Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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Two churches (the Churches) located in the City of Saint Paul were subject to a right-of-way assessment (ROW assessment) that the City assessed to nearly every owner of real property within the city limits to pay for public right-of-way maintenance services. The Churches appealed their 2011 ROW assessment, arguing that the charge was a tax and was not imposed uniformly upon the same class of property and that the assessed amount improperly exceeded the special benefit to the Churches’ properties. The district court upheld the assessments after applying a reasonableness test, concluding that the ROW was not a tax imposed under the City’s taxing power but was a fee imposed under the City’s police power and, therefore, was not subject to constitutional restrictions on taxation. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the ROW assessment was imposed as an exercise of the City’s taxing power rather than its police power; and (2) summary judgment was inappropriate because a genuine issue of material fact existed regarding the extent of special benefits to the Churches’ properties attributable to the right-of-way services. View "First Baptist Church of St. Paul v. City of St. Paul" on Justia Law

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For 60 years, a butcher shop operated on property in Black Earth that is zoned for commercial use, as a legal nonconforming use. In 2001, BEM purchased the property. After 2009, the volume and frequency of slaughter increased. By 2011, neighbors were complaining about increased traffic, trucks blocking the road, livestock noise, foul odors, improper storage of animal parts, and the presence of offal, blood, and animal waste in the streets. Steers escaped from the facility three times and had to be shot dead on Village streets. In 2013, the Village held several public meetings, and, because citations had no effect on BEM’s behavior, ordered BEM to propose an acceptable plan for relocating its slaughter activities. BEM did not relocate. After several delays, the Village threatened litigation. As a result of that threat, the USDA refused to guarantee a bank loan to BEM. BEM lost its financing, closed, and sued the Village and board members. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. Even if the threat of litigation could, itself, constitute a due process violation and were a sufficiently direct cause of BEM’s alleged deprivations, there is no evidence that the process accorded to BEM was inadequate. Procedural due process generally requires only “notice and an opportunity to be heard.” View "Black Earth Meat Mkt., LLC v. Village of Black Earth" on Justia Law

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Sandra Horob, Steven Poeckes, Steve Shae, Mike Shae and Paul Shae, the successors to the interests of John and Bernice Shae ("Horob plaintiffs"), appealed the grant of summary judgment deciding ownership of an oil and gas lease in favor of the successors to the interest of the William Herbert Hunt Trust Estate (collectively "defendants") and declaring the lease did not terminate and remained in effect. The Horob plaintiffs argued the Shae lease expired under the cessation of production clause because production from the well on the interest at-issue ceased, and additional drilling or reworking operations were not commenced within 60 days of the cessation. The district court concluded the lease did not expire because the cessation of production clause was not triggered. The court alternatively concluded the lease did not expire because: (1) it remained in effect under the terms of a communitization agreement with the United States; and (2) the Horob plaintiffs ratified the lease by accepting royalty payments after the lapses in production. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the Shae lease's cessation of production clause was triggered, however, the lease remained in effect under the terms of the communitization agreement. View "Horob v. Zavanna, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Macks and the Andersons owned adjacent properties. When the Macks discovered that a dam existed on the Mack Ditch, which crossed the Andersons’ property to the Mack property, that diverted water to a pond on the Anderson’s property, the Macks filed a complaint against the Andersons alleging violations of Mont. Code Ann. 70-17-112 and seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction. The district judge issued a TRO restraining the Andersons from interfering with the Macks’ access to the ditch. The parties entered into a stipulation that the TRO should remain in effect until further court order. The district court later found that the Macks were entitled to the preliminary injunction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court made proper findings and clearly reserved final adjudication on the merits in the order and did not abuse its discretion in the preliminary injunction determination. View "Mack v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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This case centered on defendants’ alleged entitlement to travel across several properties in Salem in order to access Route 28. Defendants owned the property located at 16 Garabedian Drive, and claimed to have a deeded right-of-way to travel from their property eastward, across State-owned railroad tracks and continuing across the southernmost section of two parcels of land owned by Cumberland Farms, Inc. and 392 South Broadway, LLC respectively. The Cumberland Farms property abutted the railroad on its western boundary and 392 South Broadway’s property to the southeast. 392 South Broadway’s property was bounded on the north and west by the Cumberland Farms property and Route 28 on the east. Travel across these properties is known as Cuomo Drive. Plaintiffs 412 South Broadway Realty, LLC and Salem Rockingham, LLC, which owned property located just to the south of Cuomo Drive, filed suit against defendants and Cumberland Farms. Defendants appealed multiple superior court orders ruling that their property was not benefited by a deeded right-of-way over several other properties and finding them liable for abuse of process. Third-party defendant, Emmett Horgan, Trustee of the FUN Trust (FUN Trust), cross-appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in finding that defendants had not committed slander of title and in calculating the damages award for the trust’s abuse of process claim. After review, the Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s judgment on FUN Trust’s abuse of process claim and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. In all other respects, the trial court’s judgment was affirmed. View "412 South Broadway Realty, LLC v. Wolters" on Justia Law

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Seventeen of the 20 plaintiffs to this case were Somali Bantu refugees who were resettled to the United States in 2004. Three of the plaintiffs were born in the United States to Somali Bantu refugees. Plaintiffs lived in the defendants’ apartments during 2005-2006, and those apartments were contaminated by lead paint, a known health hazard. Plaintiffs had elevated levels of lead in their blood. In their complaints, which were consolidated for discovery and trial, plaintiffs, through their parents, alleged that they were injured by their exposure to lead paint while living in defendants’ apartments. In this interlocutory appeal, plaintiffs challenged a superior court order granting the motion to exclude the expert testimony of Peter Isquith, Ph.D. After evaluating the 20 plaintiffs, Isquith, a clinical neuropsychologist, determined that 17 of them suffered from neurological deficits and opined that lead exposure was, more likely than not, a substantial factor in causing those deficits. The superior court excluded Isquith’s testimony based upon its determination that his testimony was not “the product of reliable principles and methods,” and its finding that he did not apply “the principles and methods reliably to the facts” of this case. The superior court certified a question to the Supreme Court: whether the trial court abused its discretion by excluding the expert's testimony. The Supreme Court found no reversible error in the trial court's order, and affirmed. View "Osman v. Lin" on Justia Law

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A 49-count indictment charged 51 Outlaws Motorcycle Club members with racketeering, mail and wire fraud, money laundering, drug trafficking, extortion, running an illegal gambling business, witness tampering, and firearms offenses; 19 were charged under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute. The indictment included a forfeiture notice. The FBI executed search warrants on Indiana clubhouses and residences and seized items bearing the Outlaws insignia. The FBI sought forfeiture of patches, shirts, hats, belt buckles, signs, mirrors, flags, calendars, and pictures, which were use to deter other groups from infringing on Outlaw territory. In plea agreements, 18 Outlaws agreed to forfeiture. The court received Carlson’s letter, which it interpreted as a motion to intervene under 18 U.S.C. 1963(l)(2). Carlson asserted that he was entitled to direct notice, having been elected by the collective membership to manage Outlaws' indicia and memorabilia, which were owned by the collective membership, not by individuals. The government had provided notice to each defendant and had posted notice on the of government forfeiture website. The district court denied Carlson’s motions, finding that Carlson had not shown that the government was aware of Carlson or his alleged interest, nor demonstrated a property interest. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, citing Indiana law: “[o]wnership cannot be conferred by a wave of a magic semantic wand.” The asserted collective ownership mechanism was “designed solely ‘to insulate from forfeiture.” View "United States v. Bowser" on Justia Law

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In order to receive federal housing funds (42 U.S.C. 2000d; the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3601; and “42 U.S.C. 608(e)(5), 5304(b)(2), and 12705(b)(15)), the City of Chicago must certify that it is in compliance with federal requirements related to reducing the city’s admitted racial segregation. Hanna filed a qui tam suit, alleging that the city violated the False Claims Act because its policies, particularly “aldermanic privilege” and strategic zoning of relatively wealthy neighborhoods, have actually increased segregation, making its certifications false. Under “aldermanic privilege,” the City grants each alderman the “full authority to determine whether and where affordable, multifamily rental housing will be built and renovated in the ward.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. Hanna did not allege the circumstances of the purported fraud with sufficient particularity to satisfy Federal Rule of Procedure 9(b). Hanna apparently had no insider information. He did not allege the “time, place, … and the method by which the misrepresentation was communicated” to him. Hanna’s complaint gave no information about which regulatory provisions Hanna thinks the city violated; it does not draw a link between the statutes Hanna cited and any particular alleged false certification. View "Hanna v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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First American Title Insurance Company issued two title insurance policies to Johnson Bank for two properties that secured the Bank’s loans. The policies failed to disclose encumbrances that allegedly affected the value of the property and thwarted its intended use. The property owners defaulted on their loan obligations to the Bank. Based on the undisclosed encumbrances, the owners successfully sued First American to recover damages under their owners’ title insurance policies. Johnson Bank purchased the properties and notified First American of claims under its lender’s title insurance policies. The parties disagreed on the date for calculating the diminution in value of the two properties - whether the date of the loans or the foreclosure date. The superior court granted summary judgment for First American, concluding that the foreclosure date should be used to calculate damages. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) when an undisclosed title defect prevents the known, intended use of the property and causes the borrower to default on the loan, the lender’s diminution-in-value loss should be calculated as of the policy-issuance date; and (2) because the record in this case did not establish that the title defect caused the borrowers’ default and the Bank’s subsequent foreclosure, the cause must be remanded for further proceedings on that issue. View "First Am. Title Ins. Co. v. Johnson Bank" on Justia Law

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Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC (Duke) owned an easement in Huntersville, North Carolina allowing construction of and access to its power lines. A portion of Herbert Gray’s property encroached on Duke’s right-of-way. Duke asked Gray to remove the encroachment. When Gray did not reply, Duke filed suit seeking injunctive and other relief. The trial court concluded that the six-year statute of limitations for an injury to an incorporeal hereditament set out in N.C. Gen. Stat. 1-50(a)(3) had run and that, consequently, Duke had no legal remedy. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) removal of the encroachment is a recovery of real property lying outside the scope of section 1-50(a)(3); and (2) therefore, this action fell within the twenty-year statute of limitations set out in N.C. Gen. Stat. 1-40. Remanded. View "Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC v. Gray" on Justia Law