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ZLOTNICK v. JACK I. BENDER & SONS

May 16, 1968

Sidney S. ZLOTNICK and Renee Zlotnick Kraft, Plaintiffs,
v.
JACK I. BENDER & SONS, INC., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GESELL

 GESELL, District Judge.

 This is an action for declaratory relief, injunction and damages. The respective rights of the parties in two connecting alleys in downtown Washington are involved. Plaintiffs contends that defendant has obstructed both alleys and prevented plaintiffs from exercising the rights which plaintiffs have as adjoining land owners and under a quitclaim deed from defendant. The complaint was filed October 1965. Jurisdiction is based on 28 U.S.C. § 2201 and § 11-521 of the D.C.Code (1967).

 Annexed to this Memorandum Opinion is a rough plat which has been sketched and which will aid in an understanding of the facts and issues.

 [SEE ILLUSTRATION IN ORIGINAL]

 The alleys shown were laid out under the following circumstances. In the year 1809 Samuel Davidson, then the owner of the property designated by Lots 1-9, created an original and valid subdivision which was duly recorded. *fn1" By that subdivision Lots 1-9 were delineated and Alley A and Alley B were dedicated as private alleys, as the parties agree in their trial briefs, under the following language and reservations:

 
"I have subdivided the Lot No. 2 into the lots or parts numbered 1 to 5 and the Alley marked A. on the annexed plat of the Square. The Lots No. 9, and No. 10 of the original division into the Lots or parts No. 6 to 9 and the alley or way marked 'B' on the said plat. And I hereby declare that the alleys or ways marked 'A' and 'B' on said annexed plat are intended for the use and convenience of the holders or occupiers of the Lots or pieces so by me laid off and numbered from one to nine (1 to 9) inclusive. Reserving however to myself and my Heirs or Assigns the sole right of giving and granting to the holders or occupiers of Lots other than these above mentioned in said Square, the privilege or advantage of said alleys, as a way or roads to their said Lots." (Pl.Ex. 1).

 Alley A is 10 feet wide and runs east from 18th Street for approximately 140 feet. It then extends in a northerly direction across the rear of Lots 8 and 9, diminishing to a width of 5 1/2 feet at the point where it intersects the south line of Alley B. Alley B extends from the west side of Connecticut Avenue in a westerly direction. It is approximately 5.6 feet wide until the point where it widens out opposite the rear of Lot 814 where it has an approximate width of 8 feet.

 Both plaintiffs and defendant at time of suit enjoyed the right to use Alley A as "holders or occupiers" of one or more of the numbered lots laid out in the original Davidson subdivision. As for Alley B, plaintiffs' rights in addition to their rights arising out of the subdivision are reinforced by a quitclaim deed running from defendant to plaintiffs. Since the meaning and effect of this deed are the principal bone of contention between the parties, it will be considered in some detail.

 The proofs showed that on March 4, 1958, defendant executed a quitclaim deed in favor of plaintiffs. This quitclaim deed stated in pertinent part as follows (Pl.Ex. 5):

 
"WITNESSETH, that for and in consideration of the sum of Ten Dollars the said party of the first part, does grant and quit-claim unto the said parties of the second part, in fee simple as Joint Tenants, all right, title, interest and estate of any nature whatsoever, that it may now own or may hereafter acquire in the hereinafter described property as the owners of Lots 28, 808, 18, 809, 810, 811, 19, 8, 9, 10, and 11 in Square 161 the following described land and premises, with the improvements, easements and appurtenances thereunto belonging, situate in the District of Columbia, namely: Part of Square 161 being an Alley as shown and designated as Alley 'B' in Samuel Davidson's Subdivision of lots in said square 161, * * *."

 On March 4, 1958, defendant owned Lot 9 and Lots 1-5. *fn2" Plaintiffs owned Lots 6 and 7 as joint tenants. Thus the parties owned all of the lots designated by Samuel Davidson except Lot 8, and the quitclaim deed on its face purports to alienate any interest defendant may have or obtain in the alley by reason of its ownership of any lots in the Davidson subdivision.

 Since defendant did not own Lot 8 as of the date of this quitclaim deed, however, it now argues, in spite of the language of the deed, that the doctrine of estoppel by deed does not apply and that by virtue of its subsequent acquisition of Lot 8 it has a continuing right to the "use and convenience" of Alley B. The quitclaim deed will, however, be upheld in its entirety for this contention is without merit. Great care must be taken in permitting a quitclaim deed to run against future acquired property. It appears to the Court that in this instance there is no reason not to take a liberal view of the effect of the deed under the circumstances shown by the record. The grantor, a knowledgeable contractor, received substantial benefit from the deed. It is also undisputed that it was the intention of the parties prior to execution of the quitclaim deed (Tr. 29) as well as stated in clear and unambiguous language in the deed itself. The modern trend of the cases and the common sense of this situation require that the quitclaim deed be upheld. To do otherwise would be to countenance a complete disregard for the basic elements of contract which lie at the heart of real estate transactions. The thrust of cases in this jurisdiction points up the great significance of the intention of the parties in construing any deed. Morris v. Wheat, 8 App.D.C. 379 (1896); see also, Williams v. Paine, 169 U.S. 55, 18 S. Ct. 279, 42 L. Ed. 658 (1897). No District of ...


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