Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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The case revolves around a dispute over a deed reservation related to a shale pit on a property owned by the Hansen-Gier Family Trust. The deed, originally between the Haywoods and the Paughs, reserved the use of the shale pit for ingress and egress roads of "the development property." The Trust, the current property owner, sought a declaratory judgment that the reservation had fulfilled its purpose and is now void, or alternatively, that the reservation was limited to use on the ingress and egress roads of its property and two neighboring parcels. The Haywoods, however, argued that "the development property" meant any property they had developed or were going to develop.The Circuit Court of Mineral County ruled in favor of the Haywoods, interpreting "the development property" as any property the Haywoods develop. The court granted the Haywoods ownership rights to the shale and the right to remove the shale for property that they develop.The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia reversed the lower court's decision. The Supreme Court found that the lower court's interpretation broadened the scope of the reservation beyond the language of the deed. The court also found that the lower court failed to consider the use-and-purpose limitation in the reservation, which specified that the shale could only be used for ingress and egress roads. The Supreme Court remanded the case for further proceedings, instructing the lower court to make additional findings consistent with the Supreme Court's interpretation of the reservation. View "The Hansen-Gier Family Trust v. Haywood" on Justia Law

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The case involves Continental Resources, Inc., an Oklahoma oil and gas company, and Rick and Rosella Fisher, who own a farm in North Dakota. Continental drilled a horizontal disposal well on the Fishers' property to inject saltwater waste into the pore space of a rock formation known as the Lodgepole. The Fishers sued Continental, claiming that the company had no right to drill the well. The district court ruled that Continental had the right to proceed with drilling and using the well as long as the use was reasonable, but the Fishers were entitled to compensation for any proven damage to their pore space.The district court denied Continental's motion for judgment as a matter of law and the jury awarded the Fishers $22,440.25. Continental then renewed its motion for judgment as a matter of law and, in the alternative, moved for a new trial. The Fishers moved for an award of attorneys’ fees and costs. The district court denied Continental’s motion and awarded the Fishers $249,243.60 in attorneys’ fees and $87,639.89 in costs.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the third-party contracts and Rick Fisher’s testimony. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's award of attorneys’ fees and costs to the Fishers. View "Continental Resources, Inc. v. Fisher" on Justia Law

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Harold Wallace, a tenant of the Housing Authority of the City of Talladega, fell while descending the back-porch stairs of his apartment due to missing handrails. Wallace sued the Housing Authority for negligence and wantonness. The Housing Authority moved for a summary judgment, arguing that the lack of handrails was an "open and obvious" danger and that Wallace had conceded in his deposition that he was aware of this. The trial court granted the Housing Authority's motion for a summary judgment. Wallace appealed to the Court of Civil Appeals.The Court of Civil Appeals reversed the trial court's summary judgment in favor of the Housing Authority. The Housing Authority then petitioned the Supreme Court of Alabama for certiorari review, arguing that the Court of Civil Appeals' decision conflicts with a prior decision in Daniels v. Wiley, where the court affirmed a summary judgment for the defendant landlord after concluding that the landlord had no duty to the plaintiff tenant with respect to risks created by the muddy condition of a sidewalk within her apartment complex because the danger was "open and obvious."The Supreme Court of Alabama affirmed the decision of the Court of Civil Appeals, concluding that the decision does not conflict with Daniels. The court clarified that while the Daniels decision is sound, it should not be interpreted as rejecting a landlord's duties under the circumstances described in §§ 360 and 361 of the First Restatement and the Second Restatement. The court found that the Housing Authority failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the principles set forth in §§ 360 and 361 apply to the circumstances in this case, and therefore, the Housing Authority was not entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. View "Ex parte The Housing Authority of the City of Talladega" on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute between two parties over the right to quiet enjoyment of property versus the right to hunt and harvest wildlife. The Dickersons, who own approximately 220 acres in Booneville, Mississippi, filed a complaint against the Allens and Cain, members of the Sand Hill Hunting Club. The Dickersons alleged that the Allens' and Cain's hunting dogs trespassed on their property, interfered with their preferred method of still hunting, and disturbed the quiet and peaceful enjoyment of their land. They sought injunctions to prevent the Allens' dogs from entering their property and to stop the Allens from parking or walking on any road right-of-way adjoining their land.The Prentiss County Chancery Court found that the repeated intrusion of deer hunting dogs onto the Dickersons' property constituted a private nuisance. The court granted permanent injunctions disallowing the hunting dogs from going onto the property. The court also ruled that if any of the Allens were found to be parked on the public road or public road right-of-way within sight of the Dickersons' property when deer dogs were found to be running on the Dickersons' property, it would be prima facie proof that the Allens violated the court’s injunctions. The court denied the Dickersons' request for monetary damages due to lack of sufficient evidence.The Allens appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Mississippi. They raised several issues, including whether the trial court committed reversible error by failing to specify its path to finding private nuisance, whether deer hunting with dogs can be considered a private nuisance when done within the parameters of the law and in an area long known for dog hunting, and whether the trial court’s injunction adequately addresses the nuisance. The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision, finding that the trial court's finding of private nuisance was supported by the evidence and that its issuance of a permanent injunction was within its judicial authority and adequately addressed the nuisance. View "Allen v. Dickerson" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute between Simple Avo Paradise Ranch, LLC (Simple Avo), an avocado farm, and Southern California Edison Company (SCE), a utility company. Simple Avo claimed that SCE was responsible for damages caused by the 2017 Thomas Fire in Southern California due to SCE's alleged negligence in maintaining its electrical infrastructure. The case was part of a larger coordinated proceeding involving hundreds of similar lawsuits against SCE.Before Simple Avo filed its lawsuit, the trial court had overruled SCE's demurrer to the cause of action for inverse condemnation in the master complaints filed by each of the plaintiff groups. Simple Avo did not participate in the briefing or argument on SCE’s demurrer before the trial court. Instead, Simple Avo and SCE settled for an undisclosed amount and entered into a stipulated judgment whereby SCE would pay $1.75 million to Simple Avo on the inverse condemnation claim, subject to SCE’s appeal of the demurrer ruling.The Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District, Division Seven, affirmed the lower court's decision. The court held that the stipulated judgment was appealable and justiciable, and that the trial court correctly overruled the demurrer. The court found that SCE could be liable for inverse condemnation as a public entity, and that the master complaint sufficiently alleged a cause of action for inverse condemnation. View "Simple Avo Paradise Ranch, LLC v. Southern Cal. Edison Co." on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute over a tract of land in North Carolina. The defendants, Wade and Teresa Cornett, have lived on the property since 1983 and purchased it in 1995. The deed showed a thirty-foot access easement along the western edges of the property, which the Cornetts had used for access to a road. Over the years, the Cornetts made various improvements in the easement, under the belief that they owned the property in the easement. In 2019, the plaintiffs, Joanne and William Hinman, purchased the land from the Churches, who had inherited it from Bennie Church, the Cornetts' former neighbor. The Hinmans commissioned a survey, which confirmed the existence of the easement on their land. They demanded the Cornetts remove the improvements built inside the easement and asserted that the Cornetts could not use the portion of the paved driveway falling outside the easement boundary. The Cornetts refused, and the Hinmans brought suit for trespass and to quiet title.The trial court granted summary judgment for the Hinmans on all claims. The Cornetts appealed the trial court’s judgment to the Court of Appeals, which reversed the trial court's decision and remanded for further proceedings. The Court of Appeals opined that the Cornetts’ evidence showed open, continuous, exclusive, actual, and notorious use of the disputed land for over twenty years. The dissenting judge disagreed, arguing that the Cornetts’ use was permissive and tolled the running of the twenty-year statute of limitations.The Supreme Court of North Carolina affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals. The court concluded that the Cornetts’ evidence was sufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact concerning the hostility of their possession of the land. The court found that the Cornetts’ mistaken belief of ownership and their permanent improvements on the property constituted evidence rebutting the presumption of permissive use. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Hinman v. Cornett" on Justia Law

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In 2000, Betty J. Brown took title to a property in Charlotte, North Carolina. She obtained a loan from First Horizon Home Loan Corporation in 2004, secured by a deed of trust. In 2010, a judgment was entered against Brown in South Carolina, which was domesticated and recorded in North Carolina in 2014. In 2016, Brown refinanced the First Horizon loan with Nationstar Mortgage LLC, which paid off the remainder of the First Horizon loan. The deed of trust for the Nationstar loan was recorded after the 2010 judgment. MidFirst Bank is Nationstar’s successor in interest for the 2016 loan. In 2019, enforcement proceedings began against Brown to collect the 2010 judgment. The property was seized and sold at an execution sale, with Brown's daughter, Michelle Anderson, placing the successful bid.The trial court granted summary judgment to MidFirst Bank, asserting that the Nationstar deed of trust still encumbered the property even after the execution sale. The court also held that the doctrine of equitable subrogation applied, allowing Nationstar to assume the rights and priorities of the First Horizon deed of trust. The Court of Appeals reversed this decision, holding that the Nationstar lien was extinguished by the execution sale and that the doctrine of equitable subrogation was not available to MidFirst Bank because it was not "excusably ignorant" of the publicly recorded judgment.The Supreme Court of North Carolina reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals, holding that it erred by applying the incorrect standard regarding equitable subrogation. The court held that the doctrine of equitable subrogation applies when money is expressly advanced to extinguish a prior encumbrance and is used for this purpose. The court remanded the case to the Court of Appeals to be remanded to the trial court for reassessment under the correct legal standard. View "MidFirst Bank v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute between the Walton family and the Neskowin Regional Sanitary Authority over the installation of sewer lines on the Walton's property. The Waltons claimed that the installation constituted a "taking" under the Oregon Constitution and the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, for which they were entitled to "just compensation". The Sanitary Authority argued that the claim was time-barred under Oregon law, as it was not brought within the six-year limitations period.The trial court granted the Sanitary Authority's motion for summary judgment, ruling that the claim was indeed time-barred. The Waltons appealed, but the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision. The Waltons then petitioned for review by the Supreme Court of the State of Oregon.The Supreme Court of the State of Oregon affirmed the decisions of the lower courts. The court held that the Waltons' claim was subject to the six-year limitations period established by Oregon law. The court further held that the claim accrued when the sewer lines were installed, which was no later than 1995, and therefore, the six-year limitations period expired in 2001, sixteen years before the Waltons filed their complaint. Consequently, the court concluded that the Waltons' claim was time-barred. View "Walton v. Neskowin Regional Sanitary Authority" on Justia Law

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The case involves MRose Development Co., LLC and Jason Schumacher (MRose) who sought to develop farmland located along Swan Lake in Turner County into 15 lakefront lots. The land was currently included in an agricultural zoning district, and due to residential density restrictions, MRose applied to rezone the land into a lake residential district. The Turner County Board of County Commissioners (the County) denied the application, and MRose appealed to the circuit court.The circuit court reversed the County's decision, interpreting Turner County's zoning ordinance to require approval of the rezoning application as a purely ministerial act because the land was situated along Swan Lake. The County appealed this decision.The Supreme Court of the State of South Dakota reversed the circuit court's decision. The court found that the circuit court erred in its interpretation of the 2008 Zoning Ordinance, which it believed required the County to approve MRose's rezoning application. The Supreme Court held that no provision in the entire 2008 Zoning Ordinance stated that lakefront property must be zoned Lake Residential simply by virtue of its location. The court also held that the County's decision to deny MRose's rezoning application was not arbitrary, as MRose failed to meet its burden of proof that the County acted arbitrarily. View "Mrose Development Co. v. Turner County Bd. Of Commissioners" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute between Shawnee Community Unit School District No. 84 (the School District) and Grand Tower Energy Center, LLC (Grand Tower), the owner of a power plant in Jackson County, Illinois. For the 2014 tax year, the Jackson County assessor imposed an assessed value of $33,445,837 on Grand Tower’s property. Grand Tower appealed the assessment to the Jackson County Board of Review, which reduced the assessed value of the property to $31,538,245. Grand Tower then appealed to the Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB) under section 16-160 of the Property Tax Code, seeking a further reduction of the final assessment imposed by the board of review. The School District, which receives funding from property taxes generated in that county, was granted leave to intervene in the appeal.While the appeal was pending before the PTAB, Grand Tower’s 2014 property taxes came due. Grand Tower did not pay the taxes. In December 2015, the Jackson County collector prepared the annual list of properties with delinquent taxes, which included Grand Tower’s property. The collector then applied to the circuit court of Jackson County for a judgment and order of sale for taxes on the 2014 delinquent properties, including Grand Tower’s. The court entered a judgment and order of sale.The School District filed a motion before the PTAB seeking dismissal of Grand Tower’s appeal, arguing that Grand Tower was required to pay the 2014 property taxes under protest in order to pursue an appeal before the PTAB. The School District also argued that once the Jackson County collector made the application for judgment and order of sale, the circuit court acquired jurisdiction over the taxes and all supplemental matters, including the determination of the assessment, thereby divesting the PTAB of jurisdiction to review the 2014 assessment. The PTAB denied the School District’s motion to dismiss.The School District appealed the PTAB’s decision to the appellate court, which affirmed the decision of the PTAB. The appellate court held that payment of the contested taxes was not a condition precedent to pursuing an appeal before the PTAB and that the tax sale proceedings in the circuit court did not divest the PTAB of jurisdiction to review the 2014 and 2015 property assessments.The School District then appealed to the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court, holding that the payment of disputed property taxes is not a condition precedent to pursuing an appeal before the PTAB under section 16-160 of the Code, and that the county collector’s application for judgment and order of sale did not divest the PTAB of its jurisdiction to review Grand Tower’s properly filed appeals. The court also held that the entry of the judgment and order of sale did not estop Grand Tower from seeking review of its 2014 and 2015 assessments before the PTAB. View "Shawnee Community Unit School District No. 84 v. Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board" on Justia Law