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Waushara County wanted to improve a rural highway. A dispute erupted about who owned land on which DeCoster had erected a fence. State court litigation settled for a $7,900 payment to DeCoster, who then sought more than $110,000 in attorneys’ fees and other expenses. The court of appeals affirmed an award of about $31,000, ruling that any outlay after the $7,900 offer was unreasonable. DeCoster then sued in federal court, seeking an award under 42 U.S.C. 4651–55, the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Act, which conditions federal grants for highway projects on states’ providing assurance that they will compensate affected landowners for reasonable attorney, appraisal, and engineering fees. The district court ruled that the Act does not provide a private right of action. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, without deciding the merits. DeCoster had to present his claim in the state suit. Wisconsin employs the doctrine of claim preclusion under which all legal theories, pertaining to a single transaction, that could have been presented in the initial suit, are barred if not so presented. It does not matter whether the “transaction” is identified as the (arguable) taking of DeCoster’s land or his litigation expenses; the federal suit rests on a transaction that was before the state court. In addition, both Wis. Stat. 32.28 and the Act call for reimbursement of “reasonable” litigation expenses. Wisconsin’s judiciary determined that an award exceeding $31,561 would be unreasonable. View "DeCoster v. Waushara County Highway Department" on Justia Law

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In this dispute over the location of the boundary between the land of Appellees and the land of Appellants, the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court declaring the location of that boundary line, holding that the superior court did not err or abuse its discretion. On appeal, Appellants generally challenged the discretionary decisions made by the trial court in its management of the proceeding. The Supreme Judicial Court denied the challenges, holding that, contrary to Appellants’ contentions, the trial court did not err or abuse its discretion either in its case management orders or in its findings and conclusions. View "Gammon v. Boggs" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the circuit court did not err in enforcing Deed of Restrictions for Woodlawn Estates Subdivision Section II by granting judgment in favor of Don Hensley against Keith Gadd and JHT Properties, LLC (collectively, Gadd) on the basis that Gadd was renting private residences in the Subdivision as short-term vacation rentals in contravention of restrictions on commercial use of the property at issue. Hensley filed a complaint against Gadd alleging violations of the restrictions. Gadd filed a counterclaim for harassment. The trial court concluded that Gadd’s short-term rentals constituted a business in violation of the restrictions and dismissed Gadd’s harassment counterclaim. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the restrictions were ambiguous in that they permitted rentals and should be construed in favor of the free use of property. The court, however, affirmed dismissal of Gadd’s counterclaim. The Supreme Court reversed and vacated so much of the court of appeals’ opinion as reversed the trial court’s judgment and otherwise affirmed, holding (1) the restriction limited commercial uses and required the lots to be used for single-family residential purposes, and (2) Gadd’s use of the property violated the Deed of Restrictions. View "Hensley v. Gadd" on Justia Law

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Class actions are not allowed under the Right to Repair Act except in one limited context: to assert claims that address solely the incorporation into a residence of a defective component, unless that component is a product that is completely manufactured offsite. The Court of Appeal held that, because the claim here involved allegedly defective products that were completely manufactured offsite, the claim alleged under the Act could not be litigated as a class action. In this case, homeowners could not bring a class action asserting a claim under the Act against Kohler, the manufacturer of an allegedly defective plumbing fixture used in the construction of class members' homes. Therefore, the court granted Kohler's writ petition and issued a writ of mandate directing the trial court to vacate its order to the extent it denied in part Kohler's anti-class certification motion and to enter a new order granting the motion in its entirety. View "Kohler Co. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law

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Lloyd Copenbarger, as Trustee of the Hazel I. Maag Trust (the Maag Trust), sued Morris Cerullo World Evangelism, Inc. (MCWE) for declaratory relief and breach of a settlement agreement made to resolve various disputes, including an unlawful detainer action. MCWE was the lessee of a 50-year ground lease (the Ground Lease) of real property (the Property) in Newport Beach. The Property was improved with an office building and marina (the Improvements). The Ground Lease was set to terminate on December 1, 2018. In 2004, MCWE subleased the Property and sold all of the Improvements to NHOM (the Sublease). Starting in 2009, NHOM experienced cash flow problems due to “a shortage of rents.” In June 2011, MCWE commenced an unlawful detainer action against NHOM based on allegations NHOM failed to maintain and undertake required repairs to the Improvements. Six months later, the Maag Trust intervened in the UD Action as a party defendant under the theory that if NHOM were evicted and the Sublease terminated, then the Maag Trust’s security interest created by the Maag Deed of Trust would be destroyed. In August 2012, MCWE, Plaza del Sol, and the Maag Trust entered into a settlement agreement (the Settlement Agreement). The Maag Trust alleged MCWE breached the settlement agreement by failing to dismiss with prejudice the unlawful detainer action and sought, as damages, attorney fees incurred in that action from the date of the settlement agreement to the date on which MCWE did dismiss the action. Following a bench trial, the trial court found MCWE had breached the settlement agreement by not timely dismissing with prejudice the unlawful detainer action. As damages, the court awarded the Maag Trust attorney fees it claimed to have incurred during the relevant time period. On appeal, MCWE did not challenge the finding that its failure to dismiss the unlawful detainer action constituted a breach of the settlement agreement. Instead, MCWE made a number of arguments challenging the damages awarded. After review, the Court of Appeal reversed the judgment against MCWE because there was a wholesale failure of proof of the amount of damages on the part of the Maag Trust. Therefore, the Court reversed with directions to enter judgment in favor of MCWE on the Maag Trust’s complaint. View "Copenbarger v. Morris Cerullo World Evangelism, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded in part the order of the district court that awarded Kevin DeTienne $1,291,635 in lost profits, prejudgment interest accruing from September 11, 2015, $150,000 in punitive damages, and $42,009 in attorney fees and costs, holding that remand was necessary on a portion of the judgment and reversal was required on another portion. DeTienne filed suit against Bryan Sandrock seeking a declaratory judgment that Sandrock’s transfer of certain property was unlawful. A default judgment was entered awarding damages. The Supreme Court remanded to the district court for an order setting forth evidence supporting its determination of damages. After the district court entered its judgment, Sandrock appealed. The Supreme Court held (1) remand was necessary to clarify the compensatory damages award; (2) the district court did not err in awarding punitive damages; (3) remand was necessary to recalculate the prejudgment interest on a portion of the damages award, and reversal was required on a portion of the prejudgment interest award; and (4) the district court properly awarded attorney fees to DeTienne, and DeTienne was entitled to an award of reasonable costs and attorney fees incurrent during the litigation on remand, as well as attorney fees on appeal. View "DeTienne v. Sandrock" on Justia Law

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Robert died in July 2015, owing a mortgage amount of $113,358.12 on his Detroit home; the monthly mortgage payments. For five months following his death, the mortgage went unpaid. Bayview Loan Servicing sent a delinquency notice to the home in December 2015, showing an unpaid balance of $5,813.95. In November 2016, Bayview foreclosed and purchased the home by sheriff’s deed at public auction. Bayview sold the home to Tran. In May 2017, Robert’s estate filed a complaint, alleging four causes of action against Bayview, including lack of standing to foreclose under the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982, 12 U.S.C. 1701j-3 and MICH. COMP. LAWS 445.1626. The district court held that the Garn-St. Germain Act does not authorize a private right of action and did not apply to the’ claims. The Sixth Circuit vacated, concluding that the district court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case because the federal statute does not create a cause of action, and the federal issue nested inside the state law cause of action is not substantial. View "Estate of Cornell v. Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court in this dispute between the Assessor of Monongalia County, Mark Musick, and University Park at Evansdale, LLC (UPE) regarding an assessment valuing UPE’s leasehold interest in a student housing facility, holding that Musick contravened the requirements of both West Virginia Code of State Rules 110-1P-3 and applicable case law in assessing UPE’s leasehold interest. In 2013, West Virginia University (WVU) leased property to UPE for the development of University Park, the student housing facility. UPE subleased the student housing back to WVU for purposes of offering git to students for housing. This disagreement related to a 2015 assessment valuing UPE’s leasehold interest in University Park at more than $9 million. The circuit court decided that, based on the evidence presented at the Board of Equalization and Review (BER), the assessment of UPE’s leasehold interest for tax year 2015 was $0. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order correcting the assessment, holding that UPE showed by clear and convincing evidence that the 2015 valuation of the leasehold interest should be corrected to $0. View "Musick v. University Park at Evansdale, LLC" on Justia Law

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Landowners David Neil Harris, Sr., Vecie Michelle Harris (“Harris”) and Clyde H. Gunn III filed suits to confirm title to their waterfront properties in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. The State, Jackson County, and the City of Ocean Springs (the “City”) asserted title to a portion of the same waterfront properties claimed by the landowners: a strip of sand beach located south of a road and a seawall. After a full trial on the merits, the chancellor found that the State held title to the sand beach in front of the Harris and Gunn properties as public-trust tidelands. The landowners appealed, but finding no reversible error in the chancellor’s final judgments, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Harris v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Seneca Sustainable Energy LLC (Seneca) began construction of a biomass cogeneration facility on property that it owned outside of Eugene, Oregon. In this direct appeal of the Regular Division of the Tax Court, the Department of Revenue argued the Tax Court erred in concluding that it had jurisdiction to consider a challenge brought by Seneca to the department’s determination of the real market value of Seneca’s electric cogeneration facility and the notation of the real market value on the assessment roll for two tax years, 2012-13 and 2013-14. The department also argued that the Tax Court erred in concluding that the department’s determinations of the property’s real market values for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 tax years were incorrect and in setting the values at significantly lower amounts. Finding no reversible error, the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed the Tax Court’s rulings. View "Seneca Sustainable Energy, LLC v. Dept. of Rev." on Justia Law