Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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The case revolves around a dispute between the Town of Ferrisburgh and 2078 Jersey Street, LLC, the latter of which had purchased a parcel of land in the town and began constructing an access road to an existing rock quarry on the property. The town's Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) issued a notice of violation to the company, stating that the construction required a permit. After the ZBA rejected the company's appeal of the notice of violation, the company filed for a conditional-use permit. The ZBA denied the permit, concluding that the construction of the road would substantially expand a nonconforming use of the property, in violation of local land use regulations.After the ZBA denied the permit, the company mailed a request for reconsideration to the ZBA. However, the company did not file an appeal to the environmental court within the thirty-day appeal period under Rule 5(b)(1) of the Vermont Rules of Environmental Court Proceedings. The ZBA did not take any action on the reconsideration request prior to the expiration of the time to appeal to the environmental court. After the expiration of the appeal period, the ZBA denied the request for reconsideration.The company then filed a notice of appeal with the environmental court. The town moved to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, arguing that the company had failed to timely appeal. The court denied the motion, finding that, under Appellate Rule 4(b)(5), a request for reconsideration tolls the appeal deadline. The town then requested an interlocutory appeal, which was granted.The Vermont Supreme Court reversed the environmental court's decision. The Supreme Court concluded that Appellate Rule 4(b)(5) is inapplicable in this context and that tolling does not otherwise apply under these circumstances. Therefore, the company's appeal to the environmental court was untimely and the court lacked jurisdiction to consider it. The case was remanded with orders that the company's appeal be dismissed. View "In re 2078 Jersey Street" on Justia Law

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George Sheetz sought to build a small, prefabricated home on his residential parcel of land in El Dorado County, California. However, to obtain a permit, he was required to pay a substantial fee to mitigate local traffic congestion. Sheetz challenged this fee as an unlawful “exaction” of money under the Takings Clause, arguing that the fee amount should be necessary to offset traffic congestion attributable to his specific development. The County’s predetermined fee schedule, Sheetz argued, failed to meet that requirement.The trial court rejected Sheetz’s claim and the California Court of Appeal affirmed. The Court of Appeal asserted that the Nollan/Dolan test, which requires permit conditions to have an “essential nexus” to the government’s land-use interest and “rough proportionality” to the development’s impact on the land-use interest, applies only to permit conditions imposed “on an individual and discretionary basis.” Fees imposed on “a broad class of property owners through legislative action,” it said, need not satisfy that test. The California Supreme Court denied review.The Supreme Court of the United States vacated the judgment of the California Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court held that the Takings Clause does not distinguish between legislative and administrative permit conditions. The Court found no basis in constitutional text, history, or precedent for affording property rights less protection in the hands of legislators than administrators. The Court did not address the parties’ other disputes over the validity of the traffic impact fee, including whether a permit condition imposed on a class of properties must be tailored with the same degree of specificity as a permit condition that targets a particular development. The case was remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion. View "Sheetz v. El Dorado County" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute among Players Recreation Group, LLC, an Alabama limited-liability company, three of its members, Jason L. McCarty, Felix McCarty, and Doyle Sadler, and S&M Associates, Inc., a company owned by Sadler. The LLC, established in 1999, owns and operates a bowling alley known as 'the Super Bowl.' In 2003, S&M, a company owned by Sadler, loaned the LLC $150,000, which is evidenced by a promissory note. In 2006, the Super Bowl began incurring substantial losses, and the LLC ultimately defaulted on the promissory note payable to S&M. In July 2015, S&M and Sadler sued the LLC and the other members of the LLC, asserting a breach-of-contract claim and a claim seeking an accounting. In August 2015, the LLC, Jason, and Felix filed an answer and a counterclaim, alleging that Sadler had breached his duty of loyalty and his duty of care to the LLC.The case proceeded to a bench trial. The parties initially stipulated that the LLC owed S&M a total of $310,139.66 on the promissory note; the trial court ultimately entered a judgment against the LLC for that amount based on the parties' stipulation. The case was then tried solely on the counterclaims asserted against Sadler by the LLC, Jason, and Felix. The trial court entered a judgment against Sadler on the counterclaims, based on its findings that Sadler had breached not only a duty of loyalty and a duty of care to the LLC, but also the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing owed to the LLC. The trial court assessed damages against Sadler in the amount of $368,167.92.On appeal to the Supreme Court of Alabama, Sadler argued that the trial court erred insofar as it entered a judgment against him on the counterclaims asserted against him by the LLC, Jason, and Felix. The Supreme Court of Alabama agreed and reversed the judgment entered against Sadler on the counterclaims asserted against him because there was no evidence to support findings that Sadler had breached the duty of loyalty and the duty of care owed to the LLC or the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and remanded the case to the trial court for the entry of a judgment consistent with this opinion.On remand, S&M and Sadler filed a motion for attorney's fees, costs, and expenses. The trial court denied the motions for attorney's fees, costs, and expenses. The trial court also found that the LLC had incurred $2,713,230.33 in expenses without contribution by Sadler or Scott Montgomery. That finding was not disturbed on appeal and has become the law of the case. The trial court took judicial notice that Jason and Felix McCarty have perfected, as the remaining members of the LLC, that claim or debt by filing a second mortgage with the Probate Court of Jefferson County, which second mortgage is inferior to the mortgage held by the late Ferris Ritchey’s real estate company, and the perfection of this claim makes it a priority over and superior to the claims of other creditors, including S&M.S&M and Sadler appealed the trial court's order on remand. The Supreme Court of Alabama affirmed the trial court's order on remand insofar as it denied S&M's and Sadler's requests for attorney's fees and costs, reversed the order insofar as it addressed the LLC's mortgage executed in favor of Jason and Felix and its purported priority, and remanded this case with instructions for the trial court to set aside that portion of its order that addressed the LLC's mortgage and its purported priority. View "S&M Associates, Inc. v. Players Recreation Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute over church property between Harvest Church-Dothan ("Harvest") and the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, Inc. ("the AWFC") and the General Council on Finance and Administration of the United Methodist Church ("the GCFA"). Harvest sought a judgment declaring that the AWFC and the GCFA lack any legally cognizable interest in real or personal property held by Harvest, as well as injunctive relief preventing the AWFC and the GCFA from interfering with Harvest's use, ownership, or control of the local church property.The AWFC and the GCFA moved to dismiss the action, arguing that the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction based on the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine, which prohibits civil courts from adjudicating disputes concerning spiritual or ecclesiastical matters. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss. The AWFC and the GCFA then petitioned the Supreme Court of Alabama for a writ of mandamus directing the trial court to dismiss the underlying action.The Supreme Court of Alabama denied the petition, concluding that the AWFC and the GCFA have not met their burden of demonstrating a clear legal right to have the complaint against them dismissed. The court found that the dispute pertains solely to the ownership and control of the local church property, an issue that civil courts generally can resolve by applying "neutral principles of law." The court also found that the AWFC and the GCFA failed to demonstrate that the trial court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over the GCFA was improper. The action will continue in the trial court for further proceedings. View "Ex parte The Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, Inc." on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute between a developer, Campbellton Road, Ltd., and the City of San Antonio, specifically the San Antonio Water System (SAWS). The developer entered into a contract with SAWS in 2003, which included an option for the developer to participate in and fund the construction of off-site oversized infrastructure for a municipal water system. The developer planned to develop two residential subdivisions and needed sewer service for them. The contract stated that if the developer decided to participate in the off-site oversizing project, a contract would form, and the developer would earn credits that could be used to satisfy some or all of the collection component of assessed impact fees.The Court of Appeals for the Fourth District of Texas concluded that the Local Government Contract Claims Act did not apply, and therefore did not waive immunity, because there was no agreement for providing services to the system. The court held that the system had no contractual right to receive any services and would not have “any legal recourse” if the developer “unilaterally decided not to proceed.”The Supreme Court of Texas disagreed with the lower court's decision. The Supreme Court held that the Act waived the system’s immunity from suit because the developer adduced evidence that a contract formed when the developer decided to and did participate in the off-site oversizing project. The court found that the contract stated the essential terms of an agreement for the developer to participate in that project, and the agreement was for providing a service to the system that was neither indirect nor attenuated. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Campbellton Road, Ltd. v. City of San Antonio" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around the Benton County Water Conservancy Board (the Board) and the Washington State Department of Ecology (the Department). The Department primarily manages the state's water resources, while the Board has coextensive authority to process voluntary water right transfers between water right holders. The dispute arose when the Board challenged a department policy (Policy 1070) concerning certain water right transfers. The Board claimed that it suffered injury-in-fact from the Department's refusal to accept certain administrative division forms pursuant to the policy.The case was first heard in the superior court, which granted summary judgment to the Board and directed the Department to accept administrative division requests from the Board. The Department appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed the decision, holding that the Board lacked standing to challenge the Department's action.The Supreme Court of the State of Washington affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals. The court held that the Board lacked standing to challenge Department Policy 1070. The Board failed to demonstrate how it suffered injury-in-fact from the Department’s refusal to accept certain administrative division forms pursuant to the policy. The Board suffered no prejudice and its interests would not be redressed by invalidating the policy. The court concluded that the Board's interests were indirect and inchoate, and it failed to establish injury-in-fact under the Administrative Procedure Act. Therefore, the Board lacked standing to pursue this challenge to the Department’s use of Policy 1070. View "Benton County Water Conservancy Board v. Department of Ecology" on Justia Law

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The case involves AURC III LLC, an Oregon limited liability company, and several Washington and Delaware limited liability companies collectively referred to as Point Ruston. Point Ruston purchased a 97-acre former copper smelter and environmental clean-up site located on the Puget Sound waterfront in Ruston and Tacoma, Washington, for $169,000,000 and developed it in phases. To fund the second phase of development, Point Ruston negotiated a $66 million loan from American United Development Group, which created AURC III LLC to raise and manage funds from foreign investors seeking United States residency. After disbursing the full amount of the loan, AURC filed an amended complaint against Point Ruston, alleging that Point Ruston was delinquent on interest payments in breach of its loan agreement. The superior court ordered Point Ruston and AURC to engage in arbitration as per their loan agreement.The arbitrator issued an interim award only on the amount of current and default interest due and awarded $10,969,015 to AURC. The arbitrator then issued a final award for the same amount, as well as awarding attorney fees and arbitration fees and expenses. In total, Point Ruston was required to pay over $11.4 million. AURC moved to confirm the award and for presentation of judgment. Initially, Point Ruston agreed AURC was “entitled to confirmation of the Award and entry of a Final Judgment” but opposed attaching the arbitrator’s awards to that judgment. Before the court could enter the written confirmation order and judgment, Point Ruston paid the award and filed a motion to dismiss the case as moot because no live dispute remained. After AURC alerted the court that it received the award amount from Point Ruston, the court denied the motion to dismiss. The court entered the confirmation order with the interim and final awards attached as exhibits, as well as a judgment against Point Ruston. AURC filed a full satisfaction of judgment.Point Ruston appealed on two grounds. It challenged (1) the superior court’s denial of the motion to dismiss and (2) the court’s decision to attach the arbitration awards to the confirmation order. Division Two of the Court of Appeals affirmed in an unpublished opinion. Point Ruston sought review in the Supreme Court of the State of Washington, which was granted.The Supreme Court of the State of Washington held that when a party seeks a confirmation order, RCW 7.04A.220 requires issuance of the order subject to narrow exceptions inapplicable here. Payment of an arbitration award does not render the underlying case moot. The court also held that attaching an arbitrator’s award merely identifies the basis for the confirmation order. Accordingly, the court affirmed the Court of Appeals. View "AURC III, LLC v. Point Ruston Phase II, LLC" on Justia Law

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The case involves the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare's (the Department) action to set aside a transfer of real property from two Medicaid recipients, Robert Gilbert and Juanita Gilbert, to their five grandchildren. The Department had provided Robert and Juanita with Medicaid benefits totaling over $140,000. In 2005, Robert and Juanita executed two quitclaim deeds transferring their interest in real property to themselves and their grandchildren. After their deaths, the Department filed an action to set aside the two quitclaim deeds, alleging that the estates did not receive adequate consideration for the transfer of their interests in the real property. One of the grandchildren, Earle L. Beason, argued that the Department’s action was barred by the statute of limitations and that Robert and Juanita received adequate consideration for their interests in the property.The District Court of the Seventh Judicial District of the State of Idaho granted the Department’s motion for summary judgment and entered a judgment in favor of the Department setting aside the quitclaim deeds. The court concluded that the Department’s action was timely and that the Department had demonstrated the absence of a genuine issue of material fact regarding adequate consideration. Earle L. Beason appealed the decision.The Supreme Court of the State of Idaho affirmed the district court’s decision. The court held that the Department’s action was timely filed pursuant to Idaho Code section 5-224, the catch-all statute of limitation, which provides a four-year limitation period when an action for relief is not otherwise provided for. The court also affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Department because Earle L. Beason did not establish a genuine issue of material fact regarding adequate consideration. View "Idaho Department of Health and Welfare v. Beason" on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, PennyMac Loan Services, LLC, a mortgage company, held a mortgage interest in a property in Coventry, Rhode Island. The mortgagor, Domenico Companatico, failed to pay 2018 fire district taxes, leading to a tax sale auction where the property was sold to Roosevelt Associates, RIGP. Roosevelt later filed a petition to foreclose any right of redemption, and the Superior Court clerk issued a citation notifying interested parties. The citation did not include a street address for the property. Despite receiving the citation, PennyMac failed to respond and was defaulted. A Superior Court justice entered a final decree foreclosing the right of redemption, and Roosevelt sold the property to Coventry Fire District 5-19, RIGP, which later sold it to Clarke Road Associates, RIGP.PennyMac filed an action to challenge the foreclosure decree, arguing that the citation failed to provide adequate notice, thus denying PennyMac its right to procedural due process. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and a second trial justice concluded that PennyMac had received adequate notice of the petition to foreclose all rights of redemption. The justice also found that the fire district taxes constituted a superior lien on the property and that PennyMac is statutorily barred from asserting a violation of the Uniform Voidable Transactions Act.The Supreme Court of Rhode Island affirmed the amended judgment of the Superior Court. The court found that the citation, despite lacking a street address, did not constitute a denial of due process. The court also concluded that PennyMac's claim under the Uniform Voidable Transactions Act was barred due to its failure to raise any objection during the foreclosure proceeding. Finally, the court determined that the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Tyler v. Hennepin County, Minnesota did not alter the outcome of this case. View "PennyMac Loan Services, LLC v. Roosevelt Associates, RIGP" on Justia Law

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The case involves Wilmington Savings Fund Society, FSB DBA Christiana Trust as Trustee for HLSS Mortgage Master Trust, by PennyMac Loan Services, LLC (plaintiff), and Power Realty, RIGP a/k/a Power Realty Group, RIGP, Douglas H. Smith, and TMC Keywest LLC (defendants). The plaintiff, a mortgage company, failed to pay municipal taxes on a property in Coventry, Rhode Island, which it had obtained title to in 2016. As a result, the town conducted a tax-sale auction in 2019, and Power Realty acquired the property. Power Realty then filed a petition to foreclose any right of redemption, which was granted by the Superior Court. The plaintiff challenged the foreclosure decree, arguing that the notice of the petition was inadequate.The Superior Court had granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, concluding that the plaintiff had received adequate notice of the petition to foreclose all rights of redemption. The plaintiff appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of Rhode Island.The Supreme Court of Rhode Island affirmed the judgment of the Superior Court. The court found that the citation provided to the plaintiff contained all the necessary components required by law, including a description of the land, the name of the petitioner, and a statement of the nature of the petition. The court rejected the plaintiff's argument that the citation's failure to include the street address for the property deprived the plaintiff of meaningful notice. The court concluded that the plaintiff, a sophisticated mortgage company, could and should have investigated the matter further upon receipt of the citation. The court also found that the plaintiff's argument based on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Tyler v. Hennepin County, Minnesota did not alter the outcome of the case. View "Wilmington Savings Fund Society, FSB v. Power Realty, RIGP" on Justia Law