Property Keyed to Saxer
Massey v. Prothero
Jonathan and Amy Barton Prothero owned a parcel of land. Both died intestate and the land was passed to their children as tenants in common. The cotenants agreed that anyone who occupied the home on the property would not pay rent but would pay property taxes and maintain the home. One of the cotenants failed to pay the property taxes while he occupied the home. The next cotenant to occupy the home, Lewis Prothero (Defendant), learned of the unpaid taxes when the county put the property up for sale in 1967. Defendant attempted to pay the taxes but was advised by the tax assessor to simply purchase the property at the tax sale. Defendant purchased the property at the tax sale for $55.01. He did not notify his cotenants of his purchase and the property was deeded to Defendant and his wife Alene as joint tenants. In 1974, Mary Prothero (Plaintiff), his sister and cotenant, told Defendant that she wished to improve the home. Defendant replied that it was not a good time. He did not tell her or the other cotenants that he had exclusive ownership of the property. It was not until May 1976, while Plaintiff was visiting the property, that he told her of his exclusive claim to the property. In 1977, Plaintiff again visited the property. Defendant instructed her to leave and threatened to call the sheriff if she returned. Soon after, Plaintiff sued Defendant and Alene to quiet title in the property in the names of all the surviving cotenants, which included Plaintiff, Defendant, Evelyn Prothero, and the heirs of Rex Prothero. The district court made five findings: (1) that Defendant purchased the property at the tax sale for the benefits of all cotenants and therefore did not take greater title than he possessed before; (2) that Alene did not obtain title against the surviving cotenants; (3) that the quiet title action was not barred by the statute of limitations; (4) that Defendant did not oust his cotenants; and (5) that Defendant and Alene were joint tenants as to a one-fourth interest in the property, and were tenants in common with Plaintiff, Evelyn, and the heirs of Rex.
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