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Defects Of Title, Competing Interest And Quiet Title Actions

A quiet title action seeks to declare the rights of the parties in realty or personalty.1 The action is aimed at a person who may be asserting a claim to property and is framed simply by alleging that the plaintiff is the owner and entitled to possession and that the defendant claims an interest, adverse to the plaintiff, without right. The purpose of the action is to finally settle and determine, as between the parties, all conflicting claims to the property in controversy, and to decree to each that interest or estate in the property that each party is entitled to.3 When this determination has been made, the object of the action is consummated.

The quiet title action is intended to put an end to continuous disturbance of a party’s possession by legal proceedings involving the right to possess the property and the title to it.  Since the quiet title action determines the rights of all persons known and unknown who are parties to the action, the owner of the property is protected from the annoyance and expense of responding to a multiplicity of suits.  The object of a quiet title action thus is to enable the plaintiff to dispel whatever may be regarded by third persons, as well as by the defendant, as a cloud on the plaintiff’s title even though the defendant has made no adverse claim.

A quiet title action is provided for by the Code of Civil Procedure (Civ. Proc. Code, §§ 760.010 to 765.060) and is considered to be an action at law (Connolly v. Trabue, 204 Cal. App. 4th 1154, 139 Cal. Rptr. 3d 537 (1st Dist. 2012)). Nevertheless, it has been held that a quiet title action is equitable in nature, at least when possession is not involved, or in other words, except when it takes on the character of an ejectment proceeding to recover possession of real property. An action to quiet title that involves equitable issues is governed by equitable principles.

The remedy provided in a quiet title action under the Code of Civil Procedure is cumulative and not exclusive of any other remedy, form or right of action, or proceeding provided by law for establishing or quieting title to property. Thus, a quiet title action may be brought in conjunction with another action such as one for declaratory relief, cancellation of deed or ejectment. In any action or proceeding in which establishing or quieting title to property is in issue, the court in its discretion may, on motion of any party, require that the issue be resolved under the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure governing quiet title actions to the extent practicable. Accordingly, a court may finally determine as between the parties in a quiet title action all the conflicting claims regarding any estate or interest in the property. In addition to an action to quiet title that is brought to settle and determine all conflicting claims to the property in controversy, a party may also be entitled to an action for slander of title.  Slander of title is brought to recover damages for the disparagement of title to property, which results in an invasion of an interest in the vendibility of the property or its immediate salability.  Although it is not the direct purpose of an action for slander of title to determine the plaintiff’s title disparaged by the defendant, the result of the action, under certain circumstances, amounts to a determination of title, and an action to quiet title is often joined with an action for slander of title.

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