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Bass v. Farr

Supreme Court of South Carolina
434 S.E.2d 274 (1993)


Facts

Ralph and Mary Bass (plaintiffs) wished to purchase a commercially zoned parcel of land in order to move a home onto the property, renovate it, and resell it as an office building. The Basses hired attorney Farr (defendant) to assist with closing the purchase. After conducting a title search, Farr found a restriction in prior deeds permitting only residential use of the property. Farr ultimately decided that the restriction was null because the property had since been zoned for commercial use and had been used for commercial development for years. Therefore, despite the restriction Farr concluded that the title was marketable. In reliance on Farr’s determination, the Basses purchased the property and readied it for resale. The following year, American Security of Greenville (defendant) contracted to purchase the property. When an American Security employee visited the property, a neighboring landowner told him of the residential restriction. Based upon this conversation and what American Security believed to be a high probability of litigation related to the restriction, American Security took the position that title was unmarketable, and refused to purchase the property. Thereafter, the Basses brought suit against Farr, claiming negligence in his duties, and against American Security, claiming breach of the purchase contract. The trial judge found that Farr’s search and conclusions were reasonable, and a jury found no negligence. The judge further found in American Security’s favor on the basis that the Basses’ title was not marketable. The Basses appealed, contending that the trial judge’s simultaneous rulings that (1) the title was unmarketable, but that (2) Farr’s conclusion of marketability was reasonable, were inconsistent and therefore improper.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Harwell, C.J.)

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