Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the circuit court's decision affirming the order of the family court in this divorce proceeding, holding that under the provisions of W. Va. Code § 43- 1-2(a)–(e), where a spouse conveys a security interest in her separate real property by a deed of trust and fails to give notice of the conveyance to the non-title holding spouse within thirty days of the transaction, then in the event of a divorce within five years of the conveyance, the real property shall be deemed a part of the conveyancer’s marital property for purposes of determining equitable distribution or support awards and assigned a value equal to its fair market value at the time of the conveyance. The family court here initially concluded that the fair market value of the wife's separate property was attributable as a marital asset. The circuit court reversed in part, concluding that the value of the real estate conveyed by a deed of trust was not the total market value of the property but the value of the security interest. On remand, the family court recalculated equitable distribution pursuant to the circuit court's directive. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed in part and remanded for a recalculation of equitable support. View "Raymond H. v. Cammie H." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's final order finding that Kenneth and Aimee Bragg had met every element of their adverse possession claim as a matter of law, despite questions of fact pertaining to permissive use of the 9.21 acres of disputed property, holding that summary judgment was not appropriate in this case. Teubert Family Farms, LLC filed a complaint against the Braggs seeking to quiet title, requesting injunctive relief, and alleging slander of title. The Braggs filed a counterclaim alleging adverse possession as to the disputed property. The circuit court granted summary judgment to the Braggs. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred by finding no material question of fact was in dispute as to whether the Braggs satisfied every element required of an adverse possession claim. View "Teubert Family Farms, LLC v. Bragg" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment ruling that Lawrence Pifer and Michael Pifer were entitled to damages related to condemnation blight and the jury's award of damages for condemnation blight but reversed and remanded with directions for the trial court to recalculate interest on the award in accordance with W. Va. Code 54-2-14a, holding that the trial court erred when calculating interest on the jury award. The Pifers were operators of a family business operated on a 2.45 acre parcel. The Division of Highways filed a petition to condemn the Pifers' land for a public use. The parties disagreed on the matter of just compensation, and the matter went to trial. In addition to seeking compensation the Pifers claimed that they suffered damages for rental loss due to condemnation blight. The jury found that the Pifers suffered damages related to condemnation blight. The trial court calculated pre-petition interest at ten percent and ten percent interest to the total award from the date of the petition. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the jury's award of damages for condemnation blight was proper but that the trial court erred in calculating interest on the jury award. View "West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways v. Pifer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the circuit court refusing to enforce an arbitration agreement, holding that individuals may agree to arbitrate a dispute regarding a cloud on the title to real estate. Plaintiff and Defendant entered into a contract whereby Plaintiff would convey almost 1,000 acres of mineral interests to Defendant. The contract contained an arbitration clause requiring the parties to refer any dispute about the parties' performance of the contract to arbitration. Later, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant seeking, inter alia, a declaratory judgment to determine whether a cloud on the title to the mineral interests existed. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss and to compel the parties to arbitrate. The circuit court refused the motion, finding that Plaintiff's claims fell outside the scope of the arbitration clause because, as a matter of public policy, property rights are not subject to arbitration. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) parties may agree to submit to arbitration questions concerning clouds on the title to any estate, right, or interest in real property despite W. Va. Code 51-2-2(d) vesting circuit courts with jurisdiction to resolve those questions; and (2) there was an, enforceable agreement to arbitrate here, and the parties' controversy fell within the scope of that arbitration agreement. View "Golden Eagle Resources,II, LLC v. Willow Run Energy, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this dispute over credit provisions in a real estate purchase agreement, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff, the buyer of a franchise business and the real property on which it sat, holding that the court of appeals erred. The parties in this case structured the agreement for the sale of the real property to include adjustments that would be made to the overall purchase price based on circumstances present at the time of the closing. At closing, the parties disagreed how one of the credit provisions - the Rents Credit - should be interpreted. The trial court granted summary judgment to Plaintiff as to its request for declaratory judgment interpreting the Rents Credit clause. The court of appeals ultimately reversed, concluding that the plain language of the Rents Credit clause led to a "manifestly absurd result." The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the language of the Rents Credit is plain and unambiguous and supports only the interpretation asserted by Plaintiff; and (2) there is no basis on which to conclude that the plain language of the Rents Credit results in a manifest absurdity. View "Beverage Holdings, LLC v. 5701 Lombardo, LLC" on Justia Law

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First Bank of Lincoln (First Bank) challenged a district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Land Title of Nez Perce County Incorporated (Land Title). In 2011, First Bank loaned Donald Tuschoff $440,000 to purchase the Hotel Lincoln in Lincoln, Montana. The loan was secured by a deed of trust against the hotel. As additional collateral, Tuschoff assigned First Bank his interest in a note and deed of trust on a bowling alley in Washington. Later, following a sale of the bowling alley, Land Title distributed the proceeds to Tuschoff and other interested parties rather than First Bank. First Bank did not learn of the bowling alley sale until it completed its annual loan review of Tuschoff’s hotel loan. Subsequently, Tuschoff defaulted on the hotel loan. First Bank held a non-judicial foreclosure sale of the hotel and placed a full-credit bid of the approximately $425,000 owed to it by Tuschoff. First Bank was able to later sell the hotel for approximately $190,000. First Bank then initiated several lawsuits against various parties in Washington, Montana, and Idaho, seeking to recover the “deficiency” between what it was owed and for what it sold the hotel. Relevant here was First Bank’s suit against Land Title in Idaho. The district court, applying Montana law, granted summary judgment in favor of Land Title. The court determined that First Bank’s full credit bid extinguished Tuschoff’s debt, and once that debt was extinguished, the assignment of Tuschoff’s interest in the bowling alley as collateral for that debt was also extinguished. The Idaho Supreme Court concurred with this conclusion, and affirmed. View "First Bank of Lincoln v. Land Title of Nez Perce County" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing these appeals brought by Appellant seeking to keep money owed to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts based on the fugitive disentitlement doctrine, holding that the district court dismissed the appeal prematurely and that the early dismissal was an abuse of discretion. Thomas Sheedy bought Carol Thibodeau's house and gave it to Appellant Donald Kupperstein, an attorney licensed in Massachusetts. The state court reversed the sale, but Appellant kept collecting rent. Appellant fought to keep the money, and by the time these appeals reached the First Circuit Appellant had defied seven state court orders, four arrest warrants, and numerous contempt sanctions. Appellant filed for bankruptcy in hopes that the Bankruptcy Code's automatic stay would stop the state court from enforcing its orders. The bankruptcy court subsequently lifted the stay, then Appellant "went AWOL." The district court dismissed Appellant's appeal based on the rule that a fugitive forfeits the right to appeal the judgment he's fleeing. The First Circuit held that reversal was required because the district court's inherent power to protect its own proceedings was not implicated in this case. The Court then remanded the case for the district court to decide the merits of Appellant's appeals. View "Kupperstein v. Schall" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from an unlawful-detainer and breach-of-contract action filed by Caldwell Land and Cattle, LLC, (“CLC”) after purchasing a building where the holdover tenant, Johnson Thermal Systems (“JTS”), asserted a right to remain on the property. The dispute centered on the interpretation of a lease between JTS and the original property owner which granted JTS an option to extend the lease. JTS contended it properly exercised the option; CLC contends JTS did not. The district court held that JTS failed to exercise the option and thus became a holdover tenant. The court further held that when JTS did not vacate within the proper timeframe, JTS unlawfully detained the premises and was liable for the ensuing damages. JTS appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. The district court’s amended final judgment and its order of attorney’s fees was remanded, however, for reentry of damages consistent with the Supreme Court’s opinion , and for reconsideration of attorney’s fees. View "Caldwell Land & Cattle v. Johnson Thermal" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the district court in this action alleging breach of contract, conversion, and tortious interference with a business relationship of expectation, holding that Plaintiff lacked standing to bring the action in his own name. Kim Hawley, the only named plaintiff, brought this action against John Skradski alleging that he purchased a heating and air conditioning (HVAC) business from an entity affiliated with Skradski and that, after Hawley ceased operating the business, Skradski began operating the business and converted the business's assets to his use. During trial, an asset purchase agreement was received into evidence showing that the HVAC business was purchased by KNR Capital Corp. and not by Hawley individually. The district court granted Skradksi's motion for a directed verdict, finding that there was insufficient evidence of any of the three theories of recovery. The Supreme Court vacated the district court's judgment and dismissed the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that Hawley failed to prove his standing to bring this suit in his own name, and therefore, the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the matter. View "Hawley v. Skradski" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of Defendants in two actions brought under Nebraska's Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (UFTA), Neb. Rev. Stat. 36-701 to 36-712, but reversed the court's grant of attorney fees as sanctions on the grounds that both actions were frivolous, holding that the fraudulent transfer actions lacked merit but that the district court abused its discretion in finding the actions as frivolous. The creditors here alleged that a blanket security agreement guaranteeing repayment of a loan by a wife to her husband was a fraudulent transfer under the UFTA. The district court concluded, after a trial, that there was no actual intent to hinder, delay, or defraud any creditor under the UFTA and that the wife had proved good faith. The court then granted the wife attorney fees. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the award of sanctions, holding that the actions were not frivolous under Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-824; and (2) affirmed the judgments of dismissal, holding that the creditors failed to identify and prove there was any "property" at issue in these cases and thus failed to prove that there was a "transfer" under the UFTA. View "Korth v. Luther" on Justia Law