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Prochaska v. Midwest Title Guarantee Co.

March 3, 1997

HELMUTH H. PROCHASKA AND BEVERLEY PROCHASKA, HUSBAND AND WIFE, RESPONDENTS,
v.
MIDWEST TITLE GUARANTEE COMPANY OF FLORIDA; AND DALE BRANDLAND, WHATCOM COUNTY SHERIFF, APPELLANTS.



Appeal from Superior Court of Whatcom County. Docket No: 94-2-00827-3. Date filed: 11/15/95. Judge signing: Hon. Steven J. Mura.

Petition for Review Granted July 8, 1997,

Authored by Faye C. Kennedy. Concurring: H. Joseph Coleman, Ronald E. Cox.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kennedy

KENNEDY, A.C.J. -- Midwest Title Guarantee Company of Florida appeals the trial court's order on summary judgment establishing Helmuth and Beverley Prochaska's superior claim to real property located in Whatcom County, and the court's subsequent judgment quieting title to the property in favor of the Prochaskas. Because Midwest Title's judgment lien commenced upon the filing of the certified copy its out-of-state judgment with the Whatcom County Clerk nine minutes before the deed conveying title to the Prochaskas was recorded, and because several conditions of closing were not fulfilled until several days after recordation of the deed, so that the Prochaskas took title to the property subject to the judgment lien, and because the Prochaskas are not entitled to the protection of the bona fide purchaser doctrine, we reverse and remand for entry of judgment in favor of Midwest Title.

FACTS

Helmuth and Beverley Prochaska, then residents of South Carolina, were vacationing in the Pacific Northwest in the summer of 1988 when they found a lot in Whatcom County upon which they wanted to build their retirement home. The lot was owned by John Oldfin, a Florida resident. On August 11, 1988, the parties entered into a purchase and sale agreement under which the Prochaskas agreed to pay $95,000 for the lot. The purchase and sale agreement was sent to Select Escrow for closing. On September 7, 1988, Select Escrow sent the closing documents to the parties. The Prochaskas signed the documents on September 8, 1988, and returned them to Select Escrow with a cashier's check in the amount of $45,415.13. The remainder of the purchase price was paid through a loan from Community State Bank, the proceeds of which were deposited with Select Escrow on September 13, 1988. Oldfin signed the closing documents on September 9, 1988, and returned them to Select Escrow along with the statutory warranty deed and the excise tax affidavit. On September 13, 1988, Select Escrow forwarded the deed and a check for the excise tax to Ticor Title Insurance Company with instructions to record the deed. Ticor Title recorded the deed with the Whatcom County Auditor on September 14, 1988, at 10:14 a.m.

Meanwhile, on September 7, 1988, Midwest Title Guarantee Company of Florida had obtained a judgment in the amount of $122,210.50 against Oldfin in the Circuit Court of Collier County, Florida. A certified copy of the judgment was filed with the Whatcom County Clerk on September 14, 1988, at 10:05 a.m., nine minutes before the Prochaska's deed was recorded. Midwest Title's judgment was entered on the execution docket on September 16, 1988. Although Midwest Title was successful in collecting a portion of the judgment owed by Oldfin, by April of 1994 over $100,000 remained unsatisfied. On April 26, 1994, Midwest Title caused a writ of execution to be issued against the Whatcom County property purchased by the Prochaskas from Oldfin. The Prochaskas assert that they first received notice of Midwest Title's judgment at this time.

On May 16, 1994, the Prochaskas brought a motion under RCW 6.19.030(2) to determine the probable validity of their claim to the Whatcom County property levied upon by the sheriff. On June 16, 1994, the Whatcom County Superior Court found that the Prochaskas had established the probable validity of their claim to the property as against Midwest Title's judgment lien and the Whatcom County Sheriff's levy, and released the property from the levy. Two months later, in August of 1994, the Prochaskas moved for summary judgment seeking to establish their superior claim to the Whatcom County property free and clear of Midwest Title's judgment lien. On September 22, 1995, the court granted the Prochaskas' motion. Subsequently, on November 15, 1995, the court denied Midwest Title's motion for reconsideration, and entered judgment quieting title to the Whatcom County property in favor of the Prochaskas.

This timely appeal followed.

Discussion

Midwest Title contends that the trial court erred in concluding as a matter of law that the Prochaskas took title to the Whatcom County property free and clear of its judgment lien. It argues that its judgment lien commenced upon the filing of the certified copy of the judgment with the Whatcom County clerk at 10:05 a.m. on September 14, 1988, and that because the deed conveying title to the Prochaskas was not recorded until nine minutes later, the Prochaskas took title to the property subject to the judgment lien. The Prochaskas argue that the judgment lien did not commence until the judgment was entered onto the execution docket on September 16, 1988, and that because the deed conveying title from Oldfin to them was recorded two days earlier, Midwest Title's judgment lien did not attach to the Whatcom County property while Oldfin owned it.

When reviewing an order granting summary judgment, an appellate court engages in the same inquiry as the trial court. Failor's Pharmacy v. D.S.H.S., 125 Wash. 2d 488, 493, 886 P.2d 147 (1994); Fisher v. Aldi Tire, Inc., 78 Wash. App. 902, 906, 902 P.2d 166 (1995), review denied, 128 Wash. 2d 1025, 913 P.2d 816 (1996). All facts and reasonable inferences must be considered in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Mountain Park Homeowners Ass'n, Inc. v. Tydings, 125 Wash. 2d 337, 341, 883 P.2d 1383 (1994). This court will affirm an order granting summary judgment if there are no genuine issues of material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. CR 56(c).

A. Commencement of the Judgment Lien

A foreign judgment becomes enforceable as a judgment of a court of this state upon its transfer under the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, Ch. 6.36 RCW. Idaho Department of Health & Welfare v. Holjeson, 42 Wash. App. 69, 73, 708 P.2d 661 (1985), review ...


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