Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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The Church experienced water damage 57 days after escrow closed on a residence it had purchased; its insurance broker, SBC, had procured commercial property insurance for the residence with Philadelphia Indemnity. Philadelphia denied a claim. The policy states the insurer will not pay for losses if the building where the loss occurs was vacant for more than 60 consecutive days before the loss. The parties entered into an agreement whereby the Church gave Philadelphia the right to control litigation in the Church's name against SBC or third parties in exchange for a loan of money to repair and remediate the residence; the loan was to be repaid out of any recovery.In a suit against SBC for professional negligence, the court found that SBC had breached its duty of care, but that the Church suffered no damages because the loss was covered under the Philadelphia policy. The court found the vacancy provision ambiguous and concluded that it did not include time before the insured owned the residence.The court of appeal reversed. When the vacancy provision is properly interpreted and applied to the undisputed evidence, there was no coverage for the loss. The residence did not contain enough personal property to conduct operations as a residence for the Coptic Pope and visiting clergy or the prior owner. The court rejected an argument that the residence was not vacant under the policy because it was being held out for sale. View "St. Mary & St. John Coptic Orthodox Church v. SBC Insurance Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from an application for a conditional water storage right filed by United Water and Sanitation District, a special water district formed in Elbert County, Colorado, acting through the United Water Acquisition Project Water Activity Enterprise (“United”). United sought to secure various water rights in Weld County. United’s original applications were consolidated in a set of four cases. In response to a motion for determination of questions of law from opposer Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation Company (“FRICO”) in the consolidated cases, the District Court for Water Division 1 (“water court”) concluded that United’s applications failed to demonstrate non-speculative intent to appropriate water. In response to this ruling, United withdrew its applications in the consolidated cases and, a week later, filed a new application in Case No. 16CW3053 for a conditional water storage right that was the subject of this appeal. Pertinent here, United sought to appropriate water for use in a proposed residential development in another county. In support of its new application for a conditional storage right, United offered a new, purportedly binding contract with the landowners of the proposed development. United also claimed for the first time that its status as a special district qualified it for the governmental planning exception to the anti-speculation doctrine. FRICO opposed United's application, and the water court determined United's new application likewise failed to demonstrated non-speculative intent to appropriate water. The water court found that United was acting as a water broker to sell to third parties for their use, and not as a governmental agency seeking to procure water to serve its own municipal customers. Consequently, the water court held, United did not qualify for the governmental planning exception to the anti-speculation doctrine. United appealed. But concurring with the water court's judgment, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed: United was ineligible for the governmental planning exception to the anti-speculation doctrine. View "United Water & Sanitation Dist. v. Burlington Ditch Reservoir & Land Co." on Justia Law

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This case arises from the parties' dispute concerning a construction project to expand the Manhattan Village Shopping Center in Manhattan Beach, California. The parties' predecessors executed the Construction, Operation and Reciprocal Easement Agreement (the COREA) in 1980. The parties resolved disputes in a Settlement Agreement in 2008 where, under the terms of the settlement agreement, RREEF agreed not to oppose Hacienda's plan to convert office space into restaurants and Hacienda agreed not to oppose RREEF's expansion project subject to certain limitations in the Agreement. At issue is RREEF's project.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on the nuisance claim and reversed the district court as to the remaining claims. In regard to the claim for breach of contract, the panel concluded that RREEF has discretion to pursue the project and alter the site plan, and Hacienda's objections to the city are limited to RREEF's material changes. That RREEF has discretion to revise the site plan does not mean that Hacienda gave up its rights under the COREA, especially considering that the Settlement Agreement, by its own terms, does not amend the COREA. In regard to the claim for interference with easement rights, the panel concluded that the Settlement Agreement does not extinguish plaintiffs' easement rights under the COREA, and the district court erred in holding otherwise. In regard to the claim for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, the panel concluded that plaintiffs have presented sufficient evidence to raise a triable issue as to whether RREEF's construction of the North Deck was contrary to "the contract's purposes and the parties' legitimate expectations." In regard to the claim for interference with business and contractual relations, the panel concluded that plaintiffs have raised triable issues concerning whether defendants' construction interfered with Hacienda's tenant contracts, and whether defendants acted with the knowledge that "interference is certain or substantially certain to occur as a result of [their] action."The panel also reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to plaintiffs' request for declaratory relief. In regard to RREEF's counterclaims, the panel concluded that policy considerations weighed against applying the litigation privilege. Finally, the panel concluded that the attorneys' fee question was moot and vacated the district court's order denying the parties' motions for attorneys' fees. View "3500 Sepulveda, LLC v. RREEF America REIT II Corp. BBB" on Justia Law

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Lavern Behm appealed a judgment ordering Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. (“MDU”) to pay him $17,443 in attorney’s fees and costs incurred in an eminent domain action. Behm argued his constitutional rights were violated in the eminent domain action, and the district court erred by failing to award him some of the attorney’s fees he requested. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "MDU v. Behm" on Justia Law

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Gail Howard, Bruce Lindvig, and Milton Lindvig, personally and as Successor Personal Representative to the Estate of Ralph H. Lindvig, (together “the estate of Ralph Lindvig”) appealed a judgment entered in consolidated formal probate proceedings. In 2007, due to financial concerns related to paying for Ralph's care, his wife Dorothy Lindvig, acting as Ralph's attorney in fact, sold portions of Ralph's interests in the land he received from his parents to Milton Lindvig, Ralph's brother. The transfers were made by two warranty deeds, each of which severed the minerals and reserved them to Ralph and Dorothy as joint tenants. In May of 2007, Dorothy, again acting as Ralph's attorney in fact, conveyed the Wattam land to herself by warranty deed. When Ralph died, Dorothy was the personal representative of his estate. After her death in 2009, she was replaced by Milton. Dorothy died intestate, survived by a brother and her sister, Patricia Jellum, who was the personal representative of Dorothy's estate. The estate of Ralph Lindvig filed a petition in Dorothy's probate proceedings to set aside the intestate distribution of the minerals she severed and the Wattam land she conveyed to herself. The estate argued the transfers were beyond Dorothy's authority because they diminished the size of his estate and were not approved by a court, all in contravention of the power of attorney’s gifting provisions. The parties stipulated to consolidating the two probates as formal administrations. The probate court determined Dorothy did not breach her fiduciary duties by engaging in improper self-dealing. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the probate court's judgment. View "Estate of Lindvig" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, neighbors of Murphy-Brown's hog production facilities, filed suit against the company, seeking relief under state nuisance law from odors, pests, and noises they attribute to farming practices Murphy-Brown implemented at an industrial-scale hog feeding farm. On appeal, Murphy-Brown challenges a jury verdict against it awarding compensatory and punitive damages to plaintiffs.As a preliminary matter, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment rejecting Murphy-Brown's argument that Kinlaw Farms was a necessary and indispensable party under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19. Furthermore, the district court's decision as to the applicable statute of limitations was not legal error, and refusing to give the inapplicable jury instruction on continuing nuisances was not an abuse of discretion.The court affirmed the jury's verdict as to liability for compensatory and punitive damages. The court rejected Murphy-Brown's contention that North Carolina private nuisance law bars recovery of compensatory damages of any kind pursuant to the 2017 Right to Farm Act amendment. Rather, the court concluded that the amendment represents a substantive, forward-looking change in the law, and affirmed the district court's conclusion that the issue of annoyance and discomfort damages should go to the jury based on longstanding North Carolina case law allowing such recovery in nuisance suits. The court also affirmed the district court's decisions as to the admission and exclusion of expert testimony, and the district court's jury instruction as to vicarious liability because the contested jury instruction did not prejudice Murphy-Brown. However, the court vacated the jury's judgment as to the amount of punitive damages and remanded for rehearing on the punitive damages issue without the parent company financial evidence, including executive compensation. View "McKiver v. Murphy-Brown, LLC" on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs filed suit concerning flood damage to their Maine Township property after heavy rains in September 2008, alleging that public entities breached duties owed to them with respect to a stormwater drainage system located near their properties. Plaintiffs claimed that certain actions by the defendants increased water flow to the area and that there has been major flooding in the past. After a 2002 event, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources discovered “numerous bottlenecks and obstructions to flow as the causes of the invasive flooding” in the community. The trial court dismissed, finding that the defendants owed no duty to plaintiffs under the public duty rule and plaintiffs had not alleged any special duty. In the meantime, the Illinois Supreme Court (Coleman) abolished the public duty rule, which provided that a local governmental entity does not owe any duty to individual members of the public to provide adequate governmental services. The trial court found that the new law set forth in Coleman should not be retroactively applied.The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. Coleman clearly established a new principle of law, overturning decades of existing precedent. Given these circumstances and the two rationales for abolishing the public duty rule, the new law announced in Coleman would not be thwarted by its prospective application. Prospective application avoids substantial inequitable results for defendants who have relied upon the public duty rule throughout the long course of this litigation. View "Tzakis v. Maine Township" on Justia Law

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Defendants Shane and Trina Beattie appealed a superior court orderthat dismissed with prejudice their preliminary objection challenging the State’s taking of 0.93 acres of their land in fee simple, as well as permanent and temporary easements. The Beatties argued the trial court erred when, in dismissing their preliminary objection which challenged the necessity and net-public benefit of the taking, the trial court applied the fraud or gross mistake standard of review set forth in RSA chapter 230 rather than a de novo standard pursuant to RSA chapter 498-A. The State contended the trial court did not err because RSA chapter 230, not RSA chapter 498-A governed the outcome of the case. The New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed with the Beatties, reversed and remanded. View "New Hampshire v. Beattie" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff executed a deed granting defendant a joint interest in his condominium, plaintiff filed suit years later seeking quiet title to the condominium in his favor. Plaintiff argued, among other things, that the deed should be rescinded under Civil Code section 1590 as a gift made in contemplation of marriage. The trial court ruled in favor of plaintiff on the quiet title claim and entered judgment requiring defendant to reconvey title.In the published portion of this opinion, the Court of Appeal held that the tolling rule in Muktarian v. Barmby (1965) 63 Cal.2d 558, 560, applies to defendant's statute of limitations defense and applies in the context of plaintiff's claim for relief under section 1590. The court explained that, as long as plaintiff enjoyed possession of the condominium and defendant did not press her adverse claim against him in a manner that threatened or disturbed that possession, no statute of limitations began to run. That plaintiff's theory of relief at trial was premised on section 1590 does not change the court's analysis of whether the Muktarian tolling rule applies to the quiet title claim under the facts of this case. View "Reuter v. Macal" on Justia Law

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In this tax appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the final order of the circuit court determining that certain purchases of tangible personal property and services made by Antero Resources Corporation did not qualify for the direct use exemption under W. Va. Code 9(b)(2) and 11-15A-3(a)(2) (the direct use exemption), holding that Antero was entitled to the direct use exemption for certain purchases and services.The office of tax appeals reimposed a sale and use tax assessment against Antero for purchases and rentals of certain personal property and services. The circuit court reversed, determining that because certain purchases of tangible personal property and services made by Antero were not directly used in its natural resource production, they did not qualify for the direct use exemption. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that Antero (1) was entitled to the direct use exemption for crew quarters and related equipment, portable toils, sewage systems, related water systems, and septic cleaning charges; and (2) was not entitled to the exemption for the rentals of trash trailers and waste receptacles. View "Antero Resources Corp. v. Steager" on Justia Law