United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Barbadoro United States District Judge
and Gail Brown seek a writ of scire facias in an effort to
collect on a 2007 judgment against John Baldi.
recite the facts largely as summarized in my previous order.
See Doc. No. 142 at 1-3. John and Catherine Baldi at
one time jointly owned land in Epsom, New Hampshire that
abutted property owned by Raymond and Beryl Dow. In 1995, the
Dows orally agreed to transfer part of their land (the
“24-Acre Parcel”) to the Baldis in exchange for
the Baldis' agreement to allow the Dows to cut trees on a
portion of the Baldis' property. The parties agreed to
make the transfer by means of a boundary line adjustment. A
plan depicting the proposed boundary line adjustment was
subsequently approved by the Epsom Planning Board and filed
in the Registry of Deeds on May 18, 1995. Although no deed
effecting the transfer was prepared at that time, the Baldis
thereafter paid all property taxes on the 24-Acre Parcel and
treated it as their own in all respects.
years later, on November 2, 2004, Baldi recorded a deed
conveying his interest in the 24-Acre Parcel to his wife for
nominal consideration. More than ten years later, on June 13,
2015, Baldi obtained a quitclaim deed from the Dows
purportedly transferring any interest the Dows had in the
24-Acre Parcel to the Baldis as joint tenants. Baldi has
explained that he obtained the deed to remove any uncertainty
as to his wife's ownership of the 24-Acre Parcel.
to the Dows' 2015 deed, Catherine Baldi had discussed
selling the property with a New Hampshire nursery. As of
January 2017, she had arranged to sell the 24-Acre Parcel to
a prospective buyer. And since 2004, she has paid the
property tax due on the 24-Acre Parcel.
a hearing in January 2017, during which I ordered the parties
to brief whether Baldi currently held an interest in the
24-Acre Parcel. After reviewing those briefs, I ruled that
Baldi had not acquired full title to the property through the
1995 boundary line adjustment. See Doc. No. 142.
Because the doctrine of estoppel by deed may have applied to
Baldi's 2004 deed to his wife, however, I directed the
parties to brief that issue. Id. at 7.
Hampshire recognizes the doctrine of estoppel by deed, by
which “[a] party who has executed a deed is thereby
estopped from denying not only the deed itself, but every
fact it recites and every covenant it contains.”
Foss v. Strachn, 42 N.H. 40, 41 (1860) (dictum); see
also White v. Ford, 124 N.H. 452, 455 (1984) (per
curiam); Fadili v. Deutsche Bank Nat. Trust Co., 772
F.3d 951, 954 (1st Cir. 2014). Where a grantor covenants to
convey greater title than he has, and later acquires that
title, the title passes to the grantee. See White,
124 N.H. at 455; Fletcher v. Chamberlin, 61 N.H.
438, 446, 491 (1881); Fadili, 772 F.3d at 954.
by deed applies neatly to the facts of this case. In the 2004
deed, Baldi conveyed his interest to the 24-Acre Parcel to
his wife, with warranty covenants. See Doc. No. 133-3. As
explained in my previous order, however, Baldi did not have
full title to the 24-Acre parcel at that time. See Doc. No.
142 at 6-7. Once Baldi acquired an interest as a joint tenant
pursuant to the Dows' 2015 deed, his interest immediately
passed to his wife. See White, 124 N.H. at 455;
Fletcher, 61 N.H. at 446; Kimball v.
Blaisdell, 5 N.H. 533, 535 (1831) . Thus, Baldi no
longer has an interest in the 24-Acre Parcel.
Browns press a number of unsuccessful arguments in an attempt
to show that estoppel by deed does not apply. First, they
argue that the doctrine only protects grantees who are
promised more than the grantor can actually convey. See Doc.
143 at 4. Because the Baldis had identical,
nontransferable estates in 2004, they contend, the doctrine
does not apply. See Id. This argument fails.
Baldi's 2004 deed substantially follows the statutory
form of a warranty deed. Compare N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann.
§ 477:27 (2004) (amended 2006) with Doc. No. 133-3.
By statute, therefore, the 2004 deed had “the force and
effect of a deed in fee simple” with warranty
covenants. See § 477:27. Accordingly, Baldi promised to
convey a fee simple estate in the 24-Acre Parcel, which was a
greater estate than he actually had. That Baldi and his wife
in fact had identical, nontransferable estates in 2004 does
not affect the analysis.
Browns next assert that recognizing estoppel by deed in this
situation would conflict with two statutes: sections 477:15
and 477:22 of the New Hampshire Revised Statutes. See Doc.
No. 143 at 3-4. Section 477:15 provides that an oral
conveyance can transfer “an estate at will only,
” and section 477:22 provides that, where a grantor
purports to convey an interest greater than he lawfully can,
the grantee receives “all the estate which [the
grantor] could lawfully convey.” Applying estoppel by
deed here would not contravene the above-enumerated statutes.
Pursuant to section 477:15, the Baldis had mere estates at
will until 2015, when the Dows conveyed greater title to them
through a written deed, the validity of which the Browns have
not contested. It was the Dows' 2015 written deed, in
conjunction with Baldi's 2004 written deed, that
eventually vested greater title in Catherine Baldi. The
Dows' 1995 oral conveyance did not have that effect.
Likewise, consistent with section 477:22, Baldi's 2004
deed did not give his wife title to the 24-Acre Parcel, as he
could not “lawfully convey” it at the time. The
warranty covenants in the deed, however, operated to transfer
title when Baldi acquired it in 2015. This normal application
of estoppel by deed does not conflict with section 477:22.
Browns last contend that estoppel by deed requires reliance
by the grantee on the grantor's representations. See Doc.
No. 143 at 2. According to the Browns, Catherine Baldi could
not have relied on Baldi's 2004 deed because she knew or
should have known that he lacked the title he purported to
convey. See Id. at 5-7. And even if knowledge cannot
be presumed, there is no evidence that Baldi's wife
actually relied on the deed. See Id. at 5, 7.
to the Browns' contention, Catherine Baldi's actual
or constructive knowledge of the state of title would not
foreclose the application of estoppel by deed, at least where
after-acquired title is involved. In White v. Ford, an uncle
purported to transfer real property to his nephew, even
though at the time a municipality held title to the property
through a tax collector's deed. See White, 124
N.H. at 454. The uncle later purchased the property back from
the town. Id. The Supreme Court of New Hampshire,
focusing on the covenants in the uncle's deed, affirmed
the lower court's ruling that the uncle's
after-acquired title passed to his nephew. See Id.
at 454-55. It is fair to assume that the nephew in White ...