Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

by
This cases concerns a dispute regarding terms included in a 1957 grant deed (and incorporated by reference into various other documents) transferring the land on which SCST's campus sits from Claremont College to SCST. The deed at issue contained two conditions subsequent, one regarding permissible uses of the property (Educational Use Clause) and one regarding conditions that would require SCST to offer the property for sale to Claremont on agreed terms (First Offer Clause), enforceable by a power of termination and right of reentry. On appeal, Claremont challenges the trial court’s use of the forfeiture doctrine to decline to enforce the deed's First Offer Clause and to create a first right of refusal in its stead.The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's judgment, agreeing with Claremont that the forfeiture doctrine has no application under these circumstances. The court need not decide whether the Marketable Record Title Act (MRTA) applies to the parties' dispute because even if it does apply, the First Offer Clause is an equitable servitude that the MRTA does not extinguish. The court concluded that enforcing the First Offer Clause as written would operate no forfeiture to either party; indeed, each party would receive that for which they bargained, and that to which they agreed. The court remanded with instructions. View "Southern California School of Theology v. Claremont Graduate University" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court reversing a transfer penalty imposed by the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services on David Pfoser, a disabled Medicaid recipient who resided in a long-term care facility, after he transferred partial proceeds from the sale of a house into a pooled special-needs trust, holding that Pfoser made a satisfactory showing that he intended to receive valuable consideration for his transfer of assets.State and federal law impose a penalty on recipients, like Pfoser, of Medical Assistance for Long-Term Care benefits if they transfer assets for less than fair market value, but no penalty is imposed if the recipient makes a satisfactory showing that he intended to dispose of the assets either at fair market value or for other valuable consideration. See Minn. Stat. 256B.0595, subd. 4(a)(4). The Commissioner affirmed the transfer penalty imposed on Pfoser. The district court reversed, concluding that Pfoser received adequate compensation in the form of his vested equitable interest in the trust assets. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that substantial evidence did not support the Commissioner's decision to uphold the penalty. View "Pfoser v. Harpstead" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court concluding that the executor of the Estate of Thelma J. Taylor converted estate property and ordering the executor to repay double the converted property's value, as provided by Kan. Stat. Ann. 59-1704, holding that the statute's plain language does not limit its application.The court of appeals upheld the conversion finding but held that section 59-1704 did not apply because the property was taken before the executor was appointed to administer the estate. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals on the issue subject to review, holding (1) nothing in section 59-1704 limits its application only to circumstances when the decedent's funds are taken by a court-appointed estate fiduciary after probate proceedings begin; and (2) the district court properly assessed the double penalty against the executor under the plain language of the statute. View "In re Estate of Taylor" on Justia Law

by
In this case stemming from a fire that destroyed part of the Old Market area in Omaha the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding that the Metropolitan Utilities District (MUD) was not immune from suit and denying MUD's motion for summary judgment, holding that there was no merit to MUD's assignments of error.Multiple lawsuits were initiated as a result of the damage caused by the fire. After various settlements, MUD was the only remaining defendant involved in these consolidated appeals. Plaintiffs alleged that MUD failed properly to mark a gas line, failed to timely shut off the gas at the scene of the fire, and failed properly to abandon an old gas line. MUD filed a motion to dismiss in each case, arguing that it was immune from suit on the basis of the discretionary function exception to the Political Subdivisions Tort Claims Act (PSTCA). The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that MUD was not immune from suit under the discretionary function exception to the PSTCA. View "Mercer v. North Central Service, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court denying Defendant's motion to set aside a default judgment awarding Plaintiff immediate and exclusive possession of Defendant's home, holding that the district court erred in denying Defendant's motion to set aside the default judgment.Plaintiff obtained title to Defendant's home by way of a tax sale deed and, after filing a petition for recovery of real property, obtained a default judgment awarding it possession of Defendant's home. Defendant filed a motion to set aside the default judgment, asserting that he was legally disabled and exempt from paying property taxes and that he had been trying to resolve the property tax issue for some time. The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant established good cause to set aside the default judgment. View "No Boundry, LLC v. Hoosman" on Justia Law

by
Defendant William Bowser appealed to challenge an interlocutory order forbidding him from transferring or encumbering a residence he was arranging to purchase and requiring him to deposit almost $350,000 with the district court. The Tenth Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction. The district court characterized its order as a prejudgment writ of attachment, which was unappealable. And although the Court might agree with Mr. Bowser that the characterization was incorrect, the Court disagreed that the order should have been characterized as an injunction that he would have a right to appeal under 28 U.S.C. 1292(a)(1). The Court declined to treat the order as the equivalent of an injunction because Mr. Bowser did not show that it “might have a serious, perhaps irreparable, consequence.” View "DiTucci v. Bowser" on Justia Law

by
Two taxing districts undertook parallel challenges to a property’s partial tax exemption. Appellee Huston Properties, Inc. (“Taxpayer”), owned the subject property (the “Property”). In 2013, Taxpayer, claiming to be a charitable institution, sought tax-exempt status for the Property for the 2014 tax year. After a hearing, the Chester County Board of Assessment Appeals granted a partial exemption, reasoning that that portion of the Property was used for charitable purposes. The City of Coatesville appealed that decision to the Court of Common Pleas. Six days later, the Coatesville Area School District, another taxing authority encompassing the Property, lodged its own appeal, also challenging the Property’s partially-tax-exempt status. The School District also intervened in the City's case. Ultimately, the trial court affirmed the Board's grant of a partial exemption. Both the City and the School District appealed to the Commonwealth Court, and Taxpayer cross-appealed as to each, seeking fully-exempt status for the Property. In a memorandum decision, the Commonwealth Court vacated and remanded to the trial court for more specific findings to support the partial tax exemption. On remand, the trial court set forth particularized findings and conclusions, and re-affirmed its earlier decision assessing the Property. At this juncture, the City elected not to appeal to the Commonwealth Court. The School District appealed the ruling in its own case, but it did not appeal the identical, simultaneous ruling which contained the City’s docket number. Taxpayer moved to quash the School District’s appeal. The Commonwealth Court granted the motion and dismissed the appeal observing that the common pleas court’s ruling in the City’s case became final after no party appealed it. Because the School District had intervened in that matter, it was a party to those proceedings. With that premise, the court found that res judicata and collateral estoppel barred it from reaching the merits. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that issue preclusion under the rubric of collateral estoppel should not have been applied to defeat the School District’s ability to obtain merits review of its substantive arguments in the intermediate court. The Commonwealth Court's judgment was vacated and the matter remanded for a merits disposition of the consolidated cross-appeals. View "In Re: Appeal of Coatesville Area Sch Dist" on Justia Law

by
Bernard and Sheila created the Family Trust and transferred their home to themselves as trustees. The trust became irrevocable upon the death of the surviving spouse, when the estate would be distributed to Sheila’s 13 children, including Bohnett. Sheila died in 2003. Bernard died in 2008. The property was rented out. The rent was deposited into the trust’s bank account. In 2012, the trustee filed a successful Claim for Reassessment Exclusion for Transfer Between Parent and Child (Proposition 58 claim), listing Sheila and Bernard as transferors, her children as transferees, and the date of Bernard’s death as the date of transfer.In 2013, the property was transferred by the trustee to Bohnett. A Preliminary Change of Ownership Report listed the trust as the seller/transferor, stated that the purchase was a transfer between parent(s) and child(ren), and listed the sale price as $1,030,000. The trustee distributed the money in equal shares to the 13 siblings. A second Proposition 58 claim listed Sheila and Bernard as transferors and Bohnett as transferee, leaving blank the date of transfer.The county found that there was a 12/13 change in ownership and reassessed the property from $157,731 to $962,873 for 2012/2013, and $963,114 for 2013/2014. Bohnett filed unsuccessful Applications for Changed Assessment. The court of appeal affirmed in favor of the County. The purchase by one beneficiary from his siblings and co-beneficiaries was not a parent-child transfer exempt from reassessment for property tax purposes. View "Bohnett v. County of Santa Barbara" on Justia Law

by
After unsuccessful attempts to subdivide his property, appellant petitioned for exclusion under the Subdivision Map Act, Government Code section 66410 et seq., seeking orders declaring the 1974 parcel map void and restoration of the historical lot lines.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's dismissal of the petition based on the doctrine of laches and entry of judgment without reaching appellant's legal arguments. The court held that the doctrine of latches applies to petitions for exclusion, and that substantial evidence supports the trial court's laches ruling. In this case, the trial court found the County's determination, that a prior landowner that commissioned the creation of the 1974 map missed an opportunity to correct the map's flaws, more persuasive. The trial court noted that it would be patently unfair to rely upon indirect evidence that is subject to conflicting reasonable interpretations when direct evidence was once available and could have been provided in the absence of needless delay. Thus, the court concluded that the time to address the map's purported errors passed 35 years ago, and it would be inequitable to awaken the issues now. View "Decea v. County of Ventura" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Lauren Shearer appealed, and defendants Ronald Raymond and Sandra Auvil cross-appealed a superior court order which found plaintiff had an easement across defendants’ property to access his landlocked property. The court ruled that “by operation of common law” plaintiff had an easement to access his parcel over a public highway that was discontinued by town vote in 1898. Defendants’ cross-appeal presented a question of first impression for the New Hampshire Supreme Court: whether the owner of landlocked property had an easement for ingress and egress over a public highway that was discontinued by town vote prior to the enactment of the statutory right of access. Plaintiff, in turn, appealed certain aspects of the trial court’s order relating to the width and permitted uses of the easement. The Supreme Court held that, under New Hampshire common law, an easement existed over a discontinued highway if the landowner demonstrated the easement was reasonably necessary for ingress and egress to the property. The Court vacated the trial court’s decision and remanded for the trial court to make that determination in the first instance. In the interests of judicial economy and because the issues might arise on remand, the Supreme Court also addressed the issues raised by plaintiff in his appeal. View "Shearer v. Raymond" on Justia Law