Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction of an action brought under the Quiet Title Act (QTA) against the United States, seeking to confirm that an easement granted to plaintiffs' predecessors-in-interest did not permit public use of the Robbins Gulch Road, and to enforce the government's obligations to patrol and maintain the road against unrestricted public use.The panel reaffirmed that the QTA's statute of limitations is jurisdictional and dispositive in this case. The panel explained that prior Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit precedent are still controlling, even though for other statutes the Supreme Court has more recently set forth a seemingly different framework for assessing whether a statute of limitations is jurisdictional. Furthermore, the jurisdictional question and the merits question are not so intertwined that dismissal was improper because the determination of jurisdiction is not dependent on the merits of plaintiffs' claims. Finally, the panel rejected plaintiffs' remaining contentions, which are addressed in a separate memorandum disposition filed simultaneously with this opinion. View "Wilkins v. United States" on Justia Law

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This case arose from an alleged international conspiracy to secure lucrative oil and gas contracts in Nigeria in exchange for bribes involving real estate, furniture, artwork, and other gifts. LightRay, the sole shareholder of the corporate owner of the yacht, M/Y Galactica Star, appeals the district court's 2018 order striking its claims and dismissing it for lack of standing. Enron Nigeria, a judgment creditor of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, appeals the district court's 2020 order granting a consent motion that resulted in the forfeiture of the yacht.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling with respect to LightRay's appeal and dismissed Enron Nigeria's appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that LightRay deliberately withdrew its claim against the yacht and waived its argument that it did so under duress. Furthermore, the district court did not err in dismissing LightRay from the proceedings for lack of standing with respect to the Remaining Assets. The court also concluded that Nigeria's Verified Claim was at all times immune from attachment and execution under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. In this case, Nigeria did not waive its sovereign immunity by encouraging the United States Government to sell the Galactica Star. View "United States v. LightRay Capital, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2017, Andeavor agreed with the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, known as the Three Affiliated Tribes, to renew the right-of-way over tribal lands, and to pay trespass damages for continued operation of an oil pipeline after expiration. Andeavor then began renewal negotiations with individual Indian landowners. In 2018, the Allottees filed a putative class action seeking compensatory and punitive damages for ongoing trespass and injunctive relief requiring Andeavor to dismantle the pipeline. The district court granted Andeavor's motion to dismiss, concluding that the Allottees failed to exhaust administrative remedies with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).The Eighth Circuit concluded that the case turns on issues sufficiently within the primary jurisdiction of the BIA to warrant a stay, rather than dismissal, to give the BIA opportunity to take further action. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. The court denied the Allottees' motion to dismiss Robin Fredericks as a plaintiff. View "Chase v. Andeavor Logistics, L.P." on Justia Law

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After the City of San Mateo denied an application to build a ten-unit apartment building, petitioners sought a writ of administrative mandamus seeking to compel the project's approval. The trial court denied the petition, ruling that the project did not satisfy the City's design guidelines for multifamily homes and that, to the extent the Housing Accountability Act (HAA), Government Code section 65589.5, required the City to ignore its own guidelines, it was an unconstitutional infringement on the City's right to home rule and an unconstitutional delegation of municipal powers.The Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that the design guideline the City invoked as part of its reason for rejecting this housing development is not "objective" for purposes of the HAA, and so cannot support the City's decision to reject the project. Furthermore, because the HAA checks municipal authority only as necessary to further the statewide interest in new housing development, the HAA does not infringe on the City's right to home rule. The court rejected the City's remaining constitutional arguments. The trial court shall issue a writ of mandate directing the City to (1) vacate its February 5, 2018 action upholding the Planning Commission's decision to deny the application, and (2) reconsider the challenge to the Planning Commission's decision. View "California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund v. City of San Mateo" on Justia Law

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Property owners in the Town of East Hampton appeal from two separate decisions of the district court concerning their claims that the jetties abutting Lake Montauk Harbor have caused significant erosion on their properties. First, the district court dismissed plaintiffs' Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) claims against the Untied States for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on sovereign immunity grounds, citing the FTCA's discretionary function exception. Second, the district court granted judgment as a matter of law to the Town on plaintiff's state-law private nuisance and trespass claims.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in both decisions, concluding that the district court correctly concluded that plaintiffs' claims against the United States are barred by sovereign immunity. In this case, neither the FCSA nor the 3x3x3 Paradigm prescribes a specific course of action abridging the USACE's broad discretion in carrying out the LMH Study, and that study and the Lake Montauk Harbor FNP are clearly susceptible to policy analysis. The court also held that, under New York law, the Town's ownership of the land beneath the jetties, standing alone, did not give rise to a duty to mitigate any erosion caused by the jetties. The court concluded that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiffs' state-law claims; the district court properly granted the Town's renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law; and the law of the case doctrine did not compel denial of the Town's motion for judgment as a matter of law. View "Cangemi v. United States" on Justia Law

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In case number 1190525, Paul Childs and Granger Construction Company, LLC ("Granger Construction"), appealed a circuit court judgment entered in favor of Harry ("Bud") and Brenda Pommer. In their cross-appeal, case number 1190580, the Pommers appealed the trial court's judgment entered in favor of Melissa Granger ("Melissa"), as the administratrix of the estate of Daniel Granger ("Granger"), deceased. In 2014, the Pommers decided to build a garage on property that they owned in Fairhope, Alabama. Childs was referred to Bud for the work. Childs brought Granger into the project as the licensed contractor for the work. The evidence presented at trial indicated that the project experienced significant delays. Evidence was presented indicating that Granger and Childs performed some of the physical labor on the project. In March 2015, when an invoice was presented to the Pommers, Bud and Brenda told the Childs and Granger that they did not want to give them another check based on how things had been going. A "heated" meeting between the parties resulted in the Pommers hiring an attorney. Bud requested the City conduct an inspection; the garage did not pass. The Pommers subsequently hired another contractor and other companies to repair work done by Granger Construction and to complete unfinished work on the project. The Pommers ultimately sued Childs and Granger Construction for breach of contract. Childs and Granger Construction filed their answer to the amended complaint and a counterclaim, asserting breach of contract/unjust enrichment against the Pommers. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court as to Granger Construction in case number 1190525. The Court reversed the trial court as to Childs, and rendered judgment in favor of Childs. In case number 1190580, the Court affirmed the trial court. View "Childs et al. v. Pommer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Defendants in this trespass-to-try-title suit between the lessees of adjacent mineral estates, holding that the court of appeals erred.In its complaint, Plaintiff claimed that Defendants drilled wells either on Plaintiff's leasehold or closer to the lease line than allowed by Railroad Commission rules. Defendants argued in response that Plaintiff ratified an agreed boundary line, foreclosing Plaintiff's trespass claims. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that a boundary stipulation between the fee owners of the two mineral estates, which Plaintiff accepted, was void and could not be ratified. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the boundary stipulation was valid and that Defendants conclusively established their ratification defense. View "Concho Resources, Inc. v. Ellison" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court in this case involving a challenge to one party's failure to abide by a provision in the parties' contract, holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to relief. Kiernan Family Draper, LLC (Kiernan) and Hidden Valley Health Center, LC and Hidden Valley, LLC (collectively, Hidden Valley) collaborated to develop their neighboring properties into a shopping center and entered into a declaration of covenants, conditions, and restrictions. At issue was the declaration's statement that a certain number of parking spaces would be provided and the antiwaiver provision stating that a party's failure to enforce a provision of the declaration shall not be construed as a waiver. Fifteen years after Hidden Valley finished construction on its parcel Kiernan sued, challenging Hidden Valley's failure to provide the required parking spaces. The district court applied the statute of limitations to bar Kiernan from enforcing the parking ratio as written in the declaration and in limiting Kiernan's recovery to the post-construction "status quo." The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the declaration's antiwaiver provisions preserved the parking provision despite Kiernan's delay in bringing suit; (2) the statute of limitations barred Kiernan from enforcing the parking provision as written; and (3) Kiernan's claim was subject to the statute of limitations even though it alleged harm to a property right. View "Kiernan Family Draper v. Hidden Valley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court approved the decision of the Second District Court of Appeal invalidating the decision of a property appraiser assessing back taxes after discovering his purported clerical error in undervaluing and undertaxing a taxpayer's property, holding that the district court did not err.After discovering valuation errors, the property appraiser reassessed the taxpayer's property and sent her a bill for back taxes. The taxpayer brought this action to obtain aa judgment declaring the invalidity of the back-assessment. The trial court ruled against the taxpayer. The Second District reversed, concluding that the property had not "escaped taxation," which is a prerequisite for a property appraiser's authority to assess back taxes under Fla. Stat. 193.092(1). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 193.092(1) did not give the property appraiser authority to back-assess the taxpayer's property. View "Furst v. DeFrances" on Justia Law

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Sharon Bruno appealed following a bench trial on a quiet title matter. Bruno and her father Howard Frost sought to quiet title to an express easement, pursued quiet title for an easement by prescription, and requested an injunction against two other nearby property owners. The gravamen of the suit was to establish an easement for irrigation hand lines and piping as well as to ensure access to irrigation equipment. The hand lines had been in place since the early 1980s. They originated at a pump near the Payette River and crossed an adjacent property now owned by Dana and Elisa Gilbert (the Gilberts) before reaching Bruno’s property. Bruno also contended that the way she and her father accessed the pump since its installation in 1981 was over a driveway on what was now the Gilberts’ property, as well as a switchback on adjacent property now owned by Alfred Alford. The Gilberts counterclaimed alleging trespass and slander of title. They also sought a declaratory judgment to extinguish the express easement which had been in effect since 2011. Alford also counterclaimed alleging trespass and seeking a declaratory judgment that Bruno had no interest in his property for purposes of accessing the pump. Bruno unsuccessfully moved for summary judgment and for a preliminary injunction. The claims were bifurcated, with the easement-related claims to be tried first before a judge, and the trespass claims to follow before a jury. At the close of the first trial, the district court found that the express easement clearly allowed Bruno ingress and egress along the legal description of the easement; however, the district court rejected the requested prescriptive easement across the Gilberts’ driveway and the switchback on Alford’s property. The district court found that any use of these roads had been permissive and therefore did not satisfy the requirements for a prescriptive easement. Accordingly, the district court dismissed Bruno’s prescriptive easement-related claims. After unsuccessfully moving for reconsideration, Bruno moved the district court to enter a 54(b) certificate to enable an immediate appeal, which was granted. Bruno then timely appealed. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court found no reversible error in the district court's judgment and affirmed. View "Frost v. Gilbert" on Justia Law