Code of Civil Procedure 872.620 CCP – State of the Title; Ascertainment (Partition Actions)

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California Code of Civil Procedure 872.620 is the California partition statute that allows the court to decide the state of title as part of the partition action. The statute provides that:

To the extent necessary to grant the relief sought or other appropriate relief, the court shall upon adequate proof ascertain the state of the title to the property.[1]California Code of Civil Procedure 872.620

Stated simply, the relative titles and interests of the parties to an action for partition may be litigated and determined in the partition action.[2]Morenhout v. Higuera (1867) 32 Cal. 289 Effectively, a partition lawsuit can incorporate the same conclusions found in a quiet title action.

Specifically, in a partition action, “[t]he interests of the parties, plaintiff as well as defendant, may be put in issue, tried, and determined in the action.”[3]California Code of Civil Procedure 872.610 “The section makes clear that the court may resolve any title disputes in the course of the proceeding where placed in issue by answer of a defendant or cross-defendant.”[4]California Code of Civil Procedure 872.610, Law Revision Comment

“Partition is an equitable action, and in the disposition thereof the trial court will determine the interests of all parties involved so as to effect a complete adjudication of the controversy and avoid a multiplicity of suits.”[5]Elbert, Ltd. v. Clare (1953) 40 Cal.2d 498, 501 “In such [a partition] action the parties may assert any title they have, legal or equitable, and the court will decree what is equitable and proper.”[6]Demetris v. Demetris (1954) 125 Cal. App. 2d 440, 445

Evidence Code section 662 provides that: “The owner of the legal title to property is presumed to be the owner of the full beneficial title. This presumption may be rebutted only by clear and convincing proof.” In turn, “Evidence Code section 662 has application, by its express terms, when there is no dispute as to where legal title resides but there is question as to where all or part of the beneficial title should rest.”[7]Murray v. Murray (1994) 26 Cal.App.4th 1062, 1067; see Coyne v. De Leo (2018) 26 Cal.App.5th 801, 819

Even further, the clear and convincing evidence standard is extremely onerous for any party trying to overcome the title presumption in Evidence Code section 662. “‘The burden of proof by clear and convincing evidence ‘requires a finding of high probability. The evidence must be so clear as to leave no substantial doubt. It must be sufficiently strong to command the unhesitating assent of every reasonable mind.”[8]Reed v. Gallagher (2016) 248 Cal.App.4th 841, 861–62 Continued, “California’s form of title presumption ‘is based on promoting the public policy in favor of the stability of titles to property,’ and ‘allegations that legal title does not represent beneficial ownership have been historically disfavored because society and the courts have a reluctance to tamper with duly executed instruments and documents of legal title.’” [9]In re Fadel, 492 B.R. 1, 11 (B.A.P. 9th Cir. 2013) (applying California law)

References

References
1 California Code of Civil Procedure 872.620
2 Morenhout v. Higuera (1867) 32 Cal. 289
3 California Code of Civil Procedure 872.610
4 California Code of Civil Procedure 872.610, Law Revision Comment
5 Elbert, Ltd. v. Clare (1953) 40 Cal.2d 498, 501
6 Demetris v. Demetris (1954) 125 Cal. App. 2d 440, 445
7 Murray v. Murray (1994) 26 Cal.App.4th 1062, 1067; see Coyne v. De Leo (2018) 26 Cal.App.5th 801, 819
8 Reed v. Gallagher (2016) 248 Cal.App.4th 841, 861–62
9 In re Fadel, 492 B.R. 1, 11 (B.A.P. 9th Cir. 2013) (applying California law)
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