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Messersmith v. Smith

Supreme Court of North Dakota
60 N.W.2d 276 (1953)



Caroline Messersmith and her nephew, Frederick Messersmith (plaintiff), each owned a one-half interest in land. On May 7, 1946, Caroline executed a quitclaim deed to Frederick, granting him her half-interest in the land. This deed was not recorded until July 9, 1951. On May 7, 1951, Caroline granted Herbert Smith, Jr. (defendant), a one-half interest in the oil and minerals located on the same land. The deed for this transaction was executed on the same date. However, when Smith noticed there was a minor error in the deed, Smith returned to Caroline’s home, tore up the deed, and prepared a second deed. The second deed was then brought to a notary public, who acknowledged Caroline’s signature by telephone. On May 9, 1951, Smith, in turn, conveyed the one-half interest in the mineral rights on the property to E.B. Seale (defendant). Both the second deed and the conveyance to Seale were recorded on May 26, 1951. Frederick sued to quiet title, claiming the deed to Smith was void. Smith defaulted. Seale argued that he was a good-faith purchaser without notice and therefore protected under the recording statute. The trial court concluded that there had been no fraud in the transfer between Caroline and Smith and ultimately found for Seale. Frederick appealed to the Supreme Court of North Dakota.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Morris, C.J.)

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