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Sage Title Group, LLC v. Kersey

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

February 17, 2017

SAGE TITLE GROUPS, LLC d/b/a SAGE PREMIER SETTLEMENTS, Plaintiff,
v.
LILLIE E. KERSEY, MERRITT KERSEY, MICHAEL J. KERSEY, MORRIS F. KERSEY, and MONA LISA KERSEY a/k/a MONA LISA KERSEY-MONTEITH, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          ROBERT F. KELLY, Sr. J.

         Presently before the Court is Defendants, Mona Lisa Kersey-Monteith (“Mona”), Michael Kersey (“Michael”), and Morris Kersey's (“Morris”) (collectively, “Siblings”) Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendant, Merritt Kersey's (“Merritt”), both Individually and Executor of the Estate of Lillie E. Kersey (“Lillie”), Motion for Summary Judgment, Siblings' Response in Opposition to Merritt's Motion, and Merritt's Response in Opposition to Siblings' Motion. For the reasons set forth below, Siblings' Motion is granted and Merritt's Motion is denied.

         I.BACKGROUND

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 22, Sage Title Group, LLC (“Sage”) commenced this diversity action by filing its Complaint for Interpleader (“Interpleader Complaint”) on January 4, 2016. (Doc. No. 1.) The Interpleader Complaint alleges that on or about May 15, 2014, Mona, Michael, Morris, Lille, and Merritt (collectively, “Defendants”) were the sellers of real property located at 14 Isabella Lane, Glen Mills, Pennsylvania (the “Property”).[1] (Compl. ¶ 11.) Sage acted as the title agent and conducted the real estate closing for the sale, which occurred on May 15, 2014 (the “Transaction”). (Id. ¶¶ 11-12.) At the closing, Sage issued a check representing the net proceeds of the sale, in the amount of $267, 499.69, jointly payable to all Defendants. (Id. ¶ 13.) Soon after settlement, Sage became aware that its proceeds check had not been negotiated by Defendants and remained uncashed. (Id. ¶ 14.)

         Sage was eventually alerted to a dispute between Defendants regarding their respective distributive shares. (Id. ¶ 15.) The Property was originally acquired by Lillie E. Kersey and her husband, Frederic F. Kersey (“Frederic”) (collectively, the “Parents”) by deed dated November 2, 1972. (See Merritt's Mot. for Summ. J. at 2-3.) The Parents added their two oldest children, Michael and Morris, as co-owners in the Property via a deed dated August 11, 1987 (“1987 Deed”). (Id. at 3.) In the 1987 Deed, the Parents conveyed the property to the following Grantees:

Fredderic F. Kersey and Lillie E. Kersey, his wife, tenants by the entireties. Michael J. Kersey and Morris F. Kersey, to the whole as joint tenants with the rights of survivorship.

(Id. at 5, Ex. B.)

         The current dispute pertains to the 1990 Deed (“1990 Deed”), which added the two youngest siblings, Mona and Merritt; thus, conveying an interest in the Property to the Parents and Michael, Mona, Merritt, and Morris (collectively, the “Children”). The 1990 Deed recorded June 27, 1990, had the following named Grantees:

Frederic F. Kersey and Lillie E. Kersey, his wife, tenants by the entireties. Michael J. Kersey, Morris F. Kersey, Mona Lisa Kersey, and Merritt Kersey to the whole as joint tenants with right of survivorship.

(Id. at 5, Ex. A.)

         In this lawsuit, we are charged with giving a meaning to this language of the 1990 Deed. Merritt suggests that, absent any other admissible evidence, the parties used the period in the conveyance between the Parents and the Children to create two distinct classes of ownership, where the Parents[2] owned fifty (50%) percent, and the Children owned the other fifty (50%) percent split equally among them. (Id. at 13-17.) On the other hand, Siblings claim that the Deed conveyed an equal 20% interest to each of the five tenants. (See Siblings' Mot. for Summ. J. at 2-4.)

         II. STANDARDS OF LAW

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) states that summary judgment is proper “if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law” See Hines v. Consol. Rail Corp., 926 F.2d 262, 267 (3d Cir. 1991). The Court asks “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to the jury or whether . . . one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). The moving party has the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for the motion and identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). “A fact is material if it could affect the outcome of the suit after applying the substantive law. Further, a dispute over a material fact must be ‘genuine, ' i.e., the evidence must be such ‘that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party.'” Compton v. Nat'l League of Prof'l Baseball Clubs, 995 F.Supp. 554, 561 n.14 (E.D. Pa. 1998).

         Summary judgment must be granted “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Once the moving party has produced evidence in support of summary judgment, the non-moving party must go beyond the allegations set forth in its pleadings and counter with evidence that presents “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); see Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am. Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1362-63 (3d Cir. 1992). “More than a mere scintilla of evidence in its favor” must be presented by the non-moving party in order to overcome a summary judgment motion. Tziatzios v. United States, 164 F.R.D. 410, 411-12 (E.D. Pa. 1996). If the court determines that there are no genuine issues of material fact, then summary judgment will be granted. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Property Interests at Issue

         There are three forms of ownership of real estate property at issue in this case. We will provide a brief background on each of ...


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