Rigby v. Liles, BL-86

CourtCourt of Appeal of Florida (US)
Citation12 Fla. L. Weekly 1002,505 So.2d 598
Docket NumberNo. BL-86,BL-86
Parties12 Fla. L. Weekly 1002 Marvin Thomas RIGBY, individually and on Behalf of the heirs of William Clinton Rigby, Andrew Jackson Rigby, and James Franklin Rigby, Appellants, v. Vernie G. LILES, Adrian L. Lancaster, Marion Gene Liles, and Bass Enterprises Production Co., Appellees.
Decision Date10 April 1987

Paul Shimek, Jr., of Shimek & Southerland, Pensacola, for appellants.

Donald H. Partington, of Clark, Partington, Hart, Larry, Bond & Stackhouse, Pensacola, for appellees.

ZEHMER, Judge.

Marvin Thomas Rigby appeals the dismissal of his three count second amended complaint in a action seeking a declaratory judgment, to quiet title, and the reformation of a deed. He seeks reversal, arguing (1) that the declaratory judgment count stated a cause of action, and (2) that neither the statute of limitations nor the doctrine of laches bars the alleged causes of action to quiet title or reform deeds. We find merit to both arguments and reverse.

On October 1, 1965 the twenty-one heirs of King Lafayette Rigby and Clara Lee Rigby instructed their attorney, R. Brownlee Eggart, to prepare deeds to convey certain real property to M.J. and Vernie Liles. Eggart was instructed to retain one-half of all the oil, gas, and mineral rights in the realty for all grantors. Eggart prepared eleven warranty deeds to accomplish the requested transfer, one deed for all of the owners living in the Pensacola area, and one for each of the ten out-of-town owners. The warranty deed for the in-town owners contained the clause, "Grantors reserve one-half of all oil, gas and minerals, and in accepting this conveyance grantees acknowledge that above owners and their co-tenants retain one-half of oil, gas and minerals." [Emphasis added.] The clause did not appear in the ten out-of-town warranty deeds. The complaint alleges, however, that it was understood by all grantors and agreed to by the grantees that all of the grantors would retain one-half of the mineral rights in their portion of the property conveyed.

The grantees entered into an oil, gas, and mineral lease with Humble Oil & Refining Company in 1970. Sometime in 1984 appellants (the out-of-town grantors) discovered their one-half interest in the mineral rights had not been expressly reserved in all the warranty deeds. In September 1984, appellee Bass Enterprises agreed to make lease payments on the mineral rights to the grantees and only to those grantors whose deeds had expressly reserved one-half of the mineral rights. Appellants demanded, and were refused, payment.

In August 1985, Marvin Thomas Rigby filed a complaint, individually and on behalf of the heirs of William Clinton Rigby, Andrew Jackson Rigby, and James Franklin Rigby, his brothers, seeking declaratory judgment, deed clarification or reformation, and damages. Appellees filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that the cause of action was barred by the statute of limitations. Appellants filed an amended complaint on September 20, 1985. Appellees then filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint on grounds that (1) appellant Marvin Rigby had no standing to file the action on behalf of the other affected owners; (2) the complaint failed to state a claim for declaratory judgment; (3) the action was barred by laches; and (4) the action was barred by the statute of limitations.

Prior to a ruling on this motion to dismiss, the appellants filed a second amended complaint in three counts, seeking (1) declaratory judgment that all grantors had reserved one-half of all oil, gas, and mineral rights, and that the appellees be ordered to hold in trust for appellants all funds received from these rights; (2) to quiet title in appellants so that title would reflect their ownership of one-half of the reserved oil, gas, and mineral rights in the land they had conveyed; and (3) reformation of the original deeds.

The trial court thereafter entered the appealed order, (1) granting plaintiff's motion to file the second amended complaint; (2) granting defendant's motion to dismiss the second complaint on the ground that Marvin Thomas Rigby had an interest in only one warranty deed and therefore lacked standing to file an action on behalf of the other parties; (3) granting defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim for declaratory judgment; and (4) granting defendant's motion to dismiss the quiet title and reformation claims on the grounds that they were barred by laches and the applicable statute of limitations.

First, we conclude that the declaratory judgment count states a good cause of action. The declaratory judgment act should be liberally construed in order to settle uncertainties with respect to rights, status, or other equitable and legal relationships. Section 86.011, Florida Statutes (1985). The complaint alleges bona fide doubt as to the rights and status of the out-of-town grantors with respect to their reserved mineral rights. The complaint seeks to have the court determine that the out-of-town grantors are the "co-tenants" of the property owners described in the deed signed by the in-town grantors and, that the out-of-town owners, therefore, have also reserved one-half the oil, gas, and mineral rights. The test of sufficiency of a complaint in a declaratory judgment proceeding is not whether the complaint shows that the plaintiff will prevail, but whether there is a bona fide dispute and the plaintiff is entitled to a declaration of rights. Dent v. Belin, 483 So.2d 61 (Fla. 1st DCA 1986). In this case, the declaratory judgment count alleges a personal interest by Marvin Rigby, that a bona fide dispute exists, and that alleged rights of the parties must be determined by the court. The complaint is, therefore, sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. On remand, appellant may amend to include additional necessary parties.

Next, we look at the lower court's ruling on the statute of limitations and laches. Appellees assert that the seven year statute of limitation contained in § 95.12 bars the appellants' actions for substantive relief. Rigby, however, argues that the statute of limitations or laches does not bar his actions to quiet title or reform deeds.

In considering the laches issue, we follow the rule that unless strong equities compelling application of a different rule are made to appear, a court of equity should apply the statute of limitations in an equity suit with the same substantial effect and construction it would receive at law. H.K.L. Realty Corp. v. Kirtley, 74 So.2d 876 (Fla.1954); Jefferies v. Corwin, 363 So.2d 600 (Fla. 4th DCA 1978); Tower v. Moskowitz, 262 So.2d 276 (Fla. 3d DCA), cert. denied, 268 So.2d 906 (Fla.1972). This principle is tempered, however, by the proposition that

[l]aches, even when measured by a statutory...

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19 cases
  • Chakra 5, Inc. v. City of Miami Beach
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • 22 Agosto 2018
    ...on the part of the plaintiff to allege facts in avoidance of the applicable statute of limitations by way of the reply. Rigby v. Liles, 505 So.2d 598, 601 (Fla. 1st DCA 1987) (citations omitted); accord Saltponds, 972 So.2d at 231. Thus, we must review the specific allegations of the amende......
  • Lankford v. Wright, 308PA96
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • 5 Septiembre 1997
    ...248 Cal.App.2d 116, 56 Cal.Rptr. 195 (1967); Kennedy v. Bank of America, 237 Cal.App.2d 637, 47 Cal.Rptr. 154 (1965); Rigby v. Liles, 505 So.2d 598 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1987); Bedal v. Johnson, 37 Idaho 359, 218 P. 641 (1923); Kelsey v. Kelsey, 190 N.Y.S. 52 (Sup.Ct.1921), rev'd on other ground......
  • Grove Isle Ass'n, Inc. v. Grove Isle Assocs., LLLP, 3D10–2312.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • 26 Marzo 2014
    ...such as statute of limitations and laches, are generally matters raised in an answer and not a motion to dismiss. Rigby v. Liles, 505 So.2d 598, 601 (Fla. 1st DCA 1987). However, where the facts constituting the defense affirmatively appear on the face of the complaint and establish conclus......
  • State, Dept. of Educ. v. Glasser, 91-02336
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • 31 Julio 1992
    ...See also Riviere v. Orlando Parking Comm'n, 74 So.2d 694 (Fla.1954) (both parties in doubt as to legal rights); Rigby v. Liles, 505 So.2d 598 (Fla. 1st DCA 1987) (declaratory judgment act should be liberally construed to accomplish purpose of Although DOE may have been a proper party for th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • Legal theories & defenses
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Florida Causes of Action
    • 1 Abril 2022
    ...the statute of limitations bars the action as a matter of law, should a motion to dismiss on this ground be granted. Rigby v. Liles , 505 So.2d 598, 601 (Fla. 1st DCA 1987). 3. Child Support Arrearage Cases: In the context of child support arrearage cases, the defense of laches is only appl......
  • Real estate acquisitions and sales
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Florida Small-Firm Practice Tools - Volume 1-2 Volume 1
    • 1 Abril 2023
    ...Statute of Limitations The statute of limitations for bringing a quiet title action is 20 years. [Fla. Stat. §95.231; Rigby v. Liles , 505 So. 2d 598, 601 (Fla. 1st DCA 1987).] The four-year fraud statute of limitations does not apply in quiet title actions. [ Bistricer v. Palmer , 93 So. 2......

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