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Baranpuria v. Sakaria

A-1178-01T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2002) (Unpublished)

DEEDS; REFORMATION— A deed will not be reformed based upon a unilateral error.

A woman owned real property in her own name. Her husband’s name was not on the deed. A second mortgagee foreclosed on the property and then took title to the property at the sale. The original owner and her husband engaged an attorney to negotiate a settlement with the second mortgagee, and the second mortgagee conveyed the property, by quitclaim deed, to both the husband and wife. Later, in an unrelated matter, a default judgment was entered against the husband. When the judgment creditors sought to enforce the judgment, the wife commenced litigation seeking to reform the quitclaim deed. She argued that the deed had mistakenly been issued in her name and the name of her husband and should have been issued solely in her name. At trial, her husband testified that “although the property was purchased with his money, in his culture it is tradition to list the wife as the sole owner.” The lower court rejected the request for reformation saying that whatever mistake was made was a mistake made by the husband. “This was clearly not a mutual mistake. It was clearly not a unilateral mistake which was accompanied by fraud or other unconscionable conduct on the part of the other party.” If it was a mistake made by the husband or “his professional advisor, such a mistake was not sufficient ground to come to court to reform a document.” Further, all of the husband’s conduct was consistent with his partial ownership of the property. “He was the person who was running the show. He was the person who was communicating with the attorney. He was the person who was receiving the correspondence and the deed. And all of these documents had his name there as one of the owners.” Further, well before the judgment was issued, he knew that the deed was also in his name, “and he didn’t do anything to correct the alleged mistake until after” the judgment. The Appellate Division affirmed that the lower court’s finding “that no mutual mistake occurred here.”

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