On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 159 N.J. Super. 287 (1978).
For vacation and remandment -- Chief Justice Hughes and Justices Mountain, Pashman, Clifford, Schreiber and Handler. Opposed -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Mountain, J.
[80 NJ Page 449] Plaintiffs brought suit to quiet title to two tracts of land in Burlington County. Title to one tract is claimed by defendants Joseph Rehac and Alexander Piatkowski; title to the other tract is claimed by defendants David W. Worth and Ezra B. Sharp. All defendants answered
and filed counterclaims demanding relief similar to that sought by plaintiffs. Both plaintiffs and defendants moved for summary judgment. The trial court, in an unreported opinion, denied plaintiffs' motion and granted those of defendants. The Appellate Division reversed and entered judgment in favor of plaintiffs. 159 N.J. Super. 287 (1978). We granted defendants' petition for certification. 78 N.J. 338 (1978).
Defendants Rehac and Piatkowski claim title to their tract by deed from Kupire Corporation dated November 21, 1973 and recorded November 26 of that year.*fn1 The claim of title to the other tract, asserted by Worth and Sharp, rests upon a deed from the same grantor, Kupire Corporation, dated September 13, 1971 and recorded the following day. Although the two sets of defendants received deeds to their respective tracts from a common grantor on different dates, their back titles, to the extent here relevant, are otherwise identical.
Plaintiffs' chain of title as well as the common chain of all defendants derives from a common grantor, the Asbury Company. By quitclaim deed, on February 12, 1913, Asbury Company conveyed to a corporation named Appleby Estates a tract of land which included all the property here in question. The description in the deed is not by metes and bounds, but merely by reference to the earlier deeds that had conveyed the various parcels to the grantor. The instrument was recorded February 18, 1913. On February 15 of the same year, Asbury Company conveyed the particular land here in question (apparently all the land now claimed by both sets of defendants)*fn2 to one Robert E. Taylor by warranty
deed,*fn3 the tract being described by metes and bounds. Taylor did not record this deed until April 25, 1913. Plaintiffs claim through the Asbury Company-Appleby Estates (Appleby Estates) chain; defendants, through the Asbury Company-Taylor (Taylor) chain.
The next instrument in plaintiffs' chain of title is a warranty deed from Appleby Estates back to Asbury Company dated and recorded in 1924. The description -- by earlier deed references only -- describes the lands that had been conveyed by Asbury Company to Appleby Estates in 1913, together with an additional tract. The description, however, includes the following proviso:
Excepting therefrom the following named conveyances made by the said party of the first part; 429 acres to Robert E. Taylor,
(There follow like references to a number of other excepted tracts.) "The said party of the first part" was, of course, Appleby Estates, the grantor named as such in the deed, and Appleby Estates had made no conveyance to Robert E. Taylor. The conveyance of 429 acres to him had been made by its predecessor in title, Asbury Company. The exception quoted above made no reference to the date of the deed to Taylor, nor to the book and page where it had been recorded.
The next significant transaction in the plaintiffs' chain of title occurred about 40 years later. On August 15, 1966, Asbury Company, Appleby Estates and Appleby & Wood Company*fn4 conveyed to Anthony J. Del Tufo Agency Inc., by quitclaim deed,
Being all of the real property owned by the grantors herein, wherever situate within the boundaries of the County of Burlington in the State of New Jersey, to which any of them may have derived title through the estates of J. Randolph Appleby or Maria DuBois Appleby, his wife, or from Appleby and Wood Company, Appleby Estates, or the Asbury Company, all being corporations of the State of New Jersey.
Plaintiffs are successors in title, by virtue of a number of mesne conveyances, to the Del Tufo Agency.
Two observations should be made with respect to Appleby Estates' chain of title. First, all instruments in the chain are quitclaim deeds with the exception of the deed of reconveyance in 1924 from Appleby Estates to Asbury Company. It is urged by defendants that plaintiffs' position is fatally weakened by this fact. The law is well settled, however, that a quitclaim deed passes the same estate to a grantee as does a deed of bargain and sale. See N.J.S.A. 46:5-3; Baum v. Canter, 104 N.J. Eq. 224, 225 (E. & A. 1929); Tunney v. Champion, 91 N.J. Super. 27, 31 (Ch. 1966); Merrill v. Peterson, 108 N.J. Eq. 79, 81 (Ch. 1931). The point is, therefore, without significance.
Secondly, J. Randolph Appleby was president and majority stockholder of both Asbury Company and Appleby Estates. In his capacity as president of the former he executed the first conveyance from Asbury Company to Appleby Estates and as president of the latter he ...