlying quiet action was premised on fraud and the applicable time period passed since the date of the act to the date of the suit.

On appeal the trial court ruling was sustained the lower court’s ruling.  The Court of Appeals held there was a statute of limitations regarding the contention that the deed was invalid on its face.    The Court of Appeals also held that the quiet title claim was not valid in so far as it alleged the joint tenancy was severed by way of the lawsuit and answer.