Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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In this family dispute regarding a family business the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming the decision of the trial court entering judgment in favor of Valley Mill Camp, Inc., holding that a person claiming the right to possession against a person in actual peaceable possession of real property can bring an action in circuit court for common law trespass to recover possession of the property.In 2017, after some escalating family disagreements, Valley Mill terminated the employment of Bruce Uthus and requested that he vacate the campground residence, where he had been living for approximately twenty years. Uthus refused to leave, and Valley Mill brought this trespass action. The circuit court entered judgment in favor of Valley Mills. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Valley Mill had the choice to take legal action to remove Uthus from the campgrounds either by filing a trespass action in circuit court or a wrongful detainer action in district court; and (2) Valley Mill met all the elements of trespass. View "Uthus v. Valley Mill Camp" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order the circuit court certifying a class action against Defendants, holding that the circuit court did not err or abuse its discretion.Plaintiffs filed a class action complaint against Defendants, alleging, on their own behalf and on behalf of others similarly situated, that their water systems were contaminated with sewage due to Defendants' negligence. Plaintiffs moved for class certification. The circuit court certified the class as to their negligence and breach of contract claims. On appeal, Defendants argued that the circuit court erred in finding that class was ascertainable and that common issues predominated and erred in certifying the breach of contract claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in certifying the class. View "C.J. Mahan Construction Co. v. Betzner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the circuit court entering judgment in favor of Thomas Wright on his claims for negligence, breach of contract, and deceit, holding that the circuit court erred in its damages award.Curtis Temple expressed interest in purchasing Wright's airplane and took the plane to his ranch, where it was damaged in a crash. When Wright's attempts to obtain compensation from Temple were unsuccessful, he brought suit. Temple also filed a third-party complaint against Ken Merrill, Temple's flight instructor, for negligence and contribution in the event Temple were to be found liable for damages. The jury found Temple liable to Wright on the claims of negligence, breach of contract, and deceit, and awarded damages. The jury also found Temple liable to Merrill but did not award damages to Merrill. The Supreme Court reversed in part and remanded the case for a new trial on the limited issue of damages, holding (1) there was sufficient evidence to support the finding that Temple breached a contract between Temple and Wright; (2) there was sufficient evidence to support the finding that Temple was negligent; and (3) the circuit court erred in instructing the jury on damages and in determining the total award. View "Wright v. Temple" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court granting Defendants' motion to dismiss this action brought under the civil portion of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1964(c), holding that Plaintiff had not and could not meet the causation of injury requirements set forth at 18 U.S.C. 1964(c).In 2014, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission granted a gaming license to Wynn, MA, LLC, a subsidiary of Wynn Resorts, Ltd. (collectively, Wynn), allowing Wynn to construct a casino in Everett, Massachusetts. Mohegan Sun Massachusetts had also applied for a license and had proposed a casino facility on a site in East Boston owned by Plaintiff, Sterling Suffolk Racecourse, LLC. Plaintiff brought this action alleging that Defendants, including Wynn, conspired to deprive Mohegan of a gaming license, therefore costing Sterling the opportunity to least its site to Mohegan. The district court dismissed the action. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff could not show a "direct injury" from Wynn's actions, and so its RICO claims failed as a matter of law. View "Sterling Suffolk Racecourse v. Wynn Resorts, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Quicken, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, alleging causes of action for breach of fiduciary duty and violations of Civil Code section 2954.8 and Business and Professions Code section 17200, contending that section 2954.8 requires a lender to pay interest on insurance proceeds held in escrow following the partial or total destruction of the insured's residence or other structure. In this case, plaintiff's home was destroyed by Ventura's Thomas Fire and his hazard insurance policy jointly paid him and his mortgage lender, Quicken, a total of $1,342,740. The Deed of Trust allowed Quicken to hold the insurance proceeds in escrow and to disburse the funds as repairs to the home were being made.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's decision sustaining Quicken's demurrer to the complaint without leave to amend, concluding that neither section 2954.8 nor the parties' loan agreement required the payment of interest. Based upon the statutory and contractual language, the court agreed with Lippitt v. Nationstar Mortgage, LLC (C.D.Cal. Apr. 16, 2020, No. SA CV 19-1115-DOC-DFM) 2020 U.S. Dist. Lexis 122881, that section 2954.8 "applies to common escrows maintained to pay taxes, assessments, and insurance premiums -- not to the comparatively unique example of hazard insurance proceeds held by a lender pending property rebuilding." Therefore, the court concluded that the insurance proceeds held by Quicken pursuant to section 5 of the Deed of Trust fall outside the scope of section 2954.8. Furthermore, plaintiff's secondary reliance on the purported purposes of section 2954.8 does not and cannot circumvent the statute's plain language. View "Gray v. Quicken Loans, Inc." on Justia Law

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Ashford San Francisco owns the 2nd Street property. In 2013, a majority ownership interest in Ashford San Francisco was acquired by Ashford Hospitality. The transfer resulted in a change in ownership of the property, which the city determined triggered the imposition of the transfer tax. Ashford paid $3,348,025 in transfer taxes based upon the $133,920,700 self-reported value of the property, then filed an administrative claim for a refund. The transfer tax has five tiered (graduated) tax rates.When the city did not timely act, Ashford filed suit. seeking a refund, alleging that the transfer tax “imposes different tax rates on taxpayers for performing the same exact function” and arbitrarily classifies property transfer instruments for the imposition of a varying rate of taxation, solely by reference to the amount of the consideration in the transactions in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.The court of appeal affirmed a judgment in favor of the city. The city rationally chose to treat the sale or transfer of a higher-valued property differently from the sale of a lower-valued property; the transfer tax “taxes all transfers of the same consideration or value equally.” The court noted the city’s justifications: the owner’s ability to pay and that time and costs associated with the city’s audits for the self-reported transfer tax may increase depending on the value of the property. View "Ashford Hospitality v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff David Demarest filed suit against the Town of Underhill, seeking a declaration that he had a right of vehicle access over a Town trail, and appealing the Selectboard’s decision denying his request for highway access to a proposed new subdivision on his property. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of the Town, concluding that plaintiff’s request for declaratory relief was barred by claim preclusion and that the Town acted within its discretion in denying the permit. On appeal, plaintiff argued the trial court erred in applying claim preclusion, and that the Town exceeded its authority under the statute in denying his request for access. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed judgment. View "Demarest v. Town of Underhill" on Justia Law

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Daughter Deborah George appealed the civil division’s determination that her father, decedent Theodore George, was the sole owner of a vehicle at the time of his death and that the vehicle was properly included in his estate. Decedent purchased the vehicle at issue, a 1979 Cadillac Eldorado, in 1992. The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issued a Certificate of Title to decedent in 1994 in his name only. The copy of the title in the record contained no assignment of ownership to daughter. In 2006, decedent submitted a Vermont Registration, Tax, and Title Application to the DMV. Decedent’s name was listed in the space provided for the owner, and daughter’s name was listed in the adjacent space provided for a co-owner. Next to daughter’s name, a handwritten annotation said, “add co-owner.” The form directed applicants to select rights of survivorship if more than one owner was listed and provides that “if no box is checked joint tenants will be selected.” Decedent made no indication. At the bottom of the form, decedent signed the application; the line for the co-owner’s signature was left blank. No bill of sale accompanied the 2006 Registration Application. The DMV issued registration certificates naming both decedent and daughter for 2012-2013, 2014-2015, and 2017-2018. On appeal of the civil division's determination, daughter argued that decedent’s act in changing the registration to reflect joint ownership effectively transferred an interest in the vehicle to her. Alternatively, she argued that decedent’s act demonstrated his intent to make a gift of joint ownership. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded there was insufficient evidence that decedent transferred an interest in the vehicle to daughter under either theory and affirmed. View "In re Estate of Theodore George" on Justia Law

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San Rafael voters approved by a two-thirds vote a Paramedic Services Special Tax, imposing an annual special tax up to a maximum of 14 cents per square foot on all nonresidential structures in the city to fund paramedic services. In 2015-2016, the city determined that the Assessor had been inadvertently omitted certain properties from the Paramedic Tax assessment. City officials rectified this oversight prospectively and sought to collect a portion of the Tax that had gone unpaid. One property owner that received notice of the levy was Valley Baptist, a nonprofit religious organization that operates a church on property within city boundaries. The city requested payment of $13,644.Valley Baptist filed suit, challenging the constitutionality of the Tax as applied to a place of worship. Valley Baptist argued that it is exempted from payment of all property taxes under article XIII, section 3(f) of the California Constitution, including the Paramedic Tax. Reversing the trial court, the court of appeal held that the religious exemption does not extend to non-ad valorem special property taxes like the Paramedic Tax. The constitutional articles added by Propositions 13 and 218 do not evince an intent by the electorate to extend the scope of article XIII exemptions to special property taxes. View "Valley Baptist Church v. City of San Rafael" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court invalidating Order No. 1293A, which prohibited the driving of new domestic wells in the Pahrump Artesian Basin unless the applicant identified and relinquished 2.0 acre-feet annually from an alternate source (the 2.0 afa requirement), as unlawful, holding that Nevada law authorized the order's 2.0 afa requirement under the circumstances.In invalidating the order, the district court concluded (1) the State Engineer violated due process by issuing the order without first providing notice and a public hearing; (2) the State Engineer lacked authority to issue the 2.0 afa requirement; and (3) substantial evidence did not support the order. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the State Engineer was not required to hold a hearing or develop a more robust record; (2) the State Engineer was not required to provide notice and a hearing regarding the 2.0 afa requirement under the circumstances; and (3) the State Engineer's decision was supported by substantial record evidence. View "Wilson, P.E. v. Pahrump Fair Water, LLC" on Justia Law