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Title company not liable for water and tax bills that accrue after closing date

Holding that the plaintiff-buyer failed to establish a genuine issue of material fact that the defendant-title agency breached a term of the parties' title insurance policy contract, the court affirmed the trial court's order granting defendant summary disposition. Plaintiff closed on its purchase of real property and defendant "provided title commitment services insuring receipt of good title through closing." The sellers placed funds in escrow with defendant for any water/sewer bill past due at closing. On 12/2/08, defendant issued 2 checks, totaling $568.83, the full amount of 2 past due water bills. Before the city applied the payments, it "issued a winter 2008 property tax assessment for the property, totaling $45.70 plus fees." It added the past due water bills "for a total balance of $614.53. In applying the checks, the city first paid portions of the property taxes, then portions of the administrative fees, and then applied the remaining $536.61 toward water bills. As a result, plaintiff's winter 2008 tax assessment reflected a payable balance of $45.70," which plaintiff did not pay. It also did not pay 2009 or 2010 property taxes, and the city foreclosed on the property. The parties agreed that "defendant was obligated to remit $568.83 to the city to pay the outstanding water bills. But nothing in the unambiguous language of the policy or escrow agreement bound defendant to remit funds on a specific date or before the winter 2008 property taxes were assessed. The escrow agreement only required plaintiff to inform defendant of the final amount owed within 60 days of closing, which defendant was then obligated to pay. Defendant satisfied that obligation when it issued checks in that amount" on 12/2/08. Further, it "was only bound to pay amounts affecting title payable at the date of closing," the outstanding water bills. After it paid them, "plaintiff's balance consisted of the exact amount of the property's winter 2008 tax assessment, $45.70, which became payable after the closing date" and was "plaintiff's sole responsibility." Thus, "defendant's conduct was not a cause-in-fact or a proximate cause of the property's foreclosure."

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