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A right to visibility of private property from a public road is not a cognizable right giving rise to a protected property interest. Adams Outdoor Advertising Limited Partnership brought a takings claim against the City of Madison, asserting that its property was taken when the City constructed a pedestrian bridge over the Beltline Highway that blocked the visibility from the highway of the west-facing side of Adams’ billboard. The court of appeals affirmed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the City, concluding that Adams failed to demonstrate a cognizable right underlying its asserted protected property interest. On appeal to the Supreme Court, Adams argued that a taking occurred because the City deprived it of all economically beneficial use of the west-facing side of its billboard. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that Adams’ taking claim failed. View "Adams Outdoor Advertising Limited Partnership v. City of Madison" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court quieting title on the mineral rights in lands conveyed by two deeds in 1913 in Box Creek Mineral Limited Partnership. Box Creek brought this action against BNSF Railway Company seeking to quiet title in the mineral rights at issue. The parties disputed whether the 1913 deeds passed a fee simple estate from Box Creek to BNSF, thereby conveying the underlying mineral estate, or if the deeds merely conveyed an easement in fee simple, whereby the minerals would not pass to BNSF. The district court concluded that the deeds were ambiguous and that the parties intended an easement-like conveyance rather than a fee simple interest and quieted title to the mineral estate in Box Creek. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly concluded that the parties intended a limited grant from Box Creek to BNSF, in what amounted to an “easement-like conveyance"; and (2) the district court properly admitted the testimony of Marc Strahn as expert witness testimony. View "BNSF Railway Co. v. Box Creek Mineral Limited Partnership" on Justia Law

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This land dispute concerned the ownership of seventeen acres of “common open space” in a purported common-interest community. Petitioners Crea and Martha McMullin (“the McMullins”) acquired thirty acres of land in Rio Blanco County, Colorado, intending to develop a rural subdivision. The McMullins recorded a final plat, which created seven lots along with seventeen acres of common open space, and entered into a subdivision agreement with the County. The plat identified the subdivision as “Two Rivers Estates.” For the next eight years, the McMullins were unable to sell any of the lots. During that time, the McMullins mortgaged six of the seven lots to finance the construction of a family lodge on one of the lots. They did not mortgage or encumber the common open space. When the McMullins became unable to pay the loans, the mortgagee foreclosed on Lots 2 and 3, which were then purchased by Respondents Joseph and Kelly Conrado (“the Conrados”) and John and Sena Hauer (“the Hauers”), respectively. Still under financial strain, the McMullins sold Lot 1 to the Hauers and Lots 4, 5, 6, and 7 to Lincoln Trust Company FBO John Hauer. After acquiring six of the seven lots, the Hauers and Lincoln Trust Company filed suit to quiet title to their respective lots. The Hauers asserted that Two Rivers Estates was a common-interest community under the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act (“CCIOA”), and that their lots included appurtenant rights in the common open space through an unincorporated homeowners’ association created by the common-interest community. After a bench trial, the trial court found that the recorded final plat, certain deeds, and the subdivision agreement established both an implied common-interest community and an unincorporated homeowners’ association that held equitable title in the open space. The court further concluded that the Hauers, Lincoln Trust Company, and the Conrados were members of the unincorporated homeowners’ association; that each lot owner had a duty to contribute 1/7th of the common expenses to the homeowners’ association; and that the homeowners’ association had power to levy assessments to collect those expenses. The McMullins appealed, and the court of appeals affirmed in a split, published decision, with the majority largely agreeing with the trial court’s analysis. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded the recorded instruments were insufficient under CCIOA to create a common-interest community by implication. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded to the court of appeals for further proceedings. View "McMullin v. Hauer" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether a certificate of title was entered when a deed was accepted by the Office of the Assistant Registrar of the Land Court and stamped with a new certificate of title number. Plaintiff-mortgagor brought this action against Defendant-purchaser arguing that the non-judicial foreclosure sale of certain property was not lawfully conducted. Defendant moved for summary judgment arguing that Plaintiff’s arguments to invalidate the foreclosure sale were untimely because they were not raised before the issuance of a new certificate of title. Plaintiff argued in response that a new certificate of title had not been issued, and therefore, Plaintiff was not prevented from challenging the non-judicial foreclosure. The circuit court granted summary judgment, concluding that the issuance of a new certificate of title number was sufficient to provide Defendant with statutory protection. The Supreme Court vacated the grant of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings, holding (1) assignment of a new certificate of title number is not the statutory equivalent of an entry of a certificate of title, and therefore, the evidence in this case did not establish that a certificate of title had been entered; (2) accordingly, Plaintiff was not barred from bringing this action; and (3) an issue of material fact existed precluding summary judgment. View "Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Omiya" on Justia Law

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G.R.L.C. Trust, formed under the laws of Texas, appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Garrison Decatur Crossings, LLC ("Garrison Decatur"), in Garrison Decatur's action for a judgment declaring the need for reformation of a recorded memorandum of lease on the ground of a mutual mistake. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the trial court's finding that there had been a mutual mistake in omitting Exhibit A from the lease memorandum was supported by the evidence; therefore, the summary judgment in favor of Garrison Decatur reforming the lease memorandum was affirmed. View "G.R.L.C. Trust v. Garrison Decatur Crossings, LLC" on Justia Law

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Philip Richardson filed a complaint against Ben Chambless ("Ben"), Alaspec Residential Inspections, LLC, and Good Cents Home Inspections & Energy Management, LLC, in which he requested a jury trial on multiple claims arising from an allegedly faulty inspection the defendants had performed on a house Richardson was in the process of purchasing. In June 2012, the trial court entered a default judgment against Good Cents for failure to answer and, following a hearing, entered an order awarding Richardson $80,281.28 against Good Cents based on findings that the inspection report failed to disclose material defects in the house and that Richardson would not have purchased the house if the inspection report had disclosed those defects. In March 2013, Richardson amended his complaint to add Rosemarie, who was Ben's wife at the time, as a defendant. Richardson alleged that, in December 2012, Ben had transferred his interest in the Chamblesses' marital residence to Rosemarie ("the transfer") and that Ben had made the transfer because, Richardson said, Ben "knew he was going to incur ... a foreseeable judgment in the lawsuit filed by ... Richardson" and knew that making the transfer "would impair his ability to pay this ... judgment." Rosemarie filed a motion for a summary judgment on Richardson's claims against her. The trial court found no genuine issues of material fact as to Richardson's claims against Rosemarie, therefore she was entitled to a judgment as a matter of law on those claims. Richardson's claims against Ben and Alaspec remained pending, but the trial court, finding that there was no just reason for delay, certified its partial summary judgment as final. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded resolution of Richardson's pending claims against Ben regarding the allegedly faulty inspection could potentially moot the claims adjudicated by the trial court's partial summary judgment; the trial court's Rule 54(b) certification of that judgment was therefore improper. Accordingly, the Court dismissed the appeal on the basis that it arose from a nonfinal judgment. View "Richardson v. Chambless" on Justia Law

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Philip Richardson filed a complaint against Ben Chambless ("Ben"), Alaspec Residential Inspections, LLC, and Good Cents Home Inspections & Energy Management, LLC, in which he requested a jury trial on multiple claims arising from an allegedly faulty inspection the defendants had performed on a house Richardson was in the process of purchasing. In June 2012, the trial court entered a default judgment against Good Cents for failure to answer and, following a hearing, entered an order awarding Richardson $80,281.28 against Good Cents based on findings that the inspection report failed to disclose material defects in the house and that Richardson would not have purchased the house if the inspection report had disclosed those defects. In March 2013, Richardson amended his complaint to add Rosemarie, who was Ben's wife at the time, as a defendant. Richardson alleged that, in December 2012, Ben had transferred his interest in the Chamblesses' marital residence to Rosemarie ("the transfer") and that Ben had made the transfer because, Richardson said, Ben "knew he was going to incur ... a foreseeable judgment in the lawsuit filed by ... Richardson" and knew that making the transfer "would impair his ability to pay this ... judgment." Rosemarie filed a motion for a summary judgment on Richardson's claims against her. The trial court found no genuine issues of material fact as to Richardson's claims against Rosemarie, therefore she was entitled to a judgment as a matter of law on those claims. Richardson's claims against Ben and Alaspec remained pending, but the trial court, finding that there was no just reason for delay, certified its partial summary judgment as final. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded resolution of Richardson's pending claims against Ben regarding the allegedly faulty inspection could potentially moot the claims adjudicated by the trial court's partial summary judgment; the trial court's Rule 54(b) certification of that judgment was therefore improper. Accordingly, the Court dismissed the appeal on the basis that it arose from a nonfinal judgment. View "Richardson v. Chambless" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Jimmy Larry Beddingfield ("Larry"), his wife, Rebecca, and their adult son, James Cody Beddingfield ("Cody") appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants Mullins Insurance Company, Mullins & Company Insurance, Rand Mullins, and David Mullins (referred to collectively as "Mullins"), on the Beddingfields' claims stemming from Mullins's alleged failure to properly procure insurance coverage. In 1997, Larry and Rebecca purchased a homeowners' liability-insurance policy from Rand Mullins that protected Larry and Rebecca's primary residence. In 2001, Larry and Rebecca purchased a second liability-insurance policy that provided coverage for a rental house located in Florence; they later constructed another house in Guntersville and, in 2003, purchased an additional liability-insurance policy for that property. In July 2003, Mullins canceled the insurance policy on the Florence house allegedly based on a belief that "the policy was issued in duplicate." Allegedly unbeknownst to Larry and Rebecca, however, the requested cancellation left the Florence house uninsured. One month later, pursuant to a mortgage refinance on the Beddingfields' residence, Larry and Rebecca paid one year's insurance premium on that residence; the check was endorsed and deposited into Mullins's account. In March 2004, the policy on the Beddingfields' residence was canceled because of nonpayment of the premium; neither Larry nor Rebecca, however, was able to recall receiving notice of the cancellation. After those two events, Larry and Rebecca were without insurance on their residence and the Florence house, leaving them with liability insurance only on their Guntersville house. In July 2004, a minor guest at the Beddingfields' Guntersville house, Trace Linam, suffered a serious eye injury in a fireworks-related incident. In 2008, Linam and his father, Linam, sued the Beddingfields, alleging that they, and particularly Cody (who was a minor at the time), were responsible for the injury. Because the underwriter of the Beddingfields' policy had been placed into receivership in Texas in 2006, the Alabama Insurance Guaranty Association ("AIGA") covered the Beddingfields' legal-defense costs in the Linam litigation; however, the maximum amount of liability coverage available was limited to $100,000 –- the amount of the liability- insurance policy Larry and Rebecca had obtained from Mullins to insure that property -- and not $500,000, the amount they say would have been available had the other two policies not been canceled. In February 2011, a judgment was entered on a $600,000 jury verdict against the Beddingfields in the Linam litigation. The Beddingfields appealed that decision. Because, however, AIGA did not post the requisite supersedeas bond, and the Beddingfields were allegedly unable to obtain a bond, execution of the judgment was not stayed during the pendency of the appeal. In July 2011, while their appeal was pending, the Beddingfields sued Mullins, alleging numerous counts of negligence and wantonness with relation to Mullins's handling of the various insurance policies. After review of the trial court record, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment as to the negligence claims, reversed as to the wantonness claims, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Beddingfield et al. v. Mullins Insurance Company et al." on Justia Law

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A policy exclusion for personal liability “under any contract or agreement” does not apply to relieve an insurer of its duty to defend its insured, an alleged builder-vendor, against a claim for negligent excavation brought by the home buyer because the negligence claim arose from the common law duty to construct the home as a reasonable builder would. After rockslides damaged his property, the home buyer sued the alleged builder-vendor, asserting breach of contract, negligence, and fraud-based claims and alleging that the rockslides were the result of improper excavation during construction. The builder-vendor’s insurer declined the tender of defense on grounds that there was no coverage under the relevant insurance policies. The builder-vendor sought damages and declaratory relief. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of the insurer. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the policy’s “contractual liability” exclusion did not apply. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the contractual liability exclusion did not relieve the insurer of its duty to defend the builder-vendor against the home buyer’s negligence claim. View "Teufel v. American Family Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The determination of the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) that income reported on a joint tax return filed on behalf of an occupant and non-occupant of a housing accommodation may not be apportioned to determine the occupant’s individual annual income for purposes of ascertaining if the deregulation income threshold has been met was rational and does not run counter to the language of the Rent Regulation Reform Act of 1993. Petitioner, the owner of the building where Respondent was a tenant of the subject rent-controlled apartment, served a tenant and her husband with an income certification form (ICF) pursuant to New York City Rent Control Law. When they did not respond, Petitioner filed a petition with the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) to verify whether the total annual income of the occupants exceeded the deregulation income threshold for the two years preceding the filing of the ICF. DHCR denied Petitioner’s petition for deregulation. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the income of the tenant’s husband was properly excluded from the calculation of total annual income because he was not an occupant of the housing accommodation when the ICF was served. View "Matter of Brookford, LLC v. New York State Division of Housing & Community Renewal" on Justia Law