Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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In two civil enforcement actions, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgments against the trustee and the trust (collectively, "defendants") and the imposition of civil fines in excess of $6 million. The court held that the trial court's judgments did not violate the double jeopardy clause, because the allegations and evidence before the trial court were insufficient to show that the earlier criminal complaint was based on the same offenses as the civil actions. The court also held that the $5,967,500 in civil penalties were not unconstitutionally excessive under the four-part Bajakajian test. The court rejected defendants' contention that neither the trial court nor the city had the authority to require the trustee to evict the dispensaries. Finally, the court held that the medical-marijuana regulations were not void for vagueness, and the trial court did not err in holding the trustee personally liable for the civil penalties and other relief imposed against him in each of the judgments. View "People v. Braum" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs SLPR, L.L.C. (SLPR), Ann Goodfellow, trustee of the survivor's trust of the Goodfellow Family Trust (Goodfellow), and Jerry Cannon and Michael Morris, trustees of the Sewall Family Trust (Sewall) (together Plaintiffs) appealed a judgment entered in favor of defendant State of California (State) in their action against State and the San Diego Unified Port District (Port) (together Defendants) arising out of damage to their bayside properties in the City of Coronado (City) allegedly caused by dredging of the San Diego Bay (Bay). The United States Navy dredged an area of the Bay within the Naval Air Station North Island Turning Basin in 1998 and 2002 and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Army) dredged the central navigation channel of the Bay from 2004 to 2005. In a previous decision relating to this matter, the Court of Appeal concluded, inter alia, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on Plaintiffs' quiet title action because there were triable issues of material fact on the meaning of a facially ambiguous 1931 judgment in favor of City and against J.D. and A.B. Spreckels Investment Company (Spreckels), owner of real property along the Bay's shoreline and Plaintiffs' predecessor-in-interest, and other defendants regarding whether that judgment fixed the bayside boundaries of Plaintiffs' properties or whether it located only the current position of the mean high tide line (MHTL) at that time and retained the ambulatory MHTL as the legal boundaries of their properties. On remand, Plaintiffs filed a third amended complaint, alleging causes of action for quiet title, inverse condemnation related to the quiet title cause of action (by SLPR and Arendsee), inverse condemnation (by Plaintiffs), nuisance, and removal of lateral support. The trial court sustained State's demurrer to the third, fourth, and fifth causes of action. The court subsequently conducted a bench trial on the first and second causes of action and, after admitting and considering extrinsic evidence regarding the meaning of the Spreckels judgment, found that the judgment had fixed the boundaries between Plaintiffs' properties and the public tidelands. The court then entered judgment in favor of State and against Plaintiffs. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court. View "SLPR, L.L.C. v. San Diego Unified Port District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Edward Favart appealed a superior court order ruling that land owned by defendants Steven and Kevin Ouellette, benefitted from an implied easement over plaintiff’s land along a fifteen-foot wide access road to the “beach area” of Sip Pond depicted on a 1992 subdivision plan. The court further ruled that installation and use of a dock was a reasonable use of the easement. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that the superior court erred in relying upon “the evidence of the existence and use of prior docks in the area.” Plaintiff argued there was no evidence that a dock had ever been installed on the beach area of Lot 8, and thus defendants' dock was not within the scope of the implied easement. To this, the Supreme Court agreed, and reversed that part of the trial court judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed in all other respects. View "Favart v. Ouellette" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court directing a verdict in favor of Defendant, an insurance agent, on Plaintiff's claim that Defendant was negligent because he procured an insurance policy that did not conform to Plaintiff's requirements, holding that Plaintiff must prove that it would have qualified for an insurance policy with better terms than the policy it actually obtained. Plaintiff sold new and used camper trailers. Plaintiff asked Defendant, an insurance agent, to acquire a policy to cover its camper inventory. Plaintiff thought Defendant had acquired a policy with a deductible for $1,000 per camper in the event of hail damage with a $5,000 aggregate deductible limit, but the policy actually required a $5,000 deductible per camper, with no aggregate limit. After a hailstorm damaged many of the campers on its lot, Plaintiff sued Defendant. The circuit court directed a verdict due to Plaintiff's failure to introduce evidence that an insurer would have insured Plaintiff with the deductible limits it thought it had. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff must not only prove that an insurance policy with the requested deductibles was commercially available but that Plaintiff would actually have qualified for that policy. View "Emer's Camper Corral, LLC v. Western Heritage Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court accepted a question certified to it by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and answered that, under Montana law, dinosaur fossils do not constitute "minerals" for the purpose of a mineral reservation. Mary Ann and Lige Murray owned the surface estate of sizable property in Garfield County. The mineral estate was held by BEJ Minerals, LLC and RTWF LLC (collectively, BEJ). The Murrays found and excavated several valuable dinosaur fossils on their property. When BEJ claimed an ownership interest in the fossils the Murrays sought a declaratory judgment affirming that the fossils were owned solely by the Murrays. BEJ filed a counterclaim requesting a declaratory judgment that, under Montana law, the fossils were "minerals" and thus part of the mineral estate. The federal district court granted summary judgment to the Murrays. On appeal, a Ninth Circuit panel reversed. The Murrays then filed a petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc. The Ninth Circuit certified the question to the Supreme Court for resolution under Montana law. The Supreme Court "decline[d] to stretch the term 'mineral' so far outside its ordinary meaning as to include dinosaur fossils," concluding that, under Montana law, dinosaur fossils do not constitute "minerals" for the purpose of a mineral reservation. View "Murray v. BEJ Minerals, LLC" on Justia Law

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The issue presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court's review stemmed from a class action suit relating to plaintiffs' inverse condemnation claims against the State, and whether those claims were prescribed under La. R.S. 13:5111 and/or 28 U.S.C. 2501. In 2006, plaintiffs Steve Crooks and Era Lea Crooks filed a “Class Action Petition to Fix Boundary, For Damages and For Declaration [sic] Judgment.” The Crookses alleged that they represented a class of landowners in the Catahoula Basin whose property is affected by the increased water levels from a congressionally-approved navigation project authorized under the River and Harbor Act of 1960 to promote navigation on the Ouachita and Black Rivers. In conjunction with that project, the State of Louisiana signed an “Act of Assurances,” which obligated the State to provide the federal government with all lands and property interests necessary to the project free of charge, and to indemnify the federal government from any damages resulting from the project. Ultimately, the trial court certified the plaintiffs as one class, but subdivided that class into two groups – the “Lake Plaintiffs” and the “Swamp Plaintiffs” – depending on the location of the properties affected. The lower courts relied on the decision in Cooper v. Louisiana Department of Public Works, 870 So. 2d 315 (2004) to conclude the one-year prescriptive period for damage to immovable property found in La. C.C. art. 3493 governed and the continuing tort doctrine applied to prevent the running of prescription on the plaintiffs’ claims. The Supreme Court determined the lower courts erred in relying on Cooper and held that the three-year prescriptive period for actions for compensation for property taken by the state set forth in La. R. S. 13:5111 governed, and plaintiffs’ inverse condemnation claims were prescribed. View "Crooks v. Louisiana Dept. of Nat. Resources" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the district court's dismissal of the Pearl Raty Trust's claim that it is an inhabitant of Salt Lake City and thereby entitled to the City's water under Utah Const. art. XI, 6, holding that the Trust failed to persuade the Court that the Utah voters who ratified the Constitution would have considered it an inhabitant of the City. The Trust sought water for an undeveloped lot it owned in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Although the lot sat in unincorporated Salt Lake County, the lot fell within Salt Lake City's water service area. The court of appeals ruled that the Trust was not an inhabitant of the City because it "merely holds undeveloped property within territory over which the City asserts water rights and extra-territorial jurisdiction." The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Trust failed to persuade that the people who ratified the Utah Constitution understood the word "inhabitants" to encompass any person who owned property in a city's approved water service area. View "Salt Lake City Corp. v. Haik" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court affirming a decision of the Town of York Board of Appeals purporting to grant Daniel and Susan Raposa's appeal from a decision of the Town's Code Enforcement Officer (CEO), holding that because the Board's written findings of fact directly nullified its decision to grant the appeal, the matter must be remanded for further proceedings. The Raposas contacted the Town's CEO to express their concern that Joshua Gammon's use of his property was not consistent with his predecessor's lawful nonconforming use. The CEO determined that Gammon's operation of his business on his property was not a change in use from his predecessor's use of the property. On appeal, the Board granted the Raposas' appeal as to the change-of-use issue. In the Board's written decision, however, the Board stated, "The use of the lot by Mr. Gammon's landscaping business does not constitute a change of use but is an intensification of the same use." The superior court affirmed, concluding that the Board's written decision was the operative decision for judicial review. The Supreme Judicial Court held that because the Board's written decision contained factual findings directly contradicting its initial decision, the matter must be remanded for further proceedings. View "Raposa v. Town of York" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the business and consumer docket vacating a decision by the Town of Lamoine Board of Appeals that reversed the Town Planning Board's denial of Hard MacQuinn, Inc.'s application for a permit under the Town's site plan review ordinance and affirming and reinstating the Planning Board's decision, holding that the lower court did not err. Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the Me. R. Civ. P. 80B complaint filed by Friends of Lamoine and Jeffrey Dow as Trustee for the Tweedie Trust was timely; (2) the Board of Appeals properly conducted appellate review of the site plan permit decision rather than de novo review; (3) the Planning Board’s findings in denying the permit were supported by substantial evidence; and (4) MacQuinn's argument that the Planning Board should have waived a criterion of the ordinance as duplicative or inapplicable did not require discussion. View "Friends of Lamoine v. Town of Lamoine" on Justia Law

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Appellant Sara Ladd, a New Jersey resident, owned two vacation properties on Arrowhead Lake in the Pocono Mountains. Ladd started renting one of these properties in 2009 and the other in 2013 to supplement her income after being laid off from her job as a digital marketer. Eventually, some of her Arrowhead Lake neighbors learned of her success and asked her to manage rental of their own properties. Ladd considered “short-term” vacation rentals to be rentals for fewer than thirty days, and limited her services to such transactions only. Ladd acted as an “independent contractor” for her “clients” and entered into written agreements with them related to her services. In January 2017, the Commonwealth’s Bureau of Occupational and Professional Affairs (the Bureau), charged with overseeing the Commission’s enforcement of Real Estate Licensing and Registration Act (RELRA), called Ladd to inform her she had been reported for the “unlicensed practice of real estate.” Ladd reviewed RELRA and concluded her short-term vacation property management services were covered by the statute, and she would have to obtain a real estate broker license to continue operating her business. As Ladd was sixty-one years old and unwilling to meet RELRA’s licensing requirements, she shuttered PMVP to avoid the civil and criminal sanctions described in the statute. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court considered the Commonwealth Court's holding that the RELA's broker licensing requirements satisfied the heightened rational basis test articulated in Gambone v. Commonwealth, 101 A.2d 634 (Pa. 1954), and thus do not violate Article I, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution when applied to a self-described “short-term vacation property manager.” The Supreme Court concluded the Commonwealth Court erred in so holding, and therefore reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Ladd et al v. Real Estate Commission, et al." on Justia Law