A title claim in Arlington is doing what most claims against bad title do: It is having an effect on people who had nothing to do with the fact that defects may exist on the title they thought they clearly owned.
In 1971 a man had a deed drawn up which stated that he was divorced. After another transfer, this property was sold to Prospect House Associates and condominiums were constructed on it at 1200 N. Nash St.
The man's widow, Doris Kay Devers, is now suing Prospect House Associates for $60 million, or the current assessed value of the property, stating that she and Malcolm Bernard Devers, were in fact married when the property was transferred from her husband to a corporation which he formed.
The suit states that she did not "release and relinquish her rights to dower in the said premises."
Her lawyer, Donald G. Ferrell, has filed suit in U.S. District Court in Alexandria; he believes it could go to trial before the end of the year.
He said that the delay of many years in filing suit was caused because Mrs. Devers was living in Florida and, although she was aware that her husband had at one time owned some income-producing property, she was not familiar enough with it to do anything.
Ferrell said that since her husband died in 1974, her son kept after her to hire a lawyer and pursue the matter. So, close to a decade after her husband's death, she hired Ferrell.
In the meantime, lawyers for the residents of Prospect House at 1200 N. Nash St. in Arlington are trying to maintain an "air of calm" among the condo owners. Lane Gabeler said she is working for the Prospect House Association as the liaison for the unit owners with the project's management.
From what they have been able to assess so far, Gabeler said, "All are adequately covered by title insurance." She said, "We're trying to keep the owners calm. At this point the case is not that threatening. It's more interesting than threatening ."
However, regarding the $60 million sought in the suit, Gabeler said, "I don't think that is within reason."
And of course, neither do the lawyers for Prospect House Associates. While John P. Corrado of Thomas and Fiske did not state what he considered a reasonable amount would be, he said his law firm would consider settling out of court "if there was an appropriate offer."
He quickly added, "At this stage, it is premature to discuss, but we would never make a decision not to settle."
Herbert N. Morgan, president of Real Title Co. Inc., which insured Prospect House Associates, which bought the property on Jan. 21, 1980, and converted the building into condominiums, against any claims of bad title, said, "Her claim is grossly overstated. It's like a person who gets hit by a car. Rather than suing for an appropriate amount, they sue for $10 million."
He added, "The facts that she alleges in the suit bear no relation to the claim."
According to the land records of Arlington County, the property was sold to Prospect House Associates, for $23 million.
Corrado's law firm has entered a third-party suit against John Dalonas for drawing up the deed back in 1971 which stated that the deed of conveyance was between "Malcolm B. Devers, divorced, . . . and Devers Properties Inc., a Virginia Corporation . . . "
The suit charges Dalonas with fraud. "If the plaintiff is right," said Corrado, "he (Devers) was married. That is a misstatement of fact," he said.
"It's a two-count complaint," explained Corrado. "One is that he (Dalonas) knew he (Devers) was married. The other is negligence." This means that whether Dalona knew Devers was married or not, Corrado believes he shoud have known and therefore exhibited a reckless disregard for the truth.
"But it's a strictly third-party complaint," said Corrado. "We're saying that if we're liable, then he is liable to us." Dalonas, who was reached by telephone, would not answer questions about the suit. "I don't try cases through the newspaper," he said. "The story will come out, but I won't discuss it now."