Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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In 2019, an Idaho district court granted Respondents Matthew and Bonnie Latvalas’ claim for a prescriptive easement over a road known as “South Camp Bay Road” to reach their property located on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille. Because the prescriptive easement was created by the operations of an active mine, the district court determined that the scope of the easement included the ability to transport labor and materials to build a home on the Latvalas’ property. In Latvala v. Green Enterprises, Inc., 485 P.3d 1129 (2021) (Latvala I), the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s determination that the Latvalas had a prescriptive easement over South Camp Bay Road. However, the Court vacated the district court’s judgment after concluding it had impermissibly expanded the scope of that easement. On remand, the parties disputed whether the Supreme Court’s decision prohibited the Latvalas’ proposed residential use of South Camp Bay Road, or only the construction of a residence on the Latvalas’ property. The district court entered a second amended judgment that prohibited the Latvalas from using South Camp Bay Road to construct a residence on their property, but did not restrict the Latvalas from using the road for residential purposes. Appellants Green Enterprises, Inc., James and and Julie Frank, and Larimore and Kathryn Cummins (neighboring landowners) timely appealed. Finding no reversible error in the latter district court judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed: “Because possibly driving across South Camp Bay Road will do nothing to increase the burden on the servient landowners, we affirm the district court’s second and third amended judgments because they are consistent with our holding in Latvala I. The Latvalas may not use South Camp Bay Road to build a residence; they may drive along Camp Bay Road to access a residence. Whether and to what extent that burden may or could change in the future is a question for another day. On the record before us we will not hypothesize on what the outcome would be under those theoretical scenarios.” View "Latvala v. Green Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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Jeff Trosen appealed a judgment and amended judgment awarding damages for a breach of contract claim to the Estate of Shirley Trosen and the Trosen Family Trust and dismissing Jeff’s counterclaim and third-party complaint. A dispute arose over Jeff’s lease of farmland from Shirley. The lease covered the farming seasons of 2017 through 2022. Partial payments were made in 2020 and 2021, leaving balances owed for those years. Shirley and the Trust sued Jeff for breach of contract and to cancel the lease. Jeff argued the district court erred in granting summary judgment on the breach of contract claim and by dismissing his counterclaim and third-party complaint. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the judgments. View "Trosen, et al. v. Trosen, et al." on Justia Law

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Milton Turner died on July 25, 2018. On September 20, 2018, Mildred Williamson petitioned for letters of administration of Turner's estate in the probate court. In her petition, Williamson asserted that Turner had died intestate and that Williamson was Turner's only surviving heir. In 2019, Williamson, individually and in her capacity as the personal representative of Turner's estate, entered into a contract agreeing to sell to Matthew Drinkard and Jefferson Dolbare ("the purchasers") real property belonging to the estate for $880,650. The real-estate sales contract specified that the closing of the sale was to occur on or before May 31, 2019. On February 7, 2019, Williamson, individually and in her capacity as personal representative of Turner's estate, executed a deed conveying other real property that was part of Turner's estate to Marcus Hester. On February 13, 2019, Callway Sargent, alleging to be an heir of Turner's, filed a claim of heirship in Turner's estate. Sargent also moved for injunctive relief in which he acknowledged the February 7, 2019, deed, but asserted that Williamson had agreed to sell and had conveyed real property belonging to Turner's estate without the approval of the probate court, and requested that the probate court enjoin "Williamson from engaging in any further administration of [Turner's] estate until so ordered by [the probate court]." Williamson petitioned to have the case removed fro probate to the circuit court. From February 28, 2019, to March 18, 2019, a number of individuals came forward, all claiming to be Turner's heirs. Williamson moved to have the circuit court approve the pending property sales. Williamson and the purchasers did not close on the sale of the property that was the subject of their real-estate sales contract by May 31, 2019, as required by the contract. Some of the purported heirs petitioned the circuit court to stay or vacate the order approving the purchasers contact until matters regarding the heirs was resolved. Drinkard and Dolbare filed a motion to intervene in the proceedings regarding the administration of Turner's estate, but the circuit court denied the motion. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's denial of the purchasers' motion to intervene in the administration of Turner's estate. View "Drinkard, et al. v. Perry, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff TransFarmations, Inc. appealed a superior court decision to uphold the Town of Amherst Planning Board's (Town) decisions to deny TransFarmations' two successive applications for a conditional use permit (CUP). In May 2019, TransFarmations requested a “Conceptual Meeting” with the Town’s planning board (Board) concerning its proposed development of an approximately 130-acre property known as the Jacobson Farm. It stated that the “development will be designed to meet many of the desired attributes the Town . . . has articulated in [its] Master Plan and [Integrated] Innovative . . . Housing Ordinance (IIHO),” including workforce housing and over-55 housing. TransFarmations subsequently submitted a CUP application under the IIHO for a planned residential development containing 64 residential units. In its challenge to the decisions, TransFarmations argued both that the decisions failed to adequately state the ground for denial and that the Board acted unreasonably because the second CUP application was materially different from the first. The trial court concluded that the Board adequately provided the reason for its first decision on the record because “the Board members discussed, in detail, their reasons for concluding that no material differences [between the first and second applications] existed.” The court also concluded that “the Board acted reasonably and lawfully in reaching [that] decision.” Accordingly, the court affirmed both of the Board’s decisions. TransFarmations contended the trial court erred in affirming the Board’s decision not to accept the second application because TransFarmations submitted that application “at the Board’s invitation and with the information the Board requested.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded TransFarmations’ second application supplying the requested information was “materially different from its predecessor, thus satisfying Fisher.” Because the trial court’s decision concluding otherwise misapplied Fisher v. Dover, it was legally erroneous. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court’s order as to the second CUP decision and remanded. View "TransFarmations, Inc. v. Town of Amherst" on Justia Law

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The Condominium Property Act requires condominium unit sellers to obtain specific disclosure documents from the Association or its agent before a sale and to provide them to potential buyers on request. After entering into a standard sales contract with a potential buyer who requested those disclosures, Channon obtained them from Westward, a management agent hired by the Association’s board of managers. Westward charged $245 for the documents. Channon filed a class-action lawsuit, alleging that Westward violated section 22.1 of the Act by charging unreasonable fees for the statutorily required documents and violated the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.In response to a certified question, the Illinois Supreme Court held that section 22.1 does not provide an implied cause of action in favor of a condominium unit seller against a property manager, as an agent of an association or board of directors, based on allegations that the manager charged excessive fees for the production of information required to be disclosed under that statute. The standard for a court to imply a private right of action in a statute is quite high. That extraordinary step should be taken only when it is clearly needed to advance the statutory purpose and when the statute would “be ineffective, as a practical matter, unless a private right of action were implied.” View "Channon v. Westward Management, Inc." on Justia Law

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The federal district court for the District of North Dakota certified five questions regarding N.D.C.C. § 38-08-08(1) and North Dakota Industrial Commission pooling orders. The litigation before the federal court involved allocation of mineral royalties in the case of overlapping oil and gas spacing units. Allen and Arlen Dominek owned oil and gas interests in Williams County, North Dakota. In 2011, the North Dakota Industrial Commission pooled the interests in Section 13 on the Dominek property with the interests in Section 24 in a 1280-acre spacing unit (the “Underlying Spacing Unit”). In 2016, the Commission pooled the interests in Sections 11, 12, 13, and 14 in a 2560-acre spacing unit (the “Overlapping Spacing Unit). The "Weisz" well terminated in the southeast corner of Section 14. The Defendants (together “Equinor”) operated the Weisz well. The Domineks sued Equinor in federal district court to recover revenue proceeds from the Weisz well. The parties agreed production from the Weisz well should have been allocated equally to the four sections comprising the Overlapping Spacing Unit. Their disagreement was whether the 25% attributable to Section 13 should have been shared with the interest owners in Section 24 given those sections were pooled in the Underlying Spacing Unit. In response to the motions, the federal district court certified five questions to the North Dakota Court. Responding "no" to the first: whether language from N.D.C.C. § 38-08-08(1) required production from Section 13 to be allocated to Section 24, the Supreme Court declined to answer the remaining questions because it found they were based on an assumption that the Commission had jurisdiction to direct how production was allocated among mineral interest owners. "Questions concerning correlative rights and the Commission’s jurisdiction entail factual considerations. ... An undeveloped record exposes this Court 'to the danger of improvidently deciding issues and of not sufficiently contemplating ramifications of the opinion.'” View "Dominek, et al. v. Equinor Energy, et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a third-party entity in a post-judgment collection action has party standing to appeal from an order of the district court resolving its petition to return property levied pursuant to a writ of execution.Jennifer Goldstein obtained a judgment against NuVeda, LLC for over $2.5 million. In post-judgment collection proceedings, Goldstein had a writ of execution serviced on Clark NMSD, LLC, and cash was seized. Clark NMSD filed a third-party claimant petition, which NuVeda joined, seeking return of the seized cash and requesting that Goldstein be prohibited from further collection activity. The district court denied the petition. Goldstein then filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that because Clark NMSD was not a party to the proceedings below it had not standing to appeal. The Supreme Court denied the motion, holding that Clark NMSD had party standing to challenge the district court's order, and the Supreme Court had jurisdiction over this appeal. View "Clark NMSD, LLC v. Goldstein" on Justia Law

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In this action concerning a disputed agreement between between Kenneth and Rebecca Goens and Lynn VanSloten for the sale of an empty lot, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction under S.D. Codified Laws 15-26A-3, holding that the underlying interlocutory judgment was not a final judgment under S.D. Codified Laws 15-6-54(b) and was therefore not appealable.Kenneth delivered the purchase agreement at issue and VanSloten's earnest money check to FDT, LLC with the intention that FDT act as the closing agent for the property sale. When a dispute arose regarding the earnest money check and purchase agreement the Goenses filed a complaint against FDT and VanSloten. VanSloten asserted a counterclaim against the Goenses. The circuit court granted FDT's motion for summary judgment against the Goenses, but the order did not resolve the remaining claims or contain any certification under S.D. Codified Laws 15-6-54(b). The Goenses appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that because active claims remained in this action at the time of appeal and no Rule 54(b) certification was made, this Court lacked appellate jurisdiction under S.D. Codified Laws 15-26A-3. View "Goens v. FDT, LLC" on Justia Law

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Defendant Merlyn Clay appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of plaintiff Charles Chavis, Clay's grandfather. The dispute concerned Clay's purchase of real property from Chavis and Clay's alleged failure to fulfill certain requirements of a sale contract for the real property executed by the parties. The Alabama Supreme Court found there were several discrepancies between the stated terms of the sale contract and the terms the parties agreed were part of the transaction, as well as discrepancies between the stated terms of the sale contract and the performance of the parties. "Those discrepancies are crucial to the outcome of this dispute because Chavis's claims are premised on the contention that Clay breached the sale contract by failing to provide a promissory note and a mortgage and by ceasing to make monthly loan payments to Chavis. Yet, under the terms of the sale contract, Chavis likewise did not provide the deed to the river property in a timely manner, and the sale contract does not expressly state that Clay had to make monthly loan payments. Those discrepancies are also crucial to the relief granted to Chavis by the circuit court." Judgment was reversed and the case remanded for further findings and proceedings. View "Clay v. Chavis." on Justia Law

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A mother, son, and daughter conveyed real property among themselves by competing deeds. The daughter used the property as security for two bank loans and defaulted on the second one; when the bank attempted foreclosure, the son, claiming to be the property’s owner, brought suit against the bank on a constructive notice theory, also alleging that the daughter’s deed to the property was void because of fraud. The superior court found that the bank lacked notice of the son’s alleged adverse interest and granted it summary judgment as a bona fide lender. The court also dismissed the fraud claim. The son appealed. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment on the bank’s bona fide lender status, but remanded for a determination of whether the daughter acquired her deed as a result of fraud in the factum, which, if proven, would render her title and the bank’s mortgage interest void. View "Eriksson v. Eriksson Sibley et al." on Justia Law