Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court denying Indiana Land Trust's motion to set aside a tax deed, holding that the LaPorte County Auditor gave adequate notice reasonably calculated to inform Indiana Land Trust Company of the impending tax sale of the property.From 2009 to 2015, the owner of vacant property did not pay property taxes. Through a third-party service, the county auditor sent simultaneous notice of an impending tax sale by way of certified letter and first-class mail to the address listed on the deed for the property. The owner, however, had moved and had not updated its address. Later, notice was published in the local newspaper. The property eventually sold and a tax deed was issued to the purchaser. The original owner moved to set aside the tax deed due to insufficient notice. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's denial of Indiana Land Trust Company's motion to set aside the tax deed, holding that the county auditor provided notice reasonably calculated, under all circumstances, to apprise the owner of the pendency of the action and afforded them an opportunity to present their objections. View "Indiana Land Trust Co. v. XL Investment Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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Before the 1972 effective date of Civil Code section 1009(b), the California Supreme Court held that an implied by law dedication is established when “the public has used the land ‘for a period of more than five years with full knowledge of the owner, without asking or receiving permission to do so and without objection being made by anyone.’” Since the 1920s, Martha has owned 110 acres of undeveloped land on the Tiburon peninsula, which has views of Angel Island, San Francisco, and the Golden Gate Bridge. In 2017, TRUST filed suit to quiet title, in favor of the public, to recreational easements over trails on the property, arguing that, nearly 50 years ago, the public’s use of trails on Martha’s property established a recreational easement under the doctrine of implied dedication.The court of appeal affirmed judgment in favor of Martha. Substantial evidence supports a finding that Martha’s attempts to deter trespassers showed it did not acquiesce to public dedication. There was “a running battle between some users, who took down signs and fences”, and owners, who repaired them, indicating both that the users did not believe that they had a right to use the property and that the owner made bona fide efforts to deter them. View "Tiburon/Belvedere Residents United to Support the Trails v. Martha Co." on Justia Law

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Joel Finstrom, James Finstrom and Annette Hauser appeal from orders and a judgment denying their claims related to Ruth Finstrom’s estate. Ruth and Carl Finstrom had seven children: James, Daniel , Joel, Annette Hauser, Janice Schulz, Mark, and Rebecca Lusk. In the late 1980s, Carl and Daniel Finstrom began farming together. According to trial testimony, Daniel made oral agreements with his parents to acquire three quarters of real property. In 2011 Daniel believed he had fulfilled the agreements, but Carl requested an additional $240,000 for the property. In August 2011, Ruth and Carl executed identical wills. The wills devised one-third of a quarter section of property to Joel, stating he had paid one-third of the price for the property. The quarter devised to Joel was one of the quarters Daniel believed he purchased. Carl died in November 2011. In December 2012, Ruth executed a contract for deed conveying the three quarters of real property to Daniel and Teresa Finstrom for $240,000. Ruth executed a new will in July 2015, devising the residue of her estate to her seven children in equal shares. In July 2016, Ruth conveyed additional real property to her daughter Janice Schulz. Ruth died in December 2016. In December 2016, the district court admitted Ruth Finstrom’s 2015 will to informal probate and appointed James personal representative. In March 2017, Joel filed a claim against the estate, asserting the estate owed him $200,000 for the value of an interest he owned in Ruth's real property. Joel also claimed the estate owed him $2,000 per month for providing Ruth in-home health care from May 1, 2015, to April 21, 2016. In May 2017, Mark petitioned for the removal of James as personal representative. In September 2017, James, individually and as personal representative, sued Schulz and Daniel and Teresa Finstrom seeking to invalidate the real property conveyances Ruth made to them. James Finstrom argued Ruth was unduly influenced in conveying the property. Schulz and Daniel and Teresa Finstrom denied the claims and counterclaimed, arguing James breached his fiduciary duties to the estate. James resigned as personal representative and Heartland Trust Company was appointed as successor personal representative. On March 12, 2019, the district court issued its findings of fact, conclusions of law and order for judgment, ruling Ruth's 2015 will was valid and revoked her 2011 will. The court denied Joel's claim he had an interest in Ruth's real property, and upheld Ruth's conveyances to Schulz and Daniel and Teresa Finstrom. The court found Ruth did not lack mental capacity to make the conveyances. The court also found Daniel and Teresa Finstrom did not have a confidential relationship with Ruth, and Ruth was not unduly influenced. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Joel, James and Annette's claims against the estate. View "Estate of Finstrom" on Justia Law

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Subcontractor Ehmcke Sheet Metal Company (Ehmcke) recorded a mechanic’s lien to recoup payment due for sheet metal fabrication and installation work done on a luxury hotel project in downtown San Diego. Project owner RGC Gaslamp, LLC (RGC) secured a bond to release the lien. Thereafter Ehmcke filed three successive mechanic’s liens, each identical to the first, prompting RGC to sue it for quiet title, slander of title, and declaratory and injunctive relief. The trial court granted Ehmke’s special motion to strike under the anti-SLAPP statute. The trial court found that Ehmcke met its moving burden because the filing of even an invalid lien was protected petitioning activity. Thereafter, the court found that RGC failed to make a prima facie showing that its sole remaining cause of action for slander of title could withstand application of the litigation privilege. RGC appeals both findings, arguing that the duplicative filing of mechanic’s liens after the posting of a bond was not protected activity. The Court of Appeal concluded after review that RGC erroneously imported substantive requirements of the litigation privilege into the first step of the anti-SLAPP inquiry. Ehmcke met that moving burden once its erroneously excluded reply declarations were considered. With the burden shifted on prong two, RGC failed to make a prima facie showing that the litigation privilege did not bar its slander-of-title cause of action. The anti-SLAPP motion was thus properly granted, and Court likewise affirmed the subsequent attorney’s fees and costs award. View "RGC Gaslamp v. Ehmcke Sheet Metal Co." on Justia Law

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A property owner installed a locked gate across an access easement on his property and provided keys to the neighboring easement holder. The neighbor sued, alleging the gate wrongfully interfered with his easement rights. After trial the superior court determined the parties’ easement rights and ruled in the property owner’s favor. The neighbor appealed, arguing the superior court erred: (1) by not applying res judicata to bar the property owner’s defenses; (2) made clearly erroneous findings about the easement’s scope; and (3) abused its discretion by allowing the locked gate, in procedural rulings, and in its attorney’s fees award. Finding neither error nor abuse of discretion, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s decision. View "Sykes v.Lawless" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Cayuga Indian Nation of New York and the district court's permanent injunction enjoining the County from foreclosing on the Cayuga Indian Nation's real property for nonpayment of taxes. The court agreed with the district court that tribal sovereign immunity from suit bars the County from pursuing tax enforcement actions under Article 11 of the New York Real Property Tax Law against the Cayuga Indian Nation. The court explained that the County's foreclosure proceedings are not permitted by the traditional common law exception to sovereign immunity that covers certain actions related to immovable property. In this case, the foreclosure actions fall outside the purview of the common law version of the immovable-property exception. The court also rejected the County's reading of City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York, 544 U.S. 197 (2005), as abrogating a tribe's immunity from suit. View "Cayuga Indian Nation of New York v. Seneca County" on Justia Law

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In this insurance dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment for Allstate Indemnity Company, holding that property loss from Plaintiffs' tenants' producing or using methamphetamine indoors was not a covered peril under the insurance policy.Plaintiff filed an insurance claim alleging that his tenants damaged his rental house by producing or using methamphetamine indoors. Allstate denied the claim. Plaintiff subsequently filed a complaint against Allstate alleging breach of contract and bad faith. The district court granted summary judgment for Allstate, concluding that Plaintiff's property loss was excluded from coverage under certain portions of the insurance policy and was not covered by other portions of the policy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's assignments of error were without merit. View "Kaiser v. Allstate Indemnity Co." on Justia Law

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In these consolidated appeals related to the seizure of Appellants' property as part of a murder investigation the Supreme Court affirmed the Third District Court's dismissal of Appellants' causes of action and affirmed the Fourth District Court's denial of attorney fees, holding that the courts did not err.More than twenty years ago, Duchesne county law enforcement seized property belonging to Appellants as part of a murder investigation. Although some of the property was admitted into evidence in the murder trial, most of the property was not used in the criminal proceedings. Years later, Appellants sued the State and Duchesne County in the Third District Court to recover the seized property and for damages. While this litigation was ongoing, Appellants filed a petition to recover property in the Fourth District Court. The Third District Court dismissed the case. The Fourth District Court granted Appellants' petition but denied their motion for attorney fees. The Supreme Court affirmed both district courts, holding (1) the Third District Court correctly dismissed Appellants' causes of action as being barred by the Governmental Immunity Act of Utah, Utah Code 63G-7-101 to -904; and (2) the Fourth District Court correctly denied attorney fees. View "Pinder v. Duchesne" on Justia Law

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In this appeal from a residential foreclosure judgment, the Supreme Judicial Court clarified the criteria under the business record exception to the hearsay rule for admitting into evidence records that a business has obtained from another entity and integrated into its own records or operations by reaffirming the interpretation set forth in Northeast Bank & Trust Co. v. Soley, 481 A.2d 1123, 1127 (Me. 1984).Specifically, the Supreme Court held that a record that one business has received from another is admissible under Me. R. Evid. 803(6) without testimony about the practices of the business that created the record, provided that (1) the proponent of admission establishes that the receiving business has integrated the record into its own records, has established the accuracy of the contents of the record, and has relief on the record in the conduct of its operations; and (2) the opponent of admission has not shown that the record is nonetheless not sufficiently trustworthy to be admitted. View "Bank of New York Mellon v. Shone" on Justia Law

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RFM-TREI Jefferson Apartments, LLC; RFM-TREI Lincoln Apartments, LLC; Dickinson Homestay, LLC; and Lodgepros Dickinson, LLC (together “the Taxpayers”) appealed district court judgments affirming the Stark County Board of Commissioners’ (“the Board”) denials of their applications for tax abatements or refunds. The Taxpayers collectively owned two apartment complexes and two hotels located in the City of Dickinson. The Taxpayers filed applications for abatement or refund of their 2016 property taxes. The Taxpayers’ opinions of value for each property differed from the City’s valuations by a range of roughly $1.8 million to $20.3 million. After holding a hearing, the City recommended the Board deny each application. The Board indeed denied the abatement applications in four separate written decisions. Using the same language in each, the Board concluded the assessor’s valuations were not “in error, invalid, inequitable, unjust, or arrived at in an arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable manner.” The decisions also explained the Board did not believe the Taxpayers provided “sufficient enough information relating to the subject properties, or the local market for competing properties, to lead us to the same value conclusions requested by the applicant.” The district court affirmed each denial in separate, written orders and judgments. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the Board acted arbitrarily and unreasonably in adopting assessments exceeding the true and full value of the property. The Court reversed the district court judgments and the Board’s decisions denying the Taxpayers’ abatement applications. The matters were remanded for a new hearing to determine the “true and full value” of the properties and reconsideration of the abatement applications. View "RFM-TREI Jefferson Apartments v. Stark County Board of Comm'rs" on Justia Law