In order to prevail on a slander of title and quiet title claim, a landowner must not only prove that the adverse claim of title fails, but also must prove that his own title is superior. In the opinion in Ray v. Hartwell Railroad Co., the Georgia Supreme Court dismissed an appeal of a superior court's decision upholding a special master ruling on a quiet title action on the grounds that the claimant had failed to perfect its own title -- before attacking the title of the respondent in the action. Ray v. Hartwell Railroad Co., Appeal No. S11A0459 (Slip op., Ga., June 27, 2011).
In Ray, the plaintiff filed suit to challenge title to a railroad's claim that it owned a strip of land consisting of .67 acres along the railroad tracks through the plaintiff's property. A special master appointed by the trial court had ruled in favor of the railroad and the trial court affirmed the ruling. The plaintiff appealed, but neglected to argue his own title in attacking the claim of prescriptive title by the right of way owner. The court held that the appeal was therefore moot because there was no way for the plaintiff to win; even if the plaintiff won the the attack on the defendant's alleged prescriptive title, the plaintiff had admitted the lack of its own title to the strip of land in question by failing to argue for it.
The opinion in Ray exemplifies how a case can be decided on procedural grounds without ever addressing the substance of a dispute. Litigants, however, should be cautioned in reading too much into the success of procedural challenges. There is no way of knowing whether the appellate court viewed the substance of the challenge as meritorious. Sometimes appellate courts will decide to deny a case because it is deemed weak, and the court's opinion will use procedural rules to reach the desired result.
A Blog about Real Estate, How it Can Be Damaged, and Disputes Over its Transfer
This blog is a personal blog written to discuss legal issues affecting Georgia property, and how it is damaged, transferred, and fought over. I write this partly to keep abreast of the law, and partly to offer a forum for my writing. In order to find content, I often analyze Georgia Supreme Court decisions. I try to update this blog as I can, but writing is a time consuming process.