Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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This case involves a divorce dispute between Randall Thomas Bailey and Sara Elizabeth Bailey, now known as Ms. Larson. The couple married in 2005 and have three minor children. Ms. Larson filed for divorce in December 2022. The main issues in the case revolve around the district court's decisions on child custody, child support, and property division.The district court granted joint legal custody of the children, with the children's primary residence set with Ms. Larson. The court also calculated child support, imputing income to Mr. Bailey, and divided the couple's property, which was valued at approximately $2.2 million. The division required an equalization payment of $475,000 from Mr. Bailey to Ms. Larson.Mr. Bailey appealed the district court's decisions, arguing that the court abused its discretion in determining custody, calculating child support, and dividing the parties' property. He also contested the valuation of his gun collection, the valuation of accounts at the date of separation, and whether two properties in South Carolina should have been included in the marital estate.The Supreme Court of Wyoming affirmed the district court's decisions. The court found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in deciding the issues of custody, child support, and property division. The court also found that the evidence presented supported the district court's findings and conclusions, and that the property division was not so unfair or unreasonable as to shock the conscience. View "Bailey v. Bailey" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute over the use of a property in the River Plantation subdivision, which has been operated as a golf course since the subdivision's establishment. The River Plantation Community Improvement Association (the Association) sought a declaratory judgment that the golf course property is encumbered by an implied reciprocal negative easement restricting it to use solely as a golf course. The owners of the golf course property, River Plantation Properties, LLC and Preisler Golf Properties, LLC, counterclaimed for a declaration that the property is not so encumbered.The trial court granted summary judgment for the golf course property’s owners, holding it is not burdened by an implied reciprocal negative easement as a matter of law. The court of appeals affirmed this decision, noting that when the subdivision was developed, the developers retained the Reserves without placing any restrictions on their use, and the recitals in the property records put prospective lot owners on notice that the Reserves were excluded from the subdivision’s uniform plan.The Supreme Court of Texas agreed with the lower courts and affirmed the court of appeals’ judgment. The court held that the doctrine of implied reciprocal negative easements does not apply in this case. The Association's complaint was not that a substantial number of lots in the River Plantation subdivision were burdened by express restrictions when originally conveyed by the developer while others were not. Instead, the Association argued that the property should be burdened by an entirely different restriction: golf course use only. The court concluded that there are no substantially uniform express restrictions on the River Plantation lots that the Association claims give rise to similar restrictions on the golf course property. Therefore, the golf course property is not burdened by an implied reciprocal negative easement. View "River Plantation Community Improvement Assn. v. River Plantation Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute over the boundary between two parcels of land in Wapello County, Iowa. The northern parcel was owned by the Handlings and the southern parcel by the Sims. Both parties treated a fence line as the boundary between their properties for many years. In the mid-1990s, Scott Hubbell began leasing both properties for farming. In 2004, he built a machine shed south of the fence line, assuming it was on the southern property. In 2014, Hubbell and his wife purchased both properties, becoming the sole owners. In 2017, they sold the southern property to the Remmarks and in 2018, they sold the northern property to Sundance Land Company. A survey commissioned by Sundance revealed that the legal boundary between the properties ran south of the fence line, meaning the machine shed was encroaching onto the northern property. Sundance filed a petition to quiet title according to the survey boundary lines, alleging that the Remmarks were trespassing on the northern property.The district court found that a boundary line by acquiescence had been established at the old fence line during the Handlings’ and Sims’ respective ownership of the properties. The court rejected Sundance’s argument that the Hubbells’ common ownership of both parcels from 2014 to 2017 erased the boundary by acquiescence. The court of appeals affirmed the district court's decision.The Supreme Court of Iowa disagreed with the lower courts' decisions. The court held that when two adjoining parcels come under common ownership, any potential boundary by acquiescence between them is eradicated, and the ten-year clock for calculating boundary by acquiescence restarts when separate ownership resumes. The court vacated the decision of the court of appeals, reversed the district court judgment, and remanded for entry of judgment for Sundance in accordance with this opinion. View "Sundance Land Company, LLC v. Remmark" on Justia Law

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The case involves Stacy G. Coats and Kendall Coats (the plaintiffs) who filed a private right-of-way condemnation case against Sandra F. Ayers, Tommy J. Ayers, and J. Jason Ayers (the defendants). The plaintiffs sought a right-of-way across the defendants' property to access their own landlocked properties. The properties in question include several parcels of land, some of which are low-lying wetlands often flooded and used for hunting and fishing. A private dirt road, referred to as the "farm road," crosses the defendants' property and has been historically used by the plaintiffs and their predecessors to access their properties.The Tuscaloosa Probate Court initially granted the plaintiffs a right-of-way across the defendants' property, concluding that the plaintiffs' property was landlocked. The defendants appealed this decision to the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court. The defendants argued that the plaintiffs' property was no longer landlocked due to inheritance of additional land that touched a public road. The Circuit Court agreed with the defendants, granting a summary judgment in their favor on the grounds that the plaintiffs' property was no longer landlocked and they had reasonable access to their property from a public road.The Supreme Court of Alabama reversed the decision of the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court. The Supreme Court found that there was a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether the plaintiffs have an existing, reasonable means to access their landlocked property. The court noted that the plaintiffs had presented substantial evidence indicating that they could not travel from the public road across their property to access their landlocked property. The court concluded that the plaintiffs had permission to cross an intervening property, and thus there was no requirement for them to seek a right-of-way over it. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Coats v. Ayers" on Justia Law

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The Regents of the University of California (Regents) approved the construction of a new hospital at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Parnassus Heights campus. The proposed hospital was alleged to exceed local building height and bulk restrictions. The Parnassus Neighborhood Coalition (the Coalition), a group of property owners residing near the proposed hospital, sued to halt the construction, claiming it was a “threatened nuisance per se.” The Regents argued that as a state entity, they were immune from complying with local building and zoning regulations when engaging in a governmental activity such as constructing university buildings.The trial court disagreed with the Regents, concluding that their immunity depended on whether the proposed construction constituted a governmental or proprietary activity, a question of fact that could not be resolved on a demurrer. The Regents petitioned for a writ of mandate to vacate the trial court’s order.The Court of Appeal of the State of California First Appellate District Division Three reviewed the case. The court concluded that the proposed hospital would facilitate the provision of clinical services, thereby advancing UCSF’s academic mission and the Regents’ educational purpose, which is a governmental activity. The court held that the Regents are exempt from the local regulations at issue, and the demurrer should have been sustained. The court issued the writ of mandate, directing the trial court to vacate its order denying the Regents’ demurrer and to enter a new order sustaining the demurrer. View "The Regents of the University of California v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The case involves Alejandra Padilla, who tripped, fell, and suffered serious injuries while walking on a public sidewalk abutting a vacant commercial lot in Camden, New Jersey. The lot was owned by Young Il An and Myo Soon An. Padilla sued the owners for negligence, claiming that their failure to maintain the sidewalk caused her fall and consequent injuries. The owners moved for summary judgment, arguing that they did not owe her a duty of care.The trial court granted the owners' motion, and the Appellate Division affirmed, holding that the owner of a non-income producing vacant commercial lot has no duty to the public to maintain the lot’s abutting sidewalk in a safe condition.The Supreme Court of New Jersey reversed the lower courts' decisions. The court held that all commercial landowners, including owners of vacant commercial lots, have a duty to maintain the public sidewalks abutting their property in reasonably good condition and are liable to pedestrians injured as a result of their negligent failure to do so. The court reasoned that the moment an individual or an entity purchases a lot in a commercially zoned area, the purchaser has begun a commercial endeavor and intends to make money. Therefore, it is not unreasonable or unfair for such an individual to have to factor liability insurance into the cost of embarking on the journey of their commercial endeavor. The case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Padilla v. Young Il An" on Justia Law

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The case involves Edward A. Cianci and Raymond Frechette, who purchased a foreclosed property and initiated a summary process action in the Housing Court against the occupants, including Elizabeth D'Andrea. The Housing Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs for possession. D'Andrea appealed and sought to waive the appeal bond due to her indigency. The Housing Court found D'Andrea to be indigent and waived her appeal bond, but required her to make monthly use and occupancy payments of $1,275 to the plaintiffs to maintain her appeal. D'Andrea appealed this order to the Appeals Court, which reported questions of law to the Supreme Judicial Court.The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts held that use and occupancy payments required of an indigent party under G. L. c. 239, § 5 (e), may not be waived, substituted, or paid by the Commonwealth under the indigency statute because use and occupancy payments are not an "extra fee or cost" as defined in the indigency statute. The court further concluded that the order setting use and occupancy payments in this case did not violate D'Andrea's constitutional rights, even if the order requires her to make payments that potentially exceed her ability to pay. The court reasoned that the summary process statute reasonably imposes a fair balancing of interests between the owner of the property and the party in possession, and the Housing Court performed the fair balancing required. View "Frechette v. D'Andrea" on Justia Law

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The case involves Marshall and Tiffany Todman, who were evicted from their rental property in Baltimore. According to the Baltimore City Code, any personal property left in or around the premises after eviction is immediately considered abandoned, and the landlord takes ownership. The Todmans were evicted earlier than expected and lost their belongings under this ordinance. They sued the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, alleging that the city had deprived them of their personal property without due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court agreed and granted summary judgment in favor of the Todmans.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that the Todmans were owed more process than they received and that the city was responsible for that failure of process. The court held that the city's Abandonment Ordinance violated the Todmans' constitutional rights by depriving them of their property without due process of law and that the city is liable for that violation. The court also dismissed the Todmans' conditional cross-appeal, which asked the court to review the district court's dismissal of their takings claim if the court found their due process claims lacked merit. View "Todman v. The Mayor and City Council of Baltimore" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute over a small triangular portion of land in south Anchorage, Alaska, between two neighbors, Janice Park and the Browns. The land in question was enclosed by a fence that had been in place since at least 1991, but a 2016 survey revealed that the fence veered slightly into the Browns' property. The Browns sued Park for trespass and to quiet title, while Park claimed adverse possession.The Superior Court of the State of Alaska ruled in favor of the Browns, concluding that Park failed to establish the required elements of adverse possession. The court found that Park's possession of the disputed area was open, notorious, exclusive, and hostile, but she did not exercise continuous possession of the area for the required ten-year statutory period.Park appealed to the Supreme Court of the State of Alaska, arguing that the lower court misapplied the law and displayed bias against her. The Supreme Court agreed that the lower court erred in rejecting Park's claim of adverse possession. The court found that Park had established continuous and uninterrupted possession of the disputed area for the ten-year statutory period between 2005 and 2015, satisfying the continuous-possession requirement under the doctrine of tacking. The court also held that Park presented clear and convincing evidence sufficient to satisfy the other elements of adverse possession. However, the court found insufficient evidence to support Park's claim of judicial bias. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment and remanded the case for entry of judgment in favor of Park. View "Park v. Brown" on Justia Law

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A nuisance lawsuit was brought by neighbors against two poultry farms located on a single tract of rural land in Henderson County, southeast of Dallas. The neighbors claimed that the odors from the farms were a nuisance, causing them discomfort and annoyance. A jury found that the odors were a temporary nuisance and the trial court granted permanent injunctive relief that effectively shut down the farms. The farm owners and operators appealed, challenging the injunction on three grounds: whether the trial court abused its discretion in finding imminent harm; whether equitable relief was unavailable because damages provide an adequate remedy; and whether the scope of the injunction is overly broad.The Supreme Court of Texas upheld the trial court’s authority to grant an injunction, rejecting the first two challenges. However, the court concluded that the trial court abused its discretion in crafting the scope of the injunction, which was broader than necessary to abate the nuisance. The court therefore reversed in part and remanded for the trial court to modify the scope of injunctive relief. View "HUYNH v. BLANCHARD" on Justia Law