Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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The Board of County Commissioners for Bonner County, Idaho (“Board”) granted Stejer’s, Inc.’s request for three variances (“the Variances”) from applicable lot setbacks required by the Bonner County Revised Code. Neighboring land owners, Frank Hungate and Thomas Hungate, as trustees of the Hungate Trust, the A&E Family L.L.C., Anne Ashburn, Eleanor Jones, Frank Hungate, and John Hungate (collectively “the Hungates”) appealed the Board’s decision. The district court held that the Board erred in approving the Variances, but ultimately affirmed the Board’s decision after it determined that the Hungates failed to show that their substantial rights were prejudiced. The Hungates appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hungate v. Bonner County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the superior court in favor of Defendants following a bench trial on Plaintiffs' claims against Defendants stemming from Plaintiffs' purchase of Defendants' house, holding that the trial court's factual findings were supported by the evidence and that the court did not err in deciding in favor Defendants. Defendants entered into a purchase and sale agreement with Plaintiffs to sell Defendants' home. After Plaintiffs discovered a number of deficiencies in the house they filed a complaint alleging counts arising from the house's sale and defects. The trial court granted judgment in favor of Defendants. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the trial court's explicit findings were comprehensive, detailed, and adequately supported by record evidence. View "Wuestenberg v. Rancourt" on Justia Law

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In this declaratory judgment action contesting the ownership of certain property the Supreme Judicial Court vacated the final judgment entered on behalf of Lisa Yorke finding that Brad Belanger's deed to Rebecca Belanger was not supported by consideration, holding that the trial court did not apply the correct legal standard to resolve the issue of consideration. Brad deeded the property at issue to Lisa, his daughter, before he deeded it to Rebecca, his wife. Rebecca recorded her deed before Lisa recorded hers. Both Lisa and Rebecca claimed exclusive title to the property and sued each other for a declaratory judgment that each woman owned the property. The court found that Brad's deed to Rebecca was not supported by consideration and, therefore, she was not a bona fide purchaser of the property. The court entered final judgment for Lisa. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment in part, holding (1) the trial court correctly found that Me. Rev. Stat. 33, 480, which requires the signature of a nonowner spouse on a transfer of real property in certain circumstances, was not an affirmative defense to Lisa's ownership claim; and (2) the trial court did not apply the correct legal standard to resolve the issue of consideration. View "Belanger v. Yorke" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment and dismissing Plaintiffs' action seeking compensation for what it alleged was a taking, by the Town of Sturbridge, of certain property, holding that the superior court judge correctly concluded that Plaintiffs did not establish a taking or any right to compensation or damages. Plaintiffs, trustees of a trust, commenced an action against the Town seeking declarations concerning the Town's right to discharge water onto trust property. A judge declared that the Town had obtained a prescriptive easement on the property to discharge storm water through a town culvert onto and across the property. Plaintiffs then brought this action seeking compensation, arguing that the easement amounted to a taking for which it was entitled to compensation. A judge allowed the Town's motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs had no basis on which to claim a taking because the Town acquired the right to discharge storm water onto the property via the prescriptive easement. View "Gentili v. Town of Sturbridge" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his next door neighbor, alleging trespass and nuisance claims, and seeking to remove a portion of defendant's fence, which encroached on plaintiff's property. Plaintiff also sought to enjoin defendant from continuing to park old, inoperable cars on a driveway plaintiff owned, and to collect damages for defendant's past use of the driveway. Defendant raised a statute of limitations defense. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's conclusion that the fence and parked cars were continuing encroachments and affirmed the trial court's order of their removal. Therefore, the trial court correctly found that plaintiff's trespass and nuisance claims were not time-barred. The court also affirmed the trial court's conclusion that plaintiff failed to prove his damages claim. Although the court agreed with plaintiff that he was entitled to damages, the court found the real estate appraisal expert's estimate was not an accurate measure of the benefit received. Furthermore, plaintiff did not present any other evidence upon which the trial court could value the benefits defendant received. View "Madani v. Rabinowitz" on Justia Law

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Since 1997, the Social Security Administration has found Madej completely disabled and entitled to benefits. In addition to her other ailments, her doctors say she has “multiple chemical sensitivity,” which is not a disease recognized by the World Health Organization or the American Medical Association. She goes to great lengths to avoid everyday materials that she believes will trigger harmful reactions like burning eyes and throat, dizziness, or nausea. Madej fears that the use of asphalt on a road near her home will cause more harm. She sued to stop the roadwork, alleging violations of the Fair Housing Amendments Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Applying the “Daubert” standard, the district court excluded the opinions of Madej’s experts that the asphalt would injure her. Without expert causation evidence, the claims could not withstand summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, stating that “as far as we are aware, no district court has ever found a diagnosis of multiple chemical sensitivity to be sufficiently reliable to pass muster under Daubert.” The court also questioned whether Madej had cognizable claims under the cited federal statutes. It is not obvious that the roadwork amounts to a “provision of services” “in connection with” the Madej home under 42 U.S.C. 3604(f)(2) View "Madej v. Maiden" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from a dispute between neighbors over the validity of an easement. In 1997, the Fitzpatricks bought two adjacent lots. In 2016, while they still owned both lots, they recorded an easement that granted the owners of the first lot (themselves) the right to maintain, repair, and improve a portion of the second lot. They then sold the second lot to the Kents. Two years later, the Kents allegedly made certain modifications to the easement area that the Fitzpatricks opposed. The Fitzpatricks claimed that the easement precluded the Kents from making the modifications, but the Kents asserted that the easement was unenforceable. The Fitzpatricks and Kents filed cross-complaints in district court, each seeking to quiet title to the easement area. The district court granted the Kents’ motion for summary judgment after concluding that the easement was invalid under the merger doctrine. The district court granted costs to the Kents but denied them attorney fees under Idaho Code section 12-121. The Fitzpatricks appealed the district court’s summary judgment decision and the Kents cross-appealed the district court’s denial of their request for attorney fees. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decisions. View "Fitzpatrick v. Kent" on Justia Law

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In property dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court entering summary judgment in favor of The Nature Conservancy finding a conservation easement unambiguously burdened two parcels of property thereby limiting what the owner could construct on those parcels, holding that the district court was correct in entering summary judgment in favor of the Conservancy. Appellants, who owned the two parcels of land at issue, sought declaratory relief after the Conservancy, the administrator of the conservation easement, rejected Appellants' plan to construct buildings on each of the two parcels. The Conservancy counterclaimed for declaratory relief seeking a declaration that the conservation easement burdened and encumbered Appellants' parcels of property and limited construction on the property. The district court granted summary judgment and entered judgment on the pleadings in favor of the Conservancy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in entering summary judgment for the Conservancy; and (2) the district court did not err when it entered judgment on the pleadings dismissing Appellants' claims for breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. View "Four B Properties, LLC v. Nature Conservancy" on Justia Law

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The Town of Ludlow appealed a Property Valuation & Review Division (PVR) hearing officer’s decision lowering the fair market value of two quartertime-share condominium properties, Jackson Gore Inn and Adams House, located at the base of Okemo Ski Resort. On appeal, the Town argued that the time-share owners in Jackson Gore Inn and Adams House failed to overcome the presumption of validity of the Town’s appraisal. The Town also argued that hearing officer incorrectly interpreted 32 V.S.A. 3619(b) and failed to properly weigh the evidence and make factual findings. After review of the PVR hearing officer’s decision, the Vermont Supreme Court first held that the hearing officer correctly determined that the time-share owners met their initial burden of producing evidence to overcome the presumption of validity by presenting the testimony of their expert appraiser. Second, the Supreme Court conclude that the hearing officer correctly determined that section 3619 addressed who receives a tax bill when time-share owners were taxed but said nothing about how to value the common elements in condominiums. Finally, the Supreme Court concluded the hearing officer made clear findings and, in general, provided a well-reasoned and detailed decision. Accordingly, the decision was affirmed. View "Jackson Gore Inn, Adams House v. Town of Ludlow" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that Tex. R. Civ. P. 91a permits dismissal based on an affirmative defense and that the alleged destruction of evidence is an action "taken in connection with representing a client in litigation," thus entitling the defendant attorneys to attorney immunity. Plaintiff hired Defendants to represent her in a lawsuit. Plaintiff later sued Defendants for, inter alia, fraud, trespass to chattel, and conversion, alleging that Defendants intentionally destroyed key evidence in the case. Defendants moved to dismiss the case under Rule 91a, claiming that it was entitled to attorney immunity on all of Plaintiff's claims. The trial court granted the motion and dismissed the case. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that affirmative defenses such as attorney immunity cannot be the basis of a Rule 91a dismissal and that Defendants were not entitled to attorney immunity. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Rule 91a permits motions to dismiss based on affirmative defenses "if the allegations, taken as true, together with inferences reasonably drawn from them, do not entitle the claimant to the relief sought"; and (2) because Defendants' allegedly wrongful conduct involved the provision of legal services that conduct was protected by attorney immunity. View "Bethel v. Quilling, Selander, Lownds, Winslett & Moser, P.C." on Justia Law