Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Luminant in a trespass-to-try-title action against defendants. The court concluded that Luminant demonstrated, by uncontested evidence, its adverse and peaceable possession of the tracts of land also claimed by defendants for at least ten years, satisfying Texas's adverse possession statutes. Therefore, Luminant is vested with a fee simple interest in the disputed tracts and summary judgment in its favor was proper. View "Luminant Mining Co., LLC v. PakeyBey" on Justia Law

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The Sumter County Board of Education ("the SCBE") appealed a circuit court's dismissal of its complaint asserting claims of reformation of a deed, breach of contract, and fraud, as well as seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, against the University of West Alabama ("UWA"); UWA's president Dr. Kenneth Tucker, in his individual and official capacities; and UWA's former president, Dr. Richard Holland, in his individual and official capacities. Because a new high school had been built, in early 2010 the SCBE closed Livingston High School ("LHS"). Shortly thereafter, officials from UWA approached the SCBE about the possibility of purchasing the LHS property. In 2011, a "Statutory Warranty Deed" conveying the LHS property from the SCBE to UWA ("the deed") was executed, and it was signed on the SCBE's behalf by Dr. Morton. The deed did not contain any restrictions on the LHS property or its use. The deed was recorded in the Sumter Probate Court on June 27, 2011. In May 2017, the University Charter School ("UCS") filed an application with the Alabama Public Charter School Commission ("the APCSC") to establish a charter school in Sumter County. In its application, UCS stated that the LHS property was its first choice for the location of the school. The APCSC approved UCS's application in July 2017. In October 2017, it was publicly announced that UWA had an agreement with UCS for UCS to use the LHS property to house its school.3 The SCBE's complaint alleged that in November 2017 the SCBE contacted UWA president Dr. Tucker and "requested that Defendant UWA honor its covenant not to use Livingston High School property as a K-12 charter school." However, UCS continued its preparations, and in August 2018 UCS opened its charter school on the LHS property with over 300 students attending. In May 2018, the SCBE filed the complaint at issue here, and the circuit court ultimately dismissed the complaint. Because the Alabama Supreme Court found that a restrictive covenant in the sales contract violated clear public policies of the Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act, the restrictive covenant was unenforceable. Therefore, the circuit court's judgment dismissing all the claims against the University defendants was affirmed. View "Sumter County Board of Education v. University of West Alabama, et al." on Justia Law

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The City of Birmingham ("the City") appealed a circuit court's denial of its motion to vacate a quiet-title judgment in favor of Metropolitan Management of Alabama, LLC ("Metropolitan"). In 1999, the State of Alabama purchased a parcel of property at a tax sale. The City's Director of Finance conducted a public sale, selling and conveying a delinquent demolition assessment against the property. The City purchased that assessment interest and, in February 2007, recorded a deed showing the conveyance. In 2017, the property was sold by the State, and Michael Froelich, who was the managing member of Metropolitan, obtained title to the property by a tax deed. Froelich conveyed the property to Metropolitan by quitclaim deed. In 2018, Metropolitan commenced a quiet title action, naming Constance Wambo as a defendant possessing an interest in the property, and identified as fictitiously named defendants "any individuals and/or entities who may claim an interest now or in the future in the property ..., whose true identity is currently unknown to [the] Plaintiff." Metropolitan filed an affidavit in which Froelich averred that he, after a diligent search with the assistance of an attorney, had been unable to identify any other interest holders. In November 2019, the court entered a judgment quieting title to the property in Metropolitan, conveying to Metropolitan fee-simple title to the exclusion of all others, voiding any claims of the defendants, and making Metropolitan's claim of interest superior to any other. In early 2020, Metropolitan's attorney contacted counsel for the City regarding the City's recorded assessment interest. In June 2020, the City filed a motion to intervene in the quiet-title action and a motion to vacate the judgment as void under Rule 60(b)(4). The court denied the City's motion to vacate without stating grounds. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed, finding the law imputes to purchasers knowledge of the contents of recorded documents, and that such constructive notice of a defendant's residence generally suffices for "know[ledge]" of that residence under Rule 4.3(b). Metropolitan did not provide any reason why a reasonable probate-records search would not have disclosed the City's deed. Because Metropolitan had knowledge of the City's residence, Metropolitan's service by publication without first attempting another means of service failed to comply with Rule 4.3(b). View "City of Birmingham v. Metropolitan Management of Alabama, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court exercising jurisdiction over the underlying fraudulent conveyance action and avoiding all of Paul Morabito's transfers to Superpumper, Inc., Sam Morabito, Snowshoe Petroleum, Inc., and Edward Bayer, individually and as trustee of the Bayuk Trust (collectively, Superpumper) and awarding Paul Morabito's bankruptcy trustee (Trustee) the subject property or the value thereof, holding that the district court did not err.Paul and Consolidated Nevada Corporation entered into a settlement agreement with JH Inc., Jerry Herbst, and Berry-Hinckley Industries (collectively, the Herbsts) for $85 million and later defaulted on the agreement. After a bankruptcy court adjudicated Paul as a Chapter 7 debtor the Herbsts filed a fraudulent transfer action against Paul and Superpumper, the transferees of Paul's assets. The state district court avoided all of Morabito's transfers to Superpumper and awarded the Trustee the subject property or the value thereof. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over the fraudulent conveyance action; (2) Superpumper waived its in rem jurisdiction argument; and (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion in allowing attorney-client communications to be admitted into evidence at trial. View "Superpumper, Inc. v. Leonard" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court reversing the decision of the Board of Appeals affirming the Town of China code enforcement officer's (CEO) issuance of an after-the-fact permit to allow the placement of a trailer on Nicholas Namer's lot, holding that the operative decision of the CEO was deficient for purposes of judicial review.Kimberly and Anthony LaMarre, whose property abutted the lot at issue, objected to the trailer's placement, arguing that the trailer was not a "recreational vehicle" within the meaning of the town's land use ordinance allowing such placement. The Board of Appeals affirmed. The superior court reversed. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment below and remanded the matter with instructions to remand to the code enforcement officer, holding that the CEO's decision was deficient for purposes of judicial review. View "LaMarre v. Town of China" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court determining that Arthur and Jerilyn Gregg were not estopped from asserting that their son-in-law, Tyler McGregor, had no rights in their cattle, and therefore, First Dakota National Bank did not have a security interest in the Greggs' cattle, holding that the circuit court did not err.Tyler and Rebecca McGregor operated a cattle feedlot, and First Dakota was their lender. In 2015, Tyler agreed to feed 289 head of cattle owned by the Greggs. When First Dakota conducted an inspection of the McGregors' cattle operation, Tyler misled the bank into believing that he owned the Greggs' cattle. First Dakota later filed this declaratory judgment action seeking a judgment against the Greggs for the value of the cattle returned to the Greggs. The court held that the Greggs were not estopped from asserting that the McGregor had no rights in the Greggs' cattle, and therefore, First Dakota could not claim a security interest in them. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the evidence did not support the first inquiry necessary to establish an estoppel claim. View "First Dakota National Bank v. Gregg" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, the Towns of Chester and Hudson (collectively, Towns), appealed a Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA) order granting respondent Public Service Company of New Hampshire d/b/a Eversource Energy (PSNH) abatements of taxes assessed against its property located in Chester for tax years 2014 and 2016 and in Hudson for tax years 2014, 2015, and 2016. PSNH submitted an appraisal report prepared by its expert, Concentric Energy Advisors, Inc., setting forth the expert’s opinion of the aggregate fair market value of PSNH’s taxable property located in each municipality for each tax year. Two appraisers employed by the Towns’ expert, George E. Sansoucy, P.E., LLC (GES), used a substantially similar methodology in appraising the fair market value of the land interests. The BTLA compared the equalized market value to the aggregate assessed value for each municipality for each tax year. The BTLA concluded that an assessment was unreasonable and granted an abatement when it determined that the difference between the equalized market value and the aggregate assessed value was greater than five percent. The Towns argued that because both GES and Concentric relied upon the assessed value of PSNH’s land interests in reaching their opinions of fair market value, the values that the BTLA incorporated into its analysis “were already proportionate” and “should not have had the equalization ratio[s] applied to them.” The BTLA denied the Towns’ motion for reconsideration, noting that it based its calculations upon values that “were supplied by the [Towns] themselves in the stipulations agreed to by them” and adopting the arguments PSNH raised in its objection. Finding no reversible error in the BTLA's order, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Appeal of Town of Chester et al." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction of an action brought under the Quiet Title Act (QTA) against the United States, seeking to confirm that an easement granted to plaintiffs' predecessors-in-interest did not permit public use of the Robbins Gulch Road, and to enforce the government's obligations to patrol and maintain the road against unrestricted public use.The panel reaffirmed that the QTA's statute of limitations is jurisdictional and dispositive in this case. The panel explained that prior Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit precedent are still controlling, even though for other statutes the Supreme Court has more recently set forth a seemingly different framework for assessing whether a statute of limitations is jurisdictional. Furthermore, the jurisdictional question and the merits question are not so intertwined that dismissal was improper because the determination of jurisdiction is not dependent on the merits of plaintiffs' claims. Finally, the panel rejected plaintiffs' remaining contentions, which are addressed in a separate memorandum disposition filed simultaneously with this opinion. View "Wilkins v. United States" on Justia Law

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This case arose from an alleged international conspiracy to secure lucrative oil and gas contracts in Nigeria in exchange for bribes involving real estate, furniture, artwork, and other gifts. LightRay, the sole shareholder of the corporate owner of the yacht, M/Y Galactica Star, appeals the district court's 2018 order striking its claims and dismissing it for lack of standing. Enron Nigeria, a judgment creditor of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, appeals the district court's 2020 order granting a consent motion that resulted in the forfeiture of the yacht.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling with respect to LightRay's appeal and dismissed Enron Nigeria's appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that LightRay deliberately withdrew its claim against the yacht and waived its argument that it did so under duress. Furthermore, the district court did not err in dismissing LightRay from the proceedings for lack of standing with respect to the Remaining Assets. The court also concluded that Nigeria's Verified Claim was at all times immune from attachment and execution under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. In this case, Nigeria did not waive its sovereign immunity by encouraging the United States Government to sell the Galactica Star. View "United States v. LightRay Capital, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2017, Andeavor agreed with the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, known as the Three Affiliated Tribes, to renew the right-of-way over tribal lands, and to pay trespass damages for continued operation of an oil pipeline after expiration. Andeavor then began renewal negotiations with individual Indian landowners. In 2018, the Allottees filed a putative class action seeking compensatory and punitive damages for ongoing trespass and injunctive relief requiring Andeavor to dismantle the pipeline. The district court granted Andeavor's motion to dismiss, concluding that the Allottees failed to exhaust administrative remedies with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).The Eighth Circuit concluded that the case turns on issues sufficiently within the primary jurisdiction of the BIA to warrant a stay, rather than dismissal, to give the BIA opportunity to take further action. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. The court denied the Allottees' motion to dismiss Robin Fredericks as a plaintiff. View "Chase v. Andeavor Logistics, L.P." on Justia Law