Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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After the United States seized millions of dollars from a Texas vocational school, the school intervened as a claimant, denied the government’s allegations, and counterclaimed for constitutional tort damages against the government for ruining its business. The Fifth Circuit declined to address the correctness of the categorical rule barring all counterclaims in civil forfeiture proceedings, and held that the school's specific counterclaims were barred by sovereign immunity. Accordingly, the court held that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and vacated the district court's dismissal, remanding with instructions to dismiss the counterclaims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction instead. View "United States v. $4,480,466.16 in Funds Seized from Bank of America account ending in 2653" on Justia Law

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This case arose from Hurricane Katrina insurance litigation. After the hurricane had destroyed many homes, policyholders and insurance companies began litigating whether the hurricane losses were caused by flood damage or wind damage. The distinction determined whether the insurance companies would pay claims on those polices that did not cover flood damage. This case is before the Court on interlocutory appeal. Safeco Insurance Company (Safeco) and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company individually challenged the circuit court’s reassignment of their respective cases and the appointment of a special master. The Mississippi Supreme Court found no abuse of discretion in reassigning judges, but vacated the order appointing the special master, finding an abuse of the trial court’s discretion. “The order itself acknowledged a blind-billing provision was “unusual.” But the Supreme Court found it was more than that: requiring both parties, one of which is the State of Mississippi, to pay an attorney in Louisiana to act as a judge, allowing either side to meet with him ex parte, and not requiring this special master to mention these meetings or even justify or detail his bill far exceeded the discretionary authority to appoint special masters.” View "Safeco Insurance Company of America v. Mississippi, ex rel. Hood" on Justia Law

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In this complaint alleging breach of a deed of trust the Supreme Court reversed and vacated the judgments of the circuit court granting Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC's plea in bar of res judicata and dismissing Gloria Lane's amended complaint as to all defendants, holding that Lane's amended complaint was not barred by either claim preclusion or issue preclusion. On appeal, Lane argued that the circuit court erred in sustaining Bayview's plea in bar because Bayview failed to prove the prerequisites for the application of res judicata. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) an attorney does not share the same legal interest as his or her client merely by virtue of his or her representation of that client; (2) a prior judgment and rulings obtained in an earlier injunction action had no preclusive effect upon any claims or issues asserted in Lane's amended complaint; and (3) therefore, the decisions of the circuit court granting Bayview's plea in bar of res judicata were in error. View "Lane v. Bayview Loan Servicing" on Justia Law

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In this challenge to the action of the Prince George's County Council sitting as the District Council approving a special exception and variance sought by Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust regarding an existing store located in the Woodyard Crossing Shopping Center in Clinton, Maryland, the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the District Council has extensive authority to regulate and establish zoning laws and procedure, which includes special exception and variance application. The ZHE issued a decision denied an application for a special exception and variance sought by Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart filed exceptions to the Zoning Hearing Examiner's (ZHE) decision and requested that the District Council hear the case. Petitioners responded in opposition to Wal-Mart's exceptions. The District Council proceeded to approve Wal-Mart's application for a special exception and variance. The circuit court and Court of Special Appeals affirmed the District Council's decision. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the District Council is authorized to delegate the preparation of its opinion and order to its staff attorney; (2) the District Council rightfully exercises original jurisdiction when hearing zoning cases from the ZHE; and (3) Petitioners failed to present sufficient evidence that the District Council violated the Maryland Open Meetings Act. View "Grant v. County Council of Prince George's County" on Justia Law

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Landlords challenged a Hammond ordinance that they either obtain a city license or hire licensed contractors to perform repairs and renovations to their properties. Obtaining a license involves a test, payment of a fee, and a criminal background check. The ordinance does not apply to individual homeowners working on the properties in which they reside. On summary judgment, the district court rejected their argument that the ordinance impermissibly burdens owners who do not reside in Hammond. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The ordinance does not discriminate against non-residents and is supported by a rational basis. The court noted the significant differences between resident owners and landlords and the city’s interests in safety and the habitability of dwellings. View "Regan v. City of Hammond" on Justia Law

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Englewood amended its ordinances to address aggressive antiabortion protests that had been regularly occurring outside of a health clinic that provided reproductive health services, including abortions. Some of the “militant activists and aggressive protestors” support violent reprisal against abortion providers. The ordinance restricted the use of public ways and sidewalks adjacent to healthcare facilities during business hours to persons entering or leaving such facility; the facility's employees and agents; law enforcement, ambulance, firefighting, construction, utilities, public works and other municipal agents within the scope of their employment; and persons using the public way solely to reach another destination. The ordinance created overlapping buffer zones at qualifying facilities. Turco, a non-aggressive “sidewalk counselor,” filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of her First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, assembly, and association. The district court concluded that the statute was overbroad and not narrowly tailored to serve the government’s interest. The Third Circuit reversed, finding that genuine issues of material fact preclude the entry of summary judgment to either side. The buffer zones’ exact impact on the sidewalk counselors’ speech and the concomitant efficacy of their attempts to communicate is unclear. Turco admitted that she continued to speak with patients entering the clinic. The city considered and attempted to implement alternatives before creating the buffer zone. View "Turco v. City of Englewood" on Justia Law

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Jerry and Brenda McCavit built a dock extending into Wasilla Lake from their upland property. Their neighbors, Barbara and Louis Lacher, sued the McCavits claiming the dock unreasonably interfered with their riparian rights and constituted a private nuisance. The superior court found for the Lachers and issued an injunction ordering the McCavits to remove a portion of their dock. The McCavits appealed. Because the Alaska Supreme Court, by this case, announced a new rule of reasonableness regarding riparian or littoral rights, it vacated the superior court’s Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Order Granting Injunctive Relief and Nuisance Abatement, remanded for the superior court to conduct the proper legal analysis, and vacated the superior court’s award for attorney’s fees and costs. View "McCavit v. Lacher" on Justia Law

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For several years two condominium owners withheld a portion of their dues in protest. Then beginning in 2014, they sent the condominium association several payments, with instructions to apply them to recent debts and current dues. In this appeal, the owners argued they accrued no debts within the statute of limitations because their payment directives were binding. The Alaska Supreme Court agreed with the superior court’s conclusion that these payment directives were not effective because the governing declaration allowed the association to apply any payments to “the oldest balance due.” The Court affirmed the trial court in all other respects. View "Black v. Whitestone Estates Condominium HOA, et al." on Justia Law

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In this quiet title action involving the mineral interests in two tracts of real estate, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding that the grantees' successors in interest obtained ownership of minerals when twenty years expired without production on the property, holding that the common-law rule against perpetuities (the rule) should not be applicable to the circumstances of this case. The tracts at issue were conveyed by deeds in which the grantor excepted the mineral interests for a "period of 20 years or as long thereafter" as minerals may be produced. The grantor's successors in interest claimed full ownership of the mineral interest in both tracts, arguing that the future ownership of the minerals when the grantor's excepted term interest ended violated the rule, thereby voiding those conveyances ab initial and preventing them from devolving to the grantees' successors in interest. The district court concluded that the grantees' heirs obtained ownership of the minerals when twenty years expired without production on the property. The Supreme Court affirmed on different grounds, holding that the rule did not apply under these circumstances. View "Jason Oil Co. v. Littler" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit certified the following question of law to the Supreme Court of Texas: Is a lender entitled to equitable subrogation, where it failed to correct a curable constitutional defect in the loan documents under section 50 of the Texas Constitution? The court also held that a secondary lender is not entitled to contractual subrogation without a valid contract. In this case, without a signature, Freddie Mac has no ability to enforce the contract itself or its subrogation provision. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's denial of Freddie Mac's contractual subrogation claim. View "Zepeda v. Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp." on Justia Law