Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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Property owners sued the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, challenging the validity of easements that crossed their property to give access to neighboring residences. The superior court dismissed most of the property owners’ claims on res judicata grounds, reasoning that the claims had been brought or could have been brought in two earlier suits over the same easements. The court also granted the Borough’s motions for summary judgment or judgment on the pleadings on the property owners’ claims involving the validity of construction permits, redactions in public records, and whether the Borough had acquired a recent easement through the appropriate process. However, one claim remained: whether the Borough violated the property owners’ due process rights by towing their truck from the disputed roadway. The court found in favor of the Borough on this claim, and awarded the Borough enhanced attorney’s fees, finding that the property owners had pursued their claims vexatiously and in bad faith. The property owners appealed. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the superior court, View "Windel v Matanuska-Susitna Borough" on Justia Law

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The Rinehold and Renne families disputed the location of the shared boundary line between their respective Mason County, Washington properties. They agreed the property was subdivided in the 1950s by surveyor W.O. Watson, and that the boundary line was where Watson located it. But they disagreed about where Watson located that boundary. The Rineholds commissioned a professional retracement survey of the property line in 2015. They contended the survey definitively established the boundary location, absent a countervailing survey or adverse possession. Thus, they claimed, they were entitled to partial summary judgment as to the “record title” location of the boundary. The Rennes contended inconsistencies in the 2015 retracement survey and ambiguity in Watson’s use of the terms “street” and “road- way” created a dispute of material fact that had to go to a jury. The Washington Supreme Court agreed with the Rennes and affirmed the Court of Appeals. View "Rinehold v. Renne" on Justia Law

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San Francisco obtained fee title to an 80-foot strip of land by grant deed in 1951 from the plaintiffs' grandparents to construct an underground pipeline for the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System. The deed reserved to the plaintiffs’ family the right to use the surface of the property for pasturage and the right to construct roads and streets “over and across” the property “but not along in the direction of the City’s pipe line or lines.” The property has served since the 1960s as a paved parking lot for commercial uses on plaintiffs’ properties on either side of the pipeline. When a dispute arose about whether parking and related circulation was authorized under the deed versus under a revocable permit issued by San Francisco in 1967, the plaintiffs filed a quiet title action.On remand, the trial court concluded that the deed authorized plaintiffs to use the pipeline property for ornamental landscaping, automobile access, circulation, and parking. The court of appeal agreed that the deed authorizes ornamental landscaping, the three existing paved roads running across the pipeline property, and the use of the property to access auto mechanic service bays. While some degree of parking incidental to those authorized uses may be allowed, the express language of the deed does not allow the plaintiffs’ current use of the pipeline property as a parking lot. View "Pear v. City & County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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In this public nuisance action, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Court concluding that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied Plaintiff's motion to set aside the verdict due to an alleged fatal inconsistency between two special interrogatories, holding that the jury's answers to the two special interrogatories were not inconsistent.Plaintiff alleged that the Town of Redding should have guarded a specific retaining wall located outside of a local pub by a fancy and that the absence of a fence constituted an absolute public nuisance and caused him to sustain personal injuries. The trial court rendered judgment in favor of Defendant. The Appellate Court reversed, concluding that the jury's response to the first special interrogatory - that the unfenced retaining wall was inherently dangerous - was fatally inconsistent with the jury's response to the third special interrogatory - that the Town's use of the land was reasonable. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the jury's answers to the first and third special interrogatories could be harmonized in light of established nuisance jurisprudence. View "Fisk v. Redding" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court striking a lien filed by Excel Concrete & Excavation, LLC against Douglas Schrier's Teton County property, holding that the expedited and limited proceeding authorized by Wyo. Stat. Ann. 29-1-601(b) afforded Schrier no relief.After Schrier hired Excel to provide construction services on his property a dispute arose over payments. Excel eventually filed a lien against Schrier's property. Schrier filed a petition to strike the lien pursuant to section 29-1-601(b), asserting that the lien was grounds because Excel's preliminary lien notice was untimely and because the lien contained material misstatements. The district court struck the lien, concluding that Excel's preliminary lien notice was untimely. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Schrier's claim was insufficient to warrant relief under s. ection 29-1601(b). View "Douglas Matthew Schrier Living Trust v. Excel Concrete & Excavation, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the City in an action brought by plaintiffs, challenging its enforcement of the City's zoning regulations against them. Plaintiffs' claims stemmed from the City's enforcement of commercial zoning regulations.Even assuming zoning-enforcement decisions are susceptible to class-of-one challenges, the court concluded that plaintiffs have not shown that the City lacked a rational basis for its differential treatment of plaintiffs and other property owners. In this case, plaintiffs have not shown that they are identical or directly comparable to the comparator property owners in every material respect. The court also concluded that plaintiffs did not present sufficient evidence of affirmative misconduct to withstand summary judgment on their equitable-estoppel claim. View "Bruning v. City of Omaha" on Justia Law

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The Nation and some of its officials filed suit against the Village of Union Springs and certain of its officials, seeking a declaratory judgment that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) preempts the Village's ordinance regulating gambling as applied to the Nation's operation of a bingo parlor on a parcel of land located within both the Village and the Nation's federal reservation, and for corresponding injunctive relief.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Nation, agreeing with the district court that neither issue nor claim preclusion bars this suit and that IGRA preempts contrary Village law because the parcel of land at issue sits on "Indian lands" within the meaning of that Act. View "Cayuga Nation v. Tanner" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff H.C. Equities, L.P. asserted contract claims against its commercial tenant, the County of Union, after the County began to withhold rent payments in response to a dispute about the condition of the leased commercial buildings. During negotiations to settle the contract matter, the County directed its co-defendant, the Union County Improvement Authority (Authority), to assess the County’s real estate needs. H.C. Equities obtained a copy of a consultant’s report prepared as part of that assessment and objected to statements in the report about the condition of the buildings that it had leased to the County. H.C. Equities filed suit against the County and the Authority, asserting conspiracy claims against both defendants and trade libel and defamation claims against the Authority. Plaintiff did not apply for permission to file a late tort claims notice until more than eight months after the expiration of the one-year period allowed under N.J.S.A. 59:8-9 for the filing of such motions. The trial court held that H.C. Equities had failed to file the notices of claim that the Tort Claims Act required and dismissed its tort claims. H.C. Equities appealed, and the Appellate Division reversed the trial court. Relying on a combination of excerpts from three letters written by H.C. Equities’ counsel, the Appellate Division found that H.C. Equities substantially complied with the Act’s notice of claim provisions. The New Jersey Supreme Court disagreed that a finding of substantial compliance with the Tort Claims Act could be premised on comments made by plaintiff’s counsel in three different letters sent to lawyers representing the defendant public entities. The Supreme Court did not find that H.C. Equities’ letters, individually or collectively, communicated the core information that a claimant had to provide to a public entity in advance of filing a tort claim. The Appellate Division’s determination was reversed, and the matter remanded to the trial court. View "H.C. Equities, LP v. County of Union" on Justia Law

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In this summary process action for nonpayment of rent under the terms of a commercial lease the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the trial court's judgment of possession rendered in favor of Plaintiffs, holding that the trial court properly denied Defendants equitable relief from forfeiture of their tenancy.After the Appellate Court affirmed the trial court's judgment of possession rendered in favor of Plaintiffs, Defendants appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in denying their special defense of equitable nonforfeiture. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the facts of this case, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to grant Defendants equitable relief from forfeiture. View "Boccanfuso v. Daghoghi" on Justia Law

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In this property dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals determining that Joseph and Jennifer Roach's appeal was not barred by their acceptance of a remittitur on future damages and that the Roaches could seek attorney fees, holding that attorney fees were not authorized under the watershed statute, Minn. Stat. 103D.545, subd. 3.The Roaches, whose home was damaged during the construction of a home on property owned by Thomas and Sandra Alinder, brought nuisance and other claims against the Alinders and the company that built the home. After years of litigation, a jury trial was held to address damages. The jury awarded the Roaches damages. The Roaches moved for attorney fees. The district court denied the motion on the grounds that section 103D.545, subd. 3, did not apply. The district court further conditionally ordered a new trial unless the Roaches accepted a remittitur of the future damages award to zero. The Roaches accepted the remittitur and appealed the denial of attorney fees. The Supreme Court held (1) the Roaches were permitted to appeal issues separate and distinct from the subject of the remittitur order; but (2) attorney fees were not authorized under the statute. View "Roach v. County of Becker" on Justia Law