Tyler v Schoenherr (WI)

Summary: A party seeking reformation of a deed on grounds of mutual mistake must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the written agreement does not set forth the intention of the parties.

Tyler v Schoenherr, 2011 AP 2075 (Wis. Ct. App., 2012).

Facts: The Tylers and the Schoenherr owned property in Wisconsin that had previously been parceled out from property containing a farm and residential property. The property was deeded into a farm-related parcel, which eventually became owned by the Tylers, and a residence-related property, which was eventually sold to Schoenherr. Both conveyances took place in 2000. In 2010, a neighborly dispute unrelated to the property occurred between the Tylers and Schoenherr, causing the Tylers to discover what they believed was a discrepancy between the recorded boundary line and the actual boundary line.

In 1994, the farm-related parcel owned by the Tylers was staked-out and delineated and the warranty deed was executed and recorded several months before the warranty deed was executed and recorded for the residence-related parcel. During the summer of 1994, the residence owner at the time removed the stakes to mow around various obstacles. As a result, the Tylers brought the action in 2010 to reform the deeds to include the disputed property in the legal description of their deed, claiming legal ownership of the disputed property. The court denied Schoenherr’s motion to dismiss based on a statute of limitations and granted a judgment for reformation of the Tylers’ deed to include the disputed property. Schoenherr’s motion for reconsideration of the dismissal was denied, and this appeal followed.

Holding: Affirmed. In its review, the court of appeals determined the circuit court’s finding of fact to reveal ample evidence for the court to find that disputed property was the product of mutual error (including error by the previous property owners), warranting a reformation of the deed. The elements of reformation are: (1) the parties reached an agreement; (2) the parties intended that such an agreement be included in the written expression of agreement; and (3) the oral agreement was not included in the written expression because of a mutual mistake of the parties and they must be clear, satisfactory, and convincing.

The defendant failed to cite any cases that would preclude this finding by the court and the court determined that no statute of limitations existed for this action. The plaintiffs on the other hand, went beyond the burden of proof, which is “beyond a preponderance of the evidence,” both with their testimony and the testimony of their witnesses. This evidence included testimony by the previous owners, and of a surveyor who testified to how unusual it would be for parties to draw boundary lines through the buildings on the property, as the current deeds would have it. The court reasonably inferred from the evidence that it was not the intention for the property description in the deed to run through the buildings but instead intended to convey the disputed property, as the Tylers alleged.

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By: ATG Underwriting Department | Posted on: Thu, 10/11/2012 - 9:35am