Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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The case involves a dispute over the boundary between two parcels of land in Wapello County, Iowa. The northern parcel was owned by the Handlings and the southern parcel by the Sims. Both parties treated a fence line as the boundary between their properties for many years. In the mid-1990s, Scott Hubbell began leasing both properties for farming. In 2004, he built a machine shed south of the fence line, assuming it was on the southern property. In 2014, Hubbell and his wife purchased both properties, becoming the sole owners. In 2017, they sold the southern property to the Remmarks and in 2018, they sold the northern property to Sundance Land Company. A survey commissioned by Sundance revealed that the legal boundary between the properties ran south of the fence line, meaning the machine shed was encroaching onto the northern property. Sundance filed a petition to quiet title according to the survey boundary lines, alleging that the Remmarks were trespassing on the northern property.The district court found that a boundary line by acquiescence had been established at the old fence line during the Handlings’ and Sims’ respective ownership of the properties. The court rejected Sundance’s argument that the Hubbells’ common ownership of both parcels from 2014 to 2017 erased the boundary by acquiescence. The court of appeals affirmed the district court's decision.The Supreme Court of Iowa disagreed with the lower courts' decisions. The court held that when two adjoining parcels come under common ownership, any potential boundary by acquiescence between them is eradicated, and the ten-year clock for calculating boundary by acquiescence restarts when separate ownership resumes. The court vacated the decision of the court of appeals, reversed the district court judgment, and remanded for entry of judgment for Sundance in accordance with this opinion. View "Sundance Land Company, LLC v. Remmark" on Justia Law

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The case involves Stacy G. Coats and Kendall Coats (the plaintiffs) who filed a private right-of-way condemnation case against Sandra F. Ayers, Tommy J. Ayers, and J. Jason Ayers (the defendants). The plaintiffs sought a right-of-way across the defendants' property to access their own landlocked properties. The properties in question include several parcels of land, some of which are low-lying wetlands often flooded and used for hunting and fishing. A private dirt road, referred to as the "farm road," crosses the defendants' property and has been historically used by the plaintiffs and their predecessors to access their properties.The Tuscaloosa Probate Court initially granted the plaintiffs a right-of-way across the defendants' property, concluding that the plaintiffs' property was landlocked. The defendants appealed this decision to the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court. The defendants argued that the plaintiffs' property was no longer landlocked due to inheritance of additional land that touched a public road. The Circuit Court agreed with the defendants, granting a summary judgment in their favor on the grounds that the plaintiffs' property was no longer landlocked and they had reasonable access to their property from a public road.The Supreme Court of Alabama reversed the decision of the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court. The Supreme Court found that there was a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether the plaintiffs have an existing, reasonable means to access their landlocked property. The court noted that the plaintiffs had presented substantial evidence indicating that they could not travel from the public road across their property to access their landlocked property. The court concluded that the plaintiffs had permission to cross an intervening property, and thus there was no requirement for them to seek a right-of-way over it. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Coats v. Ayers" on Justia Law

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The case involves Edward A. Cianci and Raymond Frechette, who purchased a foreclosed property and initiated a summary process action in the Housing Court against the occupants, including Elizabeth D'Andrea. The Housing Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs for possession. D'Andrea appealed and sought to waive the appeal bond due to her indigency. The Housing Court found D'Andrea to be indigent and waived her appeal bond, but required her to make monthly use and occupancy payments of $1,275 to the plaintiffs to maintain her appeal. D'Andrea appealed this order to the Appeals Court, which reported questions of law to the Supreme Judicial Court.The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts held that use and occupancy payments required of an indigent party under G. L. c. 239, § 5 (e), may not be waived, substituted, or paid by the Commonwealth under the indigency statute because use and occupancy payments are not an "extra fee or cost" as defined in the indigency statute. The court further concluded that the order setting use and occupancy payments in this case did not violate D'Andrea's constitutional rights, even if the order requires her to make payments that potentially exceed her ability to pay. The court reasoned that the summary process statute reasonably imposes a fair balancing of interests between the owner of the property and the party in possession, and the Housing Court performed the fair balancing required. View "Frechette v. D'Andrea" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute over a small triangular portion of land in south Anchorage, Alaska, between two neighbors, Janice Park and the Browns. The land in question was enclosed by a fence that had been in place since at least 1991, but a 2016 survey revealed that the fence veered slightly into the Browns' property. The Browns sued Park for trespass and to quiet title, while Park claimed adverse possession.The Superior Court of the State of Alaska ruled in favor of the Browns, concluding that Park failed to establish the required elements of adverse possession. The court found that Park's possession of the disputed area was open, notorious, exclusive, and hostile, but she did not exercise continuous possession of the area for the required ten-year statutory period.Park appealed to the Supreme Court of the State of Alaska, arguing that the lower court misapplied the law and displayed bias against her. The Supreme Court agreed that the lower court erred in rejecting Park's claim of adverse possession. The court found that Park had established continuous and uninterrupted possession of the disputed area for the ten-year statutory period between 2005 and 2015, satisfying the continuous-possession requirement under the doctrine of tacking. The court also held that Park presented clear and convincing evidence sufficient to satisfy the other elements of adverse possession. However, the court found insufficient evidence to support Park's claim of judicial bias. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment and remanded the case for entry of judgment in favor of Park. View "Park v. Brown" on Justia Law

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A nuisance lawsuit was brought by neighbors against two poultry farms located on a single tract of rural land in Henderson County, southeast of Dallas. The neighbors claimed that the odors from the farms were a nuisance, causing them discomfort and annoyance. A jury found that the odors were a temporary nuisance and the trial court granted permanent injunctive relief that effectively shut down the farms. The farm owners and operators appealed, challenging the injunction on three grounds: whether the trial court abused its discretion in finding imminent harm; whether equitable relief was unavailable because damages provide an adequate remedy; and whether the scope of the injunction is overly broad.The Supreme Court of Texas upheld the trial court’s authority to grant an injunction, rejecting the first two challenges. However, the court concluded that the trial court abused its discretion in crafting the scope of the injunction, which was broader than necessary to abate the nuisance. The court therefore reversed in part and remanded for the trial court to modify the scope of injunctive relief. View "HUYNH v. BLANCHARD" on Justia Law

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The case involves a landowner, Medardo Rivera, who sought to clear an easement from his property. The easement was granted by a previous owner of the property to Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc., and later assigned to TLC Properties, Inc., an affiliate of Lamar Advertising Company. The easement allowed for the construction and operation of billboards on the property. Rivera argued that the easement was void as it was granted after he had already purchased the property.The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the easement holder, ruling that Rivera's action was time-barred under Iowa Code section 614.17A. This statute prevents actions to recover or establish an interest in real estate if the action is based on a claim arising more than ten years earlier, is against the holder of the record title to the real estate in possession, and the holder and their grantors have held chain of title to the real estate for more than ten years.The Supreme Court of Iowa reversed the district court's decision. The court agreed with Rivera's argument that section 614.17A could not apply to an action to clear an easement. The court reasoned that by its terms, section 614.17A only applies to claims against a "holder of the record title to the real estate in possession." Because easements are nonpossessory interests, an easement holder does not possess the encumbered real estate, and so section 614.17A cannot apply to an action to clear an easement. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Rivera v. Clear Channel Outdoor, LLC" on Justia Law

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Joe Tubwell had been living in a house in DeSoto County, Mississippi, since 2005. In 2016, the mortgage loan on the house went into default, and foreclosure proceedings were initiated. Tubwell filed a complaint against the mortgage companies in an attempt to stop the foreclosure. The case was moved to a federal court where the mortgage companies were granted summary judgment. Tubwell, Morgan Stanley, and Specialized Loan Servicing LLC (SLS) entered settlement negotiations and reached an agreement. Tubwell agreed to vacate the property by April 30, 2020, in exchange for a confidential sum of money. The property was sold to FV-1, Inc., in trust for Morgan Stanley Mortgage Capital Holdings LLC. However, Tubwell refused to vacate the property by the agreed deadline and did not return the settlement funds.The mortgage companies filed a complaint against Tubwell in the DeSoto County Circuit Court to enforce the terms of the settlement agreement. The circuit court granted summary judgment ordering Tubwell to relinquish possession to the plaintiffs and dismissed Tubwell’s counterclaims for lack of jurisdiction. Tubwell appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the circuit court's decision.The Supreme Court of Mississippi granted Tubwell’s petition for certiorari to address the issue of whether it was error to dismiss his counterclaims for lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court found that the circuit court had jurisdiction to entertain Tubwell’s counterclaims and erred when it declined to do so based on a lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court reversed the judgments of the circuit court and the Court of Appeals with regard to the dismissal of Tubwell’s counterclaims for lack of jurisdiction and remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the circuit court and the Court of Appeals on the remainder of the issues raised. View "Tubwell v. FV-1, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ward family, who own extensive acreage in Bismarck, North Dakota, initiated a quiet title action against 152 adjacent landowners, including Dan and Lindsey Herbel, to determine adverse claims to their property. The Wards did not make any claims against the defendants personally but sought a decree that the defendants had no estate, interest, lien, or encumbrance upon their property. The Herbels moved to dismiss the action, arguing they were not proper defendants under chapter 32-17, N.D.C.C., as neither the Wards nor the Herbels claimed an adverse interest against the other’s property. The Herbels also sought recovery of attorney’s fees. The district court denied the motion despite finding the Wards were not aware if any of the named defendants were claiming title to any of the property. Following a bench trial, the court granted the judicial remedy of quiet title and a judgment dismissing the Herbels’ action was entered.The Herbels appealed to the Supreme Court of North Dakota, arguing that because neither party made an adverse claim against the other’s property, the Wards lacked standing to sue under section 32-17-01, N.D.C.C. The Supreme Court agreed, stating that the plain language of N.D.C.C. § 32-17-01 requires the existence of an adverse claim. The court found that the parties’ properties did not share a fence line or a common boundary without any intervening land, and a well-traveled roadway separated the properties. The Herbels never claimed an interest in the Wards’ real property, and the Wards never asserted there was an adverse interest between the parties. The court concluded that a direct suit against the Herbels was not authorized by N.D.C.C. § 32-17-01.The Herbels also argued that the district court abused its discretion when it denied their request for attorney’s fees. The Supreme Court agreed, stating that the district court has discretion to determine whether a claim is frivolous and to determine the reasonable amount of an award of attorney’s fees. The court remanded the case to determine if the claim was frivolous and, if it was, to determine attorney’s fees. The court affirmed the judgment dismissing the claims against the Herbels. View "Ward v. Herbel" on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute between Mary Roth and Gary Meyer, who were in a long-term relationship but never married. They cohabitated and ran a cattle operation together on a property that had a complex ownership history involving various members of Meyer's family. The couple's relationship ended, and Roth sued Meyer, alleging that he had converted some of her cattle and failed to repay loans she had given him.The District Court of Grant County, South Central Judicial District, found in favor of Roth. It ruled that Meyer had gained title to the disputed property through adverse possession and had transferred it to Roth in 2010. The court also found that Meyer had converted 13 of Roth's cattle and breached oral loan agreements with her, ordering him to pay her $52,500.On appeal, the Supreme Court of North Dakota reversed the lower court's decision. It found that the lower court had erred in its findings on adverse possession, the admissibility of certain evidence, the timing of the alleged conversion of cattle, the valuation of the converted cattle, and the enforceability of the loan contracts. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the lower court for further proceedings, instructing it to make new findings based on the existing record. View "Roth v. Meyer" on Justia Law

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The case involves Little Scholars of Arkansas, AP Consolidated Theatres II L.P., CSRC Charter LISA, LLC, and KLS Leasing LLC (collectively, appellants) who appealed against Pulaski County, Arkansas, and its officials (collectively, appellees). The appellants operate charter schools and lease properties for their schools. The appellees assessed real-property taxes against the schools, which the appellants contested, arguing that the properties used for school purposes are exempt from taxes under the Arkansas Constitution. The appellants also sought a declaration that Ark. Code Ann. § 6-21-118, which they claimed the appellees relied on for the tax assessment, is void under the constitution.The case was initially brought before the Pulaski County Circuit Court. The appellees moved to dismiss the case, arguing that the county courts have exclusive jurisdiction over county tax matters. The circuit court agreed with the appellees, dismissing the case on the grounds that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the appellants' claims.The case was then brought before the Supreme Court of Arkansas. The appellants argued that the circuit court did have subject-matter jurisdiction over their illegal-exaction claims. They also argued that their request for a declaration that Ark. Code Ann. § 6-21-118 is void does not fall within the county court’s jurisdiction. The Supreme Court disagreed with the appellants, affirming the circuit court's decision. The Supreme Court held that the appellants' claim was not an illegal-exaction claim but an assessment dispute, which falls within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the county court. The Supreme Court also held that the circuit court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction over the appellants' request for declaratory judgment. View "LITTLE SCHOLARS OF ARKANSAS FOUNDATION v. PULASKI COUNTY, ARKANSAS" on Justia Law