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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court partitioning a vacant lot that Rhonda Gallagher and Curtis Townsend owned as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, holding that the district court improperly partitioned the property. Gallagher filed suit seeking partition of the lot she and Townsend owned as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. The district court ordered the sale of the lot if neither party elected to purchase the other party's share and that equitable division of the proceeds was proper. After valuing the property at $33,500, the court ordered that Townsend was entitled to the first $25,017.20 in proceeds from the sale of the property. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court properly concluded that each party owned an undivided, one-half interest in the property; (2) after deciding the parties' interests, the district court erred by exercising its equitable powers to divest Gallagher of her interest in the property; and (3) the district court clearly erred in finding that Townsend paid $4,251.53 in property taxes. View "Gallagher v. Townsend" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals accepted a question certified to it by the United States Court of Appeals and answered that if an entered divorce judgment grants a spouse an interest in real property pursuant to N.Y. Dom. Rel. Law 236, and the spouse does not docket the divorce judgment in the county where the property is located, the spouse's interest is not subject to attachment by a subsequent judgment creditor that has docketed its judgment and seeks to execute against the property. A judgment creditor sought to execute against property that, in a divorce settlement, was to be sold and Wife was to receive a portion of the proceeds. The judgment creditor argued that, because it docketed its judgment before Wife docketed her judgment of divorce, the creditor had priority over Wife with respect to the property. The federal district court concluded that the judgment of divorce did not transform Wife into a judgment creditor of Husband but, rather, worked an equitable distribution of their marital assets. The federal court of appeals certified a question of law to the Court of Appeals, which held that the divorce judgment did not render Wife a judgment creditor of Husband, and therefore, Wife was not subject to the docketing requirements of N.Y. C.P.L.R. 5203. View "Pangea Capital Management, LLC v. Lakian" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Appellate Division reversing the judgment of Supreme Court granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs, individual tenants of rented apartments owned by Defendants, on their complaint seeking a declaration that their apartments were subject to rent stabilization, holding that apartments in buildings receiving tax benefits pursuant to N.Y. Real Prop. Tax law (RPTL) 421-g are not subject to luxury deregulation. Plaintiffs' apartments were located in building receiving tax benefits subject to RPTL 421-g. Defendants argued that Plaintiffs' apartments were exempt from rent regulation under the luxury deregulation provisions added to the Rent Stabilization Law (RSL), Administrative Code of City of New York 26-504.1, as part of the Rent Regulation Reform Act of 1993. The Appellate Division agreed and granted Defendants' motions for summary judgment to the extent of declaring that Plaintiffs' apartments were properly deregulated and were not subject to rent stabilization. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Plaintiffs' apartments were not subject to the luxury deregulation provisions of the RSL. View "Kuzmich v. 50 Murray St. Acquisition LLC" on Justia Law

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This case centered on a property lease in Gilford, New Hampshire that included certain preemptive purchase rights (the Agreement). Plaintiffs Evan and Kelly Greenwald sought a declaration on the interpretation of the Agreement, whether it had been breached, and who was liable. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the Superior Court ruled in favor of defendants Barbara Keating, Jill Keating, Ellen Mulligan, and Barry and Chrysoula Uicker. The New Hampshire Supreme Court determined that central to the trial court’s decision was the interpretation of the Agreement - specifically paragraphs 18B and 18C. In the trial court’s view, the Agreement unambiguously required that Richard and Jill Keating intend to list the Mink Island property for sale, not merely intend to sell it, before plaintiffs’ rights under paragraph 18B were triggered. The court also concluded that paragraph 18B was unenforceable because it did not include an essential term: the purchase price. As for the right of first refusal under paragraph 18C, the trial court concluded that this provision was triggered only if the Keatings accepted an offer to purchase made by a third party after the Keatings had listed the property for sale. Thus, the trial court ruled that no breach occurred because the triggering condition - listing the property for sale - was never met. The Supreme Court concluded that because the meaning of the Agreement was ambiguous concerning whether listing the property was intended to be ministerial or substantive, the trial court erred in resolving this issue on summary judgment. The Court agreed with plaintiffs that the trial court erred in summarily concluding that Barbara could not be held liable under the Agreement because she held no ownership interest in the Mink Island property and could not otherwise be chargeable as an agent of Jill. The matter was reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Greenwald et al. v. Keating et al." on Justia Law

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January 13, 2017, a Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department engineer inspected respondent’s property and observed inadequate and unpermitted retaining walls, one of which directed water to a single point directly above a failed 25-foot bank that had deposited five cubic yards of earth onto Riverview Drive. Unpermitted grading and terracing had contributed to bank failure and deposit of material into a nearby watercourse. On January 19, a rainstorm caused a four-foot wall of mud to slide onto Riverview Drive. Respondent moved earthen materials from the road, resulting in the runoff of materials into a local stream and on neighboring private property. Respondent believed his actions either did not require permits or were emergency measures. Respondent failed to comply with an administrative order requiring him to abate the code violations and pay abatement costs and civil penalties. Sonoma County filed suit. Respondent did not file a responsive pleading. The court entered a default judgment that ordered penalties significantly lower than ordered by the administrative hearing officer. The court of appeal reversed the order imposing civil penalties at the rate of $20 per day and directed the court to modify its judgment to require payment at $45 per day. That provision of the court’s order altered a final administrative order, was entirely unexplained, and provided respondent with a windfall he did not request. View "County of Sonoma v. Gustely" on Justia Law

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A condominium association, Dakota Station II Condominium, filed two claims with its insurer, Owners Insurance Company, for weather damage. The parties couldn’t agree on the money owed, so Dakota invoked the appraisal provision of its insurance policy. The parties each selected an appraiser, putting the rest of the provision’s terms into motion. Ultimately, the appraisers submitted conflicting value estimates to an umpire, and the umpire issued a final award, accepting some estimates from each appraiser. Dakota’s appraiser signed onto the award, and Owners paid Dakota. Owners later moved to vacate the award, arguing that Dakota’s appraiser was not “impartial” as required by the insurance policy’s appraisal provision and that she failed to disclose material facts. The trial court disagreed and “dismissed” the motion to vacate. A division of the court of appeals affirmed. In its review, the Colorado Supreme Court interpreted the policy’s impartiality requirement and determined whether a contingent-cap fee agreement between Dakota and its appraiser rendered the appraiser partial as a matter of law. The Court concluded the plain language of the policy required appraisers to be unbiased, disinterested, and unswayed by personal interest, and the contingent-cap fee agreement didn’t render Dakota’s appraiser partial as a matter of law. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals with respect to the contingent-cap fee agreement, reversed with respect to the impartiality requirement, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Owners Ins. v. Dakota Station II Condo. Ass'n" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the Board and its president, alleging that defendants unlawfully deprived him of the use of several of his properties. After a jury returned a verdict for plaintiff, the district court denied the Board's motion for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial. The Fifth Circuit affirmed and held that there was legally sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that the Board ratified the unlawful initiation of condemnation proceedings. The court rejected the Board's challenges to the jury instructions and held that, even if the instructions were erroneous, they could not have affected the outcome of the case. View "Young v. Board of Supervisors of Humphreys County" on Justia Law

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Scott Township passed an ordinance requiring that “[a]ll cemeteries . . . be kept open and accessible to the general public during daylight hours.” Knick, whose 90-acre rural property has a small family graveyard, was notified that she was violating the ordinance. Knick sought declaratory relief, arguing that the ordinance caused a taking of her property, but did not bring an inverse condemnation action. The Township withdrew the violation notice and stayed enforcement of the ordinance. The state court declined to rule on Knick’s suit. Knick filed a federal action under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the ordinance violated the Takings Clause. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of her claim, citing Supreme Court precedent (Williamson County) that property owners must seek just compensation under state law in state court before bringing a federal claim under section 1983. The Supreme Court reversed. A government violates the Takings Clause when it takes property without compensation; a property owner may bring a Fifth Amendment claim under section 1983 at that time. The Court noted that two years after the Williamson County decision, it returned to its traditional understanding of the Fifth Amendment in deciding First English Evangelical Lutheran Church. A property owner acquires a right to compensation immediately upon an uncompensated taking because the taking itself violates the Fifth Amendment. The Court expressly overruled the state-litigation requirement as "poor reasoning" resulting from the circumstances in which the issue reached the Court. The requirement was unworkable in practice because the “preclusion trap” prevented takings plaintiffs from ever bringing their claims in federal court. There are no reliance interests on the state-litigation requirement. If post-taking compensation remedies are available, governments need not fear that federal courts will invalidate their regulations as unconstitutional. View "Knick v. Township of Scott" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals divesting the Petitioners of an interest in property they inherited from their mother, holding that the estoppel by deed doctrine did not apply in this case and that Petitioners were entitled to retain the interest. At issue was whether the estoppel by deed doctrine or the Court's opinion in Duhig v. Peavy-Moore Lumber Co., 144 S.W.2d 878 (Tex. 1940), applied to prevent Petitioners from asserting title to the interest they inherited from their mother when Petitioners' father previously purported to sell that interest to Respondents. The trial court ruled in favor of Petitioners. The court of appeals reversed and rendered judgment for Respondents based on estoppel by deed and the Court's decision in Duhig. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because Petitioners claimed their interest from their mother, an independent source predating the deed at issue, neither estoppel by deed nor the decision in Duhig applied to divest Petitioners of that interest. The Court remanded the case to the trial court to determine whether damages were appropriate for Respondents' breach of warranty claim. View "Trial v. Dragon" on Justia Law

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After the charge against Appellant for theft by unlawful taking was dismissed the Supreme Court reversed the district court's order granting in part Appellant's motion for return of property seized from him and originally alleged to be stolen, holding that the burden of proof was not properly applied. As part of a plea agreement, the State dismissed the charge against Appellant of theft by unlawful taking. Thereafter, Appellant filed a motion for return of the property seized from him. The district court conducted an evidentiary hearing and then ordered some items of property returned to Appellant and others returned to Appellant's former employer. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings, holding that the district court erred as a matter of law by requiring Appellant, as the proponent of the motion seeking the return of property seized from him, to prove ownership of the property seized. View "State v. Ebert" on Justia Law