New York Court Grants Property Purchaser Summary Judgment Based on Laches Defense Despite Forged Deed

The New York Supreme Court, Queens County recently granted a property purchaser summary judgment on his claim to the property despite the fact that his grantor held title through a forged deed.  See Olowofela, et al. v. Olowofela, et al., Index No. 2363-2015 (June 27, 2019).  The purchaser bought the property at issue in September 2015.  A title report issued before the closing confirmed that the seller was the only owner of the property, via a 2009 deed from plaintiff and the seller to seller alone.  However, apparently unbeknownst to the purchaser, plaintiff had brought an action in February 2015 claiming the 2009 deed was forged, along with other deeds for other properties.  Although plaintiff filed notices of pendency against other properties at issue in this action, he failed to file a notice against this property until after the closing.  The purchaser moved for summary judgment arguing, among other things, that laches bars plaintiff’s action because plaintiff was or should have been aware of the forged deed well before he brought this action. 

The Court granted the purchaser’s motion with regard to laches.  It found that plaintiff—who was the seller’s son—was aware that the seller retained all mortgage proceeds and rental income from the properties for himself and refused to put the property in the name of a LLC.  The Court further found that there were “indications” plaintiff knew of the forged deeds years earlier.  In opposition, plaintiff submitted only self-serving statements that he did not know of the seller’s actions until later 2013, and had relied on their father-son relationship to assume his father was acting properly.  The Court rejected this argument and found that the parties’ relationship “does not permit [plaintiff] to be like [an] ostrich[] and ignore years of behavior . . .”  Accordingly, it granted the purchaser’s motion for summary judgment.

For a copy of the decision, please contact Michael O’Donnell at modonnell@riker.com, Michael Crowley at mcrowley@riker.com, or Dylan Goetsch at dgoetsch@riker.com.