Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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Suspecting that Troconis-Escovar was involved in the illegal drug business, the DEA searched his vehicle. Agents found $146,000 in cash, which they believed represented drug proceeds. DEA notified Troconis-Escovar that it intended to effect an administrative forfeiture of the funds (to declare them to be government property). Illegal drug proceeds are eligible for civil forfeiture under 21 U.S.C. 881(a)(6), subject to the procedural safeguards of the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act, 18 U.S.C. 983. Troconis-Escovar’s attorney tried to contest the forfeiture, but filed the wrong form—a “petition for remission” rather than a “claim.” Only a claim may be used to challenge a proposed forfeiture. After the mistake was discovered, DEA gave Troconis-Escovar an extra 30 days to supplement his petition for remission. Troconis-Escovar did not do so and lost the money. He filed a Motion for the Return of Property under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(g).The district court dismissed his lawsuit, finding that it lacked jurisdiction. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The dismissal was correct, but not because jurisdiction was lacking. Troconis-Escovar does not explain why he should be able to obtain relief outside section 983 when Congress expressly conditioned relief from civil forfeiture on circumstances that do not apply to him. He did not explain his argument about the untimeliness or sufficiency of the DEA’s notice. View "Troconis-Escovar v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court reforming a property deed executed by Lillian and J.C. Singleton, as husband and wife, that divested Appellants' interest in the property, holding that the circuit court misapplied the law in reforming the deed.Lillian and J.C,. who were married and had three children, owned two tracts of land - Tract I and Tract II. The couple later instructed their attorney to prepare two warranty deeds, and the attorney did not know or meet with Appellants - Dennis, Keith, or Kelly - when preparing the deeds. After J.C. died, Lillian filed suit against Appellants asking the circuit court either set aside or reform the Tract I deed to reflect her interest that Dennis not receive a remainder interest in that tract, alleging that the deed mistakenly included Dennis in the conveyance. The circuit court entered judgment in Lillian's favor and ordered the Tract I deed to be reformed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) no mutual mistake occurred in this case, and the mistake was purely unilateral; and (2) under the circumstances, the circuit court misapplied long-standing state law when it ordered the deed at issue be reformed to divest Appellants of their remainder interest. View "Singleton v. Singleton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's action for breach of contract and awarding Defendant attorney fees, holding that the district court abused its discretion.The parties in this case formerly lived together at a Saco residence. When they closed on the property the parties entered a contract where, in exchange for Plaintiff assuming responsibility for the down payment, Defendant agreed to assume a greater share of other expenses. Defendant later moved out of the property and filed a partition action, denying the existence of a contract. Plaintiff brought this action alleging breach of contract. On the same day, Plaintiff filed a motion to consolidate the parties' partition, and contract claims. The district court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss and awarded her attorney fees. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment below, holding (1) the district court abused its discretion by failing to consolidate the two actions; and (2) because Defendant never pleaded abatement, the district court erred in applying the remedy sua sponte. View "Indorf v. Keep" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a dispute regarding the excavation of lots located in the The Grove Subdivision between plaintiff Hidden Grove LLC (“Hidden Grove”), the developer of The Grove, and homeowner defendants Richard and Lisa Brauns (the Braunses). In 2011, the Braunses purchased a home located on Lot 14 of The Grove from a third party not involved in this litigation. The next day, the Braunses purchased Lot 15 from Hidden Grove for $100,000. They also acquired a right of first refusal to purchase Lots 16 and 17. The surface elevations of Lots 16 and 17 were eight feet higher than that of Lot 15. Because the Braunses intended to add on to their home and build a swimming pool on Lot 15, they sought to lower the elevation of Lots 16 and 17 to match the elevation of the lots previously purchased. Hidden Grove agreed the Braunses could lower the elevation of Lots 16 and 17, at their own expense. Before the parties executed a written agreement setting forth the engineering specifications for the excavation, work began in January 2013 on oral permission of Hidden Grove. In June 2013, after the excavation was near completion, disputes arose between the parties, specifically as to whether the Braunses were required to extend the retaining wall onto Lots 16 and 17. When Richard Brauns told Hidden Grove that the wall would terminate at the boundary of Lot 15 and 16, Hidden Grove ordered the Braunses to stop work and “get off the property.” Hidden Grove filed suit against the Braunses alleging breach of contract and requesting specific performance of concluding the excavation and construction of a retaining wall through the backs of Lots 16 and 17. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review in this matter to review the court of appeal’s determination that Hidden Grove could not assert a claim for enrichment without cause under Civil Code article 2298 for failure to establish the “no other remedy at law” element of the claim. The Court concluded the court of appeal erred and remanded the matter to the court of appeal for consideration of pretermitted issues. View "Hidden Grove, LLC v. Brauns" on Justia Law

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Continental Resources, Inc. operates an input well on Timothy and Tracy Browns’ land in Harding County, South Dakota. The Browns sued Continental, seeking compensation for damage to the surface of their land and Continental’s use of their pore space. Continental removed the case to federal court and twice moved for partial summary judgment. The district court granted both motions, finding that Plaintiffs: (1) released Continental from liability for surface damage; and (2) could not recover damages under South Dakota law for Continental’s pore space use.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that section 45-5A-4 clearly articulates three categories of compensable harm. Plaintiffs sought damages for lost use, which is not one of the categories. They try to infuse ambiguity into the statutory scheme by pointing to Chapter 45-5A’s purpose and legislative findings sections. While these sections may help a court interpret ambiguous statutory language, the court found none in Section 45-5A-4. Accordingly, the court held that Plaintiffs have not suffered compensable harm under South Dakota law, so the district court did not err in granting summary judgment. View "Timothy Brown v. Continental Resources, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellant Ventura29, LLC purchased property (the Property) in the City of San Buenaventura (City). Appellant filed a complaint against the City alleging that Appellant “is in the process of developing a multi-unit townhome project” on the Property. The first cause of action is for inverse condemnation. Appellant claims City’s modification of an approved grading plan for the Property “resulted in an unconstitutional taking for which [it] is entitled to just compensation.” The trial court entered a judgment of dismissal after the trial court had sustained a demurrer to Appellant’s second amended complaint (complaint). Appellant contends the complaint states causes of action for private nuisance, trespass, and negligence based on the City’s dumping of uncertified fill on the Property in 1977.   The Second Appellate District affirmed the judgment of dismissal. The court concluded that these causes of action are barred by the statute of limitations. The court reasoned that Appellant’s “action on the case” theory is based on its claim that the primary injury to its property was not caused by the dumping of the uncertified fill. Instead, it was caused by the consequences of the dumping. Therefore, Appellant argued, the statute of limitations on the causes of action began to run when the City Engineer made the modification. The “action on the case” theory is of no assistance to Appellant. The theory, in effect, restates the first cause of action for inverse condemnation. Appellant forfeited its right to object to the modification of the grading plan because it had complied with the modification without exhausting its administrative remedies. View "Ventura29 v. City of San Buenaventura" on Justia Law

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Livermore adopted a General Plan and a Downtown Specific Plan in 2004, for which it certified an environmental impact report (EIR). A subsequent EIR (SEIR) was certified in 2009, after amendments to the Downtown Specific Plan increased the amount of development allowed. In 2018, Livermore approved a plan for redeveloping city-owned sites in the “Downtown Core” with park space, retail buildings, cultural facilities, multifamily workforce housing, a public parking garage, and a hotel. Livermore selected Eden to develop the housing. Addenda to the SEIR were prepared. The proposed housing project comprised two four-story buildings with 130 affordable housing units. . Livermore’s Planning Commission approved Eden’s application. The city approved design review and a vesting tentative parcel map, finding that no substantial changes were proposed that would require major revisions to the previous EIR, SEIR, or addenda and that the project was exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code 21000) as consistent with a specific plan for which an EIR had been certified and as infill development.The trial court required SLD to file an undertaking of $500,000 in its challenges to the approvals, finding that the action was brought for the purpose of delaying affordable housing and that the undertaking would not cause SLD undue economic harm. The court of appeal rejected arguments that the project was inconsistent with the planning and zoning law and that further review of the environmental impacts was necessary and upheld the requirement that SLD post a bond. View "Save Livermore Downtown v. City of Livermore" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Seneca Nation brought a lawsuit seeking relief from New York State, the New York Thruway Authority, and the Thruway Authority’s Executive Director (collectively “Defendants”) for ongoing use of an invalid easement over its tribal land. Defendants appealed the denial of their motion to dismiss. Defendants contend that the Nation is collaterally estopped from bringing this present action based on a 2004 judgment of this court and that this lawsuit is barred by the Eleventh Amendment.   The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Seneca Nation does not assert property rights over land to which New York State has traditionally held the title and does not seek a declaration that the State’s laws and regulations do not apply to the area in dispute. Therefore, the quiet title exception to Ex parte Young outlined by the Court in Coeur d’Alene Tribe has no application here. Accordingly, the lawsuit falls under the Ex parte Young exception to the Eleventh Amendment. Thus, neither collateral estoppel nor the Eleventh Amendment bars the Nation from proceeding in this case. View "Seneca Nation v. Hochul" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs own a beach house in Dare County, North Carolina. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dare County banned nonresident property owners from entering the county. As a result, Plaintiffs could not reach their beach house for forty-five days. In response, they sued Dare County, alleging that their property was taken without compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment. After the district court found that the ban was not a Fifth Amendment taking and dismissed Plaintiffs’ suit for failure to state a claim, Plaintiffs appealed.   The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court held that the ban did not physically appropriate Plaintiffs’ beach house. And though it restricted their ability to use the house, compensation is not required under the ad hoc balancing test that determines the constitutionality of most use restrictions. The court further explained that Dare County’s order is neither a physical appropriation, a use restriction that renders the property valueless, nor a taking under Penn Central. The effects of the order were temporary, Plaintiffs had a chance to occupy their property before it took effect, and while the order was operative they could still exercise significant ownership rights over their property. View "Joseph Blackburn, Jr. v. Dare County" on Justia Law

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In 1993 the Village of Channahon approved the plat of a residential subdivision lying within the DuPage River Special Flood Hazard Area. The Village subsequently issued permits for the construction of houses in this subdivision, all of which experience flooded basements when the river is at high water. The current owners of these houses contend that the Village violated the Constitution either by granting the permits to build or by failing to construct dykes to keep water away.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of their suit, noting the plaintiffs do not contend that the Village required them to build where they did or dig basements, or took any steps after the houses’ construction that made flooding worse. The Constitution establishes rights to be free of governmental interference but does not compel governmental intervention to assist persons. Even if the Village violated a local ordinance and a federal regulation, 44 C.F.R. §60.3(c)(7), by granting the applications without insisting that the houses be built higher, the Constitution does not entitle private parties to accurate enforcement of local, state, or federal law. The Village did not take anyone’s property, either by physical invasion or by regulation that prevented the land’s use. The river, which did invade their basements, is not a governmental body. Government-induced flooding of limited duration may be compensable but the -plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged that the water in their basements is “government-induced.” View "Billie v. Village of Channahon" on Justia Law