Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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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

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The Klamath River Basin Reclamation Project straddles the Oregon-California border and provides water to hundreds of farms. The Project is managed by the Bureau of Reclamation. In 2001, the Bureau temporarily halted water delivery to farms and water districts in order to comply with its tribal trust obligations under the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1531. Plaintiffs alleged that action amounted to a taking without compensation, impaired their rights under the Klamath River Basin Compact, and caused the breach of water delivery contracts. The Claims Court rejected the suit on summary judgment. On remand, the Claims Court dismissed the breach of contract claims, determined that the takings claims should be analyzed as “physical takings,” and held a trial. The districts had been voluntarily dismissed as plaintiffs. As to the individual farmers, the Claims Court held that the Bureau’s actions did not amount to a taking and did not violate the Compact because the rights reserved for tribal fishing were superior. The Federal Circuit affirmed, finding the plaintiffs’ state water rights subordinate to the federal tribal rights, which were recognized in an 1864 treaty. The Bureau acted reasonably to preserve water levels necessary to avoid endangering fish. View "Baley v. United States" on Justia Law

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In this action brought by Plaintiff seeking to collect on a promissory note the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendants' motions to dismiss and granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff, holding that the district court did not err in its rulings. Defendants executed the promissory note in Idaho and delivered it to Plaintiffs in payment for real estate located in Idaho. The note was originally secured by a deed of trust in the property. Plaintiff later sued Defendants in the district court in Teton County, Wyoming seeking to collect on the note. Defendants filed motions to dismiss on the basis that the Wyoming district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and the lawsuit was time barred. The district court denied the motions to dismiss and granted Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under the circumstances of this case, the district court had subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction over Defendants; (2) the district court properly applied the correct Idaho statute of limitations; and (3) the district court did not err in awarding interest, attorney's fees and costs to Plaintiff. View "Woodie v. Whitesell" on Justia Law

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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