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Bruch v. Centerview Cmty. Church, Inc. - 177 Ind. App. 318, 379 N.E.2d 508 (1978)

Rule:

A deed should be construed strictly against a grantor because he had the advantage of drafting the instrument. It follows that when the language of a deed will admit of two constructions, the construction less favorable to the grantor is to be adopted.

Facts:

A grantor conveyed certain real estate to the church's predecessor. The deed provided that when the property ceased to be used for church purposes, it would revert to the grantor. The property was free and open for use by all orthodox churches. When the prior church terminated its use of the land and transferred it to the current church, plaintiff grantee argued that the land had ceased to be used for the prior church's purposes and had reverted to him. After a jury trial returned a verdict in favor of the church in the grantee's action to quiet title to the real estate, Plaintiff grantee appealed the judgment of the Kosciusko Circuit Court (Indiana), which entered judgment in favor of defendant church, arguing that the trial court erred when it instructed the jury that no reversion would occur until the real estate was no longer used for church purposes by the prior church or another orthodox church. 

Issue:

Did the trial court err when it instructed the jury that no reversion would occur until the real estate was no longer used for church purposes by the prior church or another orthodox church?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

On appeal, the appellate court found that the jury instruction was correct. Because the deed was subject to two constructions, the grantor's deed to the prior church was construed strictly against the grantor. The language used by the grantors is less than clear and concise. Therefore, the appellate court must consider the general rule that a deed should be construed strictly against the grantor because he had the advantage of drafting the instrument.  It follows that when, as here, the language of a deed will admit of two constructions, the construction less favorable to the grantor is to be adopted. Thus, as long as any orthodox church used the property, the reversion would not occur. The reversion was not limited to the prior church's termination of use of the property.

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