Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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On a winter night in 2014, strong winds blew through the town of Georgia, Vermont, causing a partially constructed livestock barn to collapse. Commercial Construction Endeavors, Inc. (CCE), the contractor building the barn, sought recompense for the resulting losses from its insurer, Ohio Security Insurance Company. However, insurer and insured disagreed as to policy coverage for costs incurred by CCE in removing the remains of the collapsed barn and rebuilding it to its pre-collapse state. Ultimately, CCE sued Ohio Security for breach of contract. In successive summary-judgment rulings, the trial court held that the contractor’s rebuilding expenses were covered under the policy, but the cost of debris removal was not. Ohio Security cross-appealed the first ruling and CCE appealed the second; the Vermont Supreme Court reversed the first ruling and affirmed the second. The Court determined the additional collapse coverage applied only to “Covered Property,” which was business personal property; CCE did not dispute that the barn was not business personal property and thus was not “Covered Property.” Therefore, the court’s first summary-judgment ruling was reversed. The debris removal was not a loss involving business personal property. As a result, it was not a loss to “Covered Property” at that term was defined by the policy at issue. View "Commercial Construction Endeavors, Inc. v. Ohio Security Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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Years of heavy industrial use at Wisconsin's Badger Army Ammunition Plant contaminated the soil and groundwater with asbestos, lead paint, PCBs, and oil. Operations ceased in 1975. Remediation has yielded thousands of acres suitable for recreational use. The National Park Service donated 3,000 acres to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. An environmental group sued to halt three activities at the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area: dog training for hunting, off-road motorcycle riding, and helicopter drills by the Wisconsin National Guard citing the Property and Administrative Services Act, which controls deeds issued through the Federal Land to Parks Program, 40 U.S.C. 550. The Act requires the government to enforce the terms of its deeds and that the land be used for recreational purposes. The relevant deeds require that Wisconsin use the park for its originally intended purposes. Dog training and motorcycle riding were not mentioned in Wisconsin’s initial application. The group also argued that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321, required an environmental impact statement. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment. Dog training and off-road motorcycle riding were not mentioned in the application, but are recreational uses. While helicopter training is not recreational, the Service included an explicit deed provision reserving the right to continue the flights, as authorized by the Property Act. The Service reasonably concluded that its approval of dog training and motorcycle riding fell within a NEPA categorical exclusion for minor amendments to an existing plan. The Service was not required to prepare an environmental impact statement for helicopter training because it had no authority to discontinue the flights. View "Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance v. United States Department of the Interior" on Justia Law

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Following a heavy rain on April 2-3, 2017, several homes in the Mill Creek Place Subdivision in Rankin County, Mississippi flooded and were damaged. Several homeowners, whose homes had been damaged, sued the County for failing to properly maintain Mill Creek, which is adjacent to the Mill Creek Place Subdivision. Rankin County filed a Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss the complaint. The trial court granted Rankin County’s motion, finding that Rankin County was immune from liability—specifically discretionary function immunity—under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act. The homeowners appealed, arguing that Rankin County is not immune. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed. Taking all of the allegations of the plaintiffs’ complaint as true, Rankin County’s alleged failure to maintain Mill Creek was a case of simple negligence, and "such maintenance decisions do not involve policy considerations." The Court therefore determined the trial court erred by dismissing the complaint based on discretionary function immunity. View "Moses v. Rankin County" on Justia Law

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Larry Alber appealed a district court order denying his motion for injunctive relief against the City of Marion. Alber also appealed an order denying his motion for reconsideration. In 2003, the City sued Alber, alleging certain abandoned vehicles on Alber’s property violated a City ordinance and were a public nuisance. The district court entered a judgment against Alber finding the vehicles on Alber’s property were a public nuisance. The judgment required Alber to remove or lawfully maintain the vehicles. In 2013, the district court found Alber in contempt for violating the 2003 judgment’s requirement that he maintain the vehicles or remove them from his property. The court ordered Alber to remove all nuisance vehicles from his property. The court also ordered that any vehicles not removed by Alber could be removed by the City. In December 2016, Alber moved for injunctive relief, requesting a temporary restraining order prohibiting the City from entering his property to remove nuisance vehicles. As it related to the denial of his motion for injunctive relief, the North Dakota Supreme Court determined Alber’s brief failed to demonstrate that any of the injunctive relief factors weighed in his favor: he did not show a substantial probability of succeeding on the merits, proof of irreparable injury, harm to other interested parties, and how the public interest would be benefited by the granting of injunctive relief. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court. View "North Dakota ex rel. City of Marion v. Alber" on Justia Law

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Karen Wieland appeals from a judgment allowing the city of Fargo to take her property for flood mitigation purposes and awarding her $939,044.32 in just compensation, attorney fees, costs, and statutory expenses. Because the district court did not misapply the law in concluding the taking of Wieland’s property was necessary for a public use, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirm the judgment. View "City of Fargo v. Wieland" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court granting Walt & Lee Keenihan Foundation, Inc.'s (Foundation) motion for summary judgment and dismissing Heritage Properties Limited Partnership's (Heritage) complaint seeking to set aside an alleged fraudulent conveyance to the Foundation pursuant to a transfer on death (TOD) beneficiary designation on an account owned by Leta Keenihan, holding that the circuit court erred in deciding this case by summary judgment. Specifically, the Court held (1) the circuit court clearly had jurisdiction in the present case; (2) Heritage, as a creditor, had standing to pursue its claim under the Fraudulent Transfer Act against the Foundation as the transferee; and (3) Heritage was not required to present evidence of Keenihan's intent at the time of the TOD designation, but the evidence raised a factual issue precluding summary judgment as to whether Keenihan reasonably should have believed that she would incur debts beyond her ability to pay. View "Heritage Properties Limited Partnership v. Walt & Lee Keenihan Foundation, Inc." on Justia Law

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The East Side Highway District (the District) and Gregory and Ellen Delavan (the Delavans) disputed the location of their common boundary relating to a portion of a road, Boothe Park Road, which included a boat ramp located on the shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene. The District asserted a claim to the disputed property under two theories: (1) a boundary by agreement that was established by the location of a fence that was erected by the Delavans’ predecessor in interest; and (2) Boothe Park Road and the boat ramp at its termination was a public highway pursuant to Idaho Code section 40-202(3). In response, the Delavans claimed the boat ramp was on their property, and its use by the public has always been, and remained, permissive. Further, the Delavans claimed the fence which was erected by their predecessor in interest was intended to act as a barrier, not a boundary. After two bench trials, the trial court ruled in favor of the Delavans, finding that the public’s use of the boat ramp had been permissive. As a result, the trial court ruled that the District did not have a right to a public easement based on Idaho Code section 40-202(3). Further, the trial court found that the fence had been erected as a barrier, not a boundary. Instead, the trial court found that the intention of the parties at the time the disputed property was conveyed to the Delavans demonstrated that the Delavans owned the property in dispute. The District appealed. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court held there was substantial and competent evidence to support the trial court’s findings that there was no boundary by agreement and that the Delavans owned the property in dispute. However, the Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of the Delavans because there was no hostility requirement in Idaho Code section 40-202(3). Accordingly, the case was remanded to determine whether the District had a public easement under Idaho Code section 40-202(3). View "Eastside Hwy Dist v. Delavan" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's directed verdict and the jury's verdict in favor of appellees in an action involving a dispute between landowners and herbicide damage. The court held that the district court did not err in directing a verdict against Keller Farms on it statutory trespass count. In this case, the district court properly interpreted the Missouri trespass statute to exclude Keller Farm's claim for crop damage, and the district court did not err in determining that Keller Farms had not presented sufficient evidence to make a submissible case for its statutory trespass claim concerning damage to its windbreak and ornamental trees. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding a warning letter as well as testimony about it under Federal Rule of Evidence 403 because it was unfairly prejudicial; the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion for a new trial on the ground that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion for a new trial on the ground that appellees' closing argument was improper. View "Keller Farms, Inc. v. Stewart" on Justia Law

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In 1997 the Water District sued to adjudicate rights in the Santa Maria Valley Groundwater Basin. Landowners (primarily farmers) filed cross-complaints, seeking to quiet title to their overlying rights. In a previous appeal, the court directed the trial court to quiet title to the Landowners’ overlying rights to native groundwater as having priority over the other rights, less the perfected prescriptive rights public water producers (who pump water for municipal and industrial use). The court later held that quantification of the proportionate prescriptive loss attributable to each of the landowners’ parcels was unnecessary and that the quiet title judgment was not illusory. The trial court then denied the Landowners’ motion to clarify that the amended judgment protects their overlying rights from future prescription The court of appeal reversed the denial on the merits, finding that the issue was not ripe. The resolution of the issue would require speculation about hypothetical situations in which the public water producers attempt to prescript against the Landowners’ rights. There is no specific fact scenario or evidence for review. The Landowners have not demonstrated that they will suffer hardship without an immediate decision; there is no evidence of an overdraft or of any asserted claims of prescription. View "City of Santa Maria v. Adam" on Justia Law

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In this case involving a disputed property line the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's dismissal of Plaintiffs' claim and granting summary judgment and other relief to Defendant, holding that, under the circumstances, the intent of the parties concerning the boundary line was a question of fact to be determined by a jury. Only by reference to a recorded map, Defendant took ownership of the contested property. Plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment and to quiet title. Defendants answered claiming the disputed land to be within its boundary. The conveyances at issue only referenced lot numbers on a recorded map, and the disputed property line as shown on the map was ambiguous. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the intent of the parties as shown on the map is ambiguous, a jury issue existed, and therefore, summary judgment was improperly granted. View "Daughtridge v. Tanager Land, LLC" on Justia Law