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Ownership of parcel must be based on the strength of plaintiff's title, not on weaknesses in neighbor's title.

The Supreme Court of Georgia held that a landowner could not establish ownership over property excluded from her deed by relying on the boundaries set in the deed of an adjacent parcel.

In 2000, Margie McRae purchased a parcel on St. Simon's Island and obtained a deed setting the southern boundary of her property at the northern edge of Compass Point Drive, a private road that has been in that location for more than 50 years. In 2006, McRae filed a quiet title action asserting that her tract included the Compass Point roadbed, which had since been developed by SSI Development, LLC (SSI), the owner of the parcel south of McRae's.

McRae argued that SSI's deed set the boundary of its parcel south of the road and that, because their properties are contiguous, her parcel necessarily extended to the northern boundary of SSI's property as described in its deed. McRae also argued that Compass Point Drive was a public road that the county abandoned without following statutory procedure, thereby causing a portion of the road once included in her chain of title to revert to her automatically. The trial court ruled against McRae on both arguments and denied the quiet title petition. McRae appealed.

On appeal, the state supreme court emphasized that to prevail in a quiet title action, McRae needed to establish ownership of the roadbed on the strength of her own title and could not rely on weaknesses in SSI's title. In addition, the court held that McRae was estopped from denying the truth of the boundaries set by her own deed and could not assert ownership of the roadbed when the property was not included in the deed.

Next, the court noted that McRae had sued the county in 2004, claiming that the road had been abandoned and then dropped the suit. The court held that when McRae dismissed the suit voluntarily, she relinquished her claim that Compass Point had been a public road improperly abandoned by the county. The court thus concluded that McRae failed to establish ownership over any part of the roadbed and that her quiet title petition should be denied. The trial court decision was affirmed.

McRae v. SSI Development, LLC

Supreme Court of Georgia

January 8, 2008

2008 WL 65444 (Ga. 2008)

Alan M. Weinberger, JD, is the Associate Dean for Faculty at Saint Louis University School of Law where he has been a law professor since 1987. Previously he practiced for twelve years with law firms in Detroit and Washington, DC, specializing in real estate transfer, finance, and development. Weinberger graduated magna cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School. He has published articles and chapters in the fields of real estate finance, partnership, and property law. He is coauthor of Property Law Cases, Materials and Problems, 3rd ed., published by West Group. Contact:
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Title Annotation:Recent Court Decisions; Margie McRae
Author:Weinberger, Alan M.
Publication:Appraisal Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2008
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