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Kafka v. Hess

United States District Court for the District of Maryland
2017 WL 2439142 (2017)


Facts

George Kafka’s (plaintiff’s) mother deeded him her house, reserving only a life estate for herself. An attorney recorded the deed in 2010. When Kafka arrived for his mother’s funeral, he noticed that most of the valuables in his mother’s house had disappeared, and his aunt, Gladys Hess (defendant), demanded that he leave. Kafka was unsure of his rights and decided to stay away from his aunt. Kafka later learned Hess was trying to sell the house even though she admitted a title search showed the deed had been transferred to Kafka. Kafka tried to sell the prospective buyers the property, but a second deed recorded in 2011 made the title uninsurable. The second deed purported to transfer the house to Hess, contingent on Kafka’s mother not exercising a reserved right of disposition during her lifetime. An attorney wrote a letter to Kafka stating that because Hess had expended over $71,000 maintaining and preparing the property for sale, Hess should receive half the sale proceeds. Kafka sued for declaratory judgment in federal court. Hess brought a state lawsuit, which the court consolidated with the federal action. Hess conceded that Kafka was the property’s rightful owner but demanded restitution. Kafka moved for summary judgment regarding restitution.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Bredar, J.)

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