Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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In the summer of 2014, Mark and Jennifer Porcello sought to purchase property In Hayden Lake, Idaho. After making various pre-payments, the amount the couple was still short on a downpayment. Mark and Jennifer could not qualify for a conventional loan themselves. They hoped another property in Woodinville, Washington, owned by Mark’s parents, in which Mark and Jennifer claimed an interest, could be sold to assist in the purchase of the Hayden Lake property. In an effort to help Mark and Jennifer purchase the property, Mark’s parents, Annie and Tony Porcello, obtained financing through a non-conventional lender. "In the end, the transaction became quite complicated." Annie and Tony’s lawyer drafted a promissory note for Mark and Jennifer to sign which equaled the amount Annie and Tony borrowed. In turn, Mark signed a promissory note and deed of trust for the Hayden Lake house, in the same amount and with the same repayment terms as the loan undertaken by his parents. In mid-2016, Annie and Tony sought non-judicial foreclosure on the Hayden Lake property, claiming that the entire balance of the note was due and owing. By this time Mark and Jennifer had divorced; Jennifer still occupied the Hayden Lake home. In response to the foreclosure proceeding, Jennifer filed suit against her former in-laws seeking a declaratory judgment and an injunction, arguing that any obligation under the note had been satisfied in full when the Woodinville property sold, notwithstanding the language of the note encumbering the Hayden Lake property. Annie and Tony filed a counter-claim against Jennifer and a third-party complaint against Mark. A district court granted Jennifer’s request for a declaratory judgment. However, by this time, Annie and Tony had died and their respective estates were substituted as parties. The district court denied the estates’ request for judicial foreclosure, and dismissed their third-party claims against Mark. The district court held that the Note and Deed of Trust were latently ambiguous because the amount of the Note was more than twice the amount Mark and Jennifer needed in order to purchase the Hayden Lake property. Because the district court concluded the note and deed of trust were ambiguous, it considered parol evidence to interpret them. Ultimately, the district court found the Note and Deed of Trust conveyed the Hayden Lake property to Jennifer and Mark “free and clear” upon the sale of the Woodinville property. Annie’s and Tony’s estates timely appealed. Finding that the district court erred in finding a latent ambiguity in the Note and Deed of Trust, and that the district court's interpretation of the Note and Deed of Trust was not supported by substantial and competent evidence, the Idaho Supreme Court vacated judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Porcello v. Estates of Porcello" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Nicole Packer was injured when she fell from an unlit loading dock at the Kingston Plaza in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Packer, working as a vendor at a Christmas-themed exposition, alleged she had been directed to use the rear exit by a representative of Riverbend Communications, LLC, the organizer of the exposition and the occupier of the property at the heart of this litigation. The rear exit was unlit, and when Packer left the building, she was unable to re-enter. Because of the lack of light, Packer did not realize she was on a loading dock which was five feet above the adjoining pavement. When she proceeded towards the lit parking lot, she fell to the asphalt and was seriously injured. Packer sued Kingston Properties (owner of the property), as well as Riverbend Communications, LLC. Following discovery, the defendants sought and were granted summary judgment. Packer unsuccessfully moved for reconsideration. She timely appealed the district court’s decision granting summary judgment in favor of Riverbend. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Riverbend because Packer was an invitee; the district court erred as a matter of law in determining Packer was a licensee. Because Packer was an invitee, Riverbend owed her the duty to warn her of hidden or concealed dangers and to keep the property in reasonably safe condition. On these facts, the Supreme Court concluded a jury could have reasonably concluded that Riverbend breached either or both of the duties it owed to Packer. Accordingly, the district court’s decision granting summary judgment was reversed. View "Packer v. Riverbend Communications" on Justia Law

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This case involved an investor, Elbar, that wired money to Defendant Todd Prins, a former attorney, after the owner of a foreclosed property had declared bankruptcy. In this case, United hired Prins to conduct a foreclosure sale; Elbar wired funds to Prins; Prins stole those funds and used them to reimburse other clients. The Fifth Circuit held that the bankruptcy court properly found that Elbar violated the automatic stay thrice, and twice willfully. Furthermore, the court agreed with the bankruptcy court that Elbar is an extremely knowledgeable and sophisticated litigant that understands perfectly that its actions were a direct violation of the Bankruptcy Code. Therefore, the bankruptcy court was correct to weigh those violations against Elbar in its decision. The court also agreed with the bankruptcy court that neither Elbar's claim for equitable subrogation nor its claim for fraud in a real estate transaction warrant relief. Finally, the court rejected Elbar's claims against TransWorld and Industry including money had and received, unjust enrichment, and conversion. Because the district court failed to explain the exceptional circumstances justifying its denial of prejudgment interest, the court remanded with instructions to explain the exceptional circumstances, if any, that justify denial of prejudgment interest or to order prejudgment interest. View "Elbar Investments, Inc. v. Prins" on Justia Law

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Under California Public Resources Code section 21167.6, documents "shall" be in the record in a CEQA challenge to an environmental impact report (EIR). The County of San Diego (County), as lead agency for the Newland Sierra project, no longer had "all" such correspondence, nor all "internal agency communications" related to the project. If those communications were by e-mail and not flagged as "official records," the County's computers automatically deleted them after 60 days. When project opponents propounded discovery to obtain copies of the destroyed e-mails and related documents to prepare the record of proceedings, the County refused to comply. After referring the discovery disputes to a referee, the superior court adopted the referee's recommendations to deny the motions to compel. The referee concluded that although section 21167.6 specified the contents of the record of proceedings, that statute did not require that such writings be retained. In effect, the referee interpreted section 21167.6 to provide that e-mails encompassed within that statute were mandated parts of the record - unless the County destroyed them first. The Court of Appeal disagreed with that interpretation, "[a] thorough record is fundamental to meaningful judicial review." The Court held the County should not have destroyed such e-mails, even under its own policies. The referee's erroneous interpretation of section 21167.6 was central to the appeals before the Court of Appeal. The Court issued a writ of mandate to direct the superior court to vacate its orders denying the motions to compel, and after receiving input from the parties, reconsider those motions. View "Golden Door Properties, LLC v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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A public entity desiring to retain condemned property under Code of Civil Procedure section 1245.245 has to "adopt" its initial and reauthorization resolutions within 10 years of each other; section 1245.245 uses the date of "final adoption;" the local law fixes when a resolution is "finally adopted;" and a resolution is "finally adopted" once the city council has enacted the resolution and it has either been (1) approved by the mayor, or (2) vetoed by the mayor, but overridden by the city council. In this case, plaintiff filed a petition for writ of mandate alleging that the city had a present legal duty to offer him a right of first refusal to purchase the property at issue. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of the petition, holding that the city finally adopted its initial and reauthorization resolutions 19 days past the 10-year deadline, and thus section 1245.245 requires the city to offer to sell the property back to its original owner. View "Rutgard v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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In this case arising from a failed attempt to restore and reopen the historic Cal Neva Lodge, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decision to deny relief on the claims brought by Plaintiff, an investor, against the developers and others involved in setting up Plaintiff's investment on the project, but reversed the damages award for Defendants, holding that the record did not support upholding the damages award. Plaintiff sued Defendants for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, negligence, conversion, and securities fraud. After a bench trial, the trial judge ordered judgment in favor of Defendants and sua sponte awarded Defendants damages, along with attorney fees and costs. The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) the district court erred in awarding damages to Defendants in the absence of an express or implied counterclaim; and (2) the record supported the district court's denial of relief on Plaintiff's claims. View "Yount v. Criswell Radovan, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Plaintiffs, in their individual capacities and on behalf of similarly situated taxpayers, sought declaratory relief regarding chapter 61-33.1, N.D.C.C., relating to the ownership of mineral rights in lands subject to inundation by the Garrison Dam, was unconstitutional. The district court concluded that N.D.C.C. 61-33.1-04(1)(b) was on its face unconstitutional under the “gift clause,” and enjoined the State from issuing any payments under that statute. The court rejected Plaintiffs’ constitutional challenges to the rest of chapter 61-33.1. The Defendants appealed and the Plaintiffs cross-appealed the trial court’s orders, judgment, and amended judgment. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed that portion of the judgment concluding N.D.C.C. 61- 33.1-04(1)(b) violated the gift clause and the court’s injunction enjoining those payments. The Supreme Court also reversed the court’s award of attorney’s fees and costs and service award to the Plaintiffs because they were no longer prevailing parties. The Court affirmed the remainder of the orders and judgment, concluding the Plaintiffs did not establish that chapter 61-33.1 on its face violated the North Dakota Constitution. View "Sorum, et al. v. North Dakota, et al." on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review centered on a waste ditch that drained surface water from property owned by Lora Roberts through property owned by Thomas and Deanna Jensen (the Jensens). The ditch itself passed through a man-made culvert under a county road between the properties. The Jensens filled in the portion of the waste ditch located on their property in 2013. In February 2017, Roberts’ property experienced significant flooding. The flooding damaged her home as well as horse feed stored in the barn. It also forced her to relocate her horses from her property. Roberts filed an action against the Jensens, alleging trespass and nuisance, as well as seeking a declaratory judgment to establish that Roberts had an interest in the waste ditch on the Jensens’ property as an easement on the basis that the ditch was an established natural servitude. The district court ultimately granted the Jensens’ motion for summary judgment against Roberts, and denied Roberts’ motion for summary judgment. The district court also dismissed the nuisance claim because the flooding was not caused by a natural servitude, and therefore a nuisance action was not applicable. The district court then denied Roberts’ request for a declaratory judgment. Roberts moved unsuccessfully for reconsideration, and her appeal followed. After review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order granting summary judgment against Roberts. View "Roberts v. Jensen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court holding that property owned by Sharon Orr-Hanson and her husband, Bennet Hanson, was owned as tenants in common and ordering partition of the property after Sharon's death, holding that the circuit court properly found that the property was owned as tenants in common. The personal representatives of Sharon's estate brought this action to have the property sold and the proceeds split evenly. The circuit court determined that a corrective deed terminated what was previously a joint tenancy and created a tenancy in common. On appeal, Bennet argued that the property was held as joint tenants and should go to him alone as the surviving joint tenant. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in concluding that the corrective deed severed Bennet's and Sharon's joint tenancy and created a tenancy in common; and (2) Bennet's remaining allegations of error were unavailing. View "Moeckly v. Hanson" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff lost an investment property to foreclosure, he filed suit against the lender and its assignee, as well as the loan servicer, alleging breach of contract, wrongful foreclosure and three fraud claims. Plaintiff's claims were based on his assertion that, before the parties executed the credit agreement and deed of trust securing it in 2005, the lender made a verbal commitment that, at the end of the 10-year term, plaintiff could refinance or re-amortize the loan with a new 20-year repayment period. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment, holding that the verbal agreement to refinance or reamortize plaintiff's loan is subject to the statute of frauds and is unenforceable on that ground. Furthermore, the oral agreement is too indefinite to be enforceable. Therefore, plaintiff's allegations are insufficient to state a breach of contract claim. The court also held that plaintiff's allegations are the very sort of general and conclusory allegations that are insufficient to support a fraud claim, promissory or otherwise; because the alleged oral agreement is not an enforceable contract, its breach cannot support a claim of wrongful foreclosure; and plaintiff has not shown how he can amend to cure the defects in the complaint. View "Reeder v. Specialized Loan Servicing LLC" on Justia Law