Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries
Madani v. Rabinowitz
Plaintiff filed suit against his next door neighbor, alleging trespass and nuisance claims, and seeking to remove a portion of defendant's fence, which encroached on plaintiff's property. Plaintiff also sought to enjoin defendant from continuing to park old, inoperable cars on a driveway plaintiff owned, and to collect damages for defendant's past use of the driveway. Defendant raised a statute of limitations defense. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's conclusion that the fence and parked cars were continuing encroachments and affirmed the trial court's order of their removal. Therefore, the trial court correctly found that plaintiff's trespass and nuisance claims were not time-barred. The court also affirmed the trial court's conclusion that plaintiff failed to prove his damages claim. Although the court agreed with plaintiff that he was entitled to damages, the court found the real estate appraisal expert's estimate was not an accurate measure of the benefit received. Furthermore, plaintiff did not present any other evidence upon which the trial court could value the benefits defendant received. View "Madani v. Rabinowitz" on Justia Law
Madej v. Maiden
Since 1997, the Social Security Administration has found Madej completely disabled and entitled to benefits. In addition to her other ailments, her doctors say she has “multiple chemical sensitivity,” which is not a disease recognized by the World Health Organization or the American Medical Association. She goes to great lengths to avoid everyday materials that she believes will trigger harmful reactions like burning eyes and throat, dizziness, or nausea. Madej fears that the use of asphalt on a road near her home will cause more harm. She sued to stop the roadwork, alleging violations of the Fair Housing Amendments Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Applying the “Daubert” standard, the district court excluded the opinions of Madej’s experts that the asphalt would injure her. Without expert causation evidence, the claims could not withstand summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, stating that “as far as we are aware, no district court has ever found a diagnosis of multiple chemical sensitivity to be sufficiently reliable to pass muster under Daubert.” The court also questioned whether Madej had cognizable claims under the cited federal statutes. It is not obvious that the roadwork amounts to a “provision of services” “in connection with” the Madej home under 42 U.S.C. 3604(f)(2) View "Madej v. Maiden" on Justia Law
Fitzpatrick v. Kent
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
Four B Properties, LLC v. Nature Conservancy
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
Jackson Gore Inn, Adams House v. Town of Ludlow
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
Bethel v. Quilling, Selander, Lownds, Winslett & Moser, P.C.
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
Piranha Partners v. Neuhoff
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
Holland v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc.
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
Scholes v. Lambirth Trucking Co.
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
Castillo v. United States
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