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Douglas E. v. Clark

December 16, 1996


Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 93-2-06464-1. Date filed: 11/08/94. Judge signing: Hon. Marsha J. Pechman.

Petition for Review Denied May 8, 1997,

PER CURIAM. Howard Clark is the holder of an unrecorded quit claim deed to residential property located in White Center. He appeals a judgment quieting title to the property in Douglas and Sharon Brackenbrough, and ejecting him from the premises. The sole issue before us is whether the Brackenbroughs are bona fide purchasers of that property. Holding that they are, we affirm.


The following facts were presented at the bench trial before Judge Marsha Pechman. Howard Clark originally owned the property. During his 1990 divorce proceedings, Clark had his then girlfriend, Margene Jackson, file a lien claim against the property to "make the courts think that I owed Margene money". Clark also admitted lying to the divorce court about other issues concerning his finances. The court awarded Clark the property.

In October of 1990, Clark quit claimed the property over to Jackson "for and in consideration of Foreclosure". But Clark testified that there was no foreclosure action and that he falsified the document to avoid having to pay excise tax on the transaction. Clark and Jackson lived together on the property for a period of time. At Clark's request, Jackson quit claimed the property back to Clark in October of 1991. Clark testified there was no consideration for the transfer. Clark never recorded the deed.

After the couple split up in 1992, Clark remained on the property. According to Clark, he never paid Jackson rent. When presented with a written rental agreement that he purportedly entered into with Jackson, Clark denied having signed the agreement and stated it was a "forgery".

The Brackenbroughs are real estate investors. Their realtor introduced them to Jackson in 1990. Thereafter, they saw Jackson with Clark a few times. But according to the Brackenbroughs, they did not socialize with Jackson or Clark. In the latter part of 1992, Jackson contacted Douglas Brackenbrough. She told him that she needed money and asked if he would be interested in buying her White Center property for $30,000. The Brackenbroughs drove by the property once but never went inside the home. According to the Brackenbroughs, Jackson told them that she owned the property "free and clear and she had a right to sell it." She also told the Brackenbroughs that Clark was renting the premises from her, that they were no longer on good terms, and that she did not want them to disturb Clark because she was afraid he might damage the property.

The county assessed the property's value as $53,000. The Brackenbroughs testified, however, that the outside of the home was in extreme disrepair and needed substantial work. Their intent was to buy the property, fix it and to quickly sell it. A realtor did a drive-by inspection for the couple and reported that if the property was fixed-up, they could sell it for approximately $70,000.

Before buying the property in 1993, Sharon called the King County recorder's office. They told her there were no other liens or deeds filed against the property. On January 15, 1993, Jackson signed a quit claim deed conveying her interest to the Brackenbroughs, paid the excise tax, and recorded the deed. After the recording, the Brackenbroughs' lender obtained a title insurance policy that indicated they were the new record owners and that there were no loans or liens filed against the property. Clark remained on the property but refused to pay the Brackenbroughs rent.

In February of 1993, the Brackenbroughs served Clark with an eviction notice. The next month, Clark recorded his quit claim deed.

While the Brackenbroughs testified that they did not know Clark well and that they never went inside the house, Clark testified that he and the Brackenbroughs were friends and that "I informed them that I was going through a divorce and that I had put property in Margene's name, to evade, you know, different things[.]"

The court entered judgment quieting title in the Brackenbroughs and ejecting Clark from the premises. The court also entered written findings of fact and Conclusions of law. Clark challenges Finding No. 4. That finding states the property's history as follows:

History. The Property was originally owned by the Defendant and his then-wife, Marion Clark. During Defendant's and Marion Clark's divorce proceeding, Defendant's then-girlfriend, Margene Jackson, filed a claim of lien on the Property, allegedly for monies owed to her by Defendant. Defendant then quit claim deeded the Property to Margene Jackson "for and in consideration of Foreclosure". In fact, there was no "foreclosure": the Defendant falsified" the records and lied in order to avoid paying excise taxes on that transaction. Also at that time, Margene Jackson executed a Will naming the Defendant as her sole heir. For a time thereafter, Margene Jackson and Defendant lived together at the Property. A year later, Margene Jackson signed and gave ...

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