Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court answered three modified questions certified to it by the United States District Court for the District of Hawai'i in a federal court lawsuit where a grantor asserted that an escrow company's alleged deletion of an easement from the property description attached to a deed he executed rendered the deed a forged deed that was void ab initio and the escrow company and grantee asserted that the grantor's claim sounded in fraud and was barred by a statute of limitations. The Supreme Court held (1) a deed is void ab initio for fraud such that a claim challenging the validity of the deed is not subject to a statute of limitations under certain circumstances; (2) the six-year "catch-all" statute of limitations under Haw. Rev. Stat. 647-1(4) applies to a claim that a deed was procured by fraud of the type that does not render it void ab initio, such as fraud in the inducement and constructive fraud; and (3) the statute of limitations begins to run on a grantor's claim that a deed was procured by fraud of the type that does not render it void ab initio when the grantor discovers or should have discovered the existence of the claim or the person liable for the claim. View "Hancock v. Kulana Partners, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Fletchers owned property in the Twin Lakes Meadows Subdivision in Kootenai County, Idaho. Some of the lots, but not all, adjoin or connect to a private gravel and dirt road known as “Lone Mountain Road” which ran through the subdivision. road. Over the years, because Delores Fletcher suffered from asthma, the Fletchers used asphalt grindings, oiling, and other dust control methods, at their own expense, to abate the dust on the stretch of road adjacent to their property. Disputes arose for several contentious years between the Fletchers and the “Lone Mountain Road Association” - i.e. the Fletchers’ neighbors - over the payment of maintenance costs incurred by the Association, attempts to stop the Fletchers from utilizing their own dust control methods, and the repair of potholes. The disputes came to a head in 2009 when the Association made written demand that the Fletchers stop oiling Lone Mountain Road. In response to their neighbors’ demand, the Fletchers brought a declaratory judgment action, seeking a declaration which outlined the rights and responsibilities of subdivision property owners with respect to Lone Mountain Road. The Fletchers also brought a claim for trespass against defendants Alan Sims and Lone Mountain Road Association. Counterclaims were filed against the Fletchers alleging nuisance. The district court dismissed the nuisance claims in June of 2015, and later dismissed the trespass claims as well, leaving only the issue of the declaration of the rights and responsibilities of the lot owners for maintenance of Lone Mountain Road. The Fletchers appealed the district court’s denial of attorney fees on remand after an amended judgment was entered in their favor. The district court awarded some costs to the Fletchers as the prevailing parties but found that the subdivision’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs), which governed this dispute, did not provide a basis for an award of attorney fees. The Idaho Supreme Court reversed the district court’s decision, holding that the Fletchers’ declaratory judgment action constituted an “enforcement action” under section 5.1 of the CC&Rs. The matter was remanded for a determination of the amount of reasonable attorney fees to be awarded and apportionment of those fees against the parties. View "Fletcher v. Lone Mtn Rd Association" on Justia Law

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In this appeal from ongoing litigation involving adjoining property owners the Supreme Judicial Court vacated the motion judge's order denying plaintiff developer's special motion to dismiss defendant abutters' counterclaims, holding that the abutters could not demonstrate that their claims were not strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP suits). The developer filed a complaint against the abutters alleging abuse of process and violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A. Both parties were then involved in motions filed under the anti-SLAPP act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 59H. Here, the developer appealed from the denial of its special motion to dismiss the abutters' counterclaims alleging breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, abuse of process, and violation of chapter 93A. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the case for entry of an order allowing the special motion to dismiss, holding (1) none of the abutters' contract-based counterclaims was colorable; and (2) the abutters failed to demonstrate that any of their remaining counterclaims were not retaliatory. View "477 Harrison Avenue, LLC v. JACE Boston, LLC" on Justia Law

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A storm caused minor hail damage at the Winding Ridge condominium complex located in Indiana, which was not discovered until almost a year later when a contractor inspected the property to estimate the cost of roof replacement. Winding Ridge submitted an insurance claim to State Farm. The parties inspected the property and exchanged estimates but could not reach an agreement. Winding Ridge demanded an appraisal under the insurance policy. State Farm complied. After exchanging competing appraisals, the umpire upon whom both sides agreed issued an award, which became binding. Winding Ridge filed suit alleging breach of contract, bad faith, and promissory estoppel. The Seventh Circuit held that the appraisal clause is unambiguous and enforceable; there is no evidence that State Farm breached the policy or acted in bad faith when resolving the claim. Winding Ridge’s own appraiser found no hail damage to the roofing shingles on 20 buildings. The fact that Winding Ridge independently replaced the shingles on all 33 buildings for $1.5 million while its claim was pending does not obligate State Farm under the policy or mean State Farm breached the policy. There is no evidence that State Farm delayed payment, deceived Winding Ridge, or exercised an unfair advantage to pressure Winding Ridge to settle. View "Villas at Winding Ridge v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co." on Justia Law

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In this case involving $537,000 in excess foreclosure sale proceeds the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate appellate court (ICA) and the circuit court's final judgment in favor of Respondents, holding that the circuit court's determination that Petitioners could have reasonably known of certain transfers and their fraudulent nature on or before February 21, 2005 contravened this Court's ruling in Schmidt II. Petitioners obtained a final judgment for the excess proceeds but later learned that those same proceeds were already transferred. Petitioners then brought a complaint alleging that the proceeds were fraudulently transferred. The circuit court entered judgment in favor of Respondents. The ICA concluded that Petitioners' claim under Hawai'i Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (HUFTA), Haw. Rev. Stat. Chapter 651 C, should have been dismissed as untimely. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that the ICA incorrectly held that the statute of limitations ran from the date of the transfer rather than from the date that Petitioners discovered the fraudulent nature of the transfer. On remand, the circuit court concluded that Petitioners' claims were time barred. The ICA affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the statute of limitations for Petitioners' HUFTA claim did not begin until July 26, 2005, and therefore, Petitioners timely raised their claims. View "Schmidt v. HSC, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying Petitioner's renewed motion for summary judgment and granting declaratory relief, holding that judicial estoppel applied to this appeal. Robert May brought an injunction proceeding against Mark-Banbury, LLC, the owner of property that it developed as The Lakes, after Mark-Banbury, LLC began draining water across May's land without May's permission. The circuit court awarded damages and an injunction prohibiting Mark-Banbury, LLC from future development of The Lakes until flooding and damages were stopped. The judgment order was recorded. Banbury Holdings, LLC subsequently purchased The Lakes and filed this collateral proceeding for declaratory judgment requesting that the circuit court declare that the judgment order in the injunction proceeding as void as to Banbury Holdings and its successors in title. The circuit court denied relief, finding that the prior litigation, in which Banbury Holdings was a party, ran with the land and was binding upon Banbury Holdings and all its successors in title. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Banbury Holdings was judicially estopped from asserting conflicting positions in this collateral proceeding. View "Banbury Holdings, LLC v. May" on Justia Law

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In 2018, Mosley visited the Kohl’s stores in Northville and Novi, Michigan and encountered architectural barriers to access by wheelchair users in their restrooms. He sought declaratory and injunctive relief under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provisions governing public accommodations, claiming that Kohl’s denied him “full and equal access and enjoyment of the services, goods and amenities due to barriers ... and a failure . . . to make reasonable accommodations,” 42 U.S.C. 12182. According to the district court, Mosley has filed similar lawsuits throughout the country. A resident of Arizona, Mosley “has family and friends that reside in the Detroit area whom he tries to visit at least annually.” Mosley, a musician, had scheduled visits to “southeast Michigan” in September and October 2018. He is planning to visit his family in Detroit in November 2018. He stated that he would return to the stores if they were modified to be ADA-compliant. The district court dismissed the suit for lack of standing. The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded. Mosley has sufficiently alleged a concrete and particularized past injury and has sufficiently alleged a real and immediate threat of future injury. Plaintiffs are not required to provide a definitive plan for returning to the accommodation itself to establish a threat of future injury, nor need they have visited the accommodation more than once. View "Mosley v. Kohl's Department Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, Lofts Essex, LLC and the Wilson Inn, Inc. (collectively, the Lofts), appeal the trial court’s pretrial denial of summary judgment and the court’s final decision ruling in favor of defendant, Strategis Floor and Décor, Inc. The dispute between the parties arose from a warranty claim made on laminate flooring in a 54-apartment unit complex. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded that the trial court’s pretrial denial of summary judgment was not reviewable and affirmed the final decision granting judgment to Strategis. View "The Lofts Essex, LLC v. Strategis Floor Decor Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court declining to modify a restriction on alienability of paintings painted by artist Grant Wood and donated in 1976 to Coe College in Cedar Rapids, holding that the 1976 gift was restricted. A foundation donated the paintings to the college, and the gift letter stated that "this would be their permanent home, hanging on the walls of Stewart Memorial Library." While the college traditionally treated the paintings on its books as an unrestricted gift that could be sold or otherwise alienated, in 2016, an auditor determined the paintings should be treated as a restricted gift. The college subsequently filed a petition seeking a judicial interpretation of the gift's terms. The district court ruled that there existed a restriction on the alienability of the paintings and declined to modify the restriction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the language in the gift letter did restrict the gift; (2) the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act does not apply; and (3) it was premature to consider the application of the common law doctrine of cy pres because there was no showing the gift restrictions cannot be carried out at present. View "In re Application of Coe College for Interpretation of Purported Gift Restrictions v. Coe College" on Justia Law

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After a dispute over a fence project, the Eagle Springs Homeowner’s Association (“HOA”) filed a complaint seeking injunctive relief against Jan Rodina, a homeowner in the HOA. Rodina asserted, among other defenses, that the HOA approved his project and waived the right to enforce certain provisions of the subdivision’s Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (“CC&Rs”). The district court awarded summary judgment in favor of the HOA and granted injunctive relief. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed, finding that the HOA did not approve his project as built and that Rodina failed to show that a genuine issue of material fact precluded the award of summary judgment against him. View "Eagle Springs HOA v. Rodina" on Justia Law