Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgments of the lower courts in this appeal addressing mootness when a law challenged in the trial court is altered or amended after the trial court issued its final judgment and while the appeal is pending, holding that remand was required in this case.Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County (Metro) challenging an ordinance prohibiting them from having clients in their home-based businesses. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Metro. While Plaintiffs' appeal was pending, Metro repealed the ordinance at issue and enacted a new ordinance allowing limited client visits to home-based businesses. The court of appeals determined that Plaintiffs' case was moot. The Supreme Court vacated the judgments below and remanded the case to give the parties an opportunity to amend their pleadings to address any claims asserted under the new ordinance, holding that, based on the current record, it could not be determined whether Plaintiffs would suffer ongoing harm from the new ordinance, how the change could affect their claims, and whether they retained a residual claim under the new ordinance. View "Shaw v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville" on Justia Law

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In this appeal concerning the statutory ownership of a vehicle involved in a crash, the Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals' decision affirming the order of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of Central Motors, Inc., holding that the circuit court correctly held that Juan Garcia was the statutory owner of the vehicle at the time of the accident.Dolores Zepeda was the passenger in a 2002 BMW being driven by Darley Morales, the son of Juan Garcia, when Morales caused the car to crash in a single vehicle accident. As a result of the accident, Morales died and Zepeda was left paralyzed. Zepeda sued, among other defendants, Garcia for negligent entrustment and Central Motors as the purported statutory owner of the BMW. The trial court granted summary judgment for Central Motors, determining that Garcia, and not Central Motors, was the statutory owner of the vehicle at the time of the accident. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Central Motors substantially complied with Ky. Rev. Stat. 186A.220 and delivered possession of the vehicle pursuant to a bona fide sale, thus making Garcia the BMW's statutory owner. View "Zepeda v. Central Motors, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the circuit court holding that no justiciable dispute existed between the parties following the court's holding that the plaintiff qualified as a third-party beneficiary of a 1973 ground lease, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in sua sponte dismissing this declaratory-judgment action as nonjusticiable.A developer filed a declaratory judgment action against the lessee of an adjoining property seeking to resolve conflicting interpretations of a lease provision. The circuit court concluded that the developer was a third-party beneficiary of the long-term ground lease in this case and dismissed the case on the grounds that there were no further justiciable controversies to resolve. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that dismissal was premature because the parties continued categorically to disagree on what specific rights, if any, the developer had under the lease and when those rights could be asserted. View "Ames Center, L.C. v. Soho Arlington, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Lynn Gerlach and Lola Seals appealed the judgment entered in their action against defendant K. Hovnanian’s Four Seasons at Beaumont, LLC under the Right to Repair Act (the Act), concerning alleged construction defects. After review, the Court of Appeal affirmed and published its opinion to clarify: (1) a roof is a manufactured product within the meaning of California Civil Code section 896(g)(3)(A) only if the roof is completely manufactured offsite; and (2) to prove a roof defect claim under subdivision (a)(4) or (g)(11) of section 896, a plaintiff must prove that water intrusion has actually occurred or roofing material has actually fallen from the roof. View "Gerlach v. K. Hovnanian's Four Seasons at Beaumont, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the preliminary injunction entered by the district court enjoining Defendant from inhibiting Plaintiff's use of a disputed road over Defendant's property during the pendency of the proceedings to determine Plaintiff's rights, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion.Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that it had legal access to the disputed road and requested injunctive relief. After a hearing, the district court granted preliminary injunctive relief to Plaintiff enjoining Defendants from inhibiting Plaintiff's access to the road. Defendants appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not obviously, evidently, or unmistakably abuse its discretion by granting preliminary injunctive relief in this case. View "Flying T Ranch, LLC v. Catlin Ranch, LP" on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 challenging a Jersey City ordinance curtailing the ability of property owners and leaseholders to operate short-term rentals. The plaintiffs alleged that having passed an earlier zoning ordinance legalizing short-term rentals, which enticed them to invest in properties and long-term leases, the city violated their rights under the Takings Clause, the Contract Clause, and the Due Process Clauses by passing the new ordinance, which, they allege, undermined their legitimate, investment-backed expectations and injured their short-term rental businesses. The plaintiffs also sought a preliminary injunction. The district court dismissed the complaint.The Third Circuit affirmed. Not every municipal act legalizing a business activity vests the business owner with a cognizable property right. The plaintiffs’ forward-looking right to pursue their short-term rental businesses is not cognizable under the Takings Clause, but the plaintiffs articulated three cognizable property rights: use and enjoyment of their purchased properties, long-term leases, and short-term rental contracts. Because the properties may still be put to multiple economically viable uses, there has been no total taking of those “properties.” Rejecting “partial takings” claims, the court noted that the plaintiffs may have relied on the previous ordinance in deciding to invest in short-term rentals but they failed to take into account the restrictions in place in that ordinance and the city’s strong interest in regulating residential housing. View "Nekrilov v. City of Jersey City" on Justia Law

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Wisconsin assessed property taxes on lands within four Ojibwe Indian reservations. The tribal landowners have tax immunity under an 1854 Treaty, still in effect, that created the reservations on which they live. Supreme Court cases recognize a categorical presumption against Wisconsin’s ability to levy its taxes absent Congressional approval. The parcels in question are fully alienable; their current owners can sell them at will because the parcels were sold by past tribal owners to non-Indians before coming back into tribal ownership. Wisconsin argued that the act of alienating reservation property to a non-Indian surrendered the parcel’s tax immunity. No circuit court has considered whether the sale of tax-exempt tribal land to a non-Indian ends the land’s tax immunity as against all subsequent tribal owners, nor does Supreme Court precedent supply an answer.The district court ruled in favor of the state. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Once Congress has demonstrated a clear intent to subject land to taxation by making it alienable, Congress must make an unmistakably clear statement to render it nontaxable again but these Ojibwe lands have never become alienable at Congress’s behest. Congress never extinguished their tax immunity. The relevant inquiry is: who bears the legal incidence of the tax today--all the relevant parcels are presently held by Ojibwe tribal members. View "Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin v. Evers" on Justia Law

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The dispute that arose in this case concerned an easement that lead from the Glenn Highway over residential property to a parcel of land used as a jumping-off point for a Matanuska Glacier tourism business. After years of disagreement over issues related to road maintenance, traffic, safety, and trespass on the homeowner’s property by visitors to the glacier, the homeowner erected a sign stating “No Glacier Access” near the entrance to the road. The business owner filed suit, and the homeowner counterclaimed for defamation based on inflammatory allegations made in the complaint. The superior court largely ruled in favor of the business owner, holding that he had a right to use the easement for his glacier tourism business, that his road maintenance work was reasonably necessary and did not unreasonably damage the homeowner’s property despite minor increases in the width of the road, and that the “No Glacier Access” sign had unreasonably interfered with his use of the easement. The superior court also dismissed the defamation counterclaims and awarded attorney’s fees to the business owner. Finding no reversible error in the superior court’s judgment, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s judgment in full. View "Wayson v. Stevenson" on Justia Law

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Byram Café Group, LLC (BCG), moved for summary judgment against Eddie and Teresa Tucker in a premises-liability action arising from Eddie’s slip-and-fall accident. BCG sought judgment as a matter of law based on a lack of evidence supporting any of the elements of a slip-and-fall case. In response, the Tuckers argued that genuine issues of material fact existed as to dangerous conditions that may have caused Eddie’s fall. The circuit court denied BCG’s summary judgment motion. BCG sought interlocutory appeal, which the Mississippi Supreme Court granted. The issue the appeal presented was whether the Tuckers could survive a motion for summary judgment without producing evidence that a dangerous condition existed, that BCG caused the hypothetical dangerous condition, and that BCG knew or should have known about the dangerous condition. As a matter of law, the Supreme Court found the circuit court erred by denying BCG’s motion for summary judgment. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded the circuit court’s order. View "Byram Cafe Group, LLC v. Tucker" on Justia Law

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Finite owns 90.9% of Orient #1, an abandoned Illinois coal mine; the other 9.1% belongs to Royal. In 2004, Keyrock's predecessor acquired an interest in Orient #1 to extract coal mine methane from its section of the property, drilled wells, and, in 2007, obtained a vacuum permit from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Finite discovered the pump’s use in 2018 after a test revealed that coal mine methane had been drained extensively from Orient #1. Finite unsuccessfully petitioned the Department for compulsory unitization of the parties’ properties, to require Keyrock to share its methane production with Finite.Finite sued, alleging conversion, trespass, accounting, and common law unitization, and sought to enjoin the use of a vacuum pump. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment, finding that, under the rule of capture (gas that migrates is subject to recovery and possession by the holder of the gas estate on the property to which the gas migrates), the methane could not be owned until extracted regardless of whether extraction occurred by means of a vacuum pump. Finite’s claims hinged on ownership, so the rule of capture foreclosed Finite’s claims.The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Absent illegality, the Department’s issuance of the permit suggests that the use of the vacuum pump to extract methane did not violate Finite’s correlative rights (imposing a duty on owners not to waste natural resources intentionally or negligently as to injure their neighbor).. View "Finite Resources, Ltd. v. DTE Methane Resources, LLC" on Justia Law