2021 Georgia Code
Title 23 - Equity
Chapter 3 - Equitable Remedies and Proceedings Generally
Article 3 - Quia Timet
Part 2 - Quia Timet Against All the World
§ 23-3-66. Jurisdiction of Special Master; Trial by Jury

Universal Citation: GA Code § 23-3-66 (2021)

Upon reasonable notice to the parties, after proof of serving notice as required by this article has been filed and after the appointment of the disinterested person as representative where required, the special master shall have complete jurisdiction within the scope of the pleadings to ascertain and determine the validity, nature, or extent of petitioner's title and all other interests in the land, or any part thereof, which may be adverse to the title claimed by the petitioner, or to remove any particular cloud or clouds upon the title to the land and to make a report of his findings to the judge of the court; provided, however, any party to this proceeding may demand a trial by a jury of any question of fact; provided, further, that the master on his own initiative may require a trial by a jury of any question of fact.

(Ga. L. 1966, p. 443, § 6.)

Law reviews.

- For article surveying development of equity and the right to trial by jury in equity actions in Georgia, and advocating use of jury to try issues of fact in equitable actions, see 8 Mercer L. Rev. 225 (1957). For survey article on real property law, see 60 Mercer L. Rev. 345 (2008). For annual survey of law on real property, see 62 Mercer L. Rev. 283 (2010). For annual survey on real property, see 65 Mercer L. Rev. 233 (2013).


Demand for jury trial must be filed prior to ruling by special master.

- In proceedings to remove a cloud on title, a demand for a jury trial cannot be filed after the special master has ruled on the questions of law and fact in the case and submitted his report to the trial court. The judgment entered by the trial court is thus a final judgment to which a notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days. Thornton v. Reb Properties, Inc., 237 Ga. 59, 226 S.E.2d 741 (1976); Higdon v. Gates, 238 Ga. 105, 231 S.E.2d 345 (1976).

This section requires counsel to demand a jury trial for the resolution of any factual issues in the case prior to the time it is heard by the special master. If no demand is filed prior to the time he hears the case, the special master is the arbiter of law and fact and decides all issues in the case unless the master on his own initiative requires a trial by jury of any question of fact. Thornton v. Reb Properties, Inc., 237 Ga. 59, 226 S.E.2d 741 (1976).

When a demand for a jury trial was filed before the case was heard by a special master, the trial court did not err in vacating the court's initial order adopting the special master's report and correctly ordered that a jury trial be held. Addison v. Reece, 263 Ga. 631, 436 S.E.2d 663 (1993).

Because the defendant demanded a jury trial after the start of the hearing in front of a special master, the superior court did not err in approving and adopting the special master's order denying as untimely the defendant's demand. Griffeth v. Griffin, 245 Ga. App. 619, 538 S.E.2d 521 (2000).

When, in a dispute over the ownership of a parcel of land between a landowner and a railroad, the landowner timely demanded a jury trial before the special master to which the case was referred ruled, it had to be decided whether there was a genuine issue of material fact for a jury to decide, and, because the railroad did not show actual or constructive possession of the disputed land as a matter of law, there was such an issue, and it was error for the trial court to deny the landowner's request for a jury. Watkins v. Hartwell R.R. Co., 278 Ga. 42, 597 S.E.2d 377 (2004).

In a suit between a church and a minister, the trial court's order striking a portion of the minister's complaint was not a final adjudication of all claims, thereby entitling the minister to appeal. It was only a determination that the minister had waived the right to a jury trial under O.C.G.A. § 23-3-66 by not filing a jury demand before a hearing was held by a special master, and not that any of the claims themselves had been waived or otherwise disposed of. Rhymes v. E. Atlanta Church of God, Inc., 284 Ga. 145, 663 S.E.2d 670 (2008).

In a quiet title action, a party's attorney presented a jury demand at the special master's hearing and in the superior court hearing stating that the action was filed prior to the special master's hearing, and no evidence to the contrary was offered; under O.C.G.A. § 23-3-66, therefore, a jury trial was required on issues of fact. Wyatt v. Hizer, 337 Ga. App. 767, 788 S.E.2d 866 (2016).

Claims outside of special master's jurisdiction not waived.

- Under O.C.G.A. § 23-3-66, a special master had jurisdiction only over a church's quiet title petition, not its other claims against a minister alleging conversion of personal property and money. Therefore, the church did not waive those other claims by not raising them before the master. Rhymes v. E. Atlanta Church of God, Inc., 284 Ga. 145, 663 S.E.2d 670 (2008).

Dismissal for failure to state claim with submission to special master.

- In a borrower's quiet title action against two lenders, the documents attached to the complaint and answer reflected that the borrower had granted two deeds to secure debt to the lenders, and the borrower therefore did not have legal title to the property absent evidence that the borrower had satisfied the debts; therefore, dismissal of the borrower's petition under O.C.G.A. § 23-3-62 was proper. The trial court was not required to refer the case to a special master prior to dismissal for failure to state a claim. Montia v. First-Citizens Bank & Trust Co., 341 Ga. App. 867, 801 S.E.2d 907 (2017).

Failure to provide jury trial not error.

- Since a special master found no question of fact to exist and the owners did not make present the existence of a question of fact on appeal, the failure to provide a jury trial pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 23-3-66, even if timely requested, was not error. Sacks v. Martin, 284 Ga. 712, 670 S.E.2d 417 (2008).

In a property owner's quiet title action against a tax sale buyer, the owner was not entitled to a jury trial; even assuming that the action was quia timet against all the world, the owner failed to demonstrate an issue of fact requiring jury resolution. Mancuso v. TDGA, LLC, 301 Ga. 671, 802 S.E.2d 248 (2017), cert. denied, 138 S. Ct. 1330, 200 L. Ed. 2d 518 (U.S. 2018).

Appointment of special master required.

- In a quiet title action, the trial court erred by failing to appoint a special master because Georgia's Quiet Title Act, O.C.G.A. § 23-3-60 et seq., requires a trial court to appoint a special master and for that special master to make a report of the special master's findings to the trial court. DOCO Credit Union v. Chambers, 330 Ga. App. 633, 768 S.E.2d 808 (2015).

Authority of special master and judge.

- In a quiet title action, there was no merit to the contention that only the special master had jurisdiction to rule upon a motion for summary judgment. In submitting a quiet title case to a special master, a trial court did not cede jurisdiction to render a final decision; O.C.G.A. § 23-3-67 gave only the trial court authority to issue the final decree. Harbuck v. Houston County, 284 Ga. 4, 662 S.E.2d 107, cert. denied, 129 S. Ct. 641, 172 L. Ed. 2d 613 (2008).

Special master, in accordance with the special master's complete jurisdiction under O.C.G.A. § 23-3-66, was entitled to review the pleadings and evidence to determine the valid interests in real property because an amended pleading properly filed by a bank included claims that a grantee's foreclosure sale was improper and that title under the grantee's security deed had reverted to a promisor pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 44-14-80(a)(1). MPP Invs., Inc. v. Cherokee Bank, N.A., 288 Ga. 558, 707 S.E.2d 485 (2011).

In submitting a quiet title case to the special master, the trial court did not cede jurisdiction to render a final decision as although the trial court was not required to hear exceptions to the special master's report, the trial court had to independently evaluate the correctness of the report before adopting the report as a judgment and it was the trial court, not the special master, who ordered disbursement of excess funds following the tax sale. Republic Title Company, LLC v. Freeport Title and Guaranty, Inc., 351 Ga. App. 408, 829 S.E.2d 172 (2019), cert. denied, No. S19C1616, 2020 Ga. LEXIS 168 (Ga. 2020).

Master's authority to set deadlines.

- In a quiet title action that was referred to a special master, the master's setting of a deadline for the parties to file motions to disqualify did not violate any statute or rule, Ga. Unif. Super. Ct. R. 25.3, nor did the setting of the deadline prevent the special master from fulfilling the master's separate obligation to ensure that the master was impartial and disinterested. Boyd v. JohnGalt Holdings, LLC, 294 Ga. 640, 755 S.E.2d 675 (2014).

Demand for jury trial must be filed prior to special master hearing the case.

- Although landowners who were defending a prescriptive easement suit by quia timet had the right to demand a jury trial of any question of fact, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 23-3-66, when the landowners failed to file a jury demand before the special master heard the case, the special master became the arbiter of law and fact. McGregor v. River Pond Farm, LLC, 312 Ga. App. 652, 719 S.E.2d 546 (2011).

Quiet title action within special master jurisdiction.

- It was not error for the trial court to adopt the special master's conclusion that title to certain property was vested in a landowner's neighbor because the neighbor's quitclaim deed was the only deed placed before the special master that described an interest in the subject property. Bailey v. Moten, 289 Ga. 897, 717 S.E.2d 205 (2011).

Report of findings to judge.

- Provision in O.C.G.A. § 23-3-66 that the special master make a report of findings to the judge did not mandate a separate finding or conclusion as to each claim or defense in taxpayers' claim against an assignee of a purchaser of their property at a tax sale. Boyd v. JohnGalt Holdings, LLC, 294 Ga. 640, 755 S.E.2d 675 (2014).

When a defendant who asserted a quiet title claim against the plaintiffs requested a special master, the trial court was required to submit the claim to a special master, and no notice or hearing on the matter was required; once submitted, the special master had complete jurisdiction to determine the quiet title claim. Boyd v. JohnGalt Holdings, LLC, 294 Ga. 640, 755 S.E.2d 675 (2014).

Cited in Pittard v. McMillon, 225 Ga. 239, 167 S.E.2d 644 (1969); McGee v. Craig, 230 Ga. 553, 198 S.E.2d 165 (1973); Lawhorn v. Steele, 232 Ga. 857, 209 S.E.2d 191 (1974); Heath v. Stinson, 238 Ga. 364, 233 S.E.2d 178 (1977); Capers v. Camp, 244 Ga. 7, 257 S.E.2d 517 (1979); In re Rivermist Homeowners Ass'n, 244 Ga. 515, 260 S.E.2d 897 (1979); Duncan v. First Nat'l Bank, 597 F.2d 51 (5th Cir. 1979); Smith v. Georgia Kaolin Co., 264 Ga. 755, 449 S.E.2d 85 (1994); Martin v. Patton, 225 Ga. App. 157, 483 S.E.2d 614 (1997); Paul v. Keene, 272 Ga. 357, 529 S.E.2d 135 (2000); Proctor v. Heirs of Jernigan, 273 Ga. 29, 538 S.E.2d 36 (2000); Fort Mt. Container Corp. v. Keith, 275 Ga. 210, 563 S.E.2d 860 (2002); Steinichen v. Stancil, 281 Ga. 75, 635 S.E.2d 158 (2006); Bowen v. Laird, 348 Ga. App. 1, 821 S.E.2d 105 (2018).



- Right to jury trial in suit to remove cloud, quiet title, or determine adverse claims, 117 A.L.R. 9.

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