Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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The Lorenzen Revocable Trust (“Lorenzen”) and David and Cynthia Pearson owned neighboring properties near Hayden Lake in Kootenai County, Idaho. The properties shared a common driveway. The properties were originally part of a 1,400 acre estate. Over the years, parcels were carved off the estate and frequently replatted. Two of those parcels included a cabin owned by Lorenzen and the “Red Barn” property owned by the Pearsons. The Pearsons purchased the Red Barn property in 2013 via quitclaim deed. Although the easement language was not in the Pearsons’ deed, the easements originally granted and reserved in a 1976 deed were recorded with the county and listed as exceptions from coverage in Pearsons’ title insurance policy. From 2013 onward, disputes over the shared driveway began. The disputes culminated in 2016 when Pearsons installed an electronic gate to control access to the shared driveway. In October 2016, Phyllis Lorenzen filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment to define the rights concerning the parties’ easement and access rights, as well as listing other causes of action. Four days later, Lorenzen filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against Pearsons, seeking to enjoin them “from blocking or otherwise interfering with access” via the shared driveway. The district court granted the motion for a preliminary injunction, ordering Pearsons to provide an access code or remote control to the gate and restraining both parties “from blocking or otherwise interfering with access” to their respective properties via the shared driveway. The next month, Phyllis Lorenzen passed away. Pearsons later filed an answer and counterclaim, arguing that Phyllis Lorenzen’s death “ended the express easement” from the 1976 quitclaim deed. They also filed a motion to dissolve the court’s prior preliminary injunction. The district court denied Pearsons’ motions, and the case proceeded to trial with the injunction remaining in effect. In 2018 following a jury trial, the district court issued a decision finding that the easement language in the quitclaim deeds was ambiguous; both parties had express easements granted to them as well as their heirs, successors and assigns. The district court then denied Pearsons’ motion to reconsider from the bench. Pearsons argued on appeal that the district court erred in establishing a legal description of the easement from the Plaintiff’s land survey. They argued this matter required another hearing to present evidence to establish an accurate metes-and-bounds description. The Idaho Supreme Court affirmed, finding Pearsons failed to provide an alternative metes-and-bounds survey for the district court to consider despite having had months to do so. "Only after their counsel was repeatedly unavailable to the court when it tried to request information or schedule such a hearing, did the district court accept and utilize the only legal description admitted as evidence. Pearsons cannot complain over the results of their inaction now, especially when they failed to object to the admittance of the land survey as evidence at trial." View "Lorenzen v. Pearson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of Lisa Berry following a bench trial on the complaint for foreclosure filed by Wilmington Trust, National Association, as Trustee for MFRA Trust 2014-2 (Wilmington), holding that the district court did not err. Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the district court did not err by excluding evidence of business records showing Berry's payment history with various loan services because the business records were untrustworthy; (2) Wilmington failed to prove that Berry received a properly served notice of default and mortgagor's right to cure; and (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorney fees to Berry. View "Wilmington Trust, National Ass'n v. Berry" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court approved the decision of the Second District Court of Appeal in this foreclosure case, holding that the proper predicate for admission of records into evidence under the business records exception to the hearsay rule can be laid by a qualified witness testifying to the foundational elements of the exception. Household Finance Corp III (HFC) field a foreclosure complaint against Petitioners, alleging that Petitioners defaulted under the terms of the note and mortgage. During trial, HFC moved certain documents, including the original note, mortgage, and loan payment history, into evidence. Counsel for Petitioners objected on grounds of hearsay, claiming that the witness testifying as to the foundational elements of the business records exception to the hearsay rule failed to lay a foundation upon which to testify as to the records or to authenticate he documents based on personal knowledge. The trial judge overruled the objection and admitted the records into evidence. The trial court entered final judgment of mortgage foreclosure for HFC. The Second District affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the testimony of a qualified witness confirming the presence of each foundation requirement of the business records exception constitutes a sufficient predicate for the admission of records under the business records exception to the hearsay rule. View "Jackson v. Household Finance Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Sukru and Gulay Bayramoglu, like many others, sought to modify their home loan in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis. They eventually succeeded in doing so in late 2011, obtaining a lower interest rate and a lower monthly payment from their loan servicer, Nationstar Mortgage LLC (Nationstar). According to plaintiffs, Nationstar, among other things, unlawfully inserted an inflated loan balance, rather than their actual loan balance, in the loan modification agreement. And for that and other reasons, plaintiffs filed suit against Nationstar. The trial court rejected plaintiffs’ claims and granted Nationstar’s motion for summary judgment. According to the court, because plaintiffs had served “factually devoid” responses to Nationstar’s discovery, these responses tended to show that plaintiffs did not possess and could not reasonably obtain needed evidence to support most of their claims. And because, the court further found, plaintiffs never presented evidence to overcome this finding, it granted Nationstar’s motion. On appeal, plaintiffs contended the trial court wrongly found their discovery responses were factually devoid and, even if they were factually devoid, the court nonetheless should have found triable issues of fact precluded summary judgment. After review, the Court of Appeal agreed with the first part of plaintiffs' argument. The trial court found plaintiffs’ interrogatory responses were factually devoid because plaintiffs, rather than directly state responsive facts, told Nationstar that the answers to its interrogatories could be found in certain identified documents. "Although these responses may have been improper and warranted a motion to compel further responses, they were not the equivalent of factually devoid discovery responses." The trial court's decision was reversed to the extent it was grounded on that reasoning. View "Bayramoglu v. Nationstar Mortgage LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the circuit court's final judgment granting and apportioning monetary damages to Native Hawaiian beneficiaries after ruling that the State breached its duties as trustee of the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust (Trust), holding that the Fair Market Rental Value (FMRV) model is an adequate method for approximating actual damages. Plaintiffs were a group of Native Hawaiian Trust beneficiaries who claimed that they incurred damages while on the waitlist to receive homestead land due to breaches of trust duties by the State. In 2009, the circuit court ruled that the State breached its duties as trustee of the Trust. In 2018, the circuit court entered a final judgment adopting a FMRV model by which it could estimate the actual loss each individual beneficiary incurred. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the circuit court's judgment, holding that the circuit court (1) did not err by adopting the FMRV model; (2) incorrectly ruled that a beneficiary's damages did not begin to accrue until six years after the State received a beneficiary's homestead application; and (3) did not err in finding that the State breached its trust duties by failing to recover lands that were withdrawn from the Trust prior to statehood. View "Kalima v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted Defendants' petition for writ of mandamus, holding that the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) manifestly abused its discretion in setting the amount of a supersedeas bond as a condition of staying the enforcement of a judgment and writ of possession pending appeal. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff on its complaint for ejectment against Defendants. While Defendants' appeal was pending, Defendants moved for a stay of proceedings to enforce the judgment. The circuit court granted the request and required Defendants to post a supersedeas bond in the amount of $578,000. Defendants then filed a motion for a stay in the ICA. The ICA granted a stay on the condition that it would be effective upon the ICA's approval of a supersedeas bond in the amount of $250,000 (the stay order). Defendants filed a petition for writ of mandamus from the ICA's stay order, arguing that the amount of the supersedeas bond should not exceed $8,000. The Supreme Court granted the petition, holding (1) the ICA not apply relevant factors in setting the bond amount, and (2) the stay order lacked a reasonable timeframe in which Defendants would be required to post the bond. View "Kelepolo v. Fernandez" on Justia Law

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In 2006, Adams obtained a loan secured by a deed of trust against Vallejo residential property. Adams obtained a loan from an individual, Gallegos, secured by a separate deed of trust recorded against the same property. Adams defaulted on the junior loan, resulting in foreclosure and a trustee’s sale in 2008. Gallegos was the purchaser. The property was still subject to the senior loan; Adams remained the "Borrower,” named on the deed of trust. In 2017, Adams filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy. After her discharge, Adams filed a complaint, alleging “Violations of the Homeowners’ Bill of Rights” (HBOR), based on her 2016-2017 negotiations for a loan modification. She claimed that the defendants recorded notices of default and of trustee’s sale on the senior loan and failed to provide her with a single point of contact while her application was pending. The court granted the defendants judgment on the pleadings. The court of appeal reversed. While the complaint failed to allege facts sufficient to state a cause of action under the HBOR the trial court abused its discretion when it denied Adams leave to amend. The facts alleged in the complaint together with matters that are subject to judicial notice do not establish that the property is Adams’s principal residence as required under HBOR but there is a reasonable possibility that amendment of the complaint would cure this defect. View "Adams v. Bank of America" on Justia Law

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A judicial foreclosure proceeding is not a form of debt collection when the proceeding does not include a request for a deficiency judgment or some other effort to recover the remaining debt. If a foreclosure plaintiff seeks not only to foreclose on the property but also to recover the remainder of the debt through a deficiency judgment, then the plaintiff is attempting to collect a debt within the meaning of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). But if the plaintiff is simply enforcing a security interest by retaking or forcing a sale of the property, without regard to any additional debt that may be owed, then the FDCPA does not apply. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's action under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act over a judicial foreclosure proceeding in Oregon. The panel held that plaintiff pleaded no conduct by the defendants beyond the filing of a foreclosure complaint and actions to effectuate that proceeding. View "Barnes v. Routh Crabtree Olsen PC" on Justia Law

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Leah Brown, Robert Allen Brown ("Allen"), and Cheryl Woddail ("Cheryl") were heirs of Pauline Brown ("Brown"), who died without a will. Leah, Allen, and Cheryl appealed a circuit court judgment authorizing Ellen Berry-Pratt, the administrator of Brown's estate, to sell certain real property owned by Brown at the time of her death. Because Leah, Allen, and Cheryl did not establish the circuit court erred by entering its judgment in favor of Berry-Pratt, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Brown v. Berry-Pratt, as successor administrator of the Estate of Pauline Brown" on Justia Law

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In this action for recovery of personal property the Supreme Judicial Court vacated in part the judgment of the district court finding Kathryn Colton in contempt and imposing a jail sentence and ordering her incarceration, holding that the district court violated Colton's right to due process by ordering her to be incarcerated without an opportunity to "show cause" in some fashion. Debbie Silverwolf, a former tenant on Colton's property, brought an action against Colton for recovery of personal property. The court entered judgment in favor of Silverwolf and ordered Colton to return the property. When Colton failed to do so the judge held Colton in contempt and ordered her incarceration. No show cause proceeding was held. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the case for a show cause hearing, holding (1) the court did not err in finding Colton in contempt, and the court's factual findings were supported by the evidence; and (2) the court denied Colton the opportunity to show cause, notwithstanding her attempt to make an offer of proof. View "Silverwolf v. Colton" on Justia Law