Alaska Supreme Court Opinions made Available byTouch N' Go Systems and Bright Solutions

Touch N' Go
, the DeskTop In-and-Out Board makes your office run smoother.


You can search the entire site. or go to the recent opinions, or the chronological or subject indices. Dixon v. Dixon (10/20/2017) sp-7207

Dixon v. Dixon (10/20/2017) sp-7207

           Notice:   This opinion is subject to correction before publication in the P                     ACIFIC  REPORTER.  

           Readers are requested to bring errors to the attention of the Clerk of the Appellate Courts,  


           303 K Street, Anchorage, Alaska 99501, phone (907) 264-0608, fax (907) 264-0878, email  



                       THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF ALASKA                                        

DANIEL  DIXON,                                                   )  

                                                                 )          Supreme  Court  No.  S-16182  

                                 Appellant,                      )  


                                                                 )          Superior Court No.  1KE-15-00056 CI  

                      v.                                         )  


                                                                 )          O P I N I O N  


CAROLYN DIXON,                                                   )  


                                                                 )          No. 7207 - October 20, 2017  

                                 Appellee.                       )  




                      Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, First  


                      Judicial District, Ketchikan, William B. Carey, Judge.  


                      Appearances: David S. Katz, Anchorage, for Appellant. Leif  


                      Thompson,  Leif  Thompson  Law  Office,  Ketchikan,  for  




                      Before:  Stowers, Chief Justice, Winfree, Maassen, Bolger,  


                      and Carney, Justices.  


                      MAASSEN, Justice.  



                      A mother and son dispute ownership of a house in Ketchikan.  The son  


contends that his mother gave him the property following her husband's death, and that  


he spent years repairing and renovating it on the understanding that it was his.   His  


mother argues that she still owns it.  She contends that she agreed to transfer title only  


if her son repaired the property and paid off the mortgage, which he failed to do.  

----------------------- Page 2-----------------------

                    Following a bench trial on the son's quiet title claim, the superior court  


found that he failed to prove his mother's intent to transfer the property.  Because the  


superior court properly applied the relevant legal doctrines and did not clearly err in its  


findings of fact, we affirm its judgment.  




          A.        Facts  

                    In 1982 David Dixon purchased a one-bedroom house on Warren Street in  


Ketchikan. In 1998 he conveyed the property by quitclaim deed to himself and his wife,  


Carolyn Dixon. Carolyn testified at trial that the couple lived in the Warren Street house  


until 2002; thereafter David continued using it as a workshop and art studio.  


                    David died in 2005, and Carolyn had little interest in dealing with the  


Warren Street property.  Her son Dan Dixon proposed that she refinance the house -  


encumbered  by an  approximately  $30,000  mortgage - and  offered  to renovate it.  


According to Carolyn, Dan "was supposed to fix [the house] up and rent it and . . . pay  


the mortgage, pay any expenses that came up, and then keep the rest of the money." Dan  


testified that "the goal was [to] get [the house] refinanced in [his] name" and "get  


[Carolyn's] name off the mortgage"; he would then pay Carolyn back whatever she had  


to lend him to make this happen.  


                    Carolyn signed a quitclaimdeed on December 16, 2007. The deed says that  


she "convey[ed] and quitclaim[ed]" her interest in the Warren Street house to Austin  


Dixon, Dan's son.  According to Dan, Carolyn named Austin as the grantee at Dan's  


request; Dan "wanted [the house] to be for [his] son," but he was also concerned about  


"IRS issues" if the house was deeded to him.   He testified, though, that he was sure  


Carolyn would have made out the deed in his name if he had asked her to.  


                                                               -2-                                                        7207

----------------------- Page 3-----------------------

                    The quitclaim deed was not notarized or formally witnessed. Carolyn gave  


it to Dan, but neither he nor Austin recorded it.  Carolyn testified at trial that she did not  


believe the deed could effectively transfer her interest in the house until the mortgage had  


been paid off.  


                    In 2008 Carolyn refinanced the Warren Street property.   She used the  


money from the refinance to pay off the first mortgage; she also added $33,000 of the  


proceeds to a shared checking account Dan could access for house-related expenses,  


including mortgage payments.  Dan eventually depleted the account, apparently mostly  


on repairs to the house, though some of the money may have gone toward his dental bills  


and other unrelated debt.  Between 2007 and 2014 Carolyn made ten of the mortgage  


payments, at Dan's request; Dan apparently made the rest of the payments out of the  


shared account.  


                    Between 2008 and 2010 Dan made a number of repairs and renovations to  


the house, including plumbing and electrical work, reframing and foundation work, floor  


refinishing, repainting, and remodeling the kitchen and bathroom.  He claimed he paid  


for the work with a combination of the refinance money from Carolyn and his own  


money.  At trial he was unable to give any accounting of these expenses, and he could  


not distinguish between what he paid for with his own money and what he paid for with  


money from Carolyn.  


                    Dan lived in the house with his son for about a year in 2010.  Starting in  


2011 he rented it out for the summer season.  Between 2011 and 2014 he found three  


different tenants and brought in approximately $17,000 in rental income.  


                    In spring 2014 Carolyn's insurance company informed her that the policy  


on the Warren Street house had to be rewritten to reflect that the property was no longer  


owner-occupied.  Carolyn asked for a landlord policy instead but was informed that the  


                                                               -3-                                                         7207

----------------------- Page 4-----------------------

house would need to be rewired before it could be insured at all.   Around this time  


Carolyn also learned that the utilities were about to be cut off because the bill had not  


been paid, and she received notice fromthe mortgage company that the checking account  


she  shared  with  Dan  was  overdrawn  and  would  not  cover  the  monthly  mortgage  


payment.  Carolyn emailed Dan in May 2014, telling him that she had closed the shared  


bank account and her account with the utility company.  She also informed Dan that she  


had written the mortgage company to let it know he would be handling the mortgage  


from then on.  When Dan failed to respond she resent the email a week later, following  


up with a handwritten note on the June mortgage statement. In both the handwritten note  


and the email, Carolyn wrote, "The house is yours."  


                    But Dan was in Seattle for the summer, and he made no further mortgage  


payments. And though he apparently planned to rewire the house himself in September,  


the insurance company informed Carolyn that it had to be done by late July in order to  


preserve coverage.  Carolyn "realized [she] had to take . . . the house over" to address  


the wiring issue and to pick up the mortgage payments. After the rewiring was done she  


had her son Bruce and his daughter Amanda remove Dan's belongings, board up the  


house, and change the locks.  


                    But Dan managed to get back inside.  Carolyn eventually sought police  


assistance to remove him, and in October 2014 she obtained a 20-day restraining order  


to keep him away from the house.  


          B.        Proceedings  

                    In February 2015, after repeated calls to the police about Dan's alleged  


trespass on the Warren Street property, Carolyn filed a complaint to recover the house  


from him and in March sought a writ of assistance, which was granted.  Dan filed an  


                                                               -4-                                                        7207

----------------------- Page 5-----------------------

 answer to Carolyn's complaint and counterclaimed "[f]or a judgment quieting title to the                                                                                                                                                                                     

Warren Street house in [Dan]."                                                                          

                                           The superior court held a three-day bench trial on the quiet title issue. The                                                                                                                                                  

 court found that Dan failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that Carolyn had                                                                                                                                                                                     

given him the property, and it dismissed Dan's counterclaim.                                                                                                                                               Dan filed a motion for                                            

reconsideration, but the court denied it, explaining that "overwhelming circumstantial                                                                                                                                                   

 evidence" demonstrated Carolyn's intent to transfer ownership of the property to Dan                                                                                                                                                                                    

 "only upon the fulfillment" of certain conditions, which Dan had failed to satisfy.                                                                                                                                                                                     

                                           Dan appeals.   

III.                  STANDARDS OF REVIEW                                              

                                           "We review the trial court's findings of fact under the 'clearly erroneous'                                                                                                                              



                                    and "will reject a factual finding only if we are 'left with the definite and firm  


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    "[W]hen a trial  

 conviction on the entire record that a mistake has been committed.' " 


 court's decision of a factual issue depends largely on conflicting oral testimony, the trial  


 court's competence to judge credibility of witnesses provides even a stronger basis for  



 deference by the reviewing court." 

                      1                     Vezey v. Green                                 , 35 P.3d 14, 19-20 (Alaska 2001) (quoting                                                                                              Peters v. Juneau             

Douglas Girl Scout Council                                                                 , 519 P.2d 826, 833 (Alaska 1974)).                                                         

                      2                    Id. at 20 (quoting Alaska Foods, Inc. v. Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. , 482 P.2d  


 842, 848 (Alaska 1971)).  


                      3                    Id.  (quoting  Tenala, Ltd. v. Fowler, 921 P.2d 1114, 1118 n.5 (Alaska  



                                                                                                                                        -5-                                                                                                                            7207

----------------------- Page 6-----------------------

                          "We use our independent judgment in reviewing the trial court's legal                                                              



                         In  evaluating  legal  questions,  we  adopt  "the  rule  of  law  that  is  most  



persuasive in light of precedent, reason, and policy." 

IV.	         DISCUSSION  


                          In  support of his contention  that Carolyn  gave him the Warren  Street  


property, Dan's primary argument is that she memorialized the gift in 2007 by preparing  


and signing the quitclaim deed.   Dan argues in the alternative that his claim fits an  


exception to the statute of frauds for parol gifts of land.  


             A.	          The Superior Court Did Not Err In Rejecting The 2007 Quitclaim  


                          Deed As Proof Of A Transfer To Dan.  


                          Dan  argues  that  the  2007  quitclaim  deed,  though  lacking  necessary  



                        nonetheless proves Carolyn's intent that the Warren Street house belong to  


him.         The lack of notarization and recording, he argues, is not fatal because case law  


holds that an unacknowledged or unrecorded deed may still be valid as between the  



parties to the deed.                       Dan further contends that the deed's naming of Austin as the  


grantee made it ambiguous, and that the deed must therefore be reformed to recognize  

             4           Id.  (citing   Walsh  v.  Emerick,  611  P.2d  28,  30  (Alaska   1980)).  

             5           Id.  (quoting  Guin  v.  Ha,  591  P.2d   1281,   1284  n.6  (Alaska   1979)).  

             6            AS 09.25.010(b) requires  that a transfer of an interest in real property be  


conveyed in a writing "subscribed by the party . . . transferring [the interest] . . . and  


executed with the formalities that are required by law."  And AS 34.15.040 states that   

a quitclaim deed conveys the grantor's interest in property "when . . . duly executed."                                                                                  

See also         AS 34.15.010.   

             7            Smalley v. Juneau Clinic Bldg. Corp., 493 P.2d 1296, 1301(Alaska 1972);  


see also Maddox v. Hardy, 187 P.3d 486, 492 (Alaska 2008) (An "unacknowledged deed  


is only valid 'as between the parties.' " (quoting Smalley, 493 P.2d at 1301)).  


                                                                                 -6-	                                                                        7207

----------------------- Page 7-----------------------

that Dan was the intended grantee. Based on these arguments, he claims that the superior                                                                                                          

court erred in treating the deed as a "legal nullity."                                                   

                                 But the superior court did not err in concluding that the quitclaim deed did                                                                                                 

not validly convey title to Dan.                                                 To interpret a deed a court "first look[s] to the four                                                                    

corners of the document to determine the parties' intent.                                                                                  If the deed is open to only one                                   


reasonable   interpretation,   [the   court's]   analysis   ends   there."                                                                                                                                       

                                                                                                                                                                 "Only  if  the  deed  is  



ambiguous" will the court take steps to interpret it.                                                                                  The "four corners" of the 2007  


document do not contain an ambiguity.                                                                                                                                                                         

                                                                                                       The document unambiguously identifies the  


grantor (Carolyn), the grantee (Austin), the property at issue, the consideration, and the  


date; it makes no mention of Dan.  


                                 Dan argues that Austin's name was used on the deed "as a pseudonym for  


[Dan]," but if that is so, it is not evident from the document itself. And while deeds made  


out  to  grantees  under  assumed  names  are  not  unlawful,  the  grantee  must  be  "so  



designated and described as to distinguish him [or her] from the rest of the world."                                                                                                                        The  

                 8               Offshore Systems-Kenai v. State, Dep't of Transp. & Pub. Facilities                                                                                                     , 282  

P.3d 348, 354 (Alaska 2012) (citing                                                        Dias v. State, Dep't of Transp. & Pub. Facilities                                                                        ,  

240 P.3d 272, 274 (Alaska 2010)).                                   

                 9               Id. at 355-56.  Cf. Fink v. Municipality of Anchorage, 379 P.3d 183, 191  


(Alaska 2016) (finding deed ambiguous where it failed to note the location of important  


natural landmarks in relation to the lot boundaries, when an earthquake had caused the  


natural landmarks to shift).  


                 10              "Ambiguous" means "capable of being understood in two or more possible  


senses                    or          ways."                           MERRIAM -WEBSTER .COM ,                                                           https://ww.merriam- 


                                                                                                                                       (last visited Aug. 29, 2017).  

                 11              Roeckl v. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp.                                                     , 885 P.2d 1067, 1071 (Alaska 1994)

(alteration in original) (quoting 6 GEORGE   W. T                                                                           HOMPSON, C                      OMMENTARIES   ON   THE



                                                                                                       -7-                                                                                               7207

----------------------- Page 8-----------------------

use of another person's real name does not satisfy that standard, especially when that                                                                                                

other person is known to both parties.                                                As the superior court aptly noted, "I don't see                                                  

how you can get around the fact that [the document quitclaimed the property] to Austin,"                                                                                    

not to Dan.              12  


                             The evidence also supports the superior court's refusal to reform the deed  


to accommodate Dan's claim of ownership.  "Reformation of a writing is justified when  


the parties have come to a complete mutual understanding of all the essential terms of  


their bargain, but by reason of mutual mistake . . . the written  agreement is not in  



conformity with such understanding."                                                     The "party urging reformation must establish  



the elements of reformation by clear and convincing evidence."                                                                                      Here, the evidence  


failed to support Dan's claim that he and Carolyn had "come to a complete mutual  


understanding of all the essential terms of their bargain," as we discuss below. And Dan  


testified that the deed names Austin as the grantee at Dan's own request, in part to avoid  


tax consequences; there is no evidence of a mutual mistake.  


                             We conclude that the superior court did not err when it rejected the 2007  


quitclaim deed as persuasive evidence that Carolyn intended to give the property to Dan.  


MODERN  LAW OF  REAL  PROPERTY    3006, at 349 (John S. Grimes repl. ed. 1962)).                                                                                      

               12            We are not asked to decide whether the quitclaim deed was valid as to                                                                                        


Austin, and we have not considered the issue.  

               13            AAA Valley Gravel, Inc. v. Totaro , 219 P.3d 153, 164-65 (Alaska 2009)  


(alteration in original) (emphasis omitted) (quoting Groff v. Kohler, 922 P.2d 870, 873  


(Alaska 1996)).  


               14            Id. (quoting Wasser & Winters Co. v. Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers, 185 P.3d  


73, 82 (Alaska 2008)).  


                                                                                            -8-                                                                                    7207

----------------------- Page 9-----------------------

            B.	          The Superior Court Did Not Err In Finding There Was No Parol Gift                                                              

                         Of Land.   

                         Alaska's statute of frauds generally requires that a transfer of land be                                                          

                                                                                                 15                                                          16  

memorialized in a writing in order to be enforceable,                                                                                   

                                                                                                     but the rule has its exceptions. 


In Vezey v. Green we considered claims of adverse possession, noting that the elements  


of hostility and notoriety may be presumed when the claim is based on a gift from the  



record owner.                 As an aside we noted that in addition to adverse possession, "some states  


have adopted an alternate theory to support parol gift donees' claims to real property":  


under this theory a donee "may establish ownership despite the statute of frauds" by  


proving "(1) the donor's intent to make a gift and (2) [the donee's] own reliance on the  



gift in making valuable improvements to the property."                                                     But we did not consider this  


theory any further in Vezey because it "was not argued by either party or considered by  



the superior court." 


                         Dan asks us to apply this theory of recovery to the facts of this case.  But  


as in  Vezey it is again unnecessary for us to adopt the theory, since even if we did its  


elements would not be satisfied here. As usually formulated, the theory requires a donee  

            15           AS  09.25.010.  

            16           AS  09.25.020.  

            17           35  P.3d   14,  24  (Alaska  2001).  

            18          Id.  at  24  n.35  (citing   Locke  v.  Pyle,  349  So.  2d  813,  815  (Fla.  1977);  Gran  

v. Gran, 290 N.W. 241, 242-43 (N.D. 1940); Holohan v. McCarthy, 281 P. 178, 181 (Or.  



 1929); Adams v. Adams , 205 S.W.2d 801, 802 (Tex. 1947); Kelly v. Crawford, 88 N.W.  


296, 299 (Wis. 1901)).  


            19	         Id.  

                                                                             -9-	                                                                     7207

----------------------- Page 10-----------------------


to prove three elements by clear and convincing evidence.                                                                           First, the donee must show                      

that the donor made a present gift of land, meaning that "the donor must, at the time [s]he                                                                                          

makes [the gift], intend an immediate divestiture of the rights of ownership out of                                                                                                       


 [her]self and a consequent immediate vesting of such rights in the donee."                                                                                                              

                                                                                                                                                                      Second, the  



donee must show that he took the land believing it was a gift.                                                                                Third, the donee must  



have made permanent and valuable improvements to the land in reliance on the gift. 


                              The superior court, in evaluating whether Dan had proven a parol gift,  



relied on Alaska promissory estoppel cases                                                            as well as an Arkansas case, Hendrix v.  

               20             See, e.g.         ,   Hendrixv.             Hendrix, 506 S.W.2d 848, 852 (Ark. 1974);                                                      Gran, 290   

N.W.  at 243;                Conradi v. Perkins                        , 941 P.2d 1083, 1085 (Or. 1997);                                        Estate of Wright                    , 482   

 S.W.3d 650, 657 (Tex. App. 2015);                                             see also Vezey                  , 35 P.3d at 24 (implying that a parol                              

gift of land must be proven by clear and convincing evidence).                                                       

               21            Estate of Wright, 482 S.W.3d at 657; Adams , 205 S.W.2d at 802, cited in  


 Vezey, 35 P.3d at 24 n.35; see also Roberson v. Manning, 268 P.3d 1090, 1094 (Alaska  


2012) (requiring, when evaluating whether a party made a gift of a mobile home, that the  


alleged donor's "donative intent . . . be clear, unmistakable, and unequivocal").  


               22            Locke, 349 So. 2d at 815 (citing Green v. Price, 63 So. 2d 337 (Fla. 1953));  


 Gran, 290 N.W. at 243; Holohan, 281 P. at 181; Estate of Wright, 482 S.W.3d at 657;  


Adams , 205 S.W.2d at 802.  


               23              Locke, 349 So. 2d at 815; Gran, 290 N.W. at 243 ("[W]here in reliance  


upon a parol gift of real property the donee takes possession and makes improvements  


 so it would work a substantial injustice to hold the gift void, the gift is good and the  


 statute of frauds . . . cannot be invoked to defeat it." (citing Heuer v. Heuer, 253 N.W.  


 856 (N.D. 1934))); Conradi, 941 P.2d at 1085 (citing Thayer v. Thayer, 138 P. 478 (Or.  


 1914); Luckey v. Deatsman, 343 P.2d 723 (Or. 1959)); Holohan, 281 P. at 181; Estate  


of Wright, 482 S.W.3d at 657.  


               24            Kiernan v. Creech, 268 P.3d 312, 315-19 (Alaska 2012) (holding that the  


evidence could support application of promissory estoppel exception to statute of frauds  


based on claimant's partial payment of costs involved in purchasing commercial towing  



                                                                                           -10-                                                                                     7207

----------------------- Page 11-----------------------


Hendrix, which laid out the elements of a parol gift claim as described above.                                                                                 The  

court found that Dan failed to prove the first element:                                                  that Carolyn intended to make a                              


"present gift" of the Warren Street property.                                                                                                          

                                                                                             The court found instead that although  


Carolyn intended to give the house to Dan, certain "things had to happen" first.  


                          Dan argues that the superior court mistakenly required that he "prove [that]  


the precise terms of the gift were clear and unambiguous"; he notes that a gift need not  


include all the terms necessary to a contract, such as price and duration.  But although  


the superior court did allude to "the terms of the gift," it decided the case on the ground  


that Dan failed to prove Carolyn's intent to make a present gift of the property; it found  


that Dan did not show "clear[ly] and unambiguous[ly] . . . that this was intended as a  


gift."  In our view, the court was appropriately focused on Carolyn's intent.  


                          We further conclude that the superior court did not err in its factual finding  



lot, performance of improvements, and payment of half the monthly mortgage and utility  


costs, where defendant claimed that claimant was a renter rather than a co-owner);  


 Valdez Fisheries Dev. Ass'n v. Alyeska Pipeline Serv. Co., 45 P.3d 657, 668 (Alaska  


2002) (holding that a letter was too indefinite to constitute a "promise" for purposes of  


promissory estoppel); Alaska DemocraticPartyv. Rice , 934P.2d1313, 1316-17 (Alaska  


 1997)  (affirming  jury  finding  of  promissory  estoppel  based  on  former  employee's  


substantial change in position in reliance on employer's promise).  

             25           Hendrix, 506 S.W.2d at 852.  


             26           See Estate of Wright, 482 S.W.3d at 657 ("[T]he donor must, at the time he  


makes [the gift], intend an immediate divestiture of the rights of ownership out of himself  


and a consequent immediate vesting of such rights in the donee."); see also Roberson,  


268 P.3d at 1094 ("The superior court must . . . determine if [the alleged donor] had the  


necessary donative intent to make a gift of his share of the mobile home to [the alleged  


donee], rather than a mere promise to make a gift in the future."); 38 AM. J   UR. 2                                                                    D  GIFTS  


  18 ("A promise to make a gift in the future is not a gift, and it is revocable at any time                                                                  

until the gift is executed.").         

                                                                                -11-                                                                          7207

----------------------- Page 12-----------------------

 about what Carolyn intended.                                                                                                                   The primary evidence on which Dan relied to prove her                                                                                                                                                                                                        

intent to make an unconditional, present gift of the property - the 2007 quitclaim deed                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

-  is at best weak support for his claim; as explained above, the deed does not even                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

mention Dan, and it was never formally acknowledged or recorded.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        And the superior   

 court could reasonably reject Dan's argument that Carolyn "repeat[ed] the gift" in the                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

 email and handwritten note from May 2014 when she stated, "The house is yours." The                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

notes are in the context of the unpaid mortgage and utility bills, which both parties agree                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Dan was supposed to be paying.                                                                                                                                The court could reasonably conclude that Carolyn's                                                                                                                                                             

 statements were intended to emphasize that the house was Dan's responsibility, not that                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

it had already transferred to his ownership.                                                                                                                                                                     Carolyn testified consistently that "it was                                                                                                                                             

 [her] intention that [Dan] would have [the house] when the mortgage was paid off," and                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

the superior court found her "much more credible" on this subject than Dan.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           She  

testified that even when drafting the 2007 quitclaimdeed she did not intend an immediate                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

 divestiture of her ownership interest, because she believed she could not legally transfer                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

it "until the mortgage was paid off."                                                                                                                                       We conclude that the superior court did not clearly                                                                                                                                                              

 err in finding there was no "immediate divestiture" of Carolyn's rights to the house, no                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        


 "consequent immediatevesting"ofownership                                                                                                                                                                                rights inDan, and thereforeno                                                                                                                  parol gift.                                               


                                                                Nor  did  the  superior  court  clearly  err  in  concluding  that  Dan  made  


improvements to the property in reliance on a "conditional agreement" rather than a  


 completed gift.  Dan testified about significant improvements he made to the property  


 even  before  2007,  when  he  claims  the  gift  was  made.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   The  superior  court  could  


reasonably conclude from this that Dan did not make improvements to the house solely  

                                27                              See Estate of Wright, 482 S.W.3d at 657.  


                                                                                                                                                                                                      -12-                                                                                                                                                                                                                  7207  

----------------------- Page 13-----------------------


because he believed it was his.                                             And again we defer to the superior court's assessment                                              

that   Carolyn's   characterization   of   the   agreement   was   "much   more   credible   and  

reasonable" than Dan's.                                   

                               We therefore affirm the superior court's judgment that Dan failed to prove                                                                                   

a parol gift of land that would warrant quieting title to the Warren Street house in him.                                                                                                                  

We further conclude that the superior court did not clearly err in declining to find that   

Dan was entitled to the house under another equitable theory.                                                                                  29  

                28             See Pocius v. Fleck                             , 150 N.E.2d 106, 111 (Ill. 1958) (finding no                                                                    oral  

contract when plaintiff performed services before promise was allegedly made).                                                                                            

                29             Dan briefly argues that he is entitled to specific performance under the  


doctrine of promissory estoppel.  But that doctrine first requires "[a]n actual promise"  


that is " 'definitive, . . . very clear, . . . and must use precise language.' "  Sea Hawk  


Seafoods, Inc. v. City of Valdez, 282 P.3d 359, 366 (Alaska 2012) (quoting Safar v. Wells  


Fargo Bank, N.A., 254 P.3d 1112, 1119 (Alaska 2011)).  The superior court concluded  


that Dan did not meet his burden to prove an "actual promise," and Dan concedes this  


point in his appellant's brief; he argues that there was no definite agreement between him  


and Carolyn and therefore no way he could be found to have failed to fulfill his part of  


the bargain.  


                               We recognize the parallels between promissory estoppel and the parol gift  


theory of recovery; some courts treat them as derivative doctrines.  See Aiello v. Knoll  


 Golf Club, 165 A.2d 531, 535 (N.J. App. 1960) ("[E]quitable relief [from the Statute of  


Frauds] is based upon the reliance of the transferee on the representations of the promisor  


- a form of promissory estoppel - rather than on the theory that part performance is  


a substitute for the written evidence required by the Statute of Frauds."); Montoya v. N.  


M. Human Servs. Dep't, Income Support Div., 771 P.2d 196, 199 (N.M. App. 1989)  


("The same equitable rules, including promissory estoppel, protect oral gifts as well as  


oral contracts for the sale of land.").  We analyzed Dan's claim as a parol gift of land  


because that is the way he presented it; as explained above, however, the result would  


be the same applying principles of promissory estoppel.  


                                                                                                -13-                                                                                         7207

----------------------- Page 14-----------------------

V.                     CONCLUSION  

                                             We AFFIRM the superior court's dismissal of Dan's counterclaim to quiet                                                                                                                                                                


                                                                                                                                                     -14-                                                                                                                          7207

Case Law
Statutes, Regs & Rules

IT Advice, Support, Data Recovery & Computer Forensics.
(907) 338-8188

Please help us support these and other worthy organizations:
Law Project for Psychiatraic Rights