Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Alabama Supreme Court
Alabama et al. v. Boys And Girls Clubs of South Alabama, Inc.
The Boys and Girls Clubs of South Alabama, Inc. ("BGCSA"), sought a writ of mandamus to order the Baldwin Circuit Court to dismiss a declaratory-judgment action filed against it and The Community Foundation of South Alabama by the attorney general of Alabama, Fairhope-Point Clear Rotary Youth Programs, Inc. ("Rotary Inc."), and Ruff Wilson Youth Organizations, Inc. ("Wilson Inc.") In 1996, B.R. Wilson, Jr., one of the incorporators and a principal benefactor of BGCSA, executed a deed transferring to BGCSA approximately 17 acres of real estate. Contemporaneously with the execution of the deed, Wilson gave a letter to BGCSA that stated Wilson's intentions and stipulations concerning his gift of the property. The letter stated that BGCSA was "'free to ultimately dispose of this property,'" but that it was Wilson's "'desire and understanding that [BGCSA] will use the proceeds from any such disposition for [BGCSA's] facilities and/or activities in the Fairhope–Point Clear area.'" Wilson died in 1997. In 2010, the Eastern Shore Clubs filed an action in the Baldwin Circuit Court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against BGCSA. The Eastern Shore Clubs alleged that BGCSA "ha[d] used," or, perhaps, was "anticipat[ing] using," the proceeds from the sale of the property for its own operations, rather than for the benefit of the Eastern Shore Clubs. In 2012, the Baldwin Circuit Court entered a judgment concluding Wilson's intent was that the Wilson funds should be used for the "exclusive benefit of the Fairhope and Daphne Clubs." The Baldwin Circuit Court ordered the disbursal of the remainder of the Wilson funds. This case was the third action that has come before the Supreme Court arising out the dispute between BGCSA and the Eastern Shore Clubs over the Wilson funds. The Supreme Court concluded Section 6-5-440 compelled dismissal of this case because another action involving the same cause and the same parties ("the Mobile action") was filed first. Therefore, the Court granted the petition for a writ of mandamus and directed the Baldwin Circuit Court to vacate its most recent order in this case, and to enter an order dismissing this case. View "Alabama et al. v. Boys And Girls Clubs of South Alabama, Inc." on Justia Law
Grant et al. v. Breland Homes, LLC
The Reserve is a subdivision in Madison County that comprises four smaller communities or subdivisions. One of the subdivisions or communities within The Reserve is named Oak Grove. Each of the four plaintiffs owns a house in Oak Grove, and all four are members of The Reserve Subdivision Home Owners' Association ("the HOA"). Gulf Coast Development, LLC was the original owner and developer of The Reserve. Gulf Coast filed a "Declaration of Protective Covenants for The Reserve Subdivision" in the Madison Probate Court. In August 2012, DL Horton, Inc. purchased the assets of Breland Homes, LLC, including lots 13 and 26 in Oak Grove. Pursuant to a licensing agreement, Horton acquired the right to use the trade name "Breland Homes." Horton, doing business under that trade name, submitted an application for construction-design review to The Reserve Architectural Review Committee ("the ARC") concerning lots 13 and 26 in Oak Grove. The ARC notified Horton that the plan submitted with its application "was not approved for construction" because it was not aesthetically comparable to other houses in Oak Grove, and recommended an immediate cease construction order. Horton responded by stating that, given that the ARC had previously approved the same construction plan, Horton planned to proceed with the construction plan submitted. The HOA then sent a letter demanding that Breland cease further construction. Plaintiffs then filed a complaint against Breland, Gulf Coast, and the HOA seeking a judgment declaring that Gulf Coast did not have power to "veto" the actions of the ARC, that Breland was in violation of the protective covenants in the Declaration, and that "the Board ha[d] the power to take action as it deem[ed] necessary to remedy such violations." Plaintiffs also filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction. The Supreme Court dismissed plaintiffs' appeal when the trial court denied them relief: review of the nonfinal summary judgment in favor of Gulf Coast and of the summary judgment entered in favor of Horton and Breland required resolution of whether Gulf Coast had authority to approve the construction applications for lots 13 and 26 in Oak Grove when the same applications had already been denied by the ARC. Horton, Breland, and Gulf Coast presented the same arguments in their summary-judgment motions and the same defenses to the plaintiffs' claims. Although the summary judgment in favor of Breland and Horton was before the Supreme Court on appeal, the summary judgment in favor of Gulf Coast was not. Because the threshold issue in the judgment before this Court is identical to the threshold issue in a claim still pending before the trial court, the Supreme Court concluded that the claims were "so closely intertwined that separate adjudication would pose an unreasonable risk of inconsistent results." View "Grant et al. v. Breland Homes, LLC" on Justia Law
Bryant Bank v. Talmage Kirkland & Company, Inc.
Bryant Bank appealed the grant of partial summary judgment in favor of defendants Talmage Kirkland & Company, Inc., d/b/a Kirkland & Company ("TKC"), and Quentin Ball and Jason Stoutamire, appraisers for TKC. This case arose out of an appraisal of real property conducted by TKC for Bryant Bank in the course of Bryant Bank's consideration of a loan application submitted by Wallace Seafood Traders, Inc. ("WST"), in September 2007 for the purchase of the property, which WST was renting and out of which it was operating its business. The Bryant Bank employees responsible for approving WST's loan application suspected that the value of the property might have been overstated in TKC's appraisal. However, Bryant Bank approved WST's loan application and issued the loan to WST. Ultimately, WST defaulted on the loan. Bryant Bank obtained another appraisal of the property from a different appraisal firm; this new appraisal indicated that the property had a value that differed drastically from that which TKC had appraised. Bryant Bank sued the defendants, alleging breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation arising from its reliance on TKC's appraisal report in issuing the loan to WST. In their partial-summary-judgment motion, the defendants argued that Ball and Stoutamire were entitled to a summary judgment as to the breach-of-contract claim because they were acting as agents of a disclosed principal, Bryant Bank. As to the negligent misrepresentation claim, the defendants argued that they were entitled to a summary judgment in their favor because: (1) the opinion of value expressed in TKC's appraisal report could not serve as the basis of a negligent-misrepresentation claim; (2) Bryant Bank had not relied upon TKC's valuation; and (3) the claim was barred by the statute of limitations. The Supreme Court concluded the Bank presented substantial evidence that it relied on TKC's appraisal of the property, and that each of the arguments defendants raised in their partial-summary-judgment motion did not warrant the entry of a summary judgment in their favor with respect to the Bank's negligent misrepresentation claim. Therefore, Court reversed the trial court's order and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Bryant Bank v. Talmage Kirkland & Company, Inc." on Justia Law
Central Shelby LTD. v. Shelby County Board of Equalization
The Shelby County Board of Equalization petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus, or, in the alternative, a writ of prohibition, to direct the Shelby Circuit Court to dismiss as untimely an appeal filed by Central Shelby LTD. challenging a final ad valorem tax assessment issued by the Board. In response to Central Shelby's objection to the Board's 2013 assessed value of real property owned by Central Shelby, the Board entered a final ad valorem assessment. The clerk of the Shelby Circuit Court mailed a copy of the notice of appeal to the Board, which received the notice on July 8, 2013. Thereafter, the Board moved to dismiss the appeal on the ground that Central Shelby had not filed with the secretary of the Board its notice of appeal within 30 days of the final assessment as, the Board contended, section 40-3-25 requires. The trial court, without stating the findings on which its decision was based, denied the Board's motion. In response, the Board filed this petition alleging that, as a result of the alleged untimely notice to it of Central Shelby's appeal, the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the underlying appeal. Central Shelby faulted the circuit clerk for her alleged untimely mailing of the notice of appeal to the secretary of the Board. The Supreme Court concluded the appealing taxpayer is charged with the responsibility of filing the notice of appeal with the secretary of the Board. As a result of Central Shelby's failure to comply with the provisions of 40-3-25, its appeal was not perfected and the trial court's jurisdiction was never invoked. The Supreme Court therefore granted the Board's petition and directed the trial court to vacate its order denying the Board's motion to dismiss and to dismiss Central Shelby's appeal as untimely. View "Central Shelby LTD. v. Shelby County Board of Equalization" on Justia Law
Ross v. West Wind Condominium Association, Inc.
Howard Ross petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari to review the judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals affirming summary judgments in favor of West Wind Condominium Association, Inc. and Joseph London III. Ross owned four condominium units within the West Wind community. Ross and West Wind agreed that West Wind would accept maintenance and repair work from Ross in lieu of his paying the condominium association's monthly dues. West Wind informed Ross in September 2006 that further work would not be necessary and that he should start paying the dues. Ross paid his dues monthly starting in December 2006. When Ross made his payments for April and May 2007, West Wind rejected those payments and sent Ross a letter through its attorney disputing Ross's charges for the maintenance and repair work that Ross had performed. Through his own attorney, Ross submitted an itemized list of charges for his work done for West Wind, but Ross never received any further correspondence from West Wind. In 2007, West Wind recorded instruments in the office of the Probate Judge of Madison County claiming liens on Ross's four condominium units. In early 2008, West Wind published notice of a foreclosure sale on Ross's units in a local newspaper and continued publishing the notice for four weeks. A month later, West Wind conducted foreclosure sales on Ross's four condominium units and was the highest bidder on all of them. That same day, the auctioneer executed foreclosure deeds conveying the four units to West Wind. West Wind then conveyed two of the units to Jimmy Spruill and Cynthia Spruill, one unit to Joseph London III (who was president of West Wind), and one unit to Delvin Sullivan. Ross sued West Wind, London, Sullivan, and the Spruills alleging claims of wrongful foreclosure and seeking redemption of the properties. Ross sought an order setting aside the foreclosure sales, as well as redemption of the four condominium units. Ross claimed that West Wind had foreclosed on his units without giving him proper notice and that he had not learned of the foreclosures until after they had occurred. The trial court entered a default judgment against Sullivan, but it entered summary judgments in favor of London and the Spruills. West Wind also moved for a summary judgment, arguing, among other things, that it had the right to foreclose based on Ross's unpaid dues. Upon review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in entering a summary judgment for West Wind and London, and that the Court of Civil Appeals erred in holding that Ross had waived the argument that he had presented substantial evidence creating a genuine issue of material fact as to whether he had received proper notice. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Ross v. West Wind Condominium Association, Inc." on Justia Law
Jakeman v. Lawrence Group Management Company, LLC, et al.
Kenneth Jakeman appealed the trial court's dismissal of his claims against defendants Lawrence Group Management Company, LLC, Montgomery Memorial Cemetery ("MMC"), and Judy A. Jones. Lawrence Group owned and operated Montgomery Memorial Cemetery. Lawrence Group purchased the cemetery from Alderwoods, Inc. in or around 2002. In 1967, Jakeman's father, Ben, purchased a 'family plot' in the cemetery containing 10 separate burial spaces. The plot Ben selected was specifically chosen because of its location adjacent to plots owned by Ben's mother, Frances O'Neal. Pursuant to the terms of the purchase agreement, burial within Ben's plot was limited to members of either the Jakeman family or the O'Neal family. In 2002, MMC allegedly mistakenly conveyed two spaces in Ben's family plot to James Jones and his wife, Judy. James was interred in one of those two spaces. In 2006, Kenneth Jakeman learned that James had been buried in Ben's family plot, at which time, Kenneth says, he immediately notified MMC and Ben. In response to demands by Kenneth and Ben, MMC disinterred James and moved both his body and his marker; however, James was reinterred in another space on Ben's family plot. Ben died in 2008. At the time of Ben's death, James's body remained buried in one of the spaces in Ben's plot. Despite the offer of an exchange of burial spaces, and based upon their purported refusal to again exhume and move James's body and marker, in May 2010 Kenneth Jakeman filed suit against Alderwoods, Lawrence Group, MMC, and Judy Jones, alleging breach of contract; trespass; negligence, willfulness, and/or wantonness; the tort of outrage; and conversion. In her answer to Kenneth's complaint, Judy asserted her own cross-claim against Alderwoods, Lawrence Group, and MMC, based on their alleged error in conveying to her spaces already owned by Ben and the initial erroneous burial of James, his disinterment, and his subsequent erroneous reburial in another of Ben's spaces. Alderwoods moved to dismiss Kenneth Jakeman's complaint, arguing he lacked 'standing' to pursue the stated claims, that the asserted tort claims did not survive Ben's death, and that some of the claims were barred by the expiration of the applicable limitations periods. Lawrence Group and MMC later joined Alderwoods's dismissal motion. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court concluded that Kenneth Jakeman was entitled to pursue his individual breach-of-contract claim concerning MMC's reinterment of James Jones in one of the his family's plots, and that he was entitled to pursue his claim for injunctive relief. View "Jakeman v. Lawrence Group Management Company, LLC, et al. " on Justia Law
Stokes, Jr. v. Cottrell
The parties in this case separately petitioned the Supreme Court for review of the Court of Civil Appeals' judgment overturning an award of property from the estate of Estelle Haggerty Alexander. The decedent owned 270 acres of property, and died intestate. Following a bench trial, the court divided the six parcels of land that constituted Estelle's estate, finding that the plaintiffs and their ancestors had adversely possessed three parcels by living on the land and engaging in certain activities there but that the heirs of Larenda Jenkins, as holders of legal title, were entitled to the other three, farmed parcels. Holding that the plaintiffs' possession of the land was permissive rather than adverse, the Court of Civil Appeals reversed the circuit court's judgment in part and instructed the circuit court that title to all six parcels should be quieted in the heirs of Larenda Jenkins. After careful consideration of the facts of this case, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded: "[t]he Court of Civil Appeals stated the ore tenus rule in its standard-of-review section, but in its analysis of the evidence did not accord the circuit court's findings the required deference. . . . we conclude that credible evidence was presented to support the circuit court's allotment to the plaintiffs of the three parcels . . .it is a rare case when this Court will overturn a finding by a trial judge who hears an adverse possession case presented ore tenus." View "Stokes, Jr. v. Cottrell" on Justia Law
Gower v. Turquoise Properties Gulf, Inc., et al.
Charles Gower petitioned the Supreme Court to vacate an arbitration award in favor of Turquoise Properties Gulf, Inc., Caribe Realty, Inc., Larry Wireman, and Judy Ramsey Wireman(collectively, "Turquoise"). The underlying dispute arose from Gower's preconstruction agreement to purchase a condominium unit in a complex developed by Turquoise. The arbitrator's decision was based in large part on Turqoise's successfully raising a statute-of-limitations defense to Gower's claims. The Supreme Court found that Turquoise expressly argued, and then abandoned, one specific statute-of-limitations defense and then it never again urged the arbitrator to apply a statute of limitations to the various claims actually brought by the claimants. Through its arguments, Turquoise distilled the issues and arguments submitted to the arbitrator for consideration. Gower argued, and the Supreme Court agreed, that Turquoise "affirmatively chose to forgo any statute of limitations defense to the [c]laimants' ... claims and therefore did not submit [the] same to the Arbitrator for decision." Therefore, the Supreme Court concluded that because the issue of the applicability of a statute of limitations was not submitted to the arbitrator for decision, the arbitrator exceeded his powers in applying a statute of limitations to Gower's claims. The Court reversed the judgment entered on the arbitrator's award, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Gower v. Turquoise Properties Gulf, Inc., et al. " on Justia Law
Parker Towing Company, Inc. v. Triangle Aggregates, Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment in this case to the extent that it concluded Parker Towing was not entitled to indemnity for $25,000 it paid landowners in settlement of landowners' claims against it. The landowners sued Parker Towing and Triangle Aggregates, Inc. stemming from their claims of breach of contract pertaining to properties they originally leased to Parker, which were subsequently purchased by Triangle. Parker argued it was not liable for the landowners' claims following its sale of the properties to Triangle. However, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court's judgment with respect to its conclusion that Triangle was not required to indemnify Parker Towing for its attorney fees and other litigation expenses incurred to defend against the claims asserted against Parker Towing for breaches of the agreements with the landowners. The fees and expenses incurred by Parker Towing as a result of those breaches were covered by the indemnification agreement between Parker Towing and Triangle. View "Parker Towing Company, Inc. v. Triangle Aggregates, Inc. " on Justia Law
Asphalt Contractors, Inc. v. Alabama Dept. of Transportation
The Alabama Department of Transportation ("ALDOT") and its director, John Cooper, petitioned for a writ of mandamus to direct the Circuit Court to vacate its order denying their motion to dismiss all claims filed against them by Asphalt Contractors, Inc. ("ACI"). Trichloroethylene ('TCE') and other chemicals were used by ALDOT since the early 1970s. TCE was used extensively by ALDOT as a degreaser and/or cleaning agent and/or as a solvent. TCE is now contained in shallow groundwater in North Montgomery. Since at least April 2009, ALDOT has pumped groundwater into a Dewatering Pond and from there onto a Transfer Pond and then to the South Pond. A portion of the South Pond and wetland area used in ALDOT's remedial efforts is being discharged onto ACI's property. In 2010, ACI demanded that ALDOT immediately cease all dumping of contaminated water on ACI's property. However, the dumping of TCE-laden water onto ACI's property continued to the date of ACI filing its lawsuit. The complaint asserted trespass to realty and inverse condemnation and made claims for injunctive relief. ACI requested damages for the full fair-market value of its property, consequential and incidental damages, compensatory damages, punitive and exemplary damages, expenses, costs, interest, and attorney fees. ALDOT and Cooper filed a motion to dismiss the complaint arguing qualified immunity. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the trial court erred in denying the motion to dismiss ALDOT as a party to this action. Conversely, the trial court did not err in denying the motion to dismiss as to ACI's inverse-condemnation claim against Cooper in his official capacity. Further, the trial court properly refused to dismiss ACI's claim for injunctive relief against Cooper. Accordingly, the Court granted the petition for a writ of mandamus in part and denied it in part. View "Asphalt Contractors, Inc. v. Alabama Dept. of Transportation " on Justia Law