by
The Property of Unincorporated Associations Act, 765 ILCS 115/2, requires a labor union to notify its members and obtain their approval before entering into an agreement to lease or purchase real estate. The circuit court held that an agreement is enforceable despite a union’s failure to follow these requirements because the Act is silent as to the consequences of noncompliance. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. Where a party lacks the legal authority to form a contract, the resulting contract is void ab initio. Absent compliance with the statutory prerequisites, an unincorporated association has no power to execute a valid real estate contract. The apparent authority doctrine is not relevant. A contract that is void ab initio is treated as though it never existed and, thus, cannot be enforced by either party. View "1550 MP Road LLC v. Teamsters Local Union No. 700" on Justia Law

by
This case contested the validity of a property deed that was executed by Gayron Brooks in the weeks before her death from lung cancer. The deed conveyed her house in Boaz to her husband of 18 years, David. Following Gayron's death, her adult children, Teresa Elizabeth Mitchell and Steve E. Allen, as personal representatives of Gayron's estate, sued David alleging, among other things, that David held a dominant position over Gayron and that he had unduly influenced her to sign the deed. After a four-day nonjury trial, the trial court entered a judgment in favor of David. This appeal followed. Finding no reversible error in the circuit court's judgment, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Mitchell v. Brooks" on Justia Law

by
Sixty-nine current and former residents of mobilehome park Terrace View Mobile Home Estates filed a lawsuit against the park's owners, Terrace View Partners, LP, Thomas Tatum, Jeffrey Kaplan, and management company, Mobile Community Management Company (collectively, defendants). The operative first amended complaint, styled as a class action, included 12 causes of action based on allegations that defendants' failure to maintain the park in "good working order and condition" created a nuisance that, along with unreasonably high space rent increases, made it difficult or impossible for park residents to sell their mobilehomes. After the court denied plaintiffs' motion for class certification, the parties and the court agreed to try the case in phases, with the first phase involving 16 residents living in 10 spaces in Terrace View. A first-phase jury returned a special verdict finding defendants liable and awarded the individual plaintiffs economic and noneconomic damages for: intentional interference with property rights, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, nuisance (based on substantially failing to enforce the park's rules and regulations), breach of contract/breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment, and negligence/negligence per se. The jury found defendants were not liable for nuisance based on failing to provide and maintain the park's common facilities and physical improvements in good working order and condition, and were not liable for elder financial abuse against five plaintiffs. After the jury was discharged, the court issued an order on plaintiffs' cause of action alleging defendants violated Business and Professions Code section 17200 et seq., the "unfair competition law" (UCL). The court ruled that a "catch-up" provision in defendants' long-term leases that could greatly increase rent at the end of a lease term was unfair in violation of the UCL. The judgment also reflected the court's rulings at the beginning of trial that certain other provisions in the parties' lease agreements violated California's Mobilehome Residency Law or were otherwise unlawful. Defendants appealed. The Court of Appeal concluded the jury's award of compensatory damages and punitive damages had to be reversed. Although the jury's award of economic damages may have included unspecified amounts that could be upheld on appeal if the special verdict form had segregated them, "it is clear from the record that the vast majority of the economic damages awarded represented reimbursement for overpayment of rent and diminution in value of homes caused by high rent. Because the award of such damages cannot be sustained under any of the theories of liability presented to the jury and it is impossible to sever any properly awarded damages from improperly awarded damages." The Court therefore reversed the entire award of compensatory damages and the attendant awards of punitive damages and attorney fees and costs to plaintiffs. View "Bevis v. Terrace View Partners, LP" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court, which concluded that Soup Creek Road was an extinguished prescriptive easement across the parcel of land owned by Plaintiffs - Soup Creek, LLC, Dewey Skelton, and Rosana Skelton - holding that the district court erred in concluding that Soup Creek Road was not a public highway. Soup Creek Road had been used as a public travel way for more than 150 years. In 2010, Defendants’ predecessor-in-interest successfully petitioned to abandon only that portion of Soup Creek Road that crosses over what is now Defendants’ parcel. In 2009, the Skeltons asked the district court to declare the portion of Soup Creek Road that traverses their land to be a private road over which Defendants had no easement to reach their parcel. Defendants counterclaimed that the road is a public highway established prior to 1895 through prescriptive use. The district court found no right-of-way or easement on Soup Creek Road and that any public prescriptive easement had been extinguished. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that only the part of Soup Creek Road that passed through Defendants’ parcel was abandoned and that the remainder of Soup Creek Road, including the portion crossing the Skeltons’ lot, continues to be a public highway. View "Soup Creek LLC v. Gibson" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting a preliminary injunction in favor of Defendants in this dispute over certain property, holding that the district court did not err by granting the preliminary injunction in favor of Defendants even where they did not show they would suffer irreparable injury. Plaintiff brought a quiet action seeking to resolve the question of property ownership of disputed area between the parties. Defendants counterclaimed for a prescriptively acquired easement permitting them to use an access route to their property pending the outcome of the litigation. The district court determined that Defendants had made a prima facie showing of their claim for prescriptive easement and granted them a preliminary injunction pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 27-19-201(1). Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the district court erred by granting the preliminary injunction because Defendants did not show they would suffer irreparable injury. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendants established that they would suffer continuing harm by not being able to access their property while the litigation was pending and, therefore, the purpose of equitable injunctive relief was fulfilled. View "BAM Ventures, LLC v. Schifferman" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment against Petitioners in their action against Respondents based upon a coal lease agreement between the parties and granting summary judgment against Respondents’ counterclaim, holding that there was no error to the dismissal of the parties’ respective claims. In granting summary judgment against Petitioners, the circuit court concluded that Respondents had no obligation to diligently mine coal and did not have to make royalty payments based upon comparable sales by other mining companies. The circuit court also granted summary judgment against Respondents’ counterclaim seeking damages for Petitioners’ refusal to consent to an assignment or sublease of the coal lease and for alleged tortious interference with an asset agreement Respondents had with another company. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error in the circuit court’s judgment. View "Bruce McDonald Holding Co. v. Addington Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed a federal civil rights action against defendants, alleging numerous federal constitutional violations and a disparate impact claim under the Fair Housing Act. Almost simultaneously, the city filed a nuisance complaint in state court against plaintiffs and the city filed a motion for abstention, or in the alternative, a motion to dismiss the federal action. The county filed a nearly identical motion the next day. The district court granted both the city and the county's motions, concluding that abstention was appropriate under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). Determining that it had jurisdiction over the appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court properly abstained under Younger in every aspect, except with respect to the allegedly unreasonable search, which must be severed from the other claims. In this case, Younger abstention was appropriate as to all claims except the unreasonable search claim, because success by plaintiffs on such claims would invalidate the code enforcement proceeding. In regard to the unreasonable search claim, the district court erred in abstaining because the relief sought on alleged Fourth Amendment violations did not meet the Court's requirement that the relief have the practical effect of enjoining the state court proceeding. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Herrera v. City of Palmdale" on Justia Law

by
In this condemnation case, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the district court’s award of $168,009 in attorney fees to the landowner under the condemnation fee-shifting statute, Minn. stat. 117.031(a), holding that the district court misinterpreted and misapplied the Court’s lodestar precedent. Using the lodestar method, the district court awarded the landowner the amount that he requested. The court of appeals reversed the award because the district court failed to begin its calculation with the presumptive lodestar amount of $34,133 and because the district court did not sufficiently explain why enhancing the presumptive lodestar amount by more than $130,000 would represent a reasonable fee. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under current Supreme Court law, an enhancement based on a contingent fee agreement is improper; and (2) the district court incorrectly applied the law and did not make adequate factual findings to support its enhanced attorney-fee award. View "State v. Krause" on Justia Law

by
The McCarthy law firm was hired to carry out a nonjudicial foreclosure on Obduskey’s Colorado home. Obduskey invoked the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) provision, 15 U.S.C. 1692g(b), providing that if a consumer disputes the amount of a debt, a “debt collector” must “cease collection” until it “obtains verification of the debt” and mails a copy to the debtor. Instead, McCarthy initiated a nonjudicial foreclosure action. The Tenth Circuit and Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of Obduskey’s suit, holding that McCarthy was not a “debt collector.” A business engaged in only nonjudicial foreclosure proceedings is not a “debt collector” under the FDCPA, except for the limited purpose of section 1692f(6). The FDCPA defines “debt collector” an “any person . . . in any business the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts, or who regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts.” The limited-purpose definition states that “[f]or the purpose of section 1692f(6) . . . [the] term [debt collector] also includes any person . . . in any business the principal purpose of which is the enforcement of security interests.” McCarthy, in enforcing security interests, is subject to the specific prohibitions contained in 1692f(6) but is not subject to the FDCPA’s main coverage. Congress may have chosen to treat security-interest enforcement differently from ordinary debt collection to avoid conflicts with state nonjudicial foreclosure schemes; this reading is supported by legislative history, which suggests that the present language was a compromise between totally excluding security-interest enforcement and treating it like ordinary debt collection. View "Obduskey v. McCarthy & Holthus LLP" on Justia Law

by
The Town of Belmont appealed a New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA) decision that, pursuant to RSA 72:36-a (2012) respondent Robin M. Nordle 2013 Trust was entitled to a 100% real estate tax exemption for a homestead in Belmont. RSA 72:36-a provided that a person who met certain qualifications set forth in the statute, and “who owns a specially adapted homestead which has been acquired with the assistance of the Veterans Administration,” qualified for a property tax exemption. Louis Nordle served during the Vietnam War and was honorably discharged in 1969. In 1998, Louis and his wife, Robin Nordle, purchased a summer camp in Belmont. In 2007, the Nordles demolished the original home and built a new home. The house was later transferred to the Robin M. Nordle 2013 Trust, in which Louis had a life estate in the trust and Robin was the trustee. In 2015, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs determined that Louis was totally and permanently disabled due to his service-connected disabilities. In 2016, Louis received a “Specially Adapted Housing Grant” from the Veterans Administration (VA), and used the funds to modify his home to accommodate his disability. The town originally denied Nordle's application for tax-exempt status, determining that the “home was not ‘acquired’ or ‘purchased’ by or with the assistance of a VA loan.” In making its determination, the town relied upon advice from the New Hampshire Department of Revenue that, in order to be entitled to the property tax exemption, the VA “had to help ‘purchase’ the home not adapt it.” The BTLA reasoned that “the word ‘acquired’ in the statute had a plain meaning broader than simply ‘purchased,’” and that because Louis “obtained, and is now in possession of, a specially adapted homestead . . . only because of the financial assistance he received from the VA,” the taxpayer was entitled to the tax exemption set forth in RSA 72:36-a. The New Hampshire Supreme Court determined that once the remodeling was completed, the taxpayer owned a specially adapted homestead which was “acquired with the assistance of the Veterans Administration.” and affirmed the BTLA’s determination that the taxpayer was entitled to a 100% real estate tax exemption for the homestead in Belmont. View "Appeal of Town of Belmont" on Justia Law