Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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Landowner Daniel Banyai appealed an Environmental Division decision upholding a notice of violation, granting a permanent injunction, and assessing $46,600 in fines, relating to alleged zoning violations and the construction of a firearms training facility in the Town of Pawlet. Banyai argued he had a valid permit, certain exhibits were improperly admitted at the merits hearing, and the fines were excessive. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the Environmental Division's decision. View "Town of Pawlet v. Banyai" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming an order of the circuit court that domesticated a Mexican judgment in favor of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., and against Daniel and Jane Hennessy, holding that Wells Fargo's judgment against the Hennessys was properly domesticated.On appeal, the Hennessys asserted that the circuit court erred in holding that the foreign judgment was valid and personally enforceable against them under Mexican law and erred in domesticating the Mexican judgment under principles of comity. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Wisconsin principle that a foreign country's law must be proven before a circuit court as a question of fact is hereby affirmed; (2) the circuit court's interpretation of Mexican law was not clearly erroneous; and (3) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by choosing to recognize the Mexican judgment in Wisconsin. View "Hennessy v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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Jeanne and Nevin Tergesen appealed a judgment dismissing their complaint and awarding Nelson Homes, Inc. damages for its breach of contract counterclaim. The Tergesens argued the district court erred in dismissing their rescission and breach of contract claims, and the court erroneously found the Tergesens breached the contract. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in dismissing the Tergesens’ claims or finding the Tergesens breached the contract, but the court did err in calculating the amount of prejudgment interest on Nelson Homes’ damages. View "Tergesen, et al. v. Nelson Homes" on Justia Law

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Gavora, Inc., a real estate company, acquired an existing long-term lease with a purchase option for a municipality-owned property. Dry-cleaning businesses operating on the property contaminated the groundwater both prior to and during the real estate company’s involvement. The municipality knew about, but did not disclose, groundwater contamination at nearby sites when the real estate company ultimately purchased the property. A state agency later notified Gavora and the municipality of their potential responsibility for environmental remediation. Gavora sued the municipality in federal district court; the federal court determined that the parties were jointly and severally liable for the contamination, and apportioned remediation costs. Gavora also sued the municipality in state court for indemnity and further monetary damages, alleging that the municipality had misrepresented the property’s environmental status during purchase negotiations. The superior court ruled in the municipality’s favor, finding the municipality did not actively deceive Gavora; Gavora had reason to know of the contamination; and all physical harm occurred before the sale. Gavora challenged all three findings. Finding no error, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s decision. View "Gavora, Inc. v. City of Fairbanks" on Justia Law

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Eugene Taszarek, Marlys Taszarek, Trina Schilling, Steven Taszarek, and Michael Taszarek (“Taszareks”) appealed a judgment finding Lakeview Excavating, Inc., was not the alter ego of Brian Welken. Welken was Lakeview Excavating’s president and sole shareholder. While working on certain county projects, Lakeview Excavating’s employees took fieldstones from a nearby property owned by the Taszareks to use for the roads. The Taszareks sued Lakeview Excavating and Welken for intentional trespass, conversion of property, and unjust enrichment. The claims of trespass and conversion were tried to a jury. The jury returned a verdict in the Taszareks’ favor, finding Lakeview Excavating was the alter ego of Welken and holding both parties liable for damages. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial, concluding the district court inadequately instructed the jury on the alter ego doctrine. After a bench trial, the district court found Lakeview Excavating was the alter ego of Welken and ordered the Taszareks could recover damages from either Welken or Lakeview Excavating. The Supreme Court reversed again, concluding the court’s findings relating to piercing Lakeview Excavating’s corporate veil were inadequate to permit appellate review. On remand, the court held an evidentiary hearing and found Lakeview Excavating was not the alter ego of Welken. The Taszareks argue the district court exceeded the scope of remand by holding an evidentiary hearing instead of specifying findings of fact based on evidence already in the record. Finding no reversible error in last of the district court's alter ego findings, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Taszarek, et al. v. Lakeview Excavating, et al." on Justia Law

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Jared and Katherine Sommer brought a declaratory judgment claim against Misty Valley, LLC, after receiving written notice that the real estate developer planned to use an express easement across the Sommers’ land for access to a recently platted residential subdivision. The Sommers contended the planned use constituted an impermissible expansion of the scope of the easement, and brought a claim to terminate the easement. After a bench trial, the district court limited the use of the easement to the dominant parcel, which only included part of Misty Valley’s planned subdivision, and declined to terminate it. Misty Valley appealed the district court’s judgment, and the Sommers cross-appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Sommer v. Misty Valley, LLC" on Justia Law

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Edward and Janice Easterling owned three contiguous parcels of real property in Ammon, Idaho. The Easterlings brought suit against Hal Pacific Properties, L.P. (“HAL”), claiming an easement by necessity over and upon HAL’s property in order to access their three merged parcels. Following cross-motions for summary judgment, a motion for reconsideration, and a short bench trial, the district court largely ruled in the Easterlings’ favor. The district court denied HAL’s affirmative defense that the Easterlings’ claims were barred by the statute of limitations. The district court further held that the Easterlings were entitled to an easement by necessity over and upon the HAL Parcel to allow access to all three of the Easterlings’ merged parcels. The district court placed the easement at the western border of the HAL Parcel and set its width at twenty-six feet. HAL appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court, contending the district court erred by denying its statute of limitations affirmative defense, granting the Easterlings’ claim for an easement by necessity for all three of their parcels, and improperly determining the location and width of the easement. The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s decision at summary judgment rejecting HAL’s statute of limitations defense under Idaho Code section 5-224. Because of this, the Court vacated the district court’s judgment and reversed its decisions that the Northern Parcel was entitled to an easement by necessity over the HAL Parcel; and that the width of the easement was set at twenty-six feet. The Supreme Court further reversed the district court’s decisions setting the location of the easement and granting an easement by necessity as to the Southern and Eastern Parcels over the HAL Parcel. The matte was remanded for further proceedings. View "Easterling v. Hal Pacific Properties, L.P." on Justia Law

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Dennis and Sherrilyn Munden (the Mundens) and their limited liability company, Coyote Creek Ranch, LLC, purchased property in Bannock County, Idaho in 2012 (the Upper Property), and acquired adjoining property (the Lower Property) in 2014. The Mundens’ ranch was accessible by a gravel road (the Road) which left a paved public road before crossing the Lower Property. It then traversed a neighbor’s parcel to the Upper Property, before exiting to the north. The Mundens began ranching on the Lower Property in 2013 and started construction of a barn and living quarters on the Upper Property in 2015 after obtaining a three-year building permit. In 2017, the Mundens were informed by the Bannock County Commissioners that, pursuant to a 2006 county ordinance, the Road had been designated by the Commissioners for “snowmobile use only” between December 15 and April 15. All other vehicular use was prohibited during this timeframe. In January 2019, Bannock County passed an ordinance which gave discretion to the Bannock County Public Works Director (the Director) to determine when snowmobile trails would be closed to all but snowmobile use. Subsequently, the Director decided to close the Road for the 2018–19 winter season. The Mundens filed a complaint in district court against Bannock County, bringing several claims involving the Road, and obtained an ex parte temporary restraining order (TRO) to prohibit enforcement of the 2019 ordinance. The County moved to dissolve the TRO, which the district court granted. The district court then awarded attorney fees to the County. The Mundens amended their complaint to add their ranching operation, Coyote Creek Ranch, LLC, as a plaintiff, to which the County responded with an answer and counterclaim, alleging that the Road was a public right-of-way with no winter maintenance that had been designated as a snowmobile trail by the 2006 ordinance. The County then moved to dismiss the amended complaint for failure to state a claim. The district court granted this motion, concluding that because the claims turned on a legal determination of the Road’s status, the Mundens were required by Idaho Code section 40-208(7) to first petition for validation or abandonment proceedings with the Board of County Commissioners before they could bring a lawsuit. The district court accordingly entered a judgment dismissing the plaintiffs’ amended complaint in its entirety. Ultimately, the district court entered a judgment certified under IRCP 54(b)(1) authorizing an immediate appeal, and the Mundens timely appealed. The only error the Idaho Supreme Court found in review of this case was that the district court erred in issuing a writ of execution before there was a final appealable judgment. Judgement was affirmed in all other respects. View "Munden v. Bannock County" on Justia Law

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In February 2018, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit on behalf of himself and a putative class of similarly situated persons against Defendants RCC Wesley Chapel Crossing, LLC, Little Giant Farmers Market Corporation, Dollar Tree Stores, Inc., River City Capital, LLC, and River City Capital Property Management, LLC for negligence, premises liability, false imprisonment, conversion, and violation of the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”). Plaintiff claimed that Defendants “hired, authorized, or otherwise provided material support to” third parties that immobilized vehicles located on Defendants’ property with boots or similar devices, and required the owners or operators of the vehicles to pay a fee in order to have the immobilizing devices removed. Plaintiff moved to certify the action on behalf of a proposed class of similarly situated persons, claiming that between February 2013 and 2018, at least 250 persons “have been booted and have paid a fine for removal of said device” at the Wesley Chapel Lot. Following briefing and oral argument, the trial court granted Plaintiff’s motion, certifying the class. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to decide whether there was a common-law right that permits private property owners to immobilize vehicles that were not authorized to be on their property. The Court concluded that the common-law rights the defendants alluded to in the courts below – namely, the right to remove trespassing vehicles and an alleged right to impound trespassing vehicles – did not apply to the defendants’ vehicle immobilization practice. However, because the Supreme Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that “the trial court did not err in finding no common law right to immobilize a vehicle absent an enabling statute or ordinance,” and any reliance on that conclusion in affirming the trial court’s order granting Plaintiff Forrest Allen’s motion for class certification, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case with direction to remand to the trial court for reconsideration of the proposed class. View "RCC Wesley Chapel Crossing, LLC et al. v. Allen, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Cindy Planchard, filed suit against defendant, the New Hotel Monteleone, LLC. Plaintiff alleged that as she crossed the lobby of defendant’s hotel, she slipped on a foreign substance on the marble floor and fell, sustaining an injury. After discovery, defendant moved for summary judgment, relying on a surveillance video of the accident. The video showed a hotel employee dry mopping the lobby area at 8:36 p.m., approximately three minutes before plaintiff’s accident. Two “wet floor” signs are in place in the area. At 8:37 p.m., approximately one minute before plaintiff’s fall, two more “wet floor” signs were added to the area, and an employee continued to dry mop the area. Plaintiff was then seen to fall at 8:38 p.m. Defendant also submitted plaintiff’s deposition testimony. In her deposition, plaintiff acknowledged seeing the signs. Plaintiff also testified she “had to walk around” the signs because there “was no other path to the front door.” As a result, plaintiff stated she “walked to the side of the signs to get to the front door.” Plaintiff opposed defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Relying on her deposition testimony, plaintiff did not dispute that she saw the signs, but asserted that she thought they were “chalkboard” and did not read them. Plaintiff introduced pictures of the signs showing they did not have the traditional bright orange or yellow appearance, but were made of wood and brass. The district court denied the hotel's motion, concluding there were questions of fact concerning the “reasonableness on the part of the defendant” based on the visibility of the signs. The Louisiana Supreme Court reversed, finding that the undisputed evidence established plaintiff saw the warning signs in the area prior to her fall. "Any failure of plaintiff to read these signs was a product of her own inattentiveness and not a result of the defendant’s failure to take reasonable precautions." View "Blanchard v. New Hotel Monteleone, LLC." on Justia Law