Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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This case arose from an allegedly improper reconveyance of a junior deed of trust (the “EEF Deed of Trust”) held by Appellant, Eagle Equity Fund, LLC (“EEF”). The reconveyance, which was executed by Respondent, TitleOne Corporation, had the effect of divesting EEF of its security interest in the collateral property. Because EEF was divested of its security interest, it did not receive notice when the Property was later sold to DAS Investments, LLC. Being unaware of the sale, EEF had no opportunity to participate in the sale process. Shortly thereafter, DAS resold the Property to Corey Barton Homes, Inc. (“CBH”), for a profit. On discovering the sale and resale of the Property, EEF sued TitleOne, DAS, and CBH, among others, on a litany of counts including tortious interference and negligent reconveyance of the EEF Deed of Trust. On appeal, EEF argued that: (1) the reconveyance damaged EEF by depriving it of the opportunity to insert itself into the sale of the Property; (2) the statute of limitations had not run on EEF’s negligent reconveyance claim under Idaho Code section 45-1205 because it should have been calculated from the date of the sale rather than from the date of the reconveyance; and (3) DAS and CBH were not bona fide purchasers because they had inquiry notice of EEF’s interest. After review, the Supreme Court concluded: (1) EEF had no claim against TitleOne for tortious interference with a prospective economic advantage, so the district court did not err in dismissing EEF's claims against TitleOne on summary judgment; (2) because the district court did not err in so granting summary judgment, the Supreme Court did not reach EEF's contention that the district court miscalculated the statute of limitations; and (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing t allow EEF to amend its complaint to add a quiet title claim against CBH. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Eagle Equity Fund v. TitleOne Corp" on Justia Law

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Dennis Sallaz owned a 1954 Cadillac Eldorado that he had purchased in 1964. In 1991, Sallaz granted Eugene “Roy” Rice a lien on the Cadillac, and a new certificate of title was issued in 1991, showing that Roy Rice had a lien on the car. Sallaz had a duplicate of that certificate of title issued to himself. Sallaz was counsel for Rice, and they were close friends and business associates for many years. Their relationship soured, in early 2011, Rice had his son Michael Rice repossess the Cadillac. Michael Rice, on behalf of his father, presented an Affidavit of Repossession to the Idaho Transportation Department, and the Department issued a new certificate of title showing that the owner of the Cadillac was Eugene LeRoy Rice or Rose Jeanette Rice, who was his wife. Rice later sold the Cadillac for $25,000. Sallaz filed this action against Rice, his wife, and his son seeking to recover possession of the Cadillac or, if he could not do so, damages for conversion in the sum of $75,000. Sallaz sought a writ of possession to gain possession of the Cadillac, but the district court denied the writ because “Mr. Rice has shown with sufficient probability that he is the official owner of record of the 1954 Cadillac Eldorado and that he is entitled to possession of the vehicle.” There were other claims filed between the parties, and all of the various claims were tried to a jury from June 30 through July 21, 2014 (the other claims are not relevant to this appeal). After Defendants rested, Sallaz moved for a directed verdict. The district court denied the motion, and the jury returned a special verdict finding that Sallaz had failed to prove his claim against Defendants for conversion of the Cadillac. Plaintiffs appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the denial of a directed verdict. View "Sallaz v. Rice" on Justia Law

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Seller retained Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Company to list a luxury residence for sale. Buyer, also represented by Coldwell Banker, made an offer to purchase the property, and both parties agreed that Coldwell Banker, acting through its associate licensee, would function as a dual agent in the transaction. After the sale was complete, Buyer filed suit alleging breach of fiduciary duty by Coldwell Banker and by the associate licensee because of a significant discrepancy between the square footage of the residence as represented in the marketing materials for the property and as set out in its building permit. The trial court granted nonsuit on the cause of action against the associate licensee, ruling that the associate licensee had no fiduciary duty to Buyer. A jury subsequently found in favor of Coldwell Banker. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment on the breach of fiduciary duty claim against the associate licensee and Coldwell Banker. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Coldwell Banker owed to Buyer a duty to learn nd disclose information regarding the discrepancy between the square footage of the residence as advertised and as reflected in publicly recorded documents; and (2) the associate licensee owed Buyer an equivalent duty of disclosure under Cal. Civ. Code. 2079.13(b). View "Horiike v. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Co." on Justia Law

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In 1949, the federal government deeded a large parcel to the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD), the entity responsible for controlling flooding in eastern Ohio. The deed provided that the land would revert to the United States if MWCD alienated or attempted to alienate it, or if MWCD stopped using the land for recreation, conservation, or reservoir-development purposes. MWCD sold rights to conduct hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations on the land. Fracking opponents discovered the deed restrictions and, arguing that MWCD’s sale of fracking rights triggered the reversion, filed a “qui tam” suit under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729. alleging that MWCD was knowingly withholding United States property from the government. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the claim. The court noted recent legislative amendments that replace a fraudulent-intent requirement in two FCA provisions with a requirement that the defendant acted “knowingly,” but concluded that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim even under the more lenient scienter requirement; they did not specify whether or how MWCD knew or should have known that it was in violation of the deed restrictions, such that it knew or should have known that title to the property reverted to the United States. View "Harper v. Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District" on Justia Law

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Charles and Melissa Dalton obtained a loan from Household Finance Corporation II that was secured by a mortgage on their property. The Daltons received a trial period plan pursuant to a Trial Period Plan Agreement. The Daltons’ loan was later sold to LSF9 Master Participation Trust, and the servicing of the Daltons’ loan was transferred to Caliber Home Loans, Inc. The Daltons filed this action against LSF9 and Caliber alleging, inter alia, breach of the Trial Period Plan Agreement and seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction enjoining LSF9 and Caliber from terminating the Daltons’ loan modification. The Court of Chancery dismissed all claims against LSF9 and Caliber, holding (1) LSF9 and Caliber were not parties nor successors in interest to the Trial Period Plan Agreement; (2) LSF9 and Caliber were not parties to the consent orders between Household Finance and the United States Department of the Treasury; (3) the Daltons failed to state a claim for unjust enrichment; and (4) the Daltons failed to allege a reasonable probability of success on the merits or imminent threat of irreparable injury. View "Dalton v. Household Finance Corp., II" on Justia Law

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Appellant Dorothy McCarty appealed the grant of summary judgment holding that a quitclaim deed granting certain real property to McCarty was unenforceable as a matter of law because it did not contain an adequate description of the subject property. The issues raised on appeal were: (1) whether Idaho Code section 55-606 barred the grantors’ successors in interest from challenging the enforceability of the Quitclaim Deed that the grantors themselves executed; (2) whether the district court erred in striking evidence of the grantors’ intent at the time they executed the deed; (3) whether the district court erred in finding that the Quitclaim Deed did not contain an adequate description of the subject property; (4) whether the district court erred by holding that the grantors were thereafter prevented from transferring the property by an amendment to the trust documents; and (6) whether the district court erred in concluding that the doctrines of ‘reformation,’ ‘interlineation,’ and ‘correction deed’ were not applicable. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "David & Marvel Benton Trust v. McCarty" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sued EQT Production Company and five related entities alleging that Plaintiffs were underpaid royalties with respect to their ownership of oil and gas interests that EQT was contracted to exploit. A federal district court granted summary judgment to the related entities and partial summary judgment EQT. The court reserved its ruling on the remaining aspects of Plaintiff’s claims against EQT pending the disposition of questions certified to the Supreme Court relevant to the claims’ resolution. The Supreme Court declined to answer the second certified question and answered the first certified question as follows: When the lessee-owner of a working interest in an oil or gas well must tender to the lessor-owner of the oil or gas a royalty not less than one-eighth of the total amount paid to or received by or allowed to the lessee, W. Va. Code 22-6-8(e) requires in addition that the lessee not deduct from that amount any expenses that have been incurred in gathering, transporting, or treating the oil or gas after it has been initially extracted any sums attributable to a loss or beneficial use of volume beyond that initially measured or any other costs that may be characterized as post-production. View "Leggett v. EQT Production Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sought a prescriptive easement over an existing road that crossed defendants’ property. The dispute in this case was whether plaintiff satisfied the requirement to prove “adverse use.” The trial court found that plaintiff did establish adverse use of the road in either of two ways: (1) plaintiff’s use of the road interfered with defendants’ rights, in that defendants could see vehicles passing in close proximity to their house; or (2) in the alternative, plaintiff established adversity through testimony that he believed (although without communicating that belief to defendants) that he had the right to use the road without defendants’ permission. The Court of Appeals affirmed. After review of this matter, the Supreme Court concluded that the trial court and the Court of Appeals erred: in this case, there is a complete absence of evidence in the record that plaintiff’s use of the road either interfered with the owners’ use or that plaintiff’s use was undertaken under a claim of right of which the owners were aware. The trial and appellate courts’ decisions were reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Wels v. Hippe" on Justia Law

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James Levis filed a complaint for declaratory judgment and quiet title claiming title to a section of mudflat by adverse possession and by deed from his ex-wife. Levis named Gustav Konitzky, an abutting neighbor and boat-builder, as a party in interest. Default judgment was entered against the remaining defendants (the Cartland heirs), but the district court later set aside the default judgment. The court then granted summary judgment in favor of Konitzky. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in setting aside the default judgment against the Cartland heirs and did not err in granting summary judgment in Konitzky’s favor on Levis’s quiet title action. View "Levis v. Konitzky" on Justia Law

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At dispute in this case was the existence and use of an easement along Turk Road, a private road that ran through multiple properties. All parties in this case owned property accessed via Turk Road, which passed through portions of Defendants’ properties. This appeal concerned the right of Marc and Gloria Flora (Plaintiffs) to use Turk Road over two properties owned by four defendants (Defendants). Plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that they had legal access along Turk Road as it passed through Defendants’ properties pursuant to an express easement. The Floras then moved for a preliminary injunction to enjoin Defendants from interfering with the Floras’ access along Turk Road. The district court granted the Floras a preliminary injunction because the Floras laid out a prima facie case for a prescriptive easement. The court then limited the easement to light-duty passenger vehicles. The Floras appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err by (1) granting the Floras’ motion for a preliminary injunction on the basis of a prescriptive easement theory rather than on an express public easement theory; and (2) limiting the Floras’ prescriptive easement to the use of passenger vehicles. View "Flora v. Clearman" on Justia Law