Hallas v. Evans, 4989

Decision Date11 April 1949
Docket Number4989
Citation69 Ariz. 14,207 P.2d 985
CourtArizona Supreme Court

Opinion Modified on Rehearing August 22, 1949. See 208 P.2d 1153.

Appeal from Superior Court, Maricopa County; Thomas J. Croaff Judge.

Suit to quiet title by Ruth L. Hallas against Narcis Evans, wherein defendant cross-complained. From an adverse judgment plaintiff appeals.

Judgment reversed and cause remanded.

V. L. Hash, of Phoenix, for appellant.

Cox, Lockwood & Lockwood, of Phoenix, for appellee.

Kelly, Superior Judge. Udall, Stanford and De Concini, JJ., concur. Due to illness, the Chief Justice did not participate in determining this appeal. Justice Phelps announced his disqualification.


Kelly, Superior Judge.

For the second time the subject matter of the litigation between these parties has come before this court. The earlier case has been reported in 64 Ariz. 142, 167 P.2d 94, and reference is made thereto for such of the facts as are not mentioned herein. In the prior appeal two subjects were presented and passed upon -- one procedural, which is of no present concern, and one as to whether the offered pleading presented a justiciable question under the form of the action before the court. Upon this latter point it may be noted that the tendered defense was not before the court on the merits, but only the pleading and its sufficiency under the law to state a defense to the action of plaintiff to quiet title to the land bought by her at tax sale after the state by its tax processes had acquired at least a complete paper title to it. In the earlier decision here the cause was remanded for trial, the opinion being, so far as it is applicable, the law of the case. The question now, after trial upon the merits, is in its essence one as to whether the facts as disclosed are adequate to support the judgment, and whether the procedures at the trial were free from errors prejudicially affecting appellant's rights.

Plaintiff at public sale by the Board of Supervisors of tax deeded properties became the purchaser of Lot 12 of the Ward Tract of the City of Phoenix. She soon after brought this suit to establish her title against various parties who might claim adversely to her and among them this defendant was one. It may here be said that no controversy has arisen, with the single vital exception about which these proceedings revolve as set forth fully in the earlier opinion and now referred to in outline as may be necessary for clarity, as to the technical correctness of all of the proceedings of the taxing officers culminating in the sale. The lack of complaint of the steps taken in those proceedings, the tacit concessions to this effect in the pleadings and trial of this cause, together with the corresponding legal presumptions all join in supporting the correctness of this premise of regularity.

The tax sale was for the taxes of the year 1931, last half unpaid, and for the taxes of the years 1932-35, inclusive. The ultimate question presented by this litigation is whether under the peculiar circumstances of this case the assessment for taxes was lawful and the tax sale pursuant to it led into a title which can stand against the equities of the defendant's defense against it.

Defendant and her husband, then in life, had purchased three lots, Nos. 12, 21, and 22, of the Ward Tract at some time prior to 1930, and received deeds to all of the lots, separately executed by the husband and wife who were grantors, one dated in 1926 and one dated in 1930. The husband of defendant died on February 10, 1931. Defendant completed the purchase price payments, and in August of 1931 the deeds were recorded. The want of technical perfection in defendant's title is not considered as material here, for such as it was it sufficed to support her claim. Lot 21 was subsequently conveyed to others, but defendant, together with her husband until his death, retained possession of Lots 12 and 22, her home being upon Lot 12, the parcel now in controversy.

The defense interposed, coupled with a cross-complaint, was that each year during her widowhood the defendant had regularly gone to the office of the Assessor to make oath of her exempt status and to claim her exemption from taxes upon Lots 12 and 22. It is conceded that the value of both lots for this purpose was under the lower of the two minima fixed in the constitutional provision and in the statute and that so far as value alone is material the whole property was properly subject to exoneration from any tax. The claim was allowed but by an alleged error of the assessor in copying from defendant's deeds or evidences of title which he required to be displayed, the affidavit for exemption prepared by him omitted Lot 12 from the description of the exempt property and only Lot 22 was so returned. There can be no substantial claim that there was an exercise of discretion on the part of the assessor in allowing the claim as to one lot and disallowing it as to the other. Both lots were, or neither was, subject to be exempted from taxation, and that one was returned as exempt and the other as subject to levy is corroborative of the defense of mistake on the part of the assessor in preparing the affidavit of claim. There was no basis for the exercise of a discretion in a manner so inconsistent with reason.

This error, due to the extraordinary circumstances attending it, was held by the earlier opinion to be parallel with or in legal effect the equivalent of payment of the tax; that the proof of it would render the subsequently laid tax void ab initio and that the assessment could not lead to the divestiture of defendant's ownership. That rule, if applicable to no other case, is now accepted for all of the purposes of this one and constitutes the legal premise for the adjudication of the opposing rights asserted. The defense to be good must show an annual claim and the same annual error in each of the years during which the tax was laid; but the rule as given in the earlier appeal does not imply that it must occur in exactly the same way each year, but it must arise from the assessor's fault. The recurrence of the same error in the same form arose from copying into each annual affidavit of claim from his own recorded copy of the first one made; but his perpetuation by negligence of his own earlier mistake is within the rule.

In this appeal various assignments supported by corresponding propositions of law are made, some going to the sufficiency of the...

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7 cases
  • Estate of Hall v. Madrid
    • United States
    • Arizona Court of Appeals
    • March 2, 2016
    ...A successor immediately receives title to property upon a decedent's death. See A.R.S. § 14-3101(A); see also Hallas v. Evans, 69 Ariz. 14, 18, 207 P.2d 985, 987 (1949) ("The holding of this court has been and the rule is well known that immediately upon the death the heirs are invested wit......
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  • Lawson v. Ridgeway
    • United States
    • Arizona Supreme Court
    • June 25, 1951
    ...31, 29 P.2d 139; Johnson v. Jones, 55 Ariz. 49, 97 P.2d 933; In re Monaghan's Estate, 65 Ariz. 9, 13, 173 P.2d 107; and Hallas v. Evans, 69 Ariz. 14, 18, 207 P.2d 985. Applying these principles of law to the present situation, we find that after the death of Bessie Lawson the plaintiff-daug......
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    • United States
    • Arizona Supreme Court
    • December 18, 1956
    ...in this jurisdiction. In re Monaghan's Estate, 70 Ariz. 349, 220 P.2d 726, on rehearing 71 Ariz. 334, 227 P.2d 227; Hallas v. Evans, 69 Ariz. 14, 207 P.2d 985; Western Coal & Mining Co. v. Hilvert, 63 Ariz. 171, 160 P.2d 331; Miller Cattle Co. v. Francis, 38 Ariz. 197, 298 P. 631; Commercia......
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