Mahrenholz v. County Board of School Trustees

417 N.E.2d 138 (1981)

Quick Summary

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The Huttons gave School District No. 1 Trustees 1.5 acres in 1941. The deed stated that the land could only be used for school purposes. After 1973, the land was used only for storage. The Mahrenholzs sued for quiet title action in circuit court. The board claimed the Huttons’ deed gave it a fee simple subject to a future land condition.

The trial court dismissed the Mahrenolzs’ complaint because the deed conveyed a fee simple subject to a future condition, and they could not secure re-entry. Mahrenholzs petitioned to Illinois Court of Appeals.

The grantors desired a simple determinable fee followed by reverter. The word “only” immediately following “for school purposes” indicates that the grantors intended to give the land to the school district for as long as it was required and no longer, which is an example of a grant with a restriction in the clause stating that it is being given.

It sounds more like a partial grant than a full grant with a condition, implying a limited grant with a simple determinable fee.

Rule of Law

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The rights of re-entry for broken conditions cannot be devised to a third party, but they can be passed on through inheritance.

Facts of the Case

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The Huttons gave the School District No. 1 Trustees 1.5 acres of their 40-acre property in March 1941. (defendants). The land was “used for school purposes only; otherwise, to revert to the grantors,” according to the deed. The board built the Hutton School on the land, where classes were held until 1973. After 1973, classes were moved elsewhere, and the land was only utilized for storage.

Earl and Madeline Jacqmain, nearby landowners, deeded over 400 acres of land, including the Hutton School site, to Herbert and Betty Mahrenholz in 1959. The deed did not present interest in the Hutton School land, but it did convey a future interest if the land was no longer used for educational purposes.

Both Huttons died prior to the Hutton School’s relocation in 1973, leaving their son Harry as their heir. The Mahrenholzs filed a lawsuit in circuit court to quiet title action the property in their names after acquiring Harry’s interest in the Hutton School location. According to the Mahrenholzs, the Huttons’ conveyance to the board transferred fee simple land ownership.

As a result, Harry and the Mahrenholzs immediately reclaimed possession when the requirements broke. The board responded by claiming that the Huttons’ deed transmitted to it a fee simple subject to a future condition in the land. The board held custody of the land due to Harry’s failure to exercise his right of readmission.

The court dismissed the complaint because the Huttons’ conveyance to the board conveyed a fee simple subject to a future condition in the land, and the Mahrenholzs could not secure the right of re-entry. The Mahrenholzs then petitioned the Illinois Court of Appeals.


Issue Icon

Was the trial court correct in ruling that the Jacqmains and Harry Hutton could not have granted the plaintiff any claim to the school property based on the deed?

Holding and Conclusion

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Upon constructing the deed’s language, the court concluded that the word “only” in the deed’s granting clause signified the establishment of a fee simple subject. Consequently, the request for a quiet title action was granted. The defendants have a fee simple subject followed by a reverter.

Reasoning and Analysis

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The court’s decision is based on an interpretation of the deed’s language. In this context, the word “only” is important. The Huttons intended for the land to be temporarily utilized for educational purposes, as indicated by the word. The phrase “for school purposes only” contradicts the fee simple subject to condition succeeding language.

Since it states that the land “only” be used for educational purposes and does not say that the donor “may” reclaim the property, it is safe to assume that the return is not optional.

However, reversion interests cannot be transferred to another party. As a result, giving the money to the Jacqmains is inappropriate. The court found that Harry was entitled to a simple, calculable fee, but it refused to rule on whether or not the condition had been broken.

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