Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Court insofar as it upheld the trial court's order directing Defendants to reimburse Plaintiff for property taxes and insurance premiums, holding that the ordered relief was inconsistent with the remedial scheme available to a mortgagee in a strict foreclosure.At issue was whether a trial court may order a mortgagor to reimburse a mortgagee for the mortgagee's advancements of property taxes and insurance premiums during the pendency of an appeal from a judgment of strict foreclosure. The trial court ordered Defendants to reimburse Plaintiff for such property tax and insurance premium payments, and the Appellate Court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the trial court abused its discretion in directing Defendants to make monetary payments to Plaintiff outside of a deficiency judgment; and (2) the Appellate Court's judgment is affirmed in all other respects. View "JPMorgan Chase Bank, National Ass'n v. Essaghof" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that Tex. R. App. P. 26.1 did not apply to an inventor's motion for a new trial when the trial court struck the intervenor's petition before it rendered the final judgment, holding that, contrary to the conclusion of the court of appeals, Rule 26.1 does apply.A condominium owner and his homeowners' association and property manager settled the owner's claims asserting that Defendants wrongfully foreclosed their lien against the owner's condominium. In light of the settlement, the trial court struck the intervention petition of the owner's accounting firm (firm) and rendered final judgment. Thereafter, the firm filed a motion for new trial and a notice of appeal. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal for want of jurisdiction, concluding that the firm did not qualify as a "party" whose new trial motion could extend the appellate deadline. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the firm was a party to the judgment, and therefore, its timely filing of the new trial motion extended the deadline for filing a notice of appeal; and (2) the firm timely filed its notice of appeal. View "Eichner v. Dominguez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals ruling that a validly executed correction instrument under Tex. Prop. Code 5.029 must be signed by the property's current owners, holding that the court of appeals incorrect interpreted the "if applicable" clause in the statute.To be effective, the instrument correcting a material error in a recorded original instrument of conveyance by agreement must be executed by each party to the original instrument or, "if applicable, a party's heirs, successors, or assigns." See section 5.029(b)(1). At issue as when are a party's heirs, successors or assigns are applicable such that their agreement is necessary to make such a correction. The court of appeals concluded that the original parties could not correct their mistake in the original instrument of conveyance solely by their agreement after an assignment and, rather, a validly executed correction instrument under section 5.029 must be signed by the property's current owners. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the original parties to a recorded original instrument of conveyance may validly execute a correction instrument under section 5.029, even after a third party has acquired an interest in the original transaction; and (2) the statute does not require that an original party's "heirs, successors, or assigns" sign a correction agreement when the original parties all execute the correction. View "Broadway National Bank v. Yates Energy Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court's judgment denying Insurer's motion for directed verdict on this action concerning Insurer's alleged delay in paying a claim, holding that the district court erred in denying the motion for directed verdict on Insured's breach of contract and bad faith causes of action.A fire broke out in Insured's kitchen that resulted in a total loss of the building and its contents. Insured invoked its right to the appraisal process. The appraisers signed an appraisal letter establishing the loss amount at $502,000. Insurer paid the amount in full. Eight months later, Insured sued Insurer for breach of contract and bad faith based on Insured's failure to pay the $550,000 building coverage limit and for its actions during the appraisal hearing. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Insured and awarded $48,000 in damages. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Insured's invocation of the appraisal process and Insurer's timely payment of the appraisal award required dismissal of the claims as a matter of law; and (2) Insured failed to prove bad faith for any actions taken after the appraisal hearing. View "Luigi's Inc. v. United Fire & Casualty Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court in favor of a contractor (Contractor) against the homeowners' association (HOA) that hired it to perform repair work, holding that the district court did not err.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the district court did not err in (1) finding that the HOA had waived, by one of the methods described in Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-1126, its right to a jury trial and in refusing to allow the HOA to withdraw its waiver; (2) concluding that the HOA had to present expert testimony to support its defense and counterclaims asserting that the repair work was done in an unworkmanlike manner; (3) excluding lay testimony of other contractors, in finding the HOA's expert witness lacked foundation for his opinions, and in excluding testimony relating to what the court found to be compromise negotiations; and (4) awarding prejudgment interest and attorney fees. View "McGill Restoration v. Lion Place Condominium Association" on Justia Law

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Kevin Johnson, APLC, Kevin Johnson, and Jeanne MacKinnon (collectively, the attorney defendants) filed a petition for writ of mandate and complaint on behalf of their clients Christian Clews (Christian), Barbara Clews (Barbara), and Clews Land & Livestock, LLC (CLL) (collectively, Clews Horse Ranch) challenging a decision of the City of San Diego (City) to approve the construction of a private secondary school adjacent to the Clews’ commercial horse ranch. The petition asserted the City’s approval of the project and adoption of a mitigated negative declaration for the project violated the California Environmental Quality Act, the San Diego Municipal Code, and the City’s land use plan. The trial court denied relief and, in Clews Land and Livestock, LLC v. City of San Diego, 19 Cal.App.5th 161 (2017), the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. Jan Dunning, Cal Coast Academy RE Holdings, LLC, and North County Center for Educational Development, Inc. (collectively, Cal Coast), the developers of the project and real parties in interest in the CEQA Litigation, then filed this lawsuit against Clews Horse Ranch and the attorney defendants for malicious prosecution. Cal Coast asserted the defendants lacked probable cause and acted with malice when they pursued the CEQA Litigation. The attorney defendants filed a special motion to strike Cal Coast’s complaint under the anti-SLAPP statute, to which the Clews Horse Ranch joined. The trial court denied the motion after finding that Cal Coast established a probability of prevailing on its malicious prosecution claim. Clews Horse Ranch and the attorney defendants appealed the order denying the anti-SLAPP motion. The Court of Appeal concluded Cal Coast established a probability of prevailing on its malicious prosecution claim against Clews Horse Ranch, but not against the attorney defendants. Therefore, the Court affirmed the order denying the anti-SLAPP motion as to Clews Horse Ranch, and reversed the order denying the anti- SLAPP motion as to the attorney defendants. View "Dunning v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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In this admiralty proceeding arising out of the grounding and constructive total loss of a newly purchased yacht, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing certain third-party complaints pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), holding that the district court did not err.Afunday Charters, Inc., which purchased the yacht from its builder, Spencer Yachts, Inc., sued Spencer Yachts and its employee, Joseph Daniel Spencer, alleging that Spencer negligently ran the yacht aground and that Spencer and Spencer Yachts were jointly and severally liable for the loss of the yacht. Spencer and Spencer Yachts raised an affirmative defense of negligence by Afunday's agents Sean Alonzo and Anthony Norman Sabga and filed a third-party complaint against Alonzo and Sabga. The district court dismissed the third-party complaints. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court properly dismissed the complaints seeking to assert that the third-party defendants were directly liable to Afunday. View "Spencer v. Alonzo" on Justia Law

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The issue presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court’s review in this case centered on whether an award of attorney fees and other litigation costs to defendant landowners in an expropriation proceeding could be upheld under current law. The underlying matter arose from the construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. As part of the project, Bayou Bridge Pipeline, LLC (“BBP”), sought to acquire servitudes on the property of various landowners. The specific piece of property at the center of this litigation is approximately 38 acres of land (“the property”). Prior to reaching servitude agreements with all individuals with an ownership interest in this particular parcel of land, BBP began pipeline construction. Peter Aaslestad, one of the property owners, filed suit against BBP in order to enjoin BBP from further construction. BBP later stipulated that it would remain off the property as of September 10, 2018. However, the pipeline construction was more than 90% complete at that time. Meanwhile, in late July 2018, after it had begun construction on the property, BBP filed expropriation litigation against hundreds of property owners with whom servitude agreements could not be reached, including Mr. Aaslestad, Katherine Aaslestad, and Theda Larson Wright (collectively referred to as “defendants”). In response, defendants filed a reconventional demand against BBP, alleging BPP trespassed on their property and violated due process by proceeding with construction of the pipeline prior to a judgment of expropriation. The matter proceeded to a trial wherein the trial court granted BBP’s petition for expropriation, finding the expropriation served a public and necessary purpose. The trial court also granted defendants’ reconventional demand, finding that BBP trespassed on defendants’ property prior to obtaining permission or legal authority. The trial court ultimately awarded each defendant $75.00 for the expropriation and another $75.00 in trespass damages. The court of appeal reversed in part: upholding the constitutionality of the expropriation process, but finding that BBP violated defendants’ due process rights and awarded $10,000.00 to each defendant for trespass, and granted attorney fees. The Supreme Court determined the award of fees was constitutional, and upheld the Court of Appeal. View "Bayou Bridge Pipeline, LLC v. 38.00 Acres, More or Less, Located in St. Martin Parish et al." on Justia Law

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GSA leased a building from NOAA’s predecessor; the annual rent includes agreed “[b]ase year taxes.” GSA must compensate NOAA for “any increase in real estate taxes during the lease term over the amount established as the base year taxes” and defines “real estate taxes” as “only those taxes, which are assessed against the building and/or the land upon which the building is located, without regard to benefit to the property, for the purpose of funding general Government services. Real estate taxes shall not include, without limitation, general and/or special assessments, business improvement district assessments, or any other present or future taxes or governmental charges that are imposed upon the Lessor or assessed against the building and/or the land upon which the building is located.In 2016, NOAA asked GSA to reimburse it for the Stormwater/Chesapeake Bay Water Quality tax, the Washington Suburban Transit Commission tax, the Clean Water Act Fee, and a Supplemental Education Tax. All four appear on the consolidated tax bill. The clean water tax, effective in 2013, is collected for the Watershed Protection and Restoration Fund, “in the same manner as County real property taxes and [has] the same priority, rights, and bear[s] the same interest and penalties, and [is] enforced in the same manner as County real property taxes.”GSA denied the claim. The Civilian Board of Contract Appeals held that the lease provision excludes all taxes enacted after the date of the lease, even if those taxes meet expressly stated criteria for being a real estate tax. The Federal Circuit reversed. Under ordinary interpretive principles, a real estate tax qualifies under the Lease provision whenever it satisfies the three criteria of the first sentence. View "NOAA Maryland, LLC v. General Services Administration" on Justia Law

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Appeals consolidated for the Delaware Supreme Court’s review centered on the Rent Increase Justification Act, which governed rent increases in manufactured home communities. The Rehoboth Bay Manufactured Home Community (the “Community”) was owned/managed by Hometown Rehoboth Bay, LLC (“Hometown”). The Appellant in Case No. 139, 2020 was Rehoboth Bay Homeowners’ Association (the “HOA”), the homeowners’ association. The Appellants in Case No. 296, 2020 were two individual tenants, John Iacona and Robert Weymouth. Hometown sought to raise the rents in both cases: in case No. 296, 2020, rents would be raised an amount in excess of the Consumer Price Index for this area (the “CPI-U”), for the calendar year 2017; in case No. 139, 2020, for the calendar year 2018. Under the Act, proposed rent increases that exceed the CPI-U must be justified by certain factors. Separate arbitrators in both cases found that a Bulkhead Stabilization project performed by Hometown in phases over more than one year was a capital improvement or rehabilitation work, which, along with other capital improvements and other expenses, justified rent increases in excess of the CPI-U in both years. The Appellants claimed the Superior Court erred by affirming the arbitrators’ decisions that the Bulkhead Stabilization project was a “capital improvement or rehabilitation work” and not “ordinary repair, replacement, and maintenance.” They also claimed the Superior Court should have ruled that the Act did not permit Hometown to incorporate the capital improvement component of the rent increases into each lot’s base rent so as to carry those increases forward into ensuing years. The Delaware Supreme Court concluded the Superior Court’s rulings on the Bulkhead Stabilization project as a capital improvement or rehabilitation work was correct, however, the Act did not permit Hometown to incorporate the capital improvement component of the 2017 and 2018 rent increases into a lot’s base rent for succeeding years after recovering that lot’s full, proportionate share of those costs in those years. Therefore, the Superior Court’s judgment was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and the cases remanded for further proceedings. View "Rehoboth Bay Homeowners' Assoc, et al. v. Hometown Rehoboth Bay" on Justia Law