PROPERTY (Section 1)
Spring Semester 2013
Estates in Land: Defeasible Estates (and the Future Interests That Follow Them)
Pages 267-287

1. As you read the Mahrenholz case and try to sort out what happened in that case, can you explain why it mattered whether the court characterized the deed as creating a fee simple determinable as compared to a fee simple subject to condition subsequent? Should this distinction make a difference?

2. Consider the problem in note 2, page 273, which is based on the case of Roberts v. Rhodes. How many different ways could you interpret the language "it being understood that this grant is made only for school or cemetery purposes."  In the hypothetical in note 2, do you think that O intended that the land should revert to O (or O's successor in interest) if the land ceased being used for school purposes?  If not, what else could O have intended? In the Roberts case, the court concluded that the language of the deed was ambiguous and interpreted it to create a fee simple absolute. Do you think it was ambiguous?

3. In Humphrey v. C.G. Jung Educational Center, how many different ways could you interpret the language used in that deed (note 2, top of page 274)?  Do you think that the grantors intended that the land should revert to the grantors (or their successors in interest) if the land ceased being used for residential purposes? Do you agree that the language of the deed in Humphrey is ambiguous?  Why or why not?

4. Consider the problems in notes 2(a) and (b) on pages 282 and 283. In those cases, the courts upheld the defeasance limitations in those deeds against challenges that the restrictions were unreasonable restraints on alienation. Why?  For example, in note 2(a) on page 282, what arguments might you make to characterize the defeasance restriction in Johnston v. City of Los Angeles as a reasonable, enforceable restraint?

5. What's the nature of the restriction in Alby (p. 277)? What would be the practical impact of allowing the Albys to enforce this restriction? Do you think the restriction ought to be legally enforced, or is it an unreasonable restraint on alienation (and, if so, why)?

6. Consider the situation in note 3(a), page 283. Would that deed create a defeasible estate that would enable Mr. Feeblemeister to terminate the grantee's estate if the condition was not satisfied? Why or why not?

7. If the defeasance restrictions in the cases in note 2(a) and 2(b) were enforceable, why did the court in Falls City v. Missouri Pacific Railroad (page 282) strike down the restriction in that case as an unreasonable restraint on alienation?  Do you agree that the restraint in that case was unreasonable? Why or why not?

8. Consider the example in note 3(e) on page 283, in which David deeds land "to Serena in fee simple, but if Serena gets married, title to revert to the grantor."  If David sought your advice beforehand whether such a defeasance provision would be held to be valid, what advice would you give, and why? Should David be able to use his property (retention of a future interest) to influence Serena's personal decisions?

9. Consider the Lawyering Problem on pages 284-286, in which Nelson wants to give land to Holy Family Church subject to a defeasance.  What concerns might you share with Nelson regarding his intention?  What unforeseen consequences might result if Nelson carried out his intention and gave the Church a defeasible estate?  [Think of as many problems as you can imagine, both immediately and in the future.] What alternatives might you suggest to Nelson?