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Johnson v. Bank of America, N.A.

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Second Division

July 14, 2015

JOHNSON
v.
BANK OF AMERICA, N.A

Editorial Note:

This Opinion is Uncorrected and subject to revision by the court.

BRANCH, Judge. Andrews, P. J., and Miller, J., concur.

OPINION

Branch, Judge.

Bobby Johnson, proceeding pro se, appeals from the dismissal of his suit to quiet title to certain property and the cancellation of a lis pendens. For the reasons stated below, we reverse.

On appeal of a trial court's ruling on a motion to dismiss, we conduct a de novo review. Penny v. McBride, 282 Ga.App. 590 (639 S.E.2d 561) (2006). Our role is " to determine whether the allegations of the complaint, when construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and with all doubts resolved in the plaintiff's favor, disclose with certainty that the plaintiff would not be entitled to relief under any state of provable facts." Id. (Citation omitted.)

The record shows that in the Superior Court of Henry County, Bobby Johnson filed a verified complaint to quiet title against all the world to residential property located at 1721 Gallup Drive in Stockbridge; Johnson also filed a notice of lis pendens. In the complaint, Johnson alleged that he has fee simple title to the property by way of a 2006 warranty deed that, along with a plat of survey of the land, he attached to the complaint. Johnson named as defendants Pine State Mortgage Corporation (Pine State), Bank of America, N.A. (BANA), The Bank of New York Mellon (BONY), and " unknown parties." Johnson alleged that Pine State, which appears to have held a recorded security interest in the property, was " a dissolved mortgage lender," that it had relinquished all of its rights as of January 1, 2007, and that it " no longer [held] a security interest whatsoever in Plaintiff's property." Johnson alleged that BANA and BONY each claimed an estate in the property based on certain recorded assignments dated in 2011 and 2012, copies of which were attached to the complaint. Johnson alleged that these assignments were " without foundation, doubtful and constitute a cloud recorded against Plaintiff's title to the property." Johnson requested that the court declare that the defendants have no estate, right, title or interest in the property and that they be forever enjoined from asserting any such claim. Johnson requested that the superior court " at its discretion appoint and refer this matter to a Special Master pursuant to OCGA § 23-3-63."

BANA was served, but it is unclear from the record whether BONY was successfully served. Johnson followed steps to effect service by publication on Pine State. BANA answered and later moved to dismiss the complaint; neither Pine State nor BONY filed a similar motion. Citing Montgomery v. Bank of America, 321 Ga.App. 343 (740 S.E.2d 434) (2013), BANA argued that Johnson lacked standing to contest the assignments of the Pine State security deed. BANA included the Pine State security deed as an attachment to its motion. Johnson thereafter filed an amended complaint that included arguments and citations of law. On July 29, 2014, the superior court granted BANA's motion to dismiss, finding as follows:

Having reviewed the relevant pleadings, submissions by the parties and applicable law, the Court finds BANA's motion to be well taken. Accordingly, for the reasons set forth in BANA's [brief], the Complaint is hereby DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. (Emphasis in original).

The court directed the clerk to record a copy of the order in the Henry County deed records and ordered that Johnson's notice of lis pendens be deemed null and void and cancelled as a matter of record. Johnson appeals.

1. In separate enumerations of error, Johnson contends the trial court erred because it based its dismissal on the fact that Johnson did not file a formal response to BANA's motion to dismiss and because the trial court failed to consider his amended complaint. Although the trial court mentioned in its order that Johnson had not formally responded, the trial court's order shows that the trial court based its decision on " the relevant pleadings, submissions by the parties and applicable law." These contentions are therefore without merit.

2. In several remaining enumerations of error, Johnson contends the trial court erred as a matter of law by dismissing his complaint and cancelling the notice of lis pendens. As explained below, we agree that the trial court erred by dismissing the action and cancelling the lis pendens on the ground that Johnson lacks standing.

Actions against " all the world" to quiet title to real property are governed by the Quiet Title Act of 1966. OCGA § 23-3-60 et seq. The purpose of the Act " is to create a procedure for removing any cloud upon the title to land" ; the Act is to be liberally construed; and the remedy provided " is intended to be cumulative and not exclusive." OCGA § § 23-3-60; 23-3-71; 23-3-72. The Act " is a special statutory proceeding designed for a specific purpose." James v. Gainey, 231 Ga. 543, 545 (203 S.E.2d 163) (1974). The Act " creates an efficient, speedy and effective means of adjudicating disputed title claims and sets out specific rules of practice and procedure with respect to an in rem quiet title action against all the world that take precedence over the Civil Practice Act when there is a conflict." Nelson v. Ga. Sheriffs Youth Homes, 286 Ga. 192 (686 S.E.2d 663) (2009) (citation and punctuation omitted).[1]

Under the Act, " [a]ny person who claims an interest in land may bring a proceeding to establish title to the land, determine all adverse claims, or to remove clouds on his title." Smith v. Ga. Kaolin Co., 264 Ga. 755, 756 (2) (449 S.E.2d 85) (1994). The Supreme Court has ...


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