Facts: Owner sold two lots (19 and 20) to A. Lot 19 had a building on it; Lot 20 is
vacant, but us used by O’s church as a parking lot. O’s deed of lot 20 to A is expressly
made “subject to an easement for automobile parking during church hours for the benefit
of the church…” A records the deed to Lot 20, and then sells both lots to Plaintiff. The
deed received by P does not contain the easement. Several months later, P finds out about
the easement clause in the first deed, and brings an action to quiet title against the church.
He relied on the old common law rule and gains quiet title.
Holding: Reversed in favor of the church. The common law rule against easements in a
“stranger to the deed” is a product of feudal notions that have no relevance today. It not
only frustrates the grantor’s intent, but is also inequitable because the grantee has
presumably paid a reduced price for title to the encumbered property. Here for instance,
O testified that she discounted the price she charged A by one-third because of the
easement. Nor has B relied upon the common law rule, since he did not even read the
deed to A until several months after buying the property. Therefore the easement is
valid.
Rationale:
– The primary objective in construing a conveyance is to try to give effect to the
intent of the grantor. The common law rule conflicts this modern approach in
construing deeds because it can frustrate the grantor’s intent
– P argues that the common law rule should be enforced because the grantees and
the title insurers have relied upon it. He has not however, provided any evidence
to support this contention and it is clear that no one has relied on the old rule. P
did not read the deed at all, and there is no evidence that a policy of title insurance
was ever issued.
– The determination whether the old common law rule should be applied to grants
made prior to our decision involves balancing of equitable and policy
considerations. We must balance the injustice which would result from refusing
to give effect to the grantor’s intent against any possible injustice which might
result by failing to give effect to reliance on the old rule and the policy against
disturbing settled titles.