Tenth Circuit: Express or Implicit Dispute of Title Necessary to Trigger Quiet Title Act’s “Disputed Title” Requirement

January 8, 2015

By Susan Hoyt

Byron White U.S. Courthouse

Byron White U.S. Courthouse

The 10th Circuit’s recent decision in Kane County, Utah v. United States, 772 F.3d 1205 (10th Cir. 2014), resolved some issues while obfuscating others.

The Court potentially created a split between the 9th and 10th Circuits when it defined what constitutes “disputed title” for purposes of the Quiet Title Act (QTA). “The Tenth Circuit, as a matter of first impression, evaluated what requirements satisfy the QTA’s “disputed title” requirement. The Tenth Circuit rejected the Ninth Circuit’s “cloud on title” standard and instead held that, to satisfy the QTA’s “disputed title” element, the plaintiff must show that the United States has either expressly disputed title or taken action that implicitly disputes it. Actions that produce ambiguity are not enough to satisfy the disputed title element.

The Tenth Circuit then turned its attention to the district court’s conclusion that Public Water Reserve (PWR) 107 had served to “reserve” two parcels of land across which Swallow Park Road runs from operation of R.S. 2477. The Tenth Circuit analyzed PWR 107, finding that it was intended to provide public access to certain water springs, and noted that it would be “nonsensical” to hold that the provision of public access to the springs expressly excluded the construction of roadways under R.S. 2477 on which the public could access the water springs.”

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