Case Caption: Wilma Marsh-Monsanto v. William Clarenbach, et al.Case Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2014-0075Date: 02/10/2017Author: Cabret, Maria M. Citation: Summary:

In a quiet title action seeking to recover property on the island of St. John, all of the plaintiff-appellant's claims are barred by the statute of limitations, and the Superior Court's entry of summary judgment dismissing those claims is affirmed. The plaintiff acknowledged that she was aware of certain development activity on the property as early as 1982, but this action was not filed until 22 years later. Thus these claims are barred by the 20-year statute of limitations for actions for the recovery of real property under 5 V.I.C. § 31(1)(A), and no issue of equitable tolling of the statute has been presented. Remaining issues raised on appeal-concerning service of process, summary judgment procedures, and fraudulent transfer of property-were waived, and are not reached. However, this Court retains discretion to notice errors that affect substantive rights, even if those errors were not properly presented on appeal, under V.I.S.CT.R. 4(h) and 22(m). When the Superior Court correctly determined that the statute of limitations barred the plaintiff's request for an adjudication of title to the parcel, it became improper to decide the merits that claim, effectively adjudicating an unpled counterclaim and divesting certain heirs of their alleged property interest in the subject parcel without affording them notice or an opportunity to be heard. Thus, the Superior Court committed a plain error by granting summary judgment on a request that was not properly before it. The October 21, 2014 order dismissing the plaintiff-appellant's claims on statute of limitations grounds is affirmed, but the Superior Court committed plain error by ruling on a declaratory judgment request that was not properly before it, that portion of the summary judgment order is reversed.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion