Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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This appeal stemmed from a dispute between neighbors over the validity of an easement. In 1997, the Fitzpatricks bought two adjacent lots. In 2016, while they still owned both lots, they recorded an easement that granted the owners of the first lot (themselves) the right to maintain, repair, and improve a portion of the second lot. They then sold the second lot to the Kents. Two years later, the Kents allegedly made certain modifications to the easement area that the Fitzpatricks opposed. The Fitzpatricks claimed that the easement precluded the Kents from making the modifications, but the Kents asserted that the easement was unenforceable. The Fitzpatricks and Kents filed cross-complaints in district court, each seeking to quiet title to the easement area. The district court granted the Kents’ motion for summary judgment after concluding that the easement was invalid under the merger doctrine. The district court granted costs to the Kents but denied them attorney fees under Idaho Code section 12-121. The Fitzpatricks appealed the district court’s summary judgment decision and the Kents cross-appealed the district court’s denial of their request for attorney fees. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decisions. View "Fitzpatrick v. Kent" on Justia Law

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In property dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court entering summary judgment in favor of The Nature Conservancy finding a conservation easement unambiguously burdened two parcels of property thereby limiting what the owner could construct on those parcels, holding that the district court was correct in entering summary judgment in favor of the Conservancy. Appellants, who owned the two parcels of land at issue, sought declaratory relief after the Conservancy, the administrator of the conservation easement, rejected Appellants' plan to construct buildings on each of the two parcels. The Conservancy counterclaimed for declaratory relief seeking a declaration that the conservation easement burdened and encumbered Appellants' parcels of property and limited construction on the property. The district court granted summary judgment and entered judgment on the pleadings in favor of the Conservancy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in entering summary judgment for the Conservancy; and (2) the district court did not err when it entered judgment on the pleadings dismissing Appellants' claims for breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. View "Four B Properties, LLC v. Nature Conservancy" on Justia Law

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The Town of Ludlow appealed a Property Valuation & Review Division (PVR) hearing officer’s decision lowering the fair market value of two quartertime-share condominium properties, Jackson Gore Inn and Adams House, located at the base of Okemo Ski Resort. On appeal, the Town argued that the time-share owners in Jackson Gore Inn and Adams House failed to overcome the presumption of validity of the Town’s appraisal. The Town also argued that hearing officer incorrectly interpreted 32 V.S.A. 3619(b) and failed to properly weigh the evidence and make factual findings. After review of the PVR hearing officer’s decision, the Vermont Supreme Court first held that the hearing officer correctly determined that the time-share owners met their initial burden of producing evidence to overcome the presumption of validity by presenting the testimony of their expert appraiser. Second, the Supreme Court conclude that the hearing officer correctly determined that section 3619 addressed who receives a tax bill when time-share owners were taxed but said nothing about how to value the common elements in condominiums. Finally, the Supreme Court concluded the hearing officer made clear findings and, in general, provided a well-reasoned and detailed decision. Accordingly, the decision was affirmed. View "Jackson Gore Inn, Adams House v. Town of Ludlow" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that Tex. R. Civ. P. 91a permits dismissal based on an affirmative defense and that the alleged destruction of evidence is an action "taken in connection with representing a client in litigation," thus entitling the defendant attorneys to attorney immunity. Plaintiff hired Defendants to represent her in a lawsuit. Plaintiff later sued Defendants for, inter alia, fraud, trespass to chattel, and conversion, alleging that Defendants intentionally destroyed key evidence in the case. Defendants moved to dismiss the case under Rule 91a, claiming that it was entitled to attorney immunity on all of Plaintiff's claims. The trial court granted the motion and dismissed the case. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that affirmative defenses such as attorney immunity cannot be the basis of a Rule 91a dismissal and that Defendants were not entitled to attorney immunity. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Rule 91a permits motions to dismiss based on affirmative defenses "if the allegations, taken as true, together with inferences reasonably drawn from them, do not entitle the claimant to the relief sought"; and (2) because Defendants' allegedly wrongful conduct involved the provision of legal services that conduct was protected by attorney immunity. View "Bethel v. Quilling, Selander, Lownds, Winslett & Moser, P.C." on Justia Law

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In this case involving a written assignment of an overriding royalty interest in minerals produced from land in Wheeler County the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's judgment declaring that the assignment conveyed an overriding royalty interest in all production under the lease, holding that the assignment unambiguously conveyed the assignor's overriding royalty interest in all production under the lease. The assignment in this case identified the single well that was producing at the time of the assignment, the land on which the well was located, and the lease under which the overriding royalty interest existed. At issue was whether the assignment conveyed the assignor's interest in all production under the identified lease or only in production from the identified well or from any well drilled on the identified land. The court of appeals held that the assignment conveyed only the 3.75 percent overriding royalty interest in production from the tract of land on which the well was located. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the assignment unambiguously conveyed all of the interest that the assignor owned at the time of the conveyance. View "Piranha Partners v. Neuhoff" on Justia Law

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In 2016, Mario Holland parked his vehicle at Black’s Food Market and walked to West Lounge. Upon returning to his vehicle after patronizing West Lounge, Holland was shot and robbed in the Black’s Food parking lot. He alleged the assailant came from a vacant lot across the street from Black’s Food. Murphy Oil owned the vacant lot. Holland suffered serious injuries from the assault. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of defendant Murphy Oil, finding that, as a landowner that owned land near the scene of an assault, it did not owe any legal duty to Holland. Holland appealed, arguing that the Mississippi Supreme Court should adopt Section 54 of the Restatement (Third) of Torts, which provided for instances when landowners might owe a duty to persons or property located off the landowner’s property. The Supreme Court determined it did not need to address the Restatement because it did not apply to the facts of this case. Further, the Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment because the landowner did not owe any legal duty to Holland. View "Holland v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeal affirming the trial court's grant of Defendant's demurrer and dismissing Plaintiff's complaint alleging that Defendant negligently allowed a fire to spread from Defendant's property to Plaintiff's property, harming some of Plaintiff's trees, holding that Plaintiff could not rely on Cal. Civ. Code 3346's extended statute of limitations and that his complaint was otherwise untimely. Section 3346 provides enhanced damages to plaintiffs suffering wrongful injuries to timber, trees, or underwood. The relevant statute of limitations where a plaintiff seeks such damages is five years. In this case, Plaintiff alleged that section 3346's enhanced damages and five-year statute of limitations applied to property damage from a fire negligently allowed to escape from Defendant's property. Defendant filed a demurrer, arguing that Plaintiff's claims were time-barred. The trial court granted the demurrer. The court of appeal affirmed, concluding that the three-year statute of limitations in Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 338(b) applied to this action for trespass upon or injury to real property. The court of appeal agreed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 3346 is inapplicable to damages to timber, trees, or underwood from negligently escaping fires and that Plaintiff's complaint was otherwise untimely. View "Scholes v. Lambirth Trucking Co." on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs own land abutting a railroad right-of-way that was long ago granted to, and for decades used by, the Railway in Dade County, Florida. When the Railway abandoned the right-of-way for rail use, full rights to the underlying land, unencumbered by the easement, would have reverted to whoever owned such rights, had there been no overriding governmental action. However, the Railway successfully petitioned the Surface Transportation Board to have the railroad corridor turned into a recreational trail under the National Trails System Act Amendments, 16 U.S.C. 1247(d). The landowners sued, alleging that the agency’s conversion of the right-of-way into a recreational trail constituted a taking of their rights in the corridor land abutting their properties and that the government must pay just compensation for that taking. To establish their ownership of the corridor land, the plaintiffs relied on Florida's “centerline presumption,” which provides that when a road or other corridor forms the boundary of a landowner’s parcel, that landowner owns the fee interest in the abutting corridor land up to the corridor’s centerline, absent clear evidence to the contrary. The trial court ruled in favor of the government. The Federal Circuit reversed. The centerline presumption applies to railroad rights-of-way and the plats at issue do not clearly express the intent required to avoid application of the centerline presumption. View "Castillo v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's award of statutory damages to plaintiffs under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990. Defendants are developers who destroyed aerosol artwork that plaintiff painted on buildings owned by defendants. The site was known as 5Pointz in Long Island City, New York, and evolved into a major global center for aerosol art, attracting thousands of visitors, numerous celebrities, and extensive media coverage. The court held that the district court correctly determined that temporary artwork may achieve recognized stature so as to be protected from destruction by VARA and that plaintiffs' work had achieved that stature. The court also held that the district court did not err in finding defendants' violations of VARA to be willful and that the district court's award of statutory damages was not an abuse of discretion. View "Castillo v. G&M Realty L.P." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, Bridge Aina Le'a, filed suit challenging the Commission's 2011 reversion of land on the island of Hawaii from a conditional urban land use classification to the prior agricultural use classification. The reversion came after twenty-two years during which various landowners made unfulfilled development representations to the Commission to obtain and maintain the land's urban use classification. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of the state's motion for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL), because the evidence did not establish an unconstitutional regulatory taking under either Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003 (1992), and Penn Central Transportation Co. v. City of New York, 438 U.S. 104 (1978). Accordingly, the panel vacated the judgment for plaintiff and the nominal damages award, remanding with instructions for the district court to enter judgment for the state. The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's equal protection claim, holding that issue preclusion barred plaintiff from litigating the claim. View "Bridge Aina Le'a, LLC v. Hawaii Land Use Commission" on Justia Law