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Coons v. Carstensen

446 N.E.2d 114 (1983)

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Coons v. Carstensen

Massachusetts Appeals Court

446 N.E.2d 114 (1983)

Facts

Warren and Evelyn Carstensen (defendants) owned riverfront property with wetlands in Massachusetts. In 1961, the state passed legislation to take privately owned floodplain marsh and wetland through eminent domain, unless the owners agreed to a restriction with a land-conservation trust. The Carstensens chose the preemption option, agreeing to restrict the land’s use as necessary to preserve the wetlands in their natural state. Sixteen years later, the Carstensens contracted to sell their house and property to Nancy Coons (plaintiff). The contract required the Carstensens to convey “good and clear record and marketable title” and did not identify the conservation restriction as an encumbrance on the property. When she discovered the restriction, Coons did not want to buy the property and demanded her $40,000 deposit back. The Carstensens did not return the deposit, and Coons sued to recover it. The trial court entered summary judgment for Coons. The Carstensens appealed, arguing that the private restriction did not qualify as an encumbrance because it did not restrict use of the land any more than existing public laws that protect wetlands.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kass, J.)

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