Estate of Dominguez v. Dominguez – 3/28/24

April 2, 2024

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that a forgery allegation does not defeat the statute of limitations on a quiet title claim.

In 1995, a plaintiff obtained title to a lot in Maricopa County. A warranty deed conveying the property to the defendant was executed, notarized, and recorded in 2003.

16 years after the deed was recorded, the plaintiff discovered the deed and sued the defendant seeking to quiet title to the property and asserting a false-document claim alleging that the defendant forged the deed. The plaintiff also recorded a lis pendens on the property. The defendant filed a separate action against the plaintiff seeking quiet title to the property and asserting a false document claim based on the lis pendens. The superior court consolidated the cases and granted the defendant’s motions for summary judgment on the competing quiet title and false document claims.

The central issue is whether a forged deed is a “recorded deed” under A.R.S. § 12-524 for statute of limitations purposes. The superior court concluded that that the five-year statute of limitations barred the plaintiff’s quiet title claim because the defendant had a “recorded deed,” even if it was forged. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

A.R.S. § 12–524 provides a five-year statute of limitations for quiet title actions “to recover a lot located in a city or town from a person having a recorded deed therefor, who claims ownership and has paid the taxes thereon.” In Nicholas v. Giles, 102 Ariz. 130 (1967), the Arizona Supreme Court interpreted A.R.S. § 12–524’s “recorded deed” requirement, holding that a void deed “was sufficient to operate as a recorded deed” under the statute. Id. at 131. Applying Nicholas, the court of appeals held that the defendant had a “recorded deed” under A.R.S. § 12–524, even if it was forged, because the deed accurately described the property and the grantors’ signatures were notarized. The court also acknowledged unlike the succeeding section of the statute, A.R.S. § 12–524 doesn’t include a forgery exemption. The plaintiff’s quiet title claim was therefore barred by the five-year statute of limitations.

Judge Howe authored the opinion, in which Judges Foster and Furuya joined.

Posted by: Allie Karpurk