On appeal from Superior Court, Chancery Division, Ocean County.
Ashbey and Landau. The opinion of the court was delivered by Landau, J.A.D.
This is an appeal by Kevin Sonderman, plaintiff in an action brought in the Superior Court, Chancery Division, to quiet title to property located in the Township of Jackson known as Lot 15, Block 138-2. Defendants-respondents were the Township of Jackson and Remington Construction Co., Inc. (Remington). Following trial, judgment was entered denying the requested relief, subject to the requirement that the Township return the purchase price paid by Sonderman when the Township purported to convey Lot 15 to him by bargain and sale deed with covenant against grantor's acts on November 19, 1984.
Certain critical underlying facts are not in dispute:
1. Lot 15 had been owned by Remington in fee simple prior to June 29, 1983.
2. As a result of an in rem tax foreclosure, a final judgment was entered on June 29, 1983, which provided inter alia that fee simple ownership of Lot 15 passed to the Township.
3. Following acceptance of his bid at public sale in November 1983, Sonderman purchased the property from the Township for $13,600, received a bargain and sale deed on November 19, 1984, and duly recorded the same.
4. Prior to the November closing, an order had been entered on April 9, 1984 in the Chancery Division, Superior Court of Ocean County, on a R. 4:50-1 application by Remington, vacating that portion of the prior in rem judgment which vested title to Lot 15 in the Township, deleted it from the judgment, and declared that title to said premises was vested in Remington Construction Co., Inc.
It is also not disputed that the closing of title to Sonderman, the successful bidder for Lot 15, had been extensively delayed by reason of a general cloud on all property owned by the Township resulting from a judgment, the history of which is set forth in Ayers v. Jackson Tp., 106 N.J. 557, 565-66, 525 A.2d 287 (1987). By the time this cloud was lifted as to Lot 15, the
1983 foreclosure judgment had been corrected by the April 9, 1984 Chancery judgment to delete Lot 15.
The principal basis advanced by the trial judge for declining the requested quiet title relief was that even if Sonderman was a bona fide purchaser for value, the Township could not convey more title than it had, and that the judgment of April 9, 1984, which had been duly recorded in the offices of the Clerk of Ocean County and the office of the Clerk of the Superior Court in Trenton, left the Township with no title to Lot 15.
The trial judge did not credit Sonderman's contention that applicable recording statutes required that the requested relief be granted, nor his contention that the April 9, 1984 judgment was defective because Sonderman was an indispensable party to Remington's application to vacate the in ...