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The 1977 deed at issue in this case was ambiguous and of such doubtful meaning that reasonable minds disagreed as to the deed’s intent, and therefore, the circuit court erred in finding the deed was clear and in finding that the grantors did not convey one-half interest in oil and gas beneath a tract of land in Marshall County to the grantee. In 2013, Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Defendants asserting that, in the 1977 deed, Plaintiffs retained ownership of the one-half undivided interest in the oil and gas and, therefore, Defendants trespassed on their oil and gas interest and engaged in conversion. Plaintiffs then amended the complaint to request a declaratory judgment interpreting the 1977 deed. The circuit court determined that the deed was clear and unambiguous and declared that Plaintiffs kept for themselves the one-half interest in the oil and gas. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in finding that the 1977 deed was unambiguous and in granting a declaratory judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. View "Gastar Exploration Inc. v. Rine" on Justia Law

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In 2009, plaintiff Nikola Vekic sought to buy three oyster leases which were jointly owned by Dragutin Popich and his daughters Mary Popich and Helen Popich Harris (collectively “the Popich family”). Although the parties disputed the content of the discussions which took place between them regarding the sale of the three oyster leases, it was undisputed that the Popichs’ lawyer, Roger Harris (husband of Helen), transmitted a letter stating that Popich was “unwilling to do a credit sale.” Instead, Harris drafted and submitted an agreement entitled “Sublease Agreement With Option to Purchase” along with a proposed act of sale to Vekic, who reviewed the documents along with his attorney. Vekic executed the sublease agreement on April 14, 2009, without raising any issues regarding its contents. The terms of the artfully-crafted agreement differed significantly from a typical lease or sublease in that the Popich family transferred all of the rights and responsibilities of ownership to Vekic without the benefit of a formal transfer of title between the parties. Vekic was bound to pay the full $90,000 in “rent” regardless of whether the leases were damaged or were even subject to a complete taking. Vekic could not under any condition terminate the lease and was responsible for fulfilling all of the legal requirements to maintain the leases, including paying the $2 per-acre lease fee to the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. After paying $60,000 of the "rent" owed, the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon well exploded, closing the area where the leases at issue here were located for a considerable amount of time. Vekic paid the Popich family the remaining $30,000 he owed under the agreement in May, 2011. On June 19, 2011, Mr. Vekic exercised his option to purchase, and the parties executed the act of sale, which had been prepared in 2009 along with the original agreement, without any modifications. In the wake of the spill, a class action lawsuit was filed against BP. Vekic filed a claim with the Deepwater Horizon Economic Claim Center (“DHECC”) which included the leases at issue. Helen Harris, also an attorney, prepared and filed claims for the Popich family, informing the DHECC of the 2009 agreement with Vekic and post-spill Act of Sale. A dispute arose regarding which party was entitled to the proceeds from the oil spill settlement for damages to certain oyster leases. The Louisiana Supreme Court disagreed with the Court of Appeal and found that the trial court did not err in accepting evidence beyond the four corners of the contract at issue and did not manifestly err in its factual findings and ultimate interpretation that the agreement at issue entitled the plaintiff to the settlement proceeds for property damage to the leases at issue. View "Vekic v. Popich" on Justia Law

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The Hayes family is a low-income family whose rent is subsidized by enhanced voucher assistance under the Housing Act of 1937, 42 U.S.C. 1437f(t) (Section 8). Because an ordinary voucher does not cover a tenant’s rent to the extent that it exceeds the applicable payment standard, and, following a valid opt-out, property owners are no longer subject to limitations on what they may charge for rent, enhanced vouchers exist to enable residents to “choose” to continue renting the “dwelling unit in which they currently reside.” The Hayes family's eligibility to receive enhanced vouchers is contingent upon their continued tenancy in a unit currently owned by Harvey. Toward the end of their most recent lease term, Harvey notified the Hayes family that he would not renew their lease. The Hayes family refused to vacate the premises, arguing that as enhanced-voucher tenants, they have an enforceable “right to remain” in their unit as long as it is offered for rental housing. The district court granted Harvey summary judgment. The Third Circuit affirmed. The Act does not obligate property owners to renew enhanced-voucher tenancies after the initial lease term. View "Hayes v. Harvey" on Justia Law

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Joan Hallin, John Hallin and Susan Bradford (collectively Hallin and Bradford) appeal from a judgment in favor of Inland Oil & Gas Corporation. In 2007, Hallin and Bradford each leased to Inland mineral interests they owned in 160 acres of land in Mountrail County. The leases provided Hallin and Bradford leased to Inland "all that certain tract of land situated in Mountrail County." Hallin and Bradford, along with members of their extended family, owned a fraction of the minerals in the entire 160 acres. On the basis of irregularities in the chain of title, it was unclear whether Hallin and Bradford collectively owned sixty net mineral acres or eighty net mineral acres when the parties executed the leases. Hallin and Bradford believed they owned sixty net mineral acres and their relatives owned sixty acres. When Hallin and Bradford executed the leases, they also received payment drafts for a rental bonus showing they each leased thirty acres to Inland. The leases provide royalty compensation based upon the number of net mineral acres. The North Dakota Supreme Court decided Hallin and Bradford collectively owned eighty net mineral acres and their relatives owned forty net mineral acres. Inland and Hallin and Bradford disagreed whether the leases covered all of Hallin and Bradford's mineral interests. Hallin and Bradford sued Inland, arguing they leased sixty acres and the remaining twenty acres were not leased. Inland argued Hallin and Bradford leased eighty acres because the leases cover all of their mineral interests. The district court granted summary judgment to Inland, concluding the leases were unambiguous and that "as a matter of law, the Hallins and Bradford leased to Inland whatever interest they had in the subject property at the time the leases were executed." Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hallin v. Inland Oil & Gas Corporation" on Justia Law

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In 2015, Beach Railport, LLC commenced this action against the Donnell and Jeanne Michels, for the partition of real property in Golden Valley County. Beach Railport and the Michels each owned an undivided one-half interest in the subject property, consisting of two tracts of land totaling eighty acres: the "North Forty" and the "South Forty." Donnell Michels used the property for agricultural purposes. Beach Railport acquired its interest in the North Forty and various other tracts of land around the subject property as part of its planned construction of a rail trans-load facility. It sought and obtained changes in zoning for certain property parcels. Beach Railport's construction plan did not include development on the South Forty acres. The Michels appealed the ultimate judgment partitioning real property between the Michels and Beach Railport. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court erred by applying an incorrect legal standard to review and adopt the partition referee's report, and that the court erred by not holding an evidentiary hearing. The Court therefore reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Beach Railport, LLC v. Michels" on Justia Law

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The County of Maui’s land use regulations did not constitute a regulatory taking of property owned by Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs brought suit against the County arguing that the County’s land use regulations and restrictions prevented them from building a family house on their beachfront lot. Plaintiffs asserted that the County’s actions constituted a regulatory taking for which they were entitled to just compensation. The jury delivered a verdict in favor of the County. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was evidence to support the jury’s verdict in favor of the County; and (2) the circuit court’s order granting in part and denying in part the County’s motion for costs was not in error. View "Leone v. County of Maui" on Justia Law

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The Judicial Council of California (Government Code 70321) prepared an environmental impact report (EIR, California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code, 21000)) in connection with the consolidation of El Dorado County courthouse operations from two buildings, one of which is a historic building in downtown Placerville, into a single new building on the city’s outskirts, less than two miles away. Although the draft EIR addressed the possible economic impact of moving judicial activities from the downtown courthouse, it concluded the impact was not likely to be severe enough to cause urban decay in downtown Placerville. The League contended this conclusion was not supported by substantial evidence, given the importance of the courthouse to downtown commerce. The trial court and court of appeal upheld certification of the EIR. The court noted that the new construction will not result in a competitor to siphon business from downtown, but will leave behind a building that can be filled with other activities producing a level of commerce similar to that removed by the relocation, thereby mitigating the impact of the relocation. There was substantial evidence to support the draft EIR’s conclusion that urban decay is not a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the project. View "Placerville Historic Preservation League v. Judicial Council of California" on Justia Law

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Kammerer Real Estate Holdings, LLC owned a lot on which it wanted to construct an automotive service facility. Kammerer applied for a site development permit. The lot was subject to a zoning condition under the Forsyth County Unified Development Code that certain “open space” on the lot remain undeveloped. The Director of the Forsyth County Department of Planning and Community Development concluded that the proposed construction would not comply with this condition, and so, he refused to issue a site development permit. Kammerer then asked the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners to amend the zoning condition, but the Board declined to do so. At that point, Kammerer filed this lawsuit against the County, the Board, and the Director, alleging that the Director had misconstrued the “open space” condition, and if it actually meant what the Director said it meant, it was unconstitutional in several respects. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The trial court granted the motion in part and denied it in part. Kammerer appealed the dismissal of certain claims, and the defendants cross-appealed the refusal of the trial court to dismiss other claims. The Georgia Supreme Court determined the trial court properly dismissed a claim for attorney fees, but reversed in all other respects, finding the trial court misinterpreted the controlling caselaw that governed this case, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Kammerer Real Estate Holdings, LLC v. Forsyth County Bod. of Comm'rs" on Justia Law

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The 7,517-square-foot lot, on the south side of Telegraph Hill bordering the Filbert Street steps, was unimproved except for a small uninhabitable 1906 cottage. Four other buildings were demolished in 1997. The developers intend to restore the existing 1.000-square-foot cottage and build a three-story over basement building with three units ranging from 3,700-4,200 square feet apiece. A new curb cut along Telegraph Boulevard will provide access to a basement with three off-street parking spaces. The front of the building, bordering the Filbert Street steps, is designed to appear as three separate single-family homes, each below the 40-foot height limit as they step down the hill. The San Francisco Planning Department determined the project was statutorily exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act, Public Resources Code, 21000 (CEQA), because it fell within classes of projects that were determined not to have significant effects on the environment: restoration or rehabilitation of deteriorated structures; a residential structure totaling no more than four dwelling units. The Planning Commission approved a conditional use authorization. The Board of Supervisors, superior court, and court of appeal upheld the approvals. No CEQA review was necessary because the project was categorically exempt from review and no unusual circumstances exist to override the exemptions on the basis the project will have a significant effect on the environment. View "Protect Telegraph Hill v. City & County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals’ denial of Appellant’s complaint for a writ of prohibition against Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Richard McMonagle, holding that the jurisdictional-priority rule has no applicability when the cases at issue are pending in the same court. Appellant, Consortium for Economic and Community Development for Hough Ward 7, owned real property (“the parcel”) in Cuyahoga County that was adjacent to property owned by the Oak Leadership Institute. Oak Leadership filed an action in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court to quiet title to the parcel. Thereafter, a tax foreclosure suit relating to the parcel was filed in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. Appellant sought a writ of prohibition against Judge McMonagle, arguing that, even though the quiet-title lawsuit was filed first, the foreclosure lawsuit had jurisdiction priority because it first perfected service of process over all the interested parties. The court of appeals denied the writ, thus rejecting Appellant’s theory of jurisdictional priority. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the jurisdictional-priority rule has no applicability when the cases are pending in the same court. View "State ex rel. Consortium for Economic & Community Development For Hough Ward 7 v. Russo" on Justia Law