Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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The case involves Sanimax USA, LLC, who sued the City of South Saint Paul, Minnesota, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the city's zoning and odor ordinances violated the First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause. Sanimax contended that the city enacted these ordinances in retaliation for Sanimax challenging prior ordinances and that the ordinances unfairly singled out Sanimax. The district court granted the city's motion for summary judgment on all counts.Sanimax operates a rendering plant in South Saint Paul that processes animal carcasses and organic byproducts, emitting pungent, foul odors that have drawn numerous complaints from nearby residents and businesses. Sanimax was designated as a "Significant Odor Generator" by the city, and later challenged the constitutionality of the city's odor ordinance, alleging that it was unconstitutionally vague.The United States Court of Appeals For the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The Court found that Sanimax failed to show that the city's actions were a direct retaliation for Sanimax's prior lawsuits challenging the city's ordinances. Additionally, the Court rejected Sanimax's argument that it was unfairly singled out, finding that Sanimax was not similarly situated to other businesses due to the significantly higher number of odor complaints it generated. Lastly, the Court rejected Sanimax's argument that the city's odor ordinance was unconstitutionally vague, finding that the ordinance provided sufficient notice of the prohibited conduct and did not lend itself to arbitrary enforcement. View "Sanimax USA, LLC v. City of South St. Paul" on Justia Law

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The case in question pertains to a dispute over the enforceability of dragnet clauses within mortgages used to secure loans funding Frank Welte’s farming operations. The Vera T. Welte Testamentary Trust, of which Frank Welte is the sole beneficiary, pledged its property as security for these loans, which were provided by Roger Rand, another Iowa farmer. The Trust's primary asset is 160 acres of farmland that were leased to Frank. Upon Rand's death, his estate initiated a foreclosure action against the Trust's farmland. The Trust subsequently filed for chapter 12 bankruptcy, which led to a stay of the foreclosure action against the Trust.The Estate filed a proof of claim and a motion to dismiss the Trust’s bankruptcy petition, alleging that the Trust was not a business trust as required by chapter 12. The Trust objected to the Estate’s proof of claim. The Iowa state court ruled that the dragnet clauses in the mortgage documents secured the loans made to Frank in excess of the face amount of the promissory notes.The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Iowa, however, held that the dragnet clauses were not enforceable, thereby concluding that the Trust no longer owed a debt to the Estate. Following this, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa gave preclusive effect to the judgment of the Iowa Court of Appeals concerning the enforceability of the clauses and the amounts owed thereunder.The Trust and the Estate both appealed the district court’s order. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit dismissed the appeal and cross-appeal due to lack of jurisdiction, as the district court's order was not final and required further proceedings in the bankruptcy court. View "The Security National Bank of Sioux City, IA v. Vera T. Welte Testamentary Trust" on Justia Law

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The case involves a zoning enforcement action initiated by the Town of Pawlet against landowner Daniel Banyai. Banyai launched a firearms training facility on his property in 2017, which was found to be in violation of the town's Uniform Zoning Bylaws. The Environmental Division issued a judgment in 2021, ordering Banyai to remove unpermitted structures and have his property surveyed within 30 days. Banyai failed to comply with these orders, leading to the imposition of contempt sanctions.The contempt sanctions included fines of $200 per day until all violations were rectified, and the potential for Banyai's arrest. The court also granted the town permission to enter Banyai's property to remove the unpermitted structures if he continued to ignore the orders.Banyai appealed, arguing that the sanctions were punitive and violated the excessive fines clause of the U.S. Constitution. However, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the Environmental Division's decision, deeming Banyai’s arguments an impermissible collateral attack on a final order. The court stated that Banyai had failed to challenge the February 2023 contempt order or denial of reconsideration by a timely direct appeal, which would have been the appropriate channel for his grievances. As a result, his attempt to challenge the determinations now were considered an impermissible collateral attack on the February 2023 contempt order. View "Town of Pawlet v. Banyai" on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit had to apply Florida tort law to a dispute concerning the collapse of a crane boom. The plaintiff, NBIS Construction & Transport Insurance Services, Inc., an insurer of the crane's owner, sued the defendants, Liebherr-America, Inc., a distributor and servicer of the type of crane in question, for over $1.7 million in damages resulting from the collapse. The defendants argued that they were shielded from liability by Florida’s economic loss rule. The magistrate judge, after a five-day bench trial, rejected this argument. The court of appeals found Florida law unclear on this issue and certified a question to the Florida Supreme Court.The facts of the case involved a crane purchased by Sims Crane & Equipment Company from a non-party broker, which was manufactured by Liebherr Werk Ehingen GMbH. Two Sims crane operators received training from a Liebherr-America employee, which involved swapping out different configurations of the crane boom. However, the training was inadequate and did not provide sufficient information about the proper placement of specific pins which, if misadjusted, could cause the crane boom to collapse. When the crane boom did collapse during a construction project, causing a fatality and damage to the crane, NBIS filed a negligence suit against Liebherr-America.The key issue in the case was whether Florida’s economic loss rule, which generally limits recovery in tort cases to situations where there is damage to other property or personal injury, and not just economic loss, applied in this case. The defendants argued that the rule should apply because the plaintiff’s negligence claims were akin to failure to warn theories found in products liability law, which fall within the scope of the rule. The plaintiff argued that the rule should not apply because this was not a product liability case asserting a product defect, but rather a case alleging negligent services provided by the defendants. Because the court found Florida law unclear on this issue, it certified the question to the Florida Supreme Court. View "NBIS Construction & Transport Insurance Services, v. Liebherr-America, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of the State of Hawaii addressed the calculation of damages in cases where a condominium association wrongfully forecloses on a unit owner. Stephen Wong, the plaintiff, had bought a condo in the Harbor Square complex, financing his purchase with a mortgage. He fell behind on his association assessments, and the Association of Apartment Owners (AOAO) of Harbor Square non-judicially foreclosed under Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes (HRS) Chapter 667. The foreclosure exceeded the AOAO’s statutory authority, leading Wong to sue for wrongful foreclosure. The court held that damages in such a case are the plaintiff's positive equity in the property, if any, plus lost use arising from the wrongful foreclosure, minus assessments owed to the AOAO. If the plaintiff was "underwater" on their mortgage (owing more than the home's fair market value), they could still potentially pursue a claim if the value of their wrongly taken use exceeds what they owe the AOAO in assessments. In Wong's case, he failed to establish lost use value, leading the court to affirm the lower court's grant of summary judgment to the AOAO. View "Wong v. Association of Apartment Owners of Harbor Square" on Justia Law

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In this case, the plaintiff, Candice K. Harvey, challenged the decision of the Superior Court affirming the Town of Barrington Planning Board's approval of a subdivision on a lot adjacent to her property. The lot was previously subdivided into two lots, one owned by the plaintiff and the other retained by the owners, David and Glenda Henderson. The Hendersons sought a variance to subdivide their lot into two residential lots and gain access via an easement over the plaintiff's lot. The plaintiff protested that the easement was initially meant for accessing only one lot, not two. The Superior Court affirmed the Planning Board's decision, validating the Zoning Board of Adjustment's authority to approve variances and amend subdivision plans under New Hampshire law.The Supreme Court of New Hampshire reversed the decision of the Superior Court and remanded with instructions to vacate the Planning Board's approval of the subdivision application. The Court held that the easement, as specified in the plaintiff's deed and the 2006 plan, is to be used for a single lot and one buildable location only. Therefore, the Planning Board was precluded from approving the new plan absent legal access to the back lot consistent with RSA 674:41. The court disagreed with the trial court's conclusion that the Zoning Board of Adjustment or the Planning Board could modify the terms of the easement. The court also rejected arguments that the rule of reason should be applied to interpret the language of the easement, stating that the language was clear and unambiguous. View "Harvey v. Town of Barrington" on Justia Law

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In this case, Michael Bordick and Monica Bordick defaulted on a loan from Franklin Savings Bank, which was secured with a hunting cabin they owned on property they leased. The Bank filed a complaint for recovery of the cabin, and the Business and Consumer Docket ruled in favor of the Bank. The Bordicks appealed, arguing that the Bank did not make disclosures required by the Federal Truth in Lending Act (TILA). The Bank argued that the credit transaction was not subject to TILA.The Maine Supreme Judicial Court held that a credit transaction secured by real property in the form of a lease is not exempt from TILA under 15 U.S.C.A. § 1603(3). However, the court also found that the lower court applied an incorrect test to determine whether the loan was for commercial purposes and therefore exempt under § 1603(1). The court vacated the judgment in favor of the Bank and remanded the case for the lower court to determine the nature of the loan, looking at the totality of the circumstances.The court also clarified that although the leased land where the cabin was located was not the Bordicks' principal dwelling, the credit transaction is not exempt from TILA under § 1603(3) because it was secured with real property. View "Franklin Savings Bank v. Bordick" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of the State of Montana affirmed a lower court's decision that an insurance agency, Rames Inc., formerly known as Central Insurance Agency, had a duty to procure additional insurance coverage for a construction company, TCF Enterprises Inc., also known as Malmquist Construction. Rames was found to have breached that duty, thereby breaching the standard of care and negligently misrepresenting that it had obtained the coverage. The court also found that the policy's professional services exclusion would not have barred coverage for defense and indemnity. The dispute arose after Malmquist was sued by a developer due to a construction defect and realized it wasn't covered as an additional insured under a subcontractor's insurance policy as it had believed. Rames had been told by the subcontractor to add Malmquist as an additional insured, but it failed to do so. The jury awarded damages to Malmquist in the amount of $1,022,257.85. Rames appealed, but the Supreme Court upheld the lower court's decision. View "TCF Enterprises, Inc. v. Rames, Inc." on Justia Law

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In a dispute arising from a failed subdivision in Missoula County, Montana, a group of property purchasers, led by Gilbert and Judith Johnston, claimed that Flying S Title and Escrow, Inc., breached a purported contract to provide title insurance for the properties they bought. The properties were originally platted as lots, but the purchasers believed that they would eventually be reconfigured into larger parcels. However, the necessary infrastructure was not installed and the amended plat was never recorded, so the parcels never came into existence. The purchasers claimed that pro forma documents provided by Flying S constituted a contract to insure the parcels. The Supreme Court of Montana disagreed, ruling that the pro forma documents did not constitute a contract, but were merely an offer to issue a title insurance policy for the parcels, subject to the terms stated in the documents. The court noted that a contract for title insurance could not exist under the pro forma documents because the parcels, and the title thereto, never existed. Furthermore, the court found that Flying S had not been unjustly enriched by the purchasers' premium payments because it had provided, as agreed, title insurance for the transaction completed by the purchasers to buy the lots. Therefore, the court affirmed the lower court's decision in favor of Flying S Title and Escrow, Inc. View "Johnston v. Flying S Title & Escrow, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case involved a property dispute between neighbors Robert and Debra Talburt and Miles and Leanne Millard in Idaho. The Millards sought to establish their rights to a disputed tract of land and two easements, as well as breach of contract damages for maintenance of a shared well. The Talburts countered by constructing a fence within the roadway easement, stating they were relocating the roadway easement, and locking the pump house for the shared well. The Supreme Court of Idaho affirmed the district court's judgement in favor of the Millards on their claims related to the easements and ordered the Talburts to remove the fence and cease efforts to block access to the shared well. The court also found the Talburts' attempt to relocate the roadway easement to be unlawful, invalid, and void. However, the district court found that the Millards had abandoned their breach of contract claim and failed to establish a right to the disputed property. The Supreme Court also affirmed the district court's award of a portion of the Millards' attorney fees and costs to them. View "Millard v. Talburt" on Justia Law