I wrote four exam questions for my two sections Property II. Here is the third question. Feel free to take a stab at the answer in the comments.
Instructions: You are a law clerk and your judge asks you to prepare a bench memo of no more than 500 words based on the following set of facts. You are in a jurisdiction that adopts the rules of the Restatement (First) of Property. The jurisdiction has a “Race-Notice” recording statute. The period required for adverse possession is ten years with color of title, and twenty years without color of title. Here are all the facts. If you draw any inferences beyond these facts, please explain why you drew those inferences.
Once known for sunny days that swept the clouds away, Sesame Street has fallen on hard times. Under the iron-fisted rule of Mayor Mutt, the air is no longer sweet, no matter how you get there. Today’s problems are brought to you by the letter A, for austerity, and the number 99.
Abby Cadabby–who accepted some wise advice, and went to law school to study property law, instead of becoming a princess–was the leading developer of land on Sesame Street. Abby lived on Oneacre, and subdivided it into four equal subdivisions: Blackacre, Whiteacre, Greenacre, and Yellowacre. Abby, who you may say is a schemer, inserted covenants on the deeds of each of the four plots of land at the time of the subdivision.
- Blackacre’s Deed: Blackacre was limited to industrial use only. The owner of Blackacre was allowed to dump waste onto Greenacre. The owner of Blackacre was required to allow the owner of Whiteacre entry to Blackacre at any time for any reason.
- Whiteacre’s Deed: Whiteacre was limited to single-family residential use only. The owner of Whiteacre was required to allow Abby to cross Whiteacre to access the main road.
- Greenacre’s Deed: Greenacre could only be used for a nursery school. The owner of Greenacre was required to allow the owner of Yellowacre access to Geenacre at any time for any reasons.
- Yellowacre’s Deed: Yellowacre was limited to a multi-family residential use only.
All of these deeds were recorded. After the subdivisions were completed, Abby engaged in a series of transactions.
First, Abby sold Blackacre to Big Bird in fee simple. Big Bird opened a Cookie Factory. Second, Abby sold Whiteacre to Cookie Monster in fee simple. Cookie moved in with his three children. Third, Abby sold Greenacre to Dexter, who opened up a nursery school. Fourth, Abby sold Yellowacre to Elmo, who moved into the land alone. None of these quitclaim deed were ever recorded.
However, some problems soon arose. Big Bird’s bird-brained scheme to run a cookie factory on Blackacre never took off. Mayor Mutt, and his cronies at Brain Capital, flipped the bird onto the street after buying out and restructuring his failing cookie factory. Without a roost to call home, Big Bird fled the coop, and high-tailed it to Poppy Street. Brain sold Blackacre to Fozzy.
Dexter was arrested for a string of gruesome murder. In order to pay his legal fees, he sold Geenacre to Grover.
Elmo pleaded guilty to molesting children, and registered as a sex offender. One of the conditions of the registry was that Elmo was not allowed to own property within 100 feet of a school, playground, library, or any other place children may frequent.
After acquiring Blackacre from Brain Capital, Fozzy ramped up production at the cookie factory, but also quadrupled the amount of waste being dumped onto Greenacre. Fozzy also put up a fence to prevent Cookie Monster’s children from entering Blackacre–they helped themselves to way too many cookies (nom nom nom).
Abby, who no longer had any interest in crossing Whiteacre, sold Henson her interest in Whiteacre. Cookie Monster, who did not care much for Henson, did not allow him to cross Whiteacre, and insisted that only Abby could cross the land.
Grover, who now owned Greenacre, was appalled at the amount of waste being dumped, and worried about the wellbeing of the children. Grover blocked Blackacre’s access to dump on Greeancre. Likewise, when Grover learned of Elmo’s sex-offender status, he barred Elmo from Greenacre.
Mayor Mutt, intent on wreaking more havoc in this quaint community enacted an ordinance that banned the baking of cookies in city limits, citing the noxious odors created during the process. Fozzy complained that the smell of baking cookies is in fact delicious, and Mayor Mutt was just trying to shut down the factory so his cronies at Brain could profit by outsourcing cookie production to Poppie Street.
Elmo the sex offender realized he could no longer own Yellowacre–which was very close to the nursery school on Greenacre. The real estate market on Sesame Street was dwindling, and no one would buy it from him. Tickled by how to resolve his dilemma, Elmo simply abandoned Yellowacre and moved away to Poppy Street.
Then, to make things more complicated, Kermit hops onto the scene, and croaks that Abby never had title to Oneacre, and thus the subdivisions were void. Kermit then recorded the deed transferring Oneacre to him–it was 20 years old at this point!
First, Kermit asserts that he had owned Oneacre for over 20 years. Second, he claimed that he negotiated with Abby to sell Onacre eleven years ago, and even reached a price, but never actually delivered the deed to Abby. Nonetheless, Abby entered the land and continuously lived there for eleven years. Third, Kermit stated that Oneacre had a covenant restricting the use of the land to only agricultural purposes.
In response, Abby asserts that she in fact did pay Kermit for Oneacre, but never actually received the deed. Alternatively, Abby claims that she openly and notoriously stayed on Oneacre for eleven years and obtained Oneacre through adverse possession–thus, her subdivisions were valid.
Then, litigation commenced. The lawyers came and started to play, but everything was not A-OK. It is in the courthouse where we meet. That’s the way it goes on Sesame Street.
- First, Kermit filed suit against the owners of Blackacre (Fozzy), Whiteacre (Cookie Monster), Greenacre (Grover), and Yellowacre (Elmo, who abandoned the land) with three causes of action: first, to quiet title on the four plots of land; second, to enforce the covenant restricting the use of the land to agricultural use on each of the four plots of land; and third, to oust Grover from Greenacre (Kermit quipped, “it isn’t easy being on Greenacre”).
- Second, Fozzy (owner of Blackacre) sued Mayor Mutt for enforcing the ordinance that prevented him from baking cookies, which Fozzy asserted resulted in a complete diminution in the value of Blackacre.
- Third, Cookie Monster (owner of Whiteacre) sued Fozzy to enforce the covenant granting Cookie Monster and his family entry onto Blackacre. Cookie Monster also sued to enjoin Henson from trespassing on Whiteacre, claiming that only Abby could benefit from the covenant.
- Fourth, Grover (owner of Greenacre) sued Fozzy (owner of Blackacre) for a nuisance for dumping waste on his land.
- Fifth, Elmo sued Grover for denying him access to Greenacre.
How should the court resolve each of these issues.