The lot was surrounded on three sides by three parcels of land all of which is part of a beach subdivision and the fourth side is bordered by Viejo Street, the right-of-way for which has been dedicated to and accepted by St. Johns County. When appellees began plans for building on their lot the realtor represented to them that the county would build a road in the right-of-way along Viejo Street, However, no street improvements in the dedicated right-of-way was done, nor did St. Johns County have plans for making any improvements. The "road" is merely a continuation of a sandy beach. A year after, they had the lot surveyed and discovered that their lot, along with the Viejo Street right-of-way is covered by high tide water during the spring and fall of each year. Barrows filed a complaint based on the lack of right of access founded on the impassable condition of the platted street.
Lower Court’s Decision
The trial court found that the Barrows did not have access to their property and entitled them to recover from Title & Trust Company of Florida $12,500 from appellant—the face amount of the policy.
Whether or not title insurance policies insure against defects in physical condition of land covered. The Supreme Court held that there is no dispute that the public record shows that the platted Viejo Street gives a legal right of access to Barrows’ property and the title insurance policy only insured against record title defects and not against physical infirmities of the platted street.
The Supreme Court in deciding the case of Title & Trust Company of Florida v. Barrows reviewed decisions of different state supreme courts on similar cases. It cited the decision of the Supreme Court of North Carolina in Marriott Financial Services, Inc. v. Capitol Funds, Inc., 288 N.C. 122, 217 S.E.2d 551 (1975) which held that "right of access" means the right to go to and from the public right-of-way without unreasonable restrictions.
Also, the Supreme Court found the case of Hocking v. Title Insurance ir Trust Company, 37 Cal,2d 644, 234 P.2d 625 (1951) to shed light on the present controversy, in that case the court ruled that the plaintiff failed to state a cause of action in a suit brought under her title policy and said that ‘if the she (plaintiff) has been damaged by false representations in respect to the condition and value of the land her remedy would seem to be against other than the insurers of the title she acquired.’
The court also found as controlling, the decision of its sister court of the Second District in McDaniel v. Lawyers' Title Guaranty Fund, 327 So.2d 852 (Fla. 2 D.C.A.1976) which held that. "The man on the street buys a title insurance policy to insure against defects in the record title. The title insurance company is in the business of guaranteeing the insured's title to the extent it is affected by the public records."