How Important is a Chain of Title? Our last trip to Old Dominion chronologically ended up being in the Bluegrass State. This month we are in the Commonwealth of Virginia "proper" visiting a case situated in the City of Virginia Beach. These subdivisions incidentally are in the exact spot where English Common Law set foot on the continent way back in 1607. A special thanks to the City Surveyor of Virginia Beach Dwight Spivey for his assistance in tracking down these plats. By the time this gets to print Dwight should be retired and hitting the links full time! I enjoyed the opportunity to hear him reflect on his career and recollection of his first day surveying way back before automation. I can't over emphasis the importance of harvesting local knowledge and the professional camaraderie that's out there. Best wishes Dwight!
Okay, On to the case. The syllabus says "In dispute over title and right to possession of land surveyors appointed by the court were unable to agree. Plats of record and not of record together with deed descriptions and surveys showed overlap. Plaintiff must trace unbroken chain of title to Commonwealth or common grantor or prove state of facts warranting presumption of grant. Prior peaceful possession [is] not sufficient where [the] defendant [is] not an intruder or trespasser without color of title."
This case is what I normally think of when I hear the phrase "boundary dispute." Two separate parties with two separate chains of title describing the same chunk of dirt on the ground or "overlap." The court sums it up as follows: "Both Page and Luhring claim title and right to possession of the disputed land under the respective plats referred to in their deeds. Neither party claims title by adverse possession or the presumption of a grant. Thus the crucial question presented is whether Luhring presented sufficient evidence to prove record title to the disputed land." This is a matter of law. We know where the land is, we just don't know who rightfully owns it. Needless to say the original subdividers crossed ropes on this one so we had to call in "all the king's horses and all the king's men." Surveyors, title examiners, lawyers, and boy howdy this was an "all skate" as they say down at the rink. As the court put it "The Hollies plat of 1884 is "manifestly ineptly drawn" and long has been regarded as unreliable by title examiners, surveyors and civil engineers, who have resorted to two unrecorded plats of The Hollies on file in the office of Baldwin and Gregg, Civil Engineers and Surveyors, prepared in 1926 and 1938;." Remember back in April where I said "I have yet to run up against a case where the Court throws out the plat and calls a mulligan"? Well, I think I just spun one up here and ironically it's a golf course.