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Hawkins v. Weichert Title Agency

A-4419-09T1 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2011) (Unpublished)

TITLE INSURANCE — The holder of a title insurance policy faced with a quiet title claim for a piece of its property lying outside of the metes and bounds description insured by its title policy, the policy holder has no coverage for that claim.

The purchaser of a parcel of land obtained title insurance. The title agency relied on a certified survey. A boundary dispute arose and the owners of an adjacent property sued to quiet title with respect to a small portion of the insured property. The metes and bounds description in the property owner’s title policy indicated that the boundary line stopped at the “original high-water mark” of a lake. The dispute was about land that, over time, had accreted beyond the high-water mark. The property owner demanded coverage from the title insurer. The insurance company disclaimed on the grounds that the disputed property was outside of the metes and bounds description.

In the suit that followed, the lower court dismissed the property owner’s claims against the individual title agents because the complaint did not allege that they had acted outside the normal course of business. It also dismissed all contract-based claims because the policy did not cover the disputed property. It dismissed all claims sounding in tort or fraud because the definition of the relationship between title insurance agencies and their insureds was contractual.

The property owners appealed, but the Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s decision. The property owner had sought coverage to quiet title to property falling outside the parcel of land insured by the title policy. The property owner also failed to establish any relationship or duty other than that of an ordinary insurer-insured relationship, with only a duty to provide title coverage.

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