by
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

by
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

by
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

by
The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, 12 U.S.C. 2605 (RESPA), requires that a loan servicer, no later than 30 days after receiving a borrower's “qualified written request” for information, take one of three specific actions and provides a private right of action for actual damages resulting from violations. Wis. Stat. 224.77 prohibits mortgage brokers from violating "any federal or state statute.” Terrence purchased his house in 2006 with a Deutsche Bank mortgage, serviced by Wells Fargo. His wife, Dixie, used an inheritance to help buy the house but was never named on the title, mortgage, or promissory note. Despite a forbearance plan and two loan modifications, Terrance defaulted. Deutsche Bank filed a second foreclosure action. In 2012, the Wisconsin court entered a foreclosure judgment. Terrance filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, resulting in an automatic stay. In 2015, the parties entered into a third modification. Terrance again failed to make payments and converted to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, triggering another stay. In 2016 the bankruptcy court entered a discharge. The sheriff’s sale was rescheduled. In August 2016, Terrance sent Wells Fargo a letter, asking 22 wide-ranging questions about his account. Wells Fargo confirmed receipt immediately, indicating that it would respond on September 30. Two days before the RESPA deadline for response, the owners moved to reopen the foreclosure case and obtained another stay. They also filed a federal suit under RESPA and state law. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal. Dixie lacked standing. Terrance failed to show that he suffered out-of-pocket expenses as a result of any alleged RESPA violation. View "Moore v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs David and Hedda Schmidt appeal from a judgment entered in favor of defendants Citibank, N.A., as Trustee for Structured Asset Mortgage Investments II Trust 2007-AR3 Mortgage Pass Through Certificates Series 2007-AR3, and Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc. (defendants). In January 2007, the Schmidts obtained a $1,820,000 loan, secured by a residence at 2415 Rue Denise in La Jolla, California (the Property). The deed of trust was assigned to Citibank, N.A., as Trustee for Structured Asset Mortgage Investments II Trust 2007-AR3 Mortgage Pass Through Certificates Series 2007-AR3. The Schmidts defaulted on the loan and entered into a loan modification agreement in February 2013 with their loan servicer at the time, JPMorgan Chase Bank. Within approximately seven months, the Schmidts defaulted on the loan modification agreement. The Schmidts would apply for and be denied loan modification every year from 2013 to 2017. They sued defendants, alleging violations of the Homeowners' Bill of Rights and Business and Professions Code section 17200, seeking to prevent the completion of a trustee's sale of their residence. The defendants moved for summary judgment and presented evidence of extensive and numerous telephone calls between the Schmidts and Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc., the loan servicer, during which the Schmidts' financial situation was discussed, as were possible options to avoid foreclosure. The trial court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment and entered judgment in their favor. On appeal, the Schmidts contended summary judgment should not have been granted because there remained triable issues of fact to be determined. The Court of Appeal disagreed and affirmed the judgment. View "Schmidt v. Citibank, N.A." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Tax Appeals (BTA) affirming the tax commissioner’s denial of Willoughby Hills Development and Distribution, Inc.’s (WHDD) request for a commercial-activity-tax (CAT) refund, holding that WHDD fell short of the requirements necessary for the gross-receipts exclusion to apply. Subject to exclusions, the CAT is levied on each entity with taxable gross receipts above a certain threshold for the privilege of doing business in Ohio. At issue was whether WHDD could meet the requirements of the gross-receipts exclusion that applies when a person or entity acts as an agent for another. The tax commissioner concluded that no agency relationship existed and denied the refund claim. The BTA affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that WHDD did not meet the CAT statute’s definition of “agent.” View "Willoughby Hills Development & Distribution, Inc. v. Testa" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for plaintiffs, the owners of a Montana ranch, in a dispute over the ownership of dinosaur fossils. Prior to the discovery of the fossils, the previous owners of the ranch sold their surface and one-third of the mineral estate to plaintiffs, expressly reserving the remaining two-thirds of the mineral estate. The panel held that definitions of "mineral" in Montana statutes were contradictory and thus inconclusive. The panel explained that the Montana Supreme Court has generally adopted the test in Heinatz v. Allen, 217 S.W.2d 994 (Tex. 1940), for determining whether a particular substance was a mineral in the context of deeds and agreements regarding mineral rights to land. Applying the Heinatz test, the panel held that the dinosaur fossils were "minerals" under the terms of the deed and belonged to the owners of the mineral estate. In this case, the fossils were rare and exceptional, and have special value. View "Murray v. BEJ Minerals, LLC" on Justia Law

by
In this property tax appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Tax Appeals (BTA) concluding that the Marion County Board of Revision (BOR) and the River Valley Local School District Board of Education (school board) were barred by res judicata and collateral estoppel from seeking to enforce a recorded covenant that purported to prohibit Kohl’s Illinois, Inc., the property owner in this case, from contesting the Marion County auditor’s valuations of the property, holding that the BTA properly applied collateral estoppel. After the Supreme Court remanded this case in Kohl’s I, the BTA remanded the matter to the BOR to determine value. No appeal was taken from this decision. On remand at the BOR, Kohl’s introduced an appraisal report and testimony in support of a reduced value. When the BOR retained the auditor’s valuation, Kohl’s appealed. The BTA held that it had already decided not to enforce the covenant at issue in its earlier decision and that the BOR and school board were barred by res judicata and collateral estoppel from seeking enforcement of the covenant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the BTA did make a determination as to the covenant issue. View "Kohl's Illinois, Inc. v. Marion County Board of Revision" on Justia Law

by
In this property dispute between stepsiblings Brenda Sue Gittings and William Deal, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the judgment of the trial court, holding that William was not entitled to court approval of property transfers that led to his receipt of profitable land. Under the original terms of mirrored trusts that Brenda’s father and William’s mother created, the two stepsiblings were to share land and mineral interests placed in the trusts once both parents died. After Brenda’s father died, however, property transfers and amended trust terms resulted in William receiving all the land and mineral interests upon his mother’s death. When the land began generating income, William sought court approval of the property transfers. Brenda and her son responded with allegations challenging the property transfers and seeking affirmative relief. The Supreme Court held (1) the Gittingses’ assertions were subject to statutes of limitations to the extent they sought affirmative relief but not to the extent they diminished William’s request for declaratory relief; and (2) because the property transfers were improper, William was not entitled to court approval of the transfers. View "Gittings v. Deal" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff’s unjust enrichment, quantum meruit, and promissory estoppel claims, holding that the district court erred in granting Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the promissory estoppel claim. Plaintiff, a farmer, sued Defendants, his neighbor’s heirs, claiming that he and the decedent entered into an option contract to purchase farmland that Plaintiff leased from he decedent and upon which Plaintiff had made substantial improvements. After the farm was sold, Plaintiff brought this action claiming that Defendants breached an option contract to sell him the property. Alternatively, Plaintiff alleged various equitable theories of promissory estoppel, quantum meruit, and unjust enrichment. A jury found in favor of Plaintiff on his contract claim, but the district court granted Defendants’ motion for directed verdict and refused to order a new trial on Plaintiff’s alternative equitable theories. The court of appeals remanded the case for further proceedings on the equitable claims. On remand, the district court granted Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the remaining equitable claims. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that Plaintiff’s promissory estoppel claim survived summary judgment. View "Kunde v. Estate of Arthur D. Bowman" on Justia Law