Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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The Helms-Burton Act allows any United States national with a claim to property confiscated by the Cuban Government to sue any person who traffics in such property. Plaintiff filed suit alleging that American had trafficked in confiscated property in violation of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, seeking damages that include triple the value of the Cuban beachfront properties at issue.The Fifth Circuit disagreed with the district court's decision to dismiss plaintiff's claim under the Act for lack of standing. The court sided with courts that have held that the legally cognizable right provided by the Helms-Burton Act to the rightful owners of properties confiscated by Fidel Castro allows those property owners to assert a concrete injury based on defendants' alleged trafficking in those properties.However, plaintiff's claim fails on the merits because it does not satisfy certain statutory requirements under the Act. The court agreed with the district court's alternative conclusion that the statutory time limit requirement is fatal to this suit, because the property in which plaintiff claims an ownership interest was confiscated before 1996—yet he did not inherit his claim to that property until after 1996. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's dismissal of the case for lack of standing and rendered judgment for defendant. View "Glen v. American Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law

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In January 2015, plaintiff Angel Pareja was walking to work when he slipped on ice, fell, and broke his hip. The sidewalk area on which he fell was on property owned and managed by defendant Princeton International Properties, Inc. (Princeton International). The night before, a wintry mix of light rain, freezing rain, and sleet began to fall. Around the time of his fall, light rain and pockets of freezing rain were falling. Pareja’s expert opined that Princeton International could have successfully reduced the hazardous icy condition by pre-treating the sidewalk. The trial court granted summary judgment to Princeton International. The Appellate Division reversed, holding Princeton International had a duty of reasonable care to maintain the sidewalk even when precipitation was falling. The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the trial court, finding that Princeton International owed Pareja a duty only in unusual circumstances, none of which were present here. Princeton International took no action to increase Pareja’s risk, and the record showed that the ice on the sidewalk was not a pre-existing condition. View "Pareja v. Princeton International Properties" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs fell into arrears on the taxes on their home in the Borough of Rutherford, New Jersey. After the date of redemption but before entry of final judgment, plaintiff John Winberry called the Tax Collector to determine the total amount needed to redeem the certificate. According to Winberry’s deposition testimony, the Tax Collector told him that she “[didn’t] have the time” to give him either the total amount or the per diem interest rate. The day after plaintiffs attempted to redeem the certificate, the court entered the final foreclosure judgment. After costly legal proceedings, plaintiffs succeeded in having the foreclosure judgment overturned and reclaimed their property. When deposed, the Tax Collector acknowledged the right to redemption at any time before entry of a final foreclosure judgment, and that her computer software could calculate arrearages “within a matter of minutes.” She testified that her policy as Tax Collector required the property owner put the redemption request in writing. and that her policy was to contact the certificate holder to get the correct amount owed. The issue this case presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court's review centered on whether the Borough's Tax Collector was entitled to qualified immunity from plaintiffs' suit to recover costs, and if not, whether the Borough could be liable for her actions. Plaintiffs alleged: (1) the Tax Collector violated their clearly established constitutional and statutory right to redeem the tax sale certificate on their home before entry of a final foreclosure judgment; and (2) that the Borough was liable for the Tax Collector’s violation of their right because the Tax Collector was the Borough’s final policymaker in the area of tax sale certificate redemptions. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision to deny the Tax Collector qualified immunity. Based on the summary judgment record, the Tax Collector’s refusal to provide the redemption amount to plaintiffs because the request was not in writing or timely made was not objectively reasonable. The Court disagreed, however, that plaintiffs did not establish the basis for municipal liability: if the Tax Collector was the final policymaker on matters related to the redemption of tax sale certificates in the Borough, the Borough was liable if the Tax Collector violated the constitutional or statutory rights of plaintiffs. View "Winberry Realty Partnership v. Borough of Rutherford" on Justia Law

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Property owners sued the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, challenging the validity of easements that crossed their property to give access to neighboring residences. The superior court dismissed most of the property owners’ claims on res judicata grounds, reasoning that the claims had been brought or could have been brought in two earlier suits over the same easements. The court also granted the Borough’s motions for summary judgment or judgment on the pleadings on the property owners’ claims involving the validity of construction permits, redactions in public records, and whether the Borough had acquired a recent easement through the appropriate process. However, one claim remained: whether the Borough violated the property owners’ due process rights by towing their truck from the disputed roadway. The court found in favor of the Borough on this claim, and awarded the Borough enhanced attorney’s fees, finding that the property owners had pursued their claims vexatiously and in bad faith. The property owners appealed. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the superior court, View "Windel v Matanuska-Susitna Borough" on Justia Law

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The Rinehold and Renne families disputed the location of the shared boundary line between their respective Mason County, Washington properties. They agreed the property was subdivided in the 1950s by surveyor W.O. Watson, and that the boundary line was where Watson located it. But they disagreed about where Watson located that boundary. The Rineholds commissioned a professional retracement survey of the property line in 2015. They contended the survey definitively established the boundary location, absent a countervailing survey or adverse possession. Thus, they claimed, they were entitled to partial summary judgment as to the “record title” location of the boundary. The Rennes contended inconsistencies in the 2015 retracement survey and ambiguity in Watson’s use of the terms “street” and “road- way” created a dispute of material fact that had to go to a jury. The Washington Supreme Court agreed with the Rennes and affirmed the Court of Appeals. View "Rinehold v. Renne" on Justia Law

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San Francisco obtained fee title to an 80-foot strip of land by grant deed in 1951 from the plaintiffs' grandparents to construct an underground pipeline for the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System. The deed reserved to the plaintiffs’ family the right to use the surface of the property for pasturage and the right to construct roads and streets “over and across” the property “but not along in the direction of the City’s pipe line or lines.” The property has served since the 1960s as a paved parking lot for commercial uses on plaintiffs’ properties on either side of the pipeline. When a dispute arose about whether parking and related circulation was authorized under the deed versus under a revocable permit issued by San Francisco in 1967, the plaintiffs filed a quiet title action.On remand, the trial court concluded that the deed authorized plaintiffs to use the pipeline property for ornamental landscaping, automobile access, circulation, and parking. The court of appeal agreed that the deed authorizes ornamental landscaping, the three existing paved roads running across the pipeline property, and the use of the property to access auto mechanic service bays. While some degree of parking incidental to those authorized uses may be allowed, the express language of the deed does not allow the plaintiffs’ current use of the pipeline property as a parking lot. View "Pear v. City & County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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In this public nuisance action, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Court concluding that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied Plaintiff's motion to set aside the verdict due to an alleged fatal inconsistency between two special interrogatories, holding that the jury's answers to the two special interrogatories were not inconsistent.Plaintiff alleged that the Town of Redding should have guarded a specific retaining wall located outside of a local pub by a fancy and that the absence of a fence constituted an absolute public nuisance and caused him to sustain personal injuries. The trial court rendered judgment in favor of Defendant. The Appellate Court reversed, concluding that the jury's response to the first special interrogatory - that the unfenced retaining wall was inherently dangerous - was fatally inconsistent with the jury's response to the third special interrogatory - that the Town's use of the land was reasonable. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the jury's answers to the first and third special interrogatories could be harmonized in light of established nuisance jurisprudence. View "Fisk v. Redding" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court striking a lien filed by Excel Concrete & Excavation, LLC against Douglas Schrier's Teton County property, holding that the expedited and limited proceeding authorized by Wyo. Stat. Ann. 29-1-601(b) afforded Schrier no relief.After Schrier hired Excel to provide construction services on his property a dispute arose over payments. Excel eventually filed a lien against Schrier's property. Schrier filed a petition to strike the lien pursuant to section 29-1-601(b), asserting that the lien was grounds because Excel's preliminary lien notice was untimely and because the lien contained material misstatements. The district court struck the lien, concluding that Excel's preliminary lien notice was untimely. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Schrier's claim was insufficient to warrant relief under s. ection 29-1601(b). View "Douglas Matthew Schrier Living Trust v. Excel Concrete & Excavation, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the City in an action brought by plaintiffs, challenging its enforcement of the City's zoning regulations against them. Plaintiffs' claims stemmed from the City's enforcement of commercial zoning regulations.Even assuming zoning-enforcement decisions are susceptible to class-of-one challenges, the court concluded that plaintiffs have not shown that the City lacked a rational basis for its differential treatment of plaintiffs and other property owners. In this case, plaintiffs have not shown that they are identical or directly comparable to the comparator property owners in every material respect. The court also concluded that plaintiffs did not present sufficient evidence of affirmative misconduct to withstand summary judgment on their equitable-estoppel claim. View "Bruning v. City of Omaha" on Justia Law

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The Nation and some of its officials filed suit against the Village of Union Springs and certain of its officials, seeking a declaratory judgment that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) preempts the Village's ordinance regulating gambling as applied to the Nation's operation of a bingo parlor on a parcel of land located within both the Village and the Nation's federal reservation, and for corresponding injunctive relief.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Nation, agreeing with the district court that neither issue nor claim preclusion bars this suit and that IGRA preempts contrary Village law because the parcel of land at issue sits on "Indian lands" within the meaning of that Act. View "Cayuga Nation v. Tanner" on Justia Law