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Forensic title expert Joe Grabas was our special guest for Episode 5 of our second season of Title Nerds, joining co-hosts Mike O’Donnell and Bethany Abele. Joe is a certified title professional, and the Director and Chief Instructor of the Grabas Institute for Continuing Education. He is also the author of “Owning New Jersey: Historic Tales of War, Property Disputes & the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Mike asked Joe to talk about tidelands issues, a particular concern in New Jersey since the State of New Jersey has rights to the land not only currently flowed by the tide, but formerly flowed by the tide, creating unique challenges for homeowners who may not see any apparent water anywhere near the site; the State of New Jersey may still claim ownership of a large share of that property. Joe emphasized the importance of always ordering a wetlands survey and a land survey upfront when contemplating the purchase of any property, as both a title issue and a regulatory issue. Joe also discussed how the NJDEP handles bulkhead bumpouts for waterfront development, another thorny issue, as well as how hearings before the Tidelands Bureau, which considers applications for tidelands grants, are conducted.

Bethany then interviewed Jim Mazewski, an associate in our Title Insurance practice, about Hillary Developer, LLC v Security Title Guarantee Corporation of Baltimore in the New York Appellate Division, 2nd Department, a published decision at 219 A.D. 3d 815 (2023). Jim explains the complicated details of the case, wherein a Defendant sold property to Hillary Developer under an alternate name, which property had already been sold to a different buyer at a sheriff’s sale to satisfy a judgment. Hillary Developer later filed suit against three parties including Security Title, which had issued Hillary a title insurance policy, alleging that it had not been informed of the judgment’s existence. Security Title then brought claims against its issuing agent, SSS Settlement, for fraudulent concealment and prima facie tort, alleging intentional harm and malice. SSS Settlement moved for dismissal of the claims, which was denied by the trial court but reversed and dismissed on appeal.

Jim said the important takeaway from this case is that, when pleading a fraudulent concealment claim based on a failure to disclose information, it is necessary to identify the specific duty imposing the obligation to make that disclosure.