McCoy v. Love

Citation382 So.2d 647
Decision Date27 December 1979
Docket NumberNo. 52814,52814
PartiesIcie Lee Nowling McCOY, etc., Petitioner, v. Clyde E. LOVE et al., Respondents.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida

Stanley B. Levin and James R. Green, of Levin, Warfield, Middlebrooks, Mabie, Rosenbloum & Magie, Pensacola, and Allen W. Lindsay, Jr., of Beall, Lindsay & Lindsay, Milton, for petitioner.

John E. Venn, Jr., of Smith, Sauer & Venn, Pensacola, for respondents.

BOYD, Justice.

This cause is before the Court on petition for certiorari to review the decision of the court below, Love v. Elliott, 350 So.2d 93 (Fla.1st DCA 1977), on the ground that it is in conflict with a decision of another district court of appeal. We have jurisdiction. Art. V, § 3(b)(3), Fla.Const. Mary V. Nowling Elliott, now deceased, brought an action seeking the cancellation of a deed. The trial court found that Mrs. Elliott, a simple, elderly woman who could neither read nor write, owned an undivided one-fifth interest in the minerals underlying a seventy-five acre tract of land. In January 1972 B. G. Russell offered to buy her entire interest, but she refused. She orally agreed to sell Mr. Russell two of the thirteen to fifteen mineral acres she owned for $3300.00. The trial court found further:

Defendant Russell prepared the mineral deed, and instead of the two acres of minerals agreed upon, fraudulently substituted the clause: "one-fifth (1/5) interest in and to all the oil, gas, and other minerals" and then inserted the legal description of the 75 acres. Obviously, one-fifth of 75 acres is 15 acres a deal that the Plaintiff had consistently refused to make.

Mrs. Elliott lived with her daughter, who could read, write, and understand simple things. The daughter looked over the instrument Russell had prepared. Although she did not understand the deed, she advised Mrs. Elliott that she guessed it was all right.

Several days later, Russell contacted Mrs. Elliott and told her that he had made a mistake in drawing up the deed. He offered to pay her $15,000 for the interest that had been conveyed. She refused and insisted on a reconveyance of that portion of the interest which she had not intended to sell. "(O)n February 16, 1972, Russell and his wife purported to reconvey to Plaintiff the thirteen seventy-fifths (13/75ths) interest of which she had been defrauded." On February 11, 1972, however, Russell conveyed a substantial portion of the same mineral rights to C. P. McClelland, who later conveyed to respondents Messrs. Love, Harris, and Carpenter. Mrs. Elliott remained ignorant of the Russell-McClelland and subsequent transactions until October 1973 when she wanted to sell more of her mineral rights and a title search revealed them. She sued for cancellation of the deed. The trial court held in her favor, concluding:

By trick and fraud the Plaintiff was induced to sign a conveyance other than the one she intended to sign. Therefore, there was no lawful delivery of such instrument. The instrument is void. In light of her lack of education and attained age, the Court finds she was free of any negligence or inattention.

On appeal, the district court reversed. The court characterized the central question as being whether a deed procured by such fraud as was found in this case is void at law, as the trial court held, or merely voidable in equity on petition of the defrauded grantor. If the deed was void, then no legal title passed to the grantee. If the deed was only voidable in equity, then the equitable defenses of laches and of a bona fide purchaser are available. See Holley v. May, 75 So.2d 696 (Fla.1954); Bryson v. Bridges, 51 Fla. 395, 41 So. 28 (1906).

A bona fide purchaser has the right to rely on the record title of his grantor, but this protection extends only to those purchasing a legal title. Myers v. Van Buskirk, 96 Fla. 704, 119 So. 123 (1928). The recording of a void or forged deed is legally insufficient to create a legal title, and affords no protection to those claiming under it. Reed v. Fain, 145 So.2d 858 (Fla.1962); Wright v. Blocker, 144 Fla. 428, 198 So. 88 (1940). (The question of whether a void or forged deed can constitute the root of title under the operation of the Marketable Record Titles law, chapter 712, Florida Statutes (1977), is not at issue in this case.)

The district court implicitly held that the deed in the instant case was voidable, as is indicated by the court's discussion of the applicability of the defenses of purchaser-without-notice and laches. In so doing it created conflict with Houston v. Mentelos, 318 So.2d 427 (Fla.3d DCA 1975).

The trial court cited Houston v. Mentelos in support of its holding that the deed was void. In that case, the plaintiff had orally agreed to lease her land. She signed two documents prepared by the purported lessee. One was a contract for sale and the other a warranty deed. The trial court found "that plaintiffs signature on the 'Warranty Deed' was obtained through the fraud of the defendant Thomas E. Mentelos who misrepresented that the documents which plaintiff signed embodied the oral lease agreement." 318 So.2d at 430. Also, the contract for sale was altered subsequent to its execution "by the addition of language which made the document to read like a contract to convey the subject real property rather than a lease agreement." Id. at 428. Mentelos, the fraudulent grantee, then executed a mortgage in favor of a mortgagee for value who had no notice of the fraud. Based on the trial court's conclusions that there was fraud and that there was no negligence on the part of the grantor, the district court held that the deed was void. We disapprove the holding of Houston v. Mentelos, 318 So.2d 427 (Fla.3d DCA 1975), to the extent that it held that a deed, the execution of which is procured by fraud, is void ab initio.

In Houston v. Mentelos, the court relied on the cases of Houston v. Adams, 85 Fla. 291, 95 So. 859 (1923) and Houston v. Forman, 92 Fla. 1, 109 So. 297 (1926). The rule enunciated in those cases was that where a grantor executes a deed and then places it in escrow, subject to conditions agreed to in a contract for sale, and the grantee gets possession of the deed through fraud, the deed is void, there is no conveyance, and a bona fide purchaser from the grantee will not be protected.

Delivery is an essential requisite of the execution of a deed conveying valid legal title....

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    • United States
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    • November 13, 1995
    ...and without delivery, nothing passes to the grantee." Howarth v. Moreau, 430 So.2d 576, 578 (Fla. 5th DCA 1983); see also McCoy v. Love, 382 So.2d 647, 649 (Fla.1979).25 Here, as is evident from the Contract For Sale Of Real Estate that Agad and Balagamwala executed in connection with their......
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    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • October 6, 2021
    ...the legal title holder of the parcels. It divested itself of legal title while the lawsuit was pending. See generally McCoy v. Love , 382 So. 2d 647, 649 (Fla. 1979) ("Where all the essential legal requisites of a deed are present, it conveys legal title."). Dean Wish never disputed the val......
  • Harkless v. Laubhan
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    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • December 21, 2016
    ...purchaser for value without notice is an issue of material fact which may prompt the reversal of a summary judgment. See McCoy v. Love , 382 So.2d 647, 649 (Fla. 1979).A. Reservation of Mr. Harkless's Right to Receive Rent We interpret contracts in accordance with their plain and ordinary m......
  • In re Parker
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    • U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Southern District of Florida
    • June 7, 2021
    ...Kingsland , 456 So. 2d at 502 ).69 Id. (citing Simons v. Tobin , 89 Fla. 321, 104 So. 583, 584 (1925) ).70 Id. (citing McCoy v. Love , 382 So. 2d 647, 649 (Fla. 1979) ("Without delivery, nothing passes to the grantee.")).71 Id. at 849.72 Berry v. Berry , 992 So. 2d 898, 900 (Fla. 2d DCA 200......
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