Sullivan v. Chicago Title Insurance Company
ORDER ADOPTING FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS and granting 17 Motion for Summary Judgment. This case is DISMISSED. Signed by Judge Dana L. Christensen on 8/15/2017. (APP) Copy mailed to Sullivan
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MONTANA
BILLY BUDD SULLIVAN,
AUG 15 2017
Cle rk. l! S District Court
0 istnct_Ot Montana
CHICAGO TITLE INSURANCE
United States Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch entered findings and
recommendations in this case on May 31, 201 7, recommending that Defendant
Chicago Title Insurance Company's ("Chicago Title") motion for summary
judgment be granted. Plaintiff Billy Budd Sullivan ("Sullivan") timely filed
objections to the findings and recommendations. Thus, he is entitled to a de novo
review of those findings and recommendations to which he specifically objects.
28 U.S.C. § 636(b )(1 )(C). This Court reviews for clear error those findings and
recommendations to which no party objects. See McDonnell Douglas Corp. v.
Commodore Bus. Mach., Inc., 656 F.2d 1309, 1313 (9th Cir. 1981); Thomas v.
Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149 (1985). Clear error exists ifthe Court is left with a
"definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." United States v.
Syrax, 235 F.3d 422, 427 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted).
Judge Lynch concluded, and this Court agrees, that the statute of limitations
applies here. Sullivan's claims under his title insurance policy relate back to 1993.
(Doc. 2 at 9.) Under Montana Code Annotated§ 27-2-202(1), a contract in
writing is subject to an eight-year statute of limitations. Sullivan filed suit in
August 2016, so his claims against Chicago Title are barred.
However, this Court also agrees with Judge Lynch that deference should be
given to Sullivan as a pro se litigant, and the Court should address his claims on
the merits. First, the Court finds that Chicago Title did not breach its insurance
contract. Chicago Title's policy insured Sullivan against others who may also
claim ownership in the subject property. There is no dispute there is no evidence
in the public records or by Sullivan that any other person or entity holds title to
Sullivan's property. Thus, his claim for breach of contract is without merit.
Sullivan objects to this conclusion. He contends that "[a]ccording to the
local banks and certain county officials that there are several suits regarding the
title insurance company with propertys in Lincoln County, I'm requesting full
discloser of this. I'm not the only one that has been a victim of defective
property." (Doc. 24 at 1.) However, this statement is made without direct
evidence that the "suits" actually exist. Sullivan did not submit additional
evidence from these local banks or county officials regarding the validity of these
"suits." Therefore, the Court finds that, without more, Sullivan's claim for breach
of contract fails.
Next, Sullivan claims that Chicago Title is obligated to insure against the
alleged "easement/right away issues." (Doc. 2 at 9.) In 1993 at the time of sale of
Sullivan's property, Chicago Title's policy disclosed all easements and
encumbrances within the public record, and the policy specifically excluded
coverage for loss or damage caused by the specific easements which were
expressly identified. (Doc. 23 at 10-11.) Judge Lynch concluded that all of
Sullivan's claims relate to the easements identified by Chicago Title. The Court
agrees with Judge Lynch that Sullivan has not presented or identified any evidence
suggesting that there exists additional easements that are of public record but were
not identified by Chicago Title's policy. Again, Sullivan's objection restates the
same arguments made before Judge Lynch. There is no evidence relating to other
easements. Thus, the Court finds that Chicago Title is entitled to summary
judgment on Sullivan's claims asserting that easements exist burdening his
property which Chicago Title is obligated to cover under its policy and provide
Third, Sullivan claims that criminal activities have occurred on his property
due to the easement issues and that Chicago Title is liable for these activities. The
Court agrees with Judge Lynch that the title insurance policy here does not insure
against third parties' crimes against Sullivan's property. There is no language in
the policy that would provide coverage for the intentional or criminal acts of
others. Further, under Montana Code Annotated§ 33-25-105(12), "a title insurer
insures or indemnifies the insured against loss or damage sustained by reason of:
(a) defects in or liens or encumbrances on the title to the stated property; (b)
unmarketability of the title to the stated property; or (c) invalidity or
unenforceability of liens or encumbrances on the stated property." Mont. Code
Ann.§ 33-25-105(12) (2015). Without any specific provision providing coverage,
and pursuant to statute, the Court finds that Chicago Title's insurance policy does
not cover the illegal and intentional acts of others.
Finally, Sullivan objects to this Court's treatment of this case. He states that
"the judges involved with this case is showing discrimination, prejudice, favors,
etc." (Doc. 24 at 1.) Sullivan requests that Judge Lynch recuse himself and that
the Court appoint another judge to adjudicate this matter. The Court determines
that Judge Lynch has not demonstrated any bias whatsoever in this case. Judge
Lynch gave Sullivan a fair opportunity to respond to Chicago Title's motion for
summary judgment, and analyzed the claims thoroughly and fairly. If anything,
Judge Lynch was deferential to Sullivan as a pro se litigant. Instead of simply
granting summary judgment based on the statue of limitations, he addressed the
merits of each claim.
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that Judge Lynch's findings and
recommendations (Doc. 23) are ADOPTED IN FULL. Defendant Chicago Title's
summary judgment motion (Doc. 17) is GRANTED. This case is DISMISSED.
I 5~ay of August, 201 7.
Dana L. Christensen, Chief Judge
United States District Court
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