Plaintiffs seek to reopen a final decree of the Court of Chancery (final judgment) dated September 22, 1943, in the above entitled matter, and to set aside a conveyance from defendant Township of Mantua to defendants Firth.
The facts, which were stipulated, are as follows:
On August 25, 1931 the plaintiffs purchased Lots 40 and 41, Section B on Plan of Lots known as "Mantua Manor," located in the Township of Mantua, County of Gloucester and State of New Jersey, from George I. and Frances G. Cohen, his wife, and received a deed of identical date. Said deed was recorded on September 24, 1954 in the county clerk's office of Gloucester County in Book 781, p. 413. Plaintiffs paid the taxes assessed by the Township of Mantua against this property from and including the years 1931 to 1955, inclusive.
For some reason the tax records of the Township of Mantua for the year 1932 contained an insertion made in pencil, showing the name and address of Thomas Nordell as owner, together with the name of George I. Cohen. For the years 1933 to 1945 the tax records show the name and address of Thomas and Rose Nordell as owners. For the years 1931 to 1943 inclusive, said lots were also assessed in the name of George I. Cohen, but no taxes were paid by him after 1931. How a duplicate assessment occurred on the tax record is unexplained.
On December 22, 1934 said township held a tax sale under N.J.S.A. 54:5-19 for an alleged tax delinquency by George
I. Cohen for the year 1932. Thereafter, on April 26, 1943 the township instituted a foreclosure action in the Court of Chancery. Plaintiffs were not joined as parties to this action, neither were they served with process. A final decree was entered in said action on September 22, 1943 against the defendants therein named. On January 18, 1954 the Township of Mantua conveyed to Herbert P. Firth and Marjorie B. Firth a number of parcels of land, including the lots of the plaintiffs, after a public sale. The deed from said township was recorded on January 22, 1954 in the office of the County Clerk of Gloucester County, in Deed Book 761, p. 1 etc.
The defendants admit the foregoing facts but deny the right of the plaintiffs to succeed in this action, on the grounds that under N.J.S.A. 54:5-87 and 54:5-100 plaintiffs' action is barred by lapse of time.
It is to be noted at the outset that a municipality is empowered to sell lands for unpaid taxes or any municipal lien under N.J.S.A. 54:5-19, which provided, as far as is here material, as follows:
"When unpaid taxes or any municipal lien * * * on real property, remains in arrears * * * the collector * * * shall * * * enforce the lien by selling the property * * *."
N.J.S.A. 54:5-52 provides as follows:
"The certificate of sale shall be presumptive evidence in all courts in all proceedings by and against the purchaser, his representatives, heirs, and assigns, of the truth of the statements therein, of the title of the purchaser to the land therein described, and the regularity and validity of all proceedings had in reference to the sale. After two years from the record of the certificate of sale, no evidence shall be admitted in any court to rebut the presumption, unless ...