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Steven and Linda Bickler commenced an action against Happy House Movers. The Bicklers had contracted with Happy House Movers to raise their house eight feet to protect the house against rising waters at Rice Lake. While Happy House Movers had the house resting on supports above its original position, the house fell, causing significant structural damage. In August 2016, the Bicklers moved for a default judgment. In September 2016, Michael Knoke, an employee of Happy House Movers, moved for an extension of time to file an answer. Knoke argued Happy House Movers made an appearance, indicating it could not find an attorney and requested a hearing. The motion also notified the Bicklers that Happy House Movers was contesting the motion for default judgment. Knoke filed an answer to the complaint he prepared himself. The district court ordered Knoke's answer be stricken from the record sua sponte, because Happy House Movers is a separate entity requiring it to be represented in court by a person licensed in law. The court extended Happy House Movers' deadline to properly file an answer and indicated it would review the motion for default judgment shortly thereafter. On December 15, 2016, the court entered an order for default judgment, concluding Happy House Movers failed to properly respond to the summons and complaint. Based on its review of the record and pleadings, the court awarded the Bicklers $251,711.68, and entered a judgment indicating the same. Happy House appealed the district court order denying their motion to vacate the default judgment and granting Bickler's motion to strike the supporting affidavits. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court's order. View "Bickler v. Happy House Movers, L.L.P." on Justia Law

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A Pennsylvania municipal lien is automatic; it is perfected by filing with the local court, without notice or a hearing, where it is publicly docketed. Until filed, a municipal lien may not be enforced through a judicial sale. Municipalities can delay filing a lien indefinitely, but it is not enforceable against subsequent purchasers until filed. A municipality can petition the court for a sale. Property owners may request a hearing on the legality of a lien at any time by paying the underlying claim into the court with a petition. PGW, a public utility owned by the city, scans its billing database, identifies delinquent accounts, then sends a pre-filing letter. If full payment is not made, the system automatically files the lien and sends another notice. Landlords are not normally apprised of tenants' growing arrearages. An exception is entered if the name/address associated with an account does not match the property tax records. PGW frequently enters “exceptions,” which do not prevent arrearages from continuing to grow nor do they interrupt service but prevent the lien from being filed. Landlords who learned of thousands of dollars of liens against their properties, due to nonpayment by tenants, filed suit. The court certified a class and held that the City had violated the landlords’ due process rights. The Third Circuit reversed. Whether the lien procedures comport with due process depends on three factors: the private interest that will be affected; the risk of an erroneous deprivation and the value of other procedural safeguards in avoiding errors; and the governmental interest. Although the filing of a lien is “significant” enough to trigger due process protections, it is a relatively limited interference with the landlords’ property. None of the plaintiffs have suffered injury to their credit. Nor have the liens interfered with their ability to maintain their properties or collect rents. Risks associated with an erroneous lien are mitigated by the statute's post-deprivation remedies. View "Augustin v. City of Philadelphia" on Justia Law

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In this property dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting Ravalli County’s motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim, holding that Landowners did not satisfy all factors for claim preclusion and failed to follow the proper procedure for seeking review of a Board of County Commissioners’ (BOCC) denial of a petition to abandon a county road. This dispute centered around where a Ravalli County road (Road) ended and private property began. Specifically at issue was a gate placed on the Road, preventing public access beyond the gate. Landowners, who owned property accessed by the Road, filed a petition with the BOCC to abandon the Road. The BOCC denied the petition and directed Landowners to remove the gate. Landowners filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging claim preclusion regarding removal of the gate and declaratory judgment regarding the end of the Road. The district court dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no final judgment or order precluding the County from asserting that the gate should be removed from the Road; and (2) Landowners’ action was properly dismissed because they failed to follow proper procedure for county road abandonment cases. View "Bugli v. Ravalli County" on Justia Law

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Here, the Supreme Judicial Court retained the law that an individual whose property is damaged by a neighbor’s healthy tree has no cause of action against a landowner of the property upon which the tree lies. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court judge dismissing Plaintiff’s claims of private nuisance and trespass against Defendants after a tree on Defendants’ property allegedly caused algae buildup on the roof of Plaintiff’s home. The judge dismissed Plaintiff’s claims as precluded by Ponte v. DaSilva, 388 Mass. 1008 (1983). The Appellate Division affirmed. On appeal, Plaintiff conceded that Ponte was controlling but asked that the Supreme Judicial Court overrule Ponte and related cases. The Supreme Judicial Court reaffirmed the Massachusetts rule established in Ponte and related cases, concluding that the rule is not outdated and that there are multiple benefits to the rule. View "Shiel v. Rowell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in this quiet title action filed by Richard Jordan seeking to invalidate a mortgage lien on the ground that it was an improper encumbrance of the homestead under Neb. Rev. Stat. 40-104 because his signatures on the deed of trust were forged. In a previous order of dissolution and property division, the court allocated to Richard the marital home and its refinancing mortgage debt. In this quiet title action, the court granted summary judgment against Richard, finding that the deed of trust was a valid first and prior lien on the real estate and that Richard’s quiet title action was barred by issue preclusion and judicial estoppel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) issue preclusion and judicial estoppel may supply the statutory requirements set forth in Neb. Reb. Stat. 40-104 for encumbrances of a homestead; and (2) the district court did not err in finding as a matter of law that Richard’s attempt to invalidate the lien at issue was barred by issue preclusion. View "Jordan v. LSF8 Master Participation Trust" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether, when the defendant has caused a physical invasion of the plaintiff’s property, the plaintiff must present evidence of a specific diminution in market value in order to successfully prove nuisance. An oil tanker owned and operated by Defendant overturned, resulting in more than 9,000 gallons of oil and kerosene spilled from the tanker and onto property belonging to Plaintiffs. The superior court entered judgment upon a jury verdict awarding Plaintiffs compensatory damages in the amount of $490,000 on Plaintiffs’ claim of nuisance. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred when it denied Defendant’s motions for judgment as a matter of law on the nuisance claim because Plaintiffs did not present any evidence of a specific diminution in market value of their land due to the spill. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiffs in this case did not need to show a specific depreciation in the market or rental value of the land, and therefore, the trial court did not err when it denied Defendant’s motions for judgment as a matter of law on the nuisance claim; and (2) the trial court did not err when it allowed Plaintiffs to introduce evidence of the conduct of Defendant’s insurer at trial. View "West v. Jewett & Noonan Transportation, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the determination of the superior court that Plaintiffs’ Me. R. Civ. P. 80B petition was moot, vacated the declaratory judgment entered by the court, and remanded for dismissal of the complaint in its entirety. At issue was the decision of the Town of Brunswick to sell certain property. Brunswick residents began initiative proceedings to enact an ordinance that would require the Town to retain the parcel for public use. After the requisite number of signatures were obtained, the town council decided to take no further action on the petition. Plaintiffs filed a Rule 80B petition for review of the council’s decision and sought a declaration that the town charter permits voters to enact, by initiative, an ordinance that would overturn the council’s decision to sell the property. The superior court concluded that the Town erred in declining to hold a public hearing on the proposed ordinance but determined that the issue had been rendered moot by the sale of property. The court then entered a declaratory judgment that the voters could not override the council's vote to sell the property. The Supreme Judicial Court held that the lower court correctly determined the Rule 80B petition to be moot and should have done the same regarding the declaratory judgment action. View "Brunswick Citizens for Collaborative Government v. Town of Brunswick" on Justia Law

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In this action to quiet title to real property owned by Defendants under a claim of adverse possession, the Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court finding that Plaintiff was entitled to the disputed property by adversely possessing it for forty years and dismissing Defendants’ counterclaim to quiet title to an adjacent property under a claim of adverse possession. Defendants opposed Plaintiff’s adverse possession claim on the basis that Plaintiff and his predecessor in interest occupied the disputed property with Defendants’ consent. After filing a counterclaim against Plaintiff, Defendants voluntarily dismissed the counterclaim before trial. The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s judgment in this case, holding (1) permissive use does not ripen into a claim of hostility by the mere transfer of the dominant estate; (2) the circuit court erred by quieting title to the disputed property in favor of Plaintiff because his permissive use never ripened into one of hostility necessary to claim title by adverse possession; and (3) the circuit court abused its discretion by dismissing the counterclaim with prejudice, especially in light of the fact that Plaintiff did not oppose Defendants’ voluntary dismissal. View "Gangle v. Spiry" on Justia Law

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The owner of Greenfield Ranch in Mendocino County subdivided the property into 25 parcels with a minimum acreage of 160 acres each. One of those parcels was divided by a 1975 partition judgment into three parcels. McLear-Gary owns the westernmost parcel (1-A). The Scotts own the easternmost parcel (1-C). The Brandon-Scotts own the center parcel (1-B). McLear-Gary claims an easement along a skid trail that passes through parcel 1-C, terminates at a creek and continues on a footpath over parcel 1-B to her parcel 1-A. In 2006, Scott replaced an old wooden gate with a metal gate across the easement route and kept it locked, blocking McLear-Gary from accessing the easement. McLearGary sued to quiet title. The Scotts had timely paid taxes on parcel 1-C; the taxes levied against parcel 1-B for the years 2005-2008 were not paid on time and remained delinquent until Scott made a lump sum payment in 2011. The court of appeal held that the covenants did not grant McLear-Gary an express easement and that McLear-Gary had not established a prescriptive easement for vehicular use. Scotts’ lump sum payment of several years’ worth of delinquent taxes did not constitute “timely” payment of taxes under Code of Civil Procedure section 325(b), so the Scotts did not extinguish her easement by adverse possession. View "McLear-Gary v. Scott" on Justia Law

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Greggory Tank appealed an amended judgment quieting title to royalty interests in property located in McKenzie County, North Dakota in favor of several of the defendants. In June 2014, Tank sued numerous defendants seeking to quiet title to royalty interests in proceeds from the production from an oil and gas well. Most of the defendants did not appear or settled with Tank. The remaining defendants who were the appellees in this appeal contested the quiet title action. The royalty interests at issue were subject to several possible conveyances. Tank claims ownership of a 16 percent royalty interest based on an unbroken chain of title utilizing filed county records dating back to the federal fee patent. Included within that chain of title was a 1931 purchase of the property by McKenzie County under a tax foreclosure sale. The County subsequently sold and transferred the property in 1945. The defendants claimed various percentages of royalty interests under a recorded 1938 assignment of an 11 percent royalty to oil and gas produced on the property. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed the district court's amended judgment quieting title to the royalty interests in favor of the defendants and directed the entry of judgment quieting title in favor of Tank. A county's tax deed gives it title or color of title to the whole estate in the land including the royalty interests. A tax deed, valid upon its face, creates a presumptive title to the entire estate in the land which continues until it has been overcome by the affirmative action in court, by suit or counterclaim on the part of a person who has a sufficient interest to challenge the title. Royalty interests cannot be "possessed" for purposes of the statute of limitations or adverse possession. The Court remanded this case to the district court for determination of whether Tank was barred from the recovery of royalty payments previously made to the defendants and, if not barred, the amount of the recovery. View "Siana Oil & Gas Co., LLC v. Dublin Co." on Justia Law