January-February Vol. 5, No. 1



Geiger v Coleman Engineering Co, 2010 AP 2620 (Wis Ct App, 2011).

Facts: Gerard and Kelly Geiger purchased a parcel of lake front property in 2003. The property had previously been part of a bigger parcel that was subdivided in 1988. Chicago Title issued the Geigers' title insurance policy when they bought the property. Coleman Engineering was commissioned to resurvey the property, and the resurvey was completed several weeks after the closing. When the resurvey was done, the Geigers found that their land had 45 feet less lake frontage than they had thought. They informed their neighbors about the disputed boundary line and the neighbors filed an action to quiet title. The Geigers tendered a defense to Chicago Title, which the title company rejected. Chicago Title told the Geigers that it had no duty to defend them in a boundary line dispute.

After losing the lawsuit, the Geigers brought suit against Coleman Engineering and Chicago Title. They sought the recovery of attorney fees from Chicago Title because they claimed Chicago Title had a duty to defend them under their title insurance policy. Chicago Title filed for summary judgment because of the boundary dispute exception and the motion was granted. The Geigers appealed the grant of summary judgment to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.

Holding: Affirmed. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals looked at the plain language of the Geigers' title insurance policy. It clearly stated that the "policy does not insure against loss or damage…which arise by reason of… boundary line disputes… which would be disclosed by an accurate survey or inspection of the premises." The suit to quiet title against the Geigers was a boundary line dispute and therefore, the policy would seem to say that Chicago Title was not obligated to defend the Geigers.

The Geigers, however, argued that an "accurate survey" would not have disclosed the boundary line dispute in this case, and so the exception to coverage does not apply. The court rejected this argument and held that the Geigers "failed to raise a genuine issue in this regard." They offered no evidence as to why an accurate survey would not have disclosed the boundary dispute. In their appeal, the Geigers did not cite to anything in the record that would indicate what an accurate survey would have disclosed.

Because the lawsuit that the Geigers wanted Chicago Title to defend them in was a boundary line dispute, and the title insurance policy included an exclusion from coverage for boundary line disputes, Chicago Title had no duty to defend the Geigers.

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