As between Lurch and Pugsley, who has superior title to the cabin property?
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Fester, an elderly gentleman with no immediate family, fell and broke his hip. Fester’s hip did not heal correctly. Unable to care for himself, Fester moved into an assisted living facility. Although limited to a wheelchair, Fester was mentally sharp as a tack and played bridge with his friends every day in the facility’s dining room.
Gomez, who worked as a waiter at the facility, overheard Fester telling his dining room bridge partners how much he missed spending time at his summer hunting and fishing. Gomez searched the land records system electronically and found the deed by which Fester originally acquired fee simple absolute title to the cabin property. Gomez prepared a deed conveying the cabin property from Fester to Gomez and forged Fester’s signature. Gomez’s girlfriend, a notary public, acknowledged Fester’s signature on the deed. On the face of the deed, the notary’s acknowledgement was flawless. Gomez filed the forged deed in the land records system for the county where the cabin property was located. Gomez then hired a locksmith and changed the locks on the summer cabin so that Gomez had a working set of keys.
Gomez advertised the cabin property for sale on eBay and eventually sold the cabin to Pugsley, who had no notice that Fester’s signature on the Fester-to-Gomez deed was a forgery. Pugsley promptly filed the Gomez-to-Pugsley deed in the land records system for the county where the cabin was located. Pugsley spent every summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day at the cabin. The rest of the year the cabin sat vacant. The cabin was in a remote location and the climate was too cold to enjoy the cabin except during the warm summer months.
Five years after Pugsley purchased the cabin from Gomez, Fester’s great-nephew Lurch moved into the area. Lurch began visiting Fester every week at the assisted living facility. In gratitude, one year after Lurch began his visits Fester executed a deed conveying fee simple absolute title to the cabin property to Lurch. Lurch validly recorded the Fester-to-Lurch deed, but did not go to see the cabin. Fester died eight years after Pugsley first purchased the cabin property from Gomez. Lurch visited the cabin property for the first time in June following Fester’s death and discovered Pugsley occupying the cabin.
Assume that the jurisdiction has a race-notice recording act statute and the statute of limitations to perfect title by adverse possession is seven years. As between Lurch and Pugsley, who has superior title to the cabin property?
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