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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment against Petitioners in their action against Respondents based upon a coal lease agreement between the parties and granting summary judgment against Respondents’ counterclaim, holding that there was no error to the dismissal of the parties’ respective claims. In granting summary judgment against Petitioners, the circuit court concluded that Respondents had no obligation to diligently mine coal and did not have to make royalty payments based upon comparable sales by other mining companies. The circuit court also granted summary judgment against Respondents’ counterclaim seeking damages for Petitioners’ refusal to consent to an assignment or sublease of the coal lease and for alleged tortious interference with an asset agreement Respondents had with another company. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error in the circuit court’s judgment. View "Bruce McDonald Holding Co. v. Addington Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a federal civil rights action against defendants, alleging numerous federal constitutional violations and a disparate impact claim under the Fair Housing Act. Almost simultaneously, the city filed a nuisance complaint in state court against plaintiffs and the city filed a motion for abstention, or in the alternative, a motion to dismiss the federal action. The county filed a nearly identical motion the next day. The district court granted both the city and the county's motions, concluding that abstention was appropriate under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). Determining that it had jurisdiction over the appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court properly abstained under Younger in every aspect, except with respect to the allegedly unreasonable search, which must be severed from the other claims. In this case, Younger abstention was appropriate as to all claims except the unreasonable search claim, because success by plaintiffs on such claims would invalidate the code enforcement proceeding. In regard to the unreasonable search claim, the district court erred in abstaining because the relief sought on alleged Fourth Amendment violations did not meet the Court's requirement that the relief have the practical effect of enjoining the state court proceeding. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Herrera v. City of Palmdale" on Justia Law

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In this condemnation case, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the district court’s award of $168,009 in attorney fees to the landowner under the condemnation fee-shifting statute, Minn. stat. 117.031(a), holding that the district court misinterpreted and misapplied the Court’s lodestar precedent. Using the lodestar method, the district court awarded the landowner the amount that he requested. The court of appeals reversed the award because the district court failed to begin its calculation with the presumptive lodestar amount of $34,133 and because the district court did not sufficiently explain why enhancing the presumptive lodestar amount by more than $130,000 would represent a reasonable fee. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under current Supreme Court law, an enhancement based on a contingent fee agreement is improper; and (2) the district court incorrectly applied the law and did not make adequate factual findings to support its enhanced attorney-fee award. View "State v. Krause" on Justia Law

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The McCarthy law firm was hired to carry out a nonjudicial foreclosure on Obduskey’s Colorado home. Obduskey invoked the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) provision, 15 U.S.C. 1692g(b), providing that if a consumer disputes the amount of a debt, a “debt collector” must “cease collection” until it “obtains verification of the debt” and mails a copy to the debtor. Instead, McCarthy initiated a nonjudicial foreclosure action. The Tenth Circuit and Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of Obduskey’s suit, holding that McCarthy was not a “debt collector.” A business engaged in only nonjudicial foreclosure proceedings is not a “debt collector” under the FDCPA, except for the limited purpose of section 1692f(6). The FDCPA defines “debt collector” an “any person . . . in any business the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts, or who regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts.” The limited-purpose definition states that “[f]or the purpose of section 1692f(6) . . . [the] term [debt collector] also includes any person . . . in any business the principal purpose of which is the enforcement of security interests.” McCarthy, in enforcing security interests, is subject to the specific prohibitions contained in 1692f(6) but is not subject to the FDCPA’s main coverage. Congress may have chosen to treat security-interest enforcement differently from ordinary debt collection to avoid conflicts with state nonjudicial foreclosure schemes; this reading is supported by legislative history, which suggests that the present language was a compromise between totally excluding security-interest enforcement and treating it like ordinary debt collection. View "Obduskey v. McCarthy & Holthus LLP" on Justia Law

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The Town of Belmont appealed a New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA) decision that, pursuant to RSA 72:36-a (2012) respondent Robin M. Nordle 2013 Trust was entitled to a 100% real estate tax exemption for a homestead in Belmont. RSA 72:36-a provided that a person who met certain qualifications set forth in the statute, and “who owns a specially adapted homestead which has been acquired with the assistance of the Veterans Administration,” qualified for a property tax exemption. Louis Nordle served during the Vietnam War and was honorably discharged in 1969. In 1998, Louis and his wife, Robin Nordle, purchased a summer camp in Belmont. In 2007, the Nordles demolished the original home and built a new home. The house was later transferred to the Robin M. Nordle 2013 Trust, in which Louis had a life estate in the trust and Robin was the trustee. In 2015, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs determined that Louis was totally and permanently disabled due to his service-connected disabilities. In 2016, Louis received a “Specially Adapted Housing Grant” from the Veterans Administration (VA), and used the funds to modify his home to accommodate his disability. The town originally denied Nordle's application for tax-exempt status, determining that the “home was not ‘acquired’ or ‘purchased’ by or with the assistance of a VA loan.” In making its determination, the town relied upon advice from the New Hampshire Department of Revenue that, in order to be entitled to the property tax exemption, the VA “had to help ‘purchase’ the home not adapt it.” The BTLA reasoned that “the word ‘acquired’ in the statute had a plain meaning broader than simply ‘purchased,’” and that because Louis “obtained, and is now in possession of, a specially adapted homestead . . . only because of the financial assistance he received from the VA,” the taxpayer was entitled to the tax exemption set forth in RSA 72:36-a. The New Hampshire Supreme Court determined that once the remodeling was completed, the taxpayer owned a specially adapted homestead which was “acquired with the assistance of the Veterans Administration.” and affirmed the BTLA’s determination that the taxpayer was entitled to a 100% real estate tax exemption for the homestead in Belmont. View "Appeal of Town of Belmont" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of disputes between the parties involving a twelve year commercial lease of office space in Baltimore, Maryland. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court misconstrued the lease agreement and misapplied Maryland law in concluding that Montgomery Park had a duty to endeavor to relet the premises and minimize its damages as a condition precedent to recovering against NCO. The panel held that the lease agreement's language incorporated the common law mitigation-of-damages doctrine, which holds that a plaintiff cannot recover damages which it could have reasonably avoided. Therefore, Montgomery Park's recovery should only have been reduced by the amount of rent that NCO could demonstrate would have been recovered by reasonable efforts to re-let the space. The court also held that the district court, in evaluating the commercial reasonableness of Montgomery Park's mitigation efforts, applied the wrong standard. The court held that reasonable commercial efforts to mitigate damages did not require Montgomery Park to favor NCO’s space over other vacant space in the building, but rather, commercial reasonableness only required Montgomery Park to reasonably market NCO's space on an equal footing with the other spaces that it was seeking to rent. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "NCO Financial Systems, Inc. v. Montgomery Park, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the circuit court granting declaratory relief in favor Berkeley County on the County’s suit against the City of Martinsburg seeking a ruling that real property owned by the County but located within the City limits was not subject to the City’s zoning ordinances, holding that the circuit court’s order was advisory in that it lacked a justiciable controversy sufficient to confer jurisdiction under the Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act. In vacating the circuit court’s order, the Supreme Court noted that the complaint revealed no actual, justiciable controversy because there was no specific project, building, or property identified by the County. Rather, the underlying suit claimed to apply generally to all real property owned by the County that may be involved in future, unspecified projects. The Court held that, under these circumstances, the circuit court engaged in an academic exercise, and its order amounted to an advisory opinion and, therefore, must be vacated. View "City of Martinsburg v. Berkeley County Council" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court certifying as final the prior orders that granted summary judgment to Respondents in this civil action arising out of the modification of covenants pertaining to a residential subdivision developed by RJM Holdings, LLC, holding that the genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment. On appeal, Petitioners argued that the circuit court erred by granting summary judgment because genuine issues of material fact existed regarding whether Respondents were engaged in a joint venture with RJM to develop the subdivision and whether the corporate veils of the respondent businesses should be pierced to hold certain individuals personally liable. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed, holding that genuine issues of material fact existed with respect to the conduct of Respondents and the use of the various business entities to develop the subdivision. View "Dailey v. RJM Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the circuit court’s order granting summary judgment to Respondents in this nuisance action against a shooting range, holding that because Petitioners’ plea for money damages accrued prior to the 2017 amendment of Va. Code 61-6-23, the Legislature could not retroactively bar Petitioners from pursuing their nuisance claim. Petitioners, who owned land in Frederick County, Virginia, sued Respondents for nuisance in 2015, claiming that noise from Respondents’ shooting ranges substantially and unreasonably interfered with their use and enjoyment of their rural property. In 2017, the legislature amended section 61-6-23 to bar nuisance claims against a shooting range if the range is in compliance with local noise ordinances. The legislature specified that the amendment applied retroactively. The circuit court dismissed Petitioners’ suit, concluding that the nuisance claim was retroactively barred. The Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court correctly applied the amendment to dismiss, retroactively, Petitioner’s nuisance claim seeking injunctive relief; but (2) because Petitioners’ plea for money damages accrued prior to the amendment, Petitioners’ right to pursue those damages was vested. The Supreme Court remanded the matter to the circuit court to resume proceedings in Petitioners’ nuisance claim for monetary damages. View "Goldstein v. Peacemaker Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the Fee Exemption, a provision in Ind. Code 36-1-20-5 that allows the cities of Bloomington and West Lafayette to charge local landlords any amount to register rental properties, is unconstitutional special legislation that must be struck down but that the remainder of section 36-1-20-5 remains in force. While the Fee Exemption singles out the cities of Bloomington and West Lafayette for preferential treatment, all other Indiana localities are restricted to charging only $5 under another provision - the Fee Restriction - in section 36-1-20-5. The City of Hammond challenged the Fee Exemption as unconstitutional under Ind. Const. art. IV, 23. The Supreme Court agreed with the City and held that the Fee Exemption is unconstitutional but that the remainder of the statute, including the Fee Restriction, remained in effect and now operates statewide. View "City of Hammond v. Herman & Kittle Properties, Inc." on Justia Law