Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court held that public policy prohibits an agreement between a builder-vendor and a homebuyer to disclaim and waive the warranty of workmanship and habitability implied in every contract entered into between the buyer-vendor and homebuyer and to replace it with an express warranty.Plaintiff entered into a preprinted purchase agreement with M & RC II, LLC to buy a home that M & RC II's affiliate, Scott Homes Development Company, would build. Plaintiff later sued M & RC II and Scott Homes (together, Defendants) for breach of the implied warranty of workmanship and habitability. Defendant moved for summary judgment on the ground that Plaintiff had waived the implied warranty per the purchase agreement. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the public policy underlying the implied warranty of workmanship and habitability clearly outweighed enforcement of the waiver of that warranty in the purchase agreement. View "Zambrano v. M & RC II LLC" on Justia Law

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The Indiana Southwestern Railway Company sought to abandon railway easements, in which the owners had reversionary interests. The Surface Transportation Board (49 U.S.C. 10903) issued a Notice of Interim Trail Use and Abandonment (NITU). Negotiations with potential railbanking sponsors failed. Eventually, the NITU expired, Railway abandoned its easements without entering into a trail use agreement, and the landowners’ fee simple interests became unencumbered by any easements.The landowners sought compensation for an alleged taking arising under the National Trails System Act Amendments of 1983, 16 U.S.C. 1247(d), claiming that the government had permanently taken their property in April 2001, when the NITU became effective. The Claims Court found that the government had taken the property but that the taking lasted only from the date the NITU went into effect until it expired. The Federal Circuit affirmed in part. The landowner’s property was temporarily taken under the Trails Act. The NITU delayed the reversion of the owners’ interests. The Railway would have otherwise relinquished its rights to its right-of-way during the NITU period. The court remanded for a determination as to the compensation and interest to which the owners are entitled. View "Memmer v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Cathedral of Faith Baptist Church, Inc., and Lee Riggins appealed a circuit court judgment dismissing their complaint against Donald Moulton, Sr., and Broken Vessel United Church ("the Broken Vessel defendants") pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Ala. R. Civ. P., on the basis that the claims asserted in the complaint against the Broken Vessel defendants are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the allegations of the complaint, when construed in plaintiffs' favor, were sufficient to sate a claim for a declaratory judgment. Further, the Court found the trial court erred in dismissing count one of the complaint against the Broken Vessel defendants on the basis that it was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Watkins v. Matrix, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the order of the Land Court denying Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment in this land dispute, holding that an undeveloped lot that was deemed unbuildable under the local zoning bylaw in effect when the lot's owner requested a building permit was protected as buildable under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40A, 6.At issue before the Supreme Judicial Court was whether the lot at issue met the minimum "frontage" requirement set forth in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40A, 6. The land court annulled the issuance of the building permit in this case, concluding that the lot did not qualify for protection under the statute. The appeals court reversed and reinstated the decision of the zoning board of appeals allowing the application for a permit. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed and vacated the land court judge's order, holding that the subject lot had more than fifty feet of "frontage" on a "way," and therefore, the lot was protected as a buildable lot pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40A, 6. View "Williams v. Board of Appeals of Norwell" on Justia Law

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An Alaska superior court ordered a landowner to temporarily remove a tourist railway it had built across an easement on his land to allow the easement holder to build a paved road capable of dedication as a public right-of-way. The court required the railway, once reinstalled, to be operated in ways designed to lessen interference with use of the road. Further, the court ruled that the landowner would be liable for any increased construction and dedication costs the easement holder incurred as a result of the railway crossing. On appeal the easement holder argued the court erred by permitting the landowner to make reasonable use of land covered by the easement; allowing the landowner to build permanent improvements in the easement; limiting the road width to 60 feet when the width of the granted easement was 100 feet; permitting improvements that would allegedly interfere with the ability to dedicate the easement; and failing to account for time needed to obtain administrative approvals when setting a road construction schedule. The landowner cross-appealed, claiming it was the prevailing party entitled to attorney’s fees. Seeing no error in the superior court’s rulings, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court. View "Reeves, et al. v. Godspeed Properties, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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In this marriage dissolution case, the Supreme Court held that the appropriate method of establishing the marital community's interest in separate property should begin with trial judges using the "Drahos/Barnett formula" and then adjust the calculation to account for the community's overall contribution of labor and funds to the separate property along with the market appreciation of the property.At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the formula laid out in Drahos v. Rent, 149 Ariz. 248 (App. 1985) and refined in Branett v. Jedymak, 219 Ariz. 550 (App. 2009) (the Drahos/Barnett formula) was the appropriate method of establishing the marital community's equitable lien on a spouse's separate property, in order to provide for a fair division of the separate property’s increase in value proportionate to the amount the community contributed to the property. The Supreme Court held that the Drahos/Barnett formula is an appropriate starting point for courts to calculate a marital community's equitable lien on a spouse's separate property, thus affirming the trial court's judgment in this case. View "Saba v. Khoury" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a construction defect suit brought by a number of homeowners (Petitioners) against their homebuilder and general contractor, Lennar Carolinas, LLC (Lennar). Lennar moved to compel arbitration, citing the arbitration provisions in a series of contracts signed by Petitioners at the time they purchased their homes. Petitioners pointed to purportedly unconscionable provisions in the contracts generally and in the arbitration provision specifically. Citing a number of terms in the contracts, and without delineating between the contracts generally and the arbitration provision specifically, the circuit court denied Lennar's motion to compel, finding the contracts were grossly one-sided and unconscionable and, thus, the arbitration provisions contained within those contracts were unenforceable. The court of appeals reversed, explaining that the United States Supreme Court's holding in Prima Paint Corp. v. Flood & Conklin Manufacturing Co. forbade consideration of unconscionable terms outside of an arbitration provision (the Prima Paint doctrine). The court of appeals found the circuit court's analysis ran afoul of the Prima Paint doctrine as it relied on the oppressive nature of terms outside of the arbitration provisions. While the South Carolina Supreme Court agreed that the circuit court violated the Prima Paint doctrine, it nonetheless agreed with Petitioners and found the arbitration provisions, standing alone, contained a number of oppressive and one-sided terms, thereby rendering the provisions unconscionable and unenforceable under South Carolina law. The Court further declined to sever the unconscionable terms from the remainder of the arbitration provisions, as "it would encourage sophisticated parties to intentionally insert unconscionable terms—that often go unchallenged—throughout their contracts, believing the courts would step in and rescue the party from its gross overreach. ... Rather, we merely recognize that where a contract would remain one-sided and be fragmented after severance, the better policy is to decline the invitation for judicial severance." View "Damico v. Lennar Carolinas, LLC et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court in favor of Barbara and Alexis Branch on the Central Trust Bank's petition for a deficiency judgment in relation to a promissory note and security agreement financing the Branches' vehicle, holding that the circuit court erred.The Bank's pre-sale notice of disposition in this case stated the vehicle would be sold at a private sale. The circuit court, however, held that the dealer-sonly auction at which the vehicle was sold was a public sale and that the Bank failed to provide the Branches with "reasonable notification" after the sale of the vehicle. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court's finding that the Branches did not receive any pre-sale notice of the disposition was not supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the circuit court misstated the law when it required the Bank to provide the Branches with "reasonable notification" of the sale of the collateral. View "Central Trust Bank v. Branch" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied a writ sought by Relators, five electors of the city of Canal Winchester, to have a referendum on a zoning ordinance placed on the general election ballot, holding that that the ordinance was properly enacted as emergency legislation and was not subject to referendum.Canal Winchester, NorthPoint Development, LLC, and the owners of the property at issue entered into an agreement whereby the owners agreed to petition for annexation to the city and the city and developer agreed to take steps for the land to be rezoned for the proposed development. However, the owners reserved the right to undo the annexation if the city's zoning approval became subject to referendum. After the city passed a resolution accepting annexation of the land, the city passed a second ordinance as emergency legislation repealing the previous ordinance and rezoning the property to "planned industrial district." Relators then sought to have the ordnance placed on the November ballot for referendum. When their request was refused, Relators filed their complaint for a writ of mandamus to compel the petition to be transmitted to the Board. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding holding that the referendum was not subject to referendum and that the ordinance satisfied Ohio Rev. Code 731.30. View "State ex rel. Halstead v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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After “one of the driest years in recorded state history,” in 2015 the Water Resources Control Board issued orders to curtail water use in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The trial court concluded that the Board’s curtailment notices violated the due process rights of irrigation districts and water agencies by failing to provide them with a pre-deprivation hearing or any other opportunity to challenge the bases for the notices. The court addressed the due process issue, even though it was technically moot.The court of appeal affirmed. The Board has no authority, under Water Code section 1052(a), to curtail the diversion or use of water by holders of valid pre-1914 appropriative water rights—a group with distinctive rights rooted in the history of California water law--on the sole ground that there is insufficient water to service their priorities of right due to drought conditions. This statutory language “subject to this division other than as authorized in this division” excludes the diversion or use of water within the scope of a valid pre-1914 appropriative right, even during times of limited water supply. Section 1052(a) provides the Board authority to enjoin a diversion or use of water that falls outside the scope of a right held by a pre-1914 appropriative right holder. View "California Water Curtailment Cases" on Justia Law