Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

by
Cash Aaland, Larry Bakko, and Penny Cirks (the “Landowners”) moved to stay, pending appeal, district court orders granting the Cass County Joint Water Resource District (the “District”) a right of entry onto their properties. In September and December 2019, the District contacted the Landowners seeking easements on their properties to conduct long-term monitoring for the Fargo-Moorhead Flood Diversion Project (the “Project”). After the District failed to obtain these easements, it applied for a permit to enter the Landowners’ properties to monitor environmental impacts in connection with the Project through December 2021. The application provided that access to the Landowners’ properties was necessary to conduct examinations, surveys, and mapping, including geomorphic examinations requiring installation of survey monuments on certain properties. The Landowners opposed the District’s application. To the North Dakota Supreme Court, the Landowners argued that without a stay, they would suffer irreparable injury. Finding the Landowners would not suffer irreparable injury, the Court denied the motion to stay the district court orders. View "Cass County Joint Water Resource District v. Aaland, et al." on Justia Law

by
Wagon Wheel Canyon Loop Trail (the Trail) is located in Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park (the Park), a public park owned and operated by Orange County, California. Before the incident at issue in this case, a wooden lodgepole fence ran perpendicularly across the mid-point of the eastern half of the Trail loop, serving as an entrance and exit for the Trail, and created a physical barrier cyclists had to maneuver around when riding either north or south on the Trail. Plaintiff Sean Nealy “had ridden his bicycle on and along [the Trail] several times in the past, [and] knew of the existence of the [perpendicular] wooden lodgepole fence." At some point unknown to plaintiff, the lodgepole fence was replaced with new fencing, which consisted of wooden fenceposts or “pylons” between which were strung horizontally, gray colored wire cables. Like the original lodgepole fence, the new perpendicular fence “divided” the southern and northern portions of the Trail loop, “separating each direction of travel.” However, the new fence actually ended before it reached the boundary of the Trail, and there was an opening between the fence’s western-most post and the parallel fencing at the western edge of the Trail. Plaintiff, an experienced cyclist, was riding his bicycle on the Trail. He noticed the lodgepole fence had been removed, but did not see the wire cables strung between the new fenceposts. He mistakenly believed he could ride between the fenceposts, but instead, rode directly into the wire cables, where he was thrown over the handlebars and onto the ground, resulting in serious injuries. He sued the County, alleging (1) Negligence (Premises Liability)”; and “(2) Dangerous Condition of Public Property.” County demurred, asserting plaintiff’s claims were barred both by Government Code section 831.4’s “trail immunity” and section 831.7’s “hazardous activity immunity.” The trial court sustained the demurrer based on trail immunity, finding the new fencing was a “condition” of the Trail for which County was statutorily immune. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court. View "Nealy v. County of Orange" on Justia Law

by
In 2015, the owners of a 13,000-acre tract of land known as 70 Ranch successfully petitioned to include their tract in a special district. After 70 Ranch was incorporated into the district, the district began taxing the leaseholders of subsurface mineral rights, Bill Barrett Corporation, Bonanza Creek Energy, Inc., and Noble Energy, Inc. for the oil and gas they produced at wellheads located on 70 Ranch. The Lessees, however, objected to being taxed, arguing the mineral interests they leased could not be included in the special district because neither they nor the owners of the mineral estates consented to inclusion, which they asserted was required by section 32-1-401(1)(a), C.R.S. (2019), of the Special District Act. The Colorado Supreme Court determined that section 401(1)(a) permitted the inclusion of real property covered by the statute into a special taxing district when (1) the inclusion occurred without notice to or consent by the property’s owners and (2) that property was not capable of being served by the district. The Court answered "no," however, 32-1-401(1)(a) required the assent of all of the surface property owners to an inclusion under that provision, and inclusion was only appropriate if the surface property could be served by the district. "Section 32-1-401(1)(a) does not require assent from owners of subsurface mineral estates because those mineral estates, while they are real property, are not territory. Thus, Lessees’ consent was not required for the inclusion of 70 Ranch in the special district." The Court therefore affirmed the court of appeals on alternate grounds. View "Barrett Corp. v. Lembke" on Justia Law

by
Defendant, MontChilly, Inc., appealed a trial court’s order requiring it to remove portions of a fence that interfered with plaintiff VTRE Investments, LLC's easement for ingress and egress. MontChilly also contended the trial court improperly failed to issue a ruling on its counterclaim for trespass against plaintiff for parking on MontChilly’s property without any legal right to do so. On cross-appeal, plaintiff challenged the court’s holding that it was bound by a reciprocal easement allowing a drainpipe over its property on the ground that its predecessor in interest did not sign the instrument creating the easement. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s order requiring MontChilly to remove portions of its fence, and remanded for the court to enter judgment on MontChilly’s trespass counterclaim. With respect to VTRE’s cross-appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the court’s judgment. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "VTRE Investments, LLC v. MontChilly, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In this case about the enforceability about a mortgage clause the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the decision of the district court dismissing this action, holding that any language in the mortgage agreement between the mortgagor and mortgagee that would give the mortgagee the ability to take possession of the property was unenforceable in light of the Supreme Court's historical interpretation of Kan. Stat. Ann. 58-2301.The mortgage clause at issue granted to the mortgagee/lender the right to immediate and exclusive possession of the mortgaged property upon the event of the mortgagor/borrower's default. In reliance on the clause the mortgagee took possession of the property and filed a foreclosure action. The district court granted judgment in favor of the mortgagee. The mortgagor filed suit, asserting that, before the court order authorized the mortgagee's possession of the property, the mortgagee's possession was wrongful. The district court dismissed the action on the basis of the mortgage remedies provision and the mortgagor's default. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the mortgagee's reliance on the provisions of executory agreements was unsupported by Kansas law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no support in state law for the mortgagee's reliance on the provisions of the executory agreements. View "Fairfax Portfolio LLC v. Carojoto LLC" on Justia Law

by
Windsor I, LLC appealed a superior court's decision to grant defendants' CWCapital Asset Management LLC (“CWCAM”) and U.S. Bank National Association (“U.S. Bank”) motion to dismiss. Windsor owned a 48,000 square foot commercial property and building encumbered by debt eventually held by U.S. Bank. In 2015, after learning that the Property’s sole tenant intended to vacate, Windsor sought special servicing to refinance the debt. After nearly two years of negotiation and litigation, CWCAM, the special servicer, offered to sell the loan to Windsor in a proposed transaction for $5,288,000, subject to credit committee approval. The credit committee, however, rejected the transaction, and Defendants filed a foreclosure action against Windsor in 2017. Defendants thereafter held an online auction to sell the loan. A Windsor representative participated in the auction. After the auction, Defendants sold the loan to a third party, WM Capital Partners 66 LLC (“WM Capital”), and Windsor ultimately paid $7.4 million to WM Capital in full satisfaction of the loan. In its action seeking relief based upon quasi-contractual theories of promissory estoppel and unjust enrichment, Windsor alleged that but for the credit committee’s arbitrary rejection of the proposed transaction, Windsor would have purchased the note and loan nearly a year earlier for over $2,112,000 less than it paid to WM Capital. The Superior Court ultimately held that Windsor failed to state claims for promissory estoppel and unjust enrichment, and that the claims were barred because Windsor’s representative had agreed to a general release as part of an auction bidding process. Finding no reversible error, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed dismissal. View "Windsor I, LLC v. CWCapital Asset Mgmt, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Mohamed Aljabban appeals from an adverse judgment after a bench trial in the lawsuit that he and his wife, Jacqueline Carrasco, filed against defendants Fontana Indoor Swap Meet, Inc. (FISM), Jonathan Shapiro and Victor Ramirez. Aljabban and Carrasco operated a beauty salon on the premises of an indoor swap meet managed by FISM and its president, Shapiro. Aljabban contended: (1) the trial court erred in concluding that he and Carrasco were not permitted to remove a sink/cabinet unit, a water heater and some decorative molding when vacating the premises of the beauty salon; (2) FISM and Shapiro improperly withheld $680.00 of the security deposit to cover expenses it incurred to repair damage to the premises; (3) the trial court should have found that FISM and Shapiro breached the parties’ agreement under which Aljabban and Carrasco occupied the premises because they wrongfully failed to renew it; and (4) he did not receive a fair trial because of alleged misbehavior during trial by Shapiro. After review, the Court of Appeal determined only one of Aljabban’s contentions had merit: FISM was not entitled to withhold $680.00 of the security deposit to cover the expense of repairing damage to the premises, as the parties did not specifically agree that the security deposit could be used to cover repairs. Accordingly, the Court reversed in part the trial court's judgment with respect to this contention, but affirmed in all other respects. The matter was remanded for further proceedings on the issue of attorney fees and costs. View "Aljabban v. Fontana Indoor Swap Meet, Inc." on Justia Law

by
When a lessee does not timely exercise an option contained in a lease agreement, special circumstances may warrant granting them extra time to exercise the option. In this case, petitioner Burbank Properties LLC mailed its notice shortly after the deadline had passed, and the trial court awarded Burbank an equitable grace period to exercise the option on summary judgment where it was undisputed that no valuable permanent improvements were made. The Washington Supreme Court granted review to decide valuable permanent improvements to the property were a necessary prerequisite to granting the equitable grace period. The Court held that granting an equitable grace period was proper only when a lessee made valuable improvements to property that would result in an inequitable forfeiture if the lessee was not given a grace period. View "Borton & Sons, Inc. v. Burbank Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

by
International, an outdoor advertising company, sought to erect digital billboards in two separate locations within the City of Troy. International's permit and variance applications were denied. International filed suit (42 U.S.C. 1983), alleging that the ordinance granted unfettered discretion and contained unconstitutional content-based restrictions as it exempted from permit requirements certain categories of signs, such as flags and “temporary signs.” During the litigation, Troy amended the Ordinance.The Sixth Circuit remanded. The original Ordinance imposed a prior restraint because the right to display a sign that did not come within an exception as a flag or as a “temporary sign” depended on obtaining either a permit or a variance. The standards for granting a variance contained multiple vague, undefined criteria, such as “public interest,” “general purpose and intent,” “adversely affect[ing],” and “hardship.” Even meeting these criteria did not guarantee a variance; the Board retained discretion to deny it. The amendment, however, rendered the action for declaratory and injunctive relief moot. The severability of the variance provisions rendered moot its claim for damages. The court reinstated a claim that the ordinance imposed content-based restrictions without a compelling government interest for reconsideration under the correct standard. A regulation of commercial speech that is not content-neutral is still subject to strict scrutiny. View "International Outdoor, Inc. v. City of Troy" on Justia Law

by
Nanouk uses her 160-acre Alaska Native allotment for traditional subsistence activities. In the 1980s, Nanouk built a small cabin, which she and her family reached by using a trail that runs from the main road through the U.S. Air Force North River Radio Relay Station, which closed in 1978. In 1981, the General Accounting Office criticized the Air Force’s failure to maintain shuttered sites, including North River, which contained hazardous chemicals. The Air Force and the Army Corps of Engineers began remediation, removing 500 gallons of transformer oil containing PCBs and PCB-contaminated soil. Surveys taken in 1987 and 1989 revealed that 6,700 cubic yards of contaminated soil remained. The Air Force and the Corps released a new plan in 2001; clean-up resumed. The trail that Nanouk used ran through a “hot spot” where PCB-contaminated soil was picked up by her vehicles. Nanouk did not learn about the PCBs on her property until 2003 when she reported a strong chemical odor. The Air Force then undertook extensive environmental remediation at the Station and Nanouk’s allotment. Nanouk sued, alleging trespass and nuisance. She and several family members have experienced serious health problems.The Ninth Circuit vacated the dismissal of her suit. The Federal Tort Claims Act's discretionary exception barred claims predicated on two of the acts she challenged as negligent--the government’s alleged failure to supervise contractors during the Station’s operation, and its abandonment of the property between the 1978 closure and 1990. The government did not establish that the exception barred the claims relating to the failure to identify and remediate the hot spot in a timely manner after 1990. View "Nanouk v. United States" on Justia Law