Season 1, Episode 6

Title Nerds hosts Mike O’Donnell and Bethany Abele welcome title insurance industry professional Sam Shiel to the podcast for Episode Six.  Sam Shiel of Madison Title Agency has a conversation with Mike about his early interest in title insurance and how he got started in the industry, and what is required of a title agent.  Sam explains what it really means to be an independent nationwide title agent, as well as differences in markets, and then talks about the services beyond title searches and issuances of policies that may be provided by some title agents.  The conversation also moves into how good title agents safeguard against wire fraud, the evolution of the title industry and what may be coming in the future.  Of great interest to our listeners is that it was determined during the episode that a prescriptive easement was at the heart of the feud between the Capulets and Montagues in the Romeo and Juliet tragedy!

Taking that theme, Bethany then speaks with Riker Danzig attorney Desiree McDonald about a recent prescriptive easement case decided by the Colorado Supreme Court.  In Lo Viento Blanco, LLC v. Woodbridge Condo. Ass’n, Inc., 489 P.3d 735 (Colo. 2021), L.R. Foy Construction (“Foy Construction”) conveyed a large parcel of land with condominiums to the Woodbridge Condominium Association, but did not convey a smaller parcel of land that sat between the conveyed parcel and a gravel road. Woodbridge then used this smaller parcel of land over a period of decades for different purposes and maintained it, and, in 1991, offered Foy Construction $10,000 for the smaller parcel. Without replying to Woodbridge, Foy Construction subsequently sold the disputed parcel in 2010 to Lo Viento Blanco LLC, who presented Woodbridge with a plan to build on the disputed parcel. Woodbridge objected and filed suit to establish that it owned the disputed parcel or, in the alternative, that it had acquired a prescriptive easement over it. The Colorado Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals, noting that a prescriptive easement claimant that shows that it has possessed the easement for more than the statutory period is entitled to a presumption of adverse use.

Season 1, Episode 5

In Episode Five of Title Nerds, hosts Mike O’Donnell and Bethany Abele are joined by partners from Riker Danzig’s Bankruptcy & Corporate Restructuring Practice, along with Riker Danzig attorney Mike Crowley from the Title Insurance team.  First, Bankruptcy Chair Joe Schwartz explains how liens and mortgages pass through bankruptcy.  Partner Tara Schellhorn next joins Joe to address avoidance action-type claims, where Mike and Bethany questioned them about preferences as a way for Trustees to recoup payments and property interests, and best defenses against preferences.  In a wide-ranging discussion, Joe and Tara provided insights on trustees being a hypothetical lien holder or a bona fide purchaser for value, as well as fraudulent transfers and the federal and state fraudulent conveyance statutes.  Of particular interest to title underwriters, Tara discussed the 363 sale process, and how to confirm that clear title is being delivered.

In the second segment, Mike Crowley, an associate in Riker Danzig’s Title Insurance practice, discusses the federal case Tithonus Partners II, LP v. Chicago Title Ins. Co., 2021 WL 4711284 (W.D. Pa. Oct. 8, 2021) in which a dispute arose over coverage after the insured owner – a  limited partnership – conveyed the insured property to Tithonus Partners II, LP, another limited partnership that was the original insured’s 99.9% owner. Tithonus Partners later subdivided the property and sold some of it to a third party.  In 2020, that third party commenced an action against Tithonus Partners, claiming that some of the conveyed property was not owned by Tithonus Partners.  Tithonus Partners then made a title claim with Chicago Title, who denied the claim because Tithonus Partners was not the Insured under the policy.  Tithonus Partners then sued Chicago Title and the parties cross-moved for summary judgment.  The Court rejected Tithonus Partners’ claim that it was a successor to an Insured and, further, found that the unambiguous policy language requires that a grantee must “wholly own” the named insured for coverage under the policy to continue, and Tithonus Partners’ 99.9% ownership was not enough.  The Court granted Chicago Title’s motion and the action was dismissed.

Season 1, Episode 4

Partners from Riker Danzig’s Real Estate Practice join Title Nerds hosts Mike O’Donnell and Bethany Abele for the fourth episode, along with fellow Riker Danzig attorney Kevin Hakansson.  In the first segment, Mike and Bethany have a conversation with Real Estate partners Josh Greenfield and Jim Maggio about working with title insurance underwriters on big commercial closings.  Along with discussing Schedule B exceptions, recommended ALTA endorsements and leasehold policies, Josh and Jim share some thorny title issues they’ve resolved with good title underwriters.  They stress how critical the service component is for title companies as a differentiating quality, given that fees are regulated in New Jersey.  Next, Kevin Hakansson, a Riker Danzig associate who recently joined the Firm, discusses the case Amran Property Investments, LLC, et al. v Fidelity National Title Group, Inc. in federal court (2021 WL 3883087) in which the plaintiffs, foreign real estate investors who had acquired housing properties in Chicago to lease to tenants, alleged claims of fraud and negligent misrepresentation by Fidelity, seeking to recover their entire property investment amount.  Following closing, plaintiffs were notified that the properties were uninhabitable and would require $1 million+ in repairs to be made rentable.  The Court granted Fidelity’s Motion to Dismiss and found that the plaintiffs failed to show that Fidelity aided and abetted the buyers’ fraudulent investment scheme, and had no duty to ensure the funds were not misused, as well as failing to state plausible tort claims. 

Season 1, Episode 3

Title Nerds hosts Mike O’Donnell and Bethany Abele welcome special guest Mike Ham, the “Coolest Guy in Title Insurance,” to the podcast, along with fellow Riker Danzig attorney Desiree McDonald.  In the first segment, the Title Nerds hosts interview Mike Ham, who is a commercial real estate title insurance sales executive with Fidelity National Title Group and hosts a wildly popular podcast, “The Morning Spotlight Podcast,” in which he brings on interesting guests in real estate and other industries.  Mike talks about how he started in the title insurance industry, what sparked his podcast, how he helps his clients, and what it takes to be a successful title insurance salesperson.

Then, Riker title team associate Desiree McDonald discusses the case of U & Me Homes, LLC v. Cty. of Suffolk out of New York State (148 N.Y.S.3d 682 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. July 16, 2021)) in which the Court held that a purported restrictive covenant on the property was void and granted the property owner’s motion for summary judgment.  In the case, the plaintiff had purchased an undeveloped parcel of land in Southampton that was split-zoned, with both portions permitting residential development.  When the plaintiff decided he wanted to build a single-family home on the property, he learned of a developmental restriction that would make his property of zero value.  The deed and title search report, however, had not contained any reference to any development restrictions, and indeed, the property had been transferred numerous times previously with no reference to a restriction.  The action was brought alleging that the covenant failed to run with the land and that the restriction was against public policy. The Court, very displeased with the County and Town, found no intent for the restriction to run with the land, and said the County and Town had overstepped their bounds and had reversed the role of government.  The Town and County then went after the title companies for coverage, and the Court decided that if money was ever to be paid, it should be by the government, not by the insurance companies, something not seen very often in Court’s opinions.

Season 1, Episode 2

Title Nerds hosts Mike O’Donnell and Bethany Abele welcome fellow Riker Danzig attorneys Ron Ahrens and Mike Crowley to the podcast.  In the first segment, Mike O’Donnell and Ron Ahrens talk about coverage investigations in the context of title insurance, drawing on some of their experiences in uncovering fraud and collusion, as well as issues in more routine fact-based investigations. They cover the analysis of covered claims, including what issues are probed, the Eight Corners Doctrine and beyond, privilege issues when a challenge to title is being litigated at the same time a coverage investigation is ongoing, and common exclusions and exceptions.   Next, Bethany Abele interviews Mike Crowley about the 11th Circuit’s In re Lindsey case (2021 WL 140661 11th Cir.), which raises two issues of interest to title insurers.  First, the case addresses whether a Bankruptcy Court can retain jurisdiction over an adversary complaint seeking quiet title after the debtor dismisses the bankruptcy action.  Second, it analyzes the Court’s decision to reform a deed to include the debtors’ 50% interest even though the seller failed to sign individually and later claims he never intended to do so, as the evidence all points to the intention to convey his interest through the bankruptcy.  Mike O’Donnell, Bethany Abele, Ron Ahrens and Mike Crowley are all members of Riker Danzig’s Title Insurance and Commercial Litigation Practices.

Season 1, Episode 1

Title Nerds hosts Mike O’Donnell and Bethany Abele are joined by fellow Riker Danzig attorneys Mary Kay Roberts and Mike Crowley.  In this inaugural episode, Mike O’Donnell talks to Mike Crowley about the Fifth Circuit’s Hall v. Old Republic case (990 F.3d 933, 5th Cir. Mar. 10, 2021) concerning coverage for mechanic’s liens, and then turns to changes in ALTA’s Owner and Lender Policies.  Bethany Abele and Mary Kay Roberts discuss New Jersey’s new “Daniel’s Law” (A1649 P.L.2020 c.125)/S3453 P.L. 2021, c.24) protecting the disclosure of certain personal information of judges, prosecutors and some others, as well as the impact of the Planned Real Estate Development Full Disclosure Act /Homeowner’s Association Fees Corrective Bill (S908 P.L. 2020, c.100), and a bill encouraging the Timely Recording of Residential Deeds (A3396/S1319).  Mike O’Donnell, Bethany Abele and Mike Crowley are all members of Riker Danzig’s Title Insurance and Commercial Litigation Practices, while Mary Kay Roberts is a lobbyist and Governmental Affairs partner, heading Riker Danzig’s Trenton office.