Johnson v. Arbabi, No. 25680.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Citation584 S.E.2d 113,355 S.C. 64
Docket NumberNo. 25680.
Decision Date21 July 2003
PartiesGary JOHNSON, Petitioner, v. Mohammad B. ARBABI and Akram Arbabi, Defendants and Third-Party Plaintiffs, of Whom Mohammad B. Arbabi is, Respondent, v. Beaufort County Treasurer's Office and Joy Logan, Treasurer, Third-Party Defendants.

355 S.C. 64
584 S.E.2d 113

Gary JOHNSON, Petitioner,
v.
Mohammad B. ARBABI and Akram Arbabi, Defendants and Third-Party Plaintiffs, of Whom Mohammad B. Arbabi is, Respondent,
v.
Beaufort County Treasurer's Office and Joy Logan, Treasurer, Third-Party Defendants

No. 25680.

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Heard June 11, 2003.

Decided July 21, 2003.


355 S.C. 66
Robert L. Widener, of McNair Law Firm, P.A., of Columbia, for Petitioner

Michael S. Seekings, of Mullen, Wylie & Seekings, LLC, of Charleston, for Respondent.

Assistant County Attorney Jeffrey D. Wile, of Greenville, Stephen P. Hughes and Mary Bass Lohr, both of Howell, Gibson & Hughes, P.A., of Beaufort, for Amicus Curiae Beaufort County Treasurer's Office and the Greenville County Tax Collector's Office.

Justice WALLER:

In this action to quiet title on a tax deed, we granted the petition for a writ of certiorari to review the Court of Appeals' opinion in Johnson v. Arbabi, 347 S.C. 132, 553 S.E.2d 453 (Ct.App.2001). We reverse.

FACTS

In January 1981, respondent Mohammad B. Arbabi ("Dr. Arbabi") and his wife, Akram Arbabi ("Mrs. Arbabi"), entered into a "Land Contract and Agreement for Deed" with the Island Club Investment Company ("ICIC") to purchase a condominium on Hilton Head Island. The Arbabis live in Michigan and were buying the property as an investment. The sale price was $90,000, and ICIC financed the transaction. Title to the property was to remain in ICIC's name until the Arbabis paid their debt. The parties agreed not to record the contract in Beaufort County's public records; therefore, ICIC remained the owner of record.

In 1989 or 1990, the Arbabis decided to pay off the balance on the condominium. On April 22, 1991, Dr. Arbabi's Michigan attorney wrote the Beaufort County Assessor's office to request copies of the property tax bills for 1988, 1989, and 1990. The attorney additionally asked the Assessor's office to send all future tax bills directly to Dr. Arbabi at 3739 White Trillium Drive East in Saginaw, Michigan ("White Trillium address").

On September 3, 1991, the Arbabis recorded their deed in the names of "Mohammad B. Arbabi and Akram Arbabi" with

355 S.C. 67
the White Trillium address listed for the Arbabis. ICIC, however, had not paid the property taxes for 1990, and the County had seized the property on July 2, 1991. During September 1991, the County Treasurer advertised the tax sale with ICIC as the owner of record.1 The tax sale took place in October 1991, and petitioner Gary Johnson bought the condominium for $7,000

In a letter dated September 1, 1992, which was addressed jointly to "Mohammad B. & Akram Arabi" [sic], the County Treasurer informed the Arbabis that the property had been sold at a tax sale and could be redeemed by paying $2,329.40 by October 7, 1992. This redemption notice was sent to the White Trillium address.

Mrs. Arbabi apparently signed for and received this notice. However, Dr. and Mrs. Arbabi were experiencing marital problems, and in April 1991, Dr. Arbabi had moved out of the White Trillium home. Their divorce proceedings occurred between August and November 1992, and at some point during these proceedings (but after the redemption period had expired), Mrs. Arbabi disclosed the redemption notice to Dr. Arbabi.

In November 1992, the County Treasurer issued Petitioner a tax deed. The deed stated that the tax collector had, via "certified mail, return receipt requested, deliver to addressee only," mailed "a Notice addressed to Mohammad B. and Akrem Arabi," [sic] as the owner of record, informing them of the right to redeem.

In January 1993, petitioner commenced the instant action to quiet title. Dr. Arbabi filed an answer and brought a thirdparty complaint against the Beaufort County Treasurer's Office and the County Treasurer, individually.2 Mrs. Arbabi never answered the complaint.

The trial court granted summary judgment to Dr. Arbabi and the tax deed was declared invalid. Upon petitioner's motion to alter or amend the judgment, the court modified its

355 S.C. 68
order, declared Mrs. Arbabi to be in default, and granted petitioner relief—but only as to Mrs. Arbabi's undivided halfinterest. Dr. Arbabi appealed, and in an unpublished opinion, Johnson v. Arbabi, Op. No. 96-UP-008 (S.C. Ct.App. filed January 8, 1996), the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded

On remand, the case was assigned to a Master-in-Equity and a full hearing was held. Dr. Arbabi testified that after he left the marital home, he did not return to get his mail. He stated Mrs. Arbabi "would bring it to me or she would give it to my attorney."

The Master found the County Treasurer complied with the statutory requirements in S.C.Code Ann. § 12-51-120 when it sent only one redemption notice to the White Trillium address. The Master decided Mrs. Arbabi acted as Dr. Arbabi's agent in receiving the notice because Dr. Arbabi did not stop Mrs. Arbabi from receiving his mail and never notified the County of a change of address. Thus, the Master concluded that petitioner held a valid title to the condominium.

In a 2-1 decision, the Court of Appeals reversed. The majority held: (1) Mrs. Arbabi was not Dr. Arbabi's authorized agent when she received the redemption notice; (2) section 12-51-120 requires that each co-tenant be sent a separate notice of the right to redeem, and therefore the single, joint notice sent in this case did not comply with the statute; and (3) the entire tax sale should be invalidated. Judge Stilwell dissented, finding that where multiple owners provide only one address for notice purposes, separate notices need not be sent.

ISSUES

1. Does section 12-51-120 require separate redemption notices for joint owners at the same address?
2. Did the Court of Appeals err in finding Mrs. Arbabi was not Dr. Arbabi's agent for purposes of accepting the redemption notice?

DISCUSSION

Initially, we note this is an action in equity. See Bryan v. Freeman, 253 S.C. 50, 52, 168 S.E.2d 793, 793 (1969)

355 S.C. 69
("An action to remove a cloud on and quiet title to land is one in equity"). Therefore, we are free to find...

To continue reading

Request your trial
7 practice notes
  • Halsey v. Simmons, Appellate Case No. 2017-001459
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • January 22, 2019
    ...shall be listed, assessed, levied upon, advertised, and sold in the name of the true owner." (emphasis added)); Johnson v. Arbabi, 355 S.C. 64, 72, 584 S.E.2d 113, 117 (2003) (finding that implied agency can satisfy tax notice requirements). Prior to the year 2000, section 12-51-40 included......
  • Halsey v. Simmons, Appellate Case No. 2017-001459
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • January 22, 2020
    ...shall be listed, assessed, levied upon, advertised, and sold in the name of the true owner ." (emphasis added)); Johnson v. Arbabi , 355 S.C. 64, 72, 584 S.E.2d 113, 117 (2003) (finding that implied agency can satisfy tax notice requirements). Prior to the year 2000, section 12-51-40 includ......
  • Equivest Fin., LLC v. Ravenel, Appellate Case No. 2015-002257
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • February 14, 2018
    ...This appeal followed.STANDARD OF REVIEW"An action to remove a cloud on and quiet title to land is one in equity." Johnson v. Arbabi , 355 S.C. 64, 69, 584 S.E.2d 113, 115 (2003) (quoting Bryan v. Freeman , 253 S.C. 50, 52, 168 S.E.2d 793 (1969) ). "In an action at equity, tried by a judge a......
  • In re Care and Treatment of Harvey, No. 25681.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 21, 2003
    ...The sole issue at an annual review trial is whether a person remains a sexually violent predator. See § 44-48-110 ("The burden of proof at 355 S.C. 64 the trial is upon the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the committed person's mental abnormality or personality disorder remain......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7 cases
  • Halsey v. Simmons, Appellate Case No. 2017-001459
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • January 22, 2019
    ...shall be listed, assessed, levied upon, advertised, and sold in the name of the true owner." (emphasis added)); Johnson v. Arbabi, 355 S.C. 64, 72, 584 S.E.2d 113, 117 (2003) (finding that implied agency can satisfy tax notice requirements). Prior to the year 2000, section 12-51-40 included......
  • Halsey v. Simmons, Appellate Case No. 2017-001459
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • January 22, 2020
    ...shall be listed, assessed, levied upon, advertised, and sold in the name of the true owner ." (emphasis added)); Johnson v. Arbabi , 355 S.C. 64, 72, 584 S.E.2d 113, 117 (2003) (finding that implied agency can satisfy tax notice requirements). Prior to the year 2000, section 12-51-40 includ......
  • Equivest Fin., LLC v. Ravenel, Appellate Case No. 2015-002257
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • February 14, 2018
    ...This appeal followed.STANDARD OF REVIEW"An action to remove a cloud on and quiet title to land is one in equity." Johnson v. Arbabi , 355 S.C. 64, 69, 584 S.E.2d 113, 115 (2003) (quoting Bryan v. Freeman , 253 S.C. 50, 52, 168 S.E.2d 793 (1969) ). "In an action at equity, tried by a judge a......
  • In re Care and Treatment of Harvey, No. 25681.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 21, 2003
    ...The sole issue at an annual review trial is whether a person remains a sexually violent predator. See § 44-48-110 ("The burden of proof at 355 S.C. 64 the trial is upon the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the committed person's mental abnormality or personality disorder remain......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT