Cook v. Pinetop-Lakeside (CA1 5/28/13)

A small case about an obscure point of law but interesting nonetheless.

In 2001 Pinetop abandoned to Cook a piece property next to his that it no longer intended to use for a road. In  2007 a neighbor complained that the abandonment landlocked him; turns out there’s a statute prohibiting road abandonments that do that. So Pinetop, at a hearing at which Cook was present, voted to “rescind” the abandonment. Over a year later he sued to quiet title. Pinetop moved for summary judgment on the statute of limitations.

A.R.S. 12-821 provides that “All actions against any public entity or public employee shall be brought within one year after the cause of action accrues and not afterward.” The court first concludes that “all” does indeed mean “all,” including actions to quiet title.

The next question was when the statute accrued. Pinetop argued that it accrued at the time of the vote to rescind because Cook knew then that his property would be taken. Cook argued that it hadn’t accrued because he hadn’t been damaged, in the sense that no one had attempted to interfere with his use of the property. The court holds that “the statute of limitations does not run against a plaintiff in possession who brings a quiet title action purely to remove a cloud on the title to his property,” citing a long string of cases from Arizona and other jurisdictions. Pinetop’s “argument would be correct if Cook was [sic] suing to collect monetary damages” but this wasn’t a damage case.

Even though it spurns the subjunctive mood this is a nice opinion. There is reason to think Cook’s brief poor; that can lead to a confused opinion, as we’ve pointed out often enough, but the court avoids that here. The opinion is twelve pages long; its nice to know that CA1 can make them that short – now please do it more often. There are four footnotes but one of them is actually a decent, legitimate footnote: “The question whether the October 2007 resolution effectively rescinded and reversed the 2001 abandonment is not before us. We express no opinion regarding the effect of the 2007 action.” We wonder whether the court mentions the issue because the parties thought of it or because they didn’t.

(link to opinion)