Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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The County of Sacramento (County) filed an action to abate building and housing code violations at two properties owned or managed by Raj Singh and Kiran Rawat, individually and as trustee of the SitaRam Living Trust dated 2007 and the Sita Ram Trust. The trial court appointed a receiver under Health and Safety Code section 17980.7 to take control of and rehabilitate the properties upon the County’s motion. Singh appealed pro se the trial court’s order approving the receiver’s final account and report and discharging the receiver. The Court of Appeal addressed Singh's claims "as best as [the Court could] discern them." After careful consideration of Singh's claims, the Court found no reversible error and affirmed the trial court. View "County of Sacramento v. Rawat" on Justia Law

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A man’s condominium unit had the only access to a crawl space containing water pipes that served several other units. The condominium association’s president and a maintenance man entered the unit twice, with the owner’s permission, to address water-related maintenance issues in the crawl space, where they identified what they thought were serious problems of leaking and mold. But the unit owner denied their further requests for access to deal with these problems. The association brought suit against the unit owner, alleging that he had caused damage by concealing the leaking in the crawl space and making his own negligent repairs; it also asked for a declaratory judgment concerning its right of entry. The superior court, after an evidentiary hearing, granted a preliminary injunction allowing further inspections. After those inspections revealed that repairs were not needed after all, the association dropped its negligence claim. But it moved for summary judgment on its request for declaratory relief, which the superior court granted, deciding that the association’s declaration allowed reasonable entry for purposes of inspection and repair. The unit owner appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the superior court did not abuse its discretion in issuing the preliminary injunction or err in granting summary judgment on the claim for declaratory relief. Nor did the Court find any abuse of discretion in the superior court’s procedural rulings or its award of attorney’s fees to the association. View "Randle v. Bay Watch Condominium Association" on Justia Law

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A mining company appealed the borough assessor’s valuation of its mine to the borough board of equalization. At a hearing the company presented a detailed report arguing the borough had improperly included the value of “capitalized waste stripping”when calculating the tax-assessed value of the mine. The assessor maintained its position that waste stripping was taxable, but reduced its valuation of the mine to better reflect the remaining life of the mine. The board approved the assessor’s reduced valuation of the mine and the superior court affirmed the board’s decision. The mine owners argued that waste stripping fell within a statutory exemption from taxation. The Alaska Supreme Court construed municipal taxing power broadly, and read exceptions to that power narrowly. The Court found waste stripping was not a “natural resource,” but an improvement that made it easier for miners to access natural resources. The Court concluded that the value of this improvement, like that of other improvements at the mine site, was subject to tax by the borough. The Court therefore affirmed the superior court’s decision affirming the board’s valuation. View "Fairbanks Gold Mining, Inc. vs. Fairbanks North Star Borough Assessor" on Justia Law

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Defendants own a building on a lot at 17 Main Street in Bristol, Vermont. They have fenced in a small parcel behind their building, which they use to store materials in service of their building. Plaintiff claims to own a driveway that runs to the rear of defendants’ building, which defendants use for deliveries, as well as a parking lot behind defendants’ building where the small fenced-in parcel is located. Plaintiff initially sued defendants in 2014, claiming title to the “driveway along the side of defendants’ commercial building” and the small parcel. Defendants counterclaimed, arguing that they had “a right to use the driveway and land behind their building for parking, access, delivery, storage, and other related commercial purposes” by virtue of a prescriptive easement for the driveway and through adverse possession with respect to the small parcel. In May 2018, plaintiff filed the complaint at issue here. He claimed to own the property south of defendants’ property line, and he argued that defendants were trespassing by storing items on his land. Plaintiff asserted that defendants knew that he wanted the items removed and, by refusing to do so, they were depriving him of the possession and use of his property. Plaintiff also asserted that defendants benefited from his ownership and maintenance of the driveway and they were required by 19 V.S.A. 2702 to contribute rateably to his maintenance costs. Finally, plaintiff sought punitive damages based on his allegation that defendants were acting in bad faith. When the trial court entered judgment in favor of defendants, plaintiff appealed, raising numerous arguments. The Vermont Supreme Court reversed and remanded the dismissal of plaintiff's claim for contribution under 19 V.S.A. 2702, and affirmed the remainder of the trial court's decision. View "Moyers v. Poon" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court concluding that service on WWLC Investment, LP by Sorab Miraki was not defective, holding that WWLC met its burden to prove lack of proper service.After WWLC had Miraki evicted, Miraki sued for breach of lease, fraud, and violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, Tex. Bus. & Com. Code ch. 17. Miraki accomplished substituted service by attaching a copy of the petition and citation to the front door of the home of an WWLC employee. When WWLC did not answer, Miraki took a default judgment against it. The court of appeals concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that service on WWLC was not defective. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that WWLC demonstrated that it was not properly served. View "WWLC Investment, LP v. Miraki" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that "a governmental unit's copyright infringement is not a taking" and that, therefore, the trial court erred in denying a plea to the jurisdiction, holding that the violation of a copyright, without more, is not a taking of the copyright.Plaintiff, a professional photographer, sued the University of Houston, alleging that the University's publication of his photograph was an unlawful taking. The University filed a plea to the jurisdiction, asserting immunity under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. After the trial court denied the plea, the University brought this interlocutory appeal. The court of appeals vacated the trial court's order denying the plea and dismissed the cause for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that a governmental unit's copyright infringement is not a taking. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) factual allegations of an infringement do not alone allege a taking; and (2) the court of appeals did not err in sustaining the jurisdictional plea and dismissing the case because the State retained its immunity in the absence of a properly pled takings claim. View "Jim Olive Photography v. University of Houston System" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court denying Defendants' motion to dismiss this petition seeking to force Defendants to enact legislation that will compel Iowa farmers to take action that will significantly reduce levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in the Raccoon River, holding that the motion to dismiss should have been granted.Plaintiffs - two social justice organizations - brought this case against Defendants - the State, four state agencies, and multiple state officials - seeking declaratory relief and to compel the State to adopt a "Raccoon River remedial plan with mandatory agricultural water pollution controls." Defendants moved to dismiss the petition based on lack of standing, nonjusticiability, and failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the petition's attenuated causation theory was insufficient to establish that Plaintiffs' members suffered a concrete injury at the hands of Defendants that a favorable court decision was likely to redress; and (2) Plaintiffs' effort to repurpose the public trust doctrine to solve a complex environmental problem presented a nonjusticiable political question. View "Iowa Citizens For Community Improvement v. State" on Justia Law

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Jean Hardin filed a claim with Farm Bureau, her homeowner’s insurance carrier, following an alleged sudden collapse in the floor of her home. After Farm Bureau denied the claim, Hardin sued Farm Bureau for specific performance, breach of contract, fraud, misrepresentation, damages, emotional harm and upset, depression, attorneys’ fees, costs of litigation, and punitive damages related to Farm Bureau’s denial of coverage for damage to Hardin’s home. Farm Bureau filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court denied. Farm Bureau sought, and the Mississippi Supreme Court granted, interlocutory appeal. The Court reversed, finding the trial court erred in denying Farm Bureau’s motion for summary judgment because Hardin demonstrated proof that the water damage to her home was caused by the failure of the Town of Leakesville to maintain the ditch beside her home. Thus, because Hardin’s damages were not covered under the policy, Farm Bureau was entitled to summary judgment. View "Mississippi Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company v. Hardin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the trial court's judgment determining Defendant's method of calculating a supplemental sewerage benefit assessment levied against certain of Plaintiff's real property, holding that the trial court incorrectly determined that Conn. Gen. Stat. 7-249 required Defendant to use the same method to calculate the supplemental assessment as was used to calculate the initial assessment.At issue was whether Defendant had authority to levy a supplemental assessment against Plaintiff's property and, if so, whether it used the correct methodology in calculating that assessment. A predecessor of Defendant levied a sewerage benefit assessment against the owners of the property. Later, the building was demolished and a new commercial office building was constructed in its place. No supplemental assessment was levied as a result of the construction. Plaintiff later purchased the property and converted it into a residential condominium community. Defendant then levied a supplemental assessment on the property. The trial court concluded that Defendant's supplemental assessment calculation violated section 7-249 because it should have been calculated on the basis of street frontage, as was the initial assessment. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) Defendant had authority to levy the supplemental assessment; and (2) the trial court erred in determining that Defendant incorrectly calculated the supplemental assessment. View "777 Residential, LLC v. Metropolitan District Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment to Defendant, Narragansett Bay Insurance Company (NBIC), in this dispute as to whether Plaintiffs, pursuant to their homeowners insurance policy with NBIC, were entitled to receive a subsequent appraisal of the damage to their property as well as additional compensation for damage incurred, holding that the superior court did not err.Plaintiffs' home, which was insured by NBIC, received water damage stemming from the accumulation of snow on their roof. Plaintiffs submitted a claim to NBIC and received, in return, a check for $14,550. After depositing the check, Plaintiffs later filed a complaint alleging that NBIC had failed to abide by the terms of the homeowners insurance policy and seeking damages for the water damage. The superior court entered summary judgment in favor of NBIC. At issue on appeal was wether Plaintiffs, pursuant to their policy, were entitled to receive a subsequent appraisal of the property damage, along with additional compensation for damage incurred. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs' delay in requesting an appraisal was unreasonable, thereby relieving NBIC of its responsibilities under the insurance policy. View "Machado v. Narragansett Bay Insurance Co." on Justia Law