August 18, 2019

Tenth Circuit: Title Insurance Does Not Cover Loss of Property at Foreclosure Sale

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in BV Jordanelle, LLC v. Old Republic National Title Insurance Co. on Tuesday, July 26, 2016.

In 2008, BV loaned $6.3 million to PWJ Holdings, which owned the Aspens Property in Wasatch, Utah. In exchange for the loan, BV received a mortgage for one parcel in the Aspens Property, and obtained a title insurance policy through Old Republic. PWJ defaulted on the loan, and BV foreclosed on the property in 2009, acquiring title to the property at a trustee’s sale. The property was located in an improvement district, but PWJ did not pay the assessments for the improvement district, and the district initiated foreclosure proceedings in 2010. BV sued the district in state court, seeking to stop the foreclosure and retain title, but the court issued a decree in 2012 allowing the district to complete the foreclosure. Because Utah law holds that improvement district liens are superior to all other liens, the improvement district obtained title to the insured property, extinguishing BV’s interest.

BV did not learn about the improvement district’s lien until 2010, after it had acquired title to the property. When it learned of the lien, BV sought compensation from Old Republic under the title insurance policy, but Old Republic denied coverage. BV sued Old Republic, contending Old Republic had breached the insurance policy by refusing to compensate it for the loss of the property and by failing to defend BV in the state court litigation with the improvement district. The district court granted judgment on the pleadings to Old Republic, concluding that the policy did not entitle BV to recovery for loss of the property or defense in the state court suit. BV appealed.

The Tenth Circuit applied Utah law in affirming the district court. BV contended it was entitled to coverage based on six different covered risks: loss caused by a defect in title, loss by encroachments that affect title, loss caused by unmarketable title, loss caused by enforcement of subdivision regulations, loss caused by a governmental taking, and loss caused by the imposition of a statutory lien for services, labor, or material used in construction. The Tenth Circuit found that none of the covered risks applied.

The Tenth Circuit specifically found that a Utah Supreme Court opinion precluded BV’s claims regarding the defect in title, as that case held the defect must be present at the time of acquisition of the property. BV argued that because the improvement district was contemplated before it acquired the property, the defect was present, but the Tenth Circuit disagreed. The Tenth Circuit also rejected BV’s claims due to loss caused by encroachment, noting those claims were not raised in BV’s complaint. Similarly, the Tenth Circuit refused to consider BV’s claim for loss caused by unmarketable title because it was not raised in district court. The Tenth Circuit disposed of the remaining claims by finding that the improvement district’s notice to enforce a subdivision regulation was not in effect at the time BV acquired title, any governmental taking would have happened after BV acquired title, and the improvement district’s lien was not for any services, labor, or materials used in construction.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court.