99 A.2d 743 (Md. 1953), 8, Kolker v. Biggs

Docket Nº:8.
Citation:99 A.2d 743, 203 Md. 137
Opinion Judge:[10] Delaplaine
Party Name:KOLKER v. BIGGS.
Attorney:[7] William Saxon, for appellant.
Case Date:November 06, 1953
Court:Court of Appeals of Maryland
 
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Page 743

99 A.2d 743 (Md. 1953)

203 Md. 137

KOLKER

v.

BIGGS.

No. 8.

Court of Appeals of Maryland.

November 6, 1953

Page 744

[203 Md. 139] William Saxon, Baltimore, for appellant.

B. Conway Taylor, Jr., Baltimore (Palmer R. Nickerson and Due, Nickerson, Whiteford & Taylor, Baltimore, on the brief), for appellee.

Before SOBELOFF, C. J., and DELAPLAINE, COLLINS, HENDERSON and HAMMOND, JJ.

DELAPLAINE, Judge.

Benjamin Kolker, owner of the leasehold in the real property at 1131 East Lexington Street in Baltimore, brought this suit against Eleanor C. Biggs to obtain a judicial declaration that the ground rent claimed by defendant is extinguished under the statute of limitations [203 Md. 140] in the Landlord and Tenant Law. Code 1951, art. 53, § 36.

On April 2, 1909, Max Cohen, owner of the property in fee simple, leased it to Aaron Cohen, his executors, administrators and assigns, for 99 years, renewable forever, for an annual ground rent of $120, payable in equal semi-annual instalments, and then conveyed the fee, including ground rent and reversion, to Robert Biggs and Alice C. Biggs, trustees for Eleanor C. Biggs. On the same day the leasehold was conveyed back to Max Cohen.

Page 745

In 1921 Cohen conveyed the leasehold to Diamantis Pardos and wife. In January, 1927, Pardos and wife conveyed it to Minnie Eaton, who mortgaged it to the B. I. L. Building and Loan Association. At that time the building association, which was established by Benjamin I. Levinson as a family enterprise, was being operated by the founder's son; but in 1929 the son was forced by illness to place most of the work in the hands of his son, S. Robert Levinson. The latter, as trustee, offered the leasehold at a foreclosure sale and sold it to the building association. In December, 1943, the building association conveyed it to Annie Levinson, S. Robert Levinson's mother. In June, 1944, Annie Levinson sold it at auction to complainant for $1,800.

Robert Biggs and Alice C. Biggs, trustees, continued as the owners of the ground rent and reversion from 1909 until Biggs' death in February, 1933, when Mrs. Biggs became the sole owner. Biggs' nephew, Richard D. Biggs, alleged that on account of the many difficult probems that beset him in the years that followed he forgot all about the ground rent until it was called to his attention nearly 20 years afterwards. In August, 1952, Biggs, acting as substituted trustee, conveyed the ground rent and reversion to his consin, Eleanor C. Biggs. Miss Biggs entered suit in the People's Court to recover the ground rent from complainant.

Complainant thereupon filed the instant suit in the Circuit Court No. 2 to extinguish the ground rent and [203 Md. 141] to enjoin Miss Biggs from prosecuting her suit in the People's Court or any other proceeding for recovery of the ground rent. Defendant agreed to have the case heard without question of jurisdiction.

Richard D. Biggs testified, that upon his uncle's request, he sent a bill for the ground rent to the B. I. L. Building and Loan Association in September, 1932, which was slightly less than 20 years before defendant's demand for payment. The chancellor, giving credence to Biggs' testimony, dismissed the bill of complaint. Complainant appealed from that decree.

Ground rent leases, which were rare in England but common in Ireland, were introduced in Maryland before the Revolution. Seldom used in other States, they have been a favorite form of tenure in Baltimore. In the...

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