Articles Posted in Alaska Supreme Court

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Chris and Jeanne Rosauer owned a home and underlying property in Girdwood across the municipal roadway from a home and underlying property owned by Thomas Manos and Jody Liddicoat (collectively, Manos). The Municipality of Anchorage owned a right-of-way between the Rosauers’ property and the municipal roadway. In August 2015 Manos hired Greatland Tree Service, LLC to remove several cottonwood trees within the municipal right-of-way in front of the Rosauers’ property. The Anchorage Municipal Code required private entities to obtain a permit for the “use” of municipal rights-of-way, including tree removal. Neither Manos nor Greatland obtained a permit before the tree removal, but Greatland later obtained a permit in October. In April 2016 the Rosauers sued Manos and Greatland, seeking damages under Alaska’s timber-trespass statute, AS 09.45.730. The superior court granted summary judgment to the Manos and Greatland, concluding that the municipality’s subsequent permit approving the tree removal negated the neighbors’ claim. The Rosauers appealed. Because the Alaska Supreme Court agreed the municipality’s subsequent permit effectively conferred lawful authority to cut the trees, it affirmed the superior court’s decision. View "Rosauer v. Manos" on Justia Law

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In April 2014 Link Fannon acquired the property at issue in this appeal, along with a well and water system, from an owner subsequent to June Scheele’s 1998 transaction. The deed to Fannon made no mention of a Greenbelt Covenant. Fannon intended to increase the well’s production to service at least another ten acres of neighboring commercial property and to “sell bulk water” to the Department of Transportation for a Parks Highway upgrade. Fannon then began clear-cutting trees on Lot 1, Block 1. June’s estate brought suit against Fannon for violating the Greenbelt Covenant’s terms; the estate sought damages, a preliminary injunction against further clear-cutting, and an affirmative injunction to restore trees. The primary issue in this appeal was whether the superior court correctly interpreted two property restrictions, one found in a subdivision declaration and the other in a deed’s greenbelt covenant, to ultimately determine that the deed’s greenbelt covenant was enforceable. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the superior court correctly applied interpretation rules by looking at the instrument language without regard to extrinsic evidence and correctly ruled that the subdivision declaration did not preclude the deed’s greenbelt covenant. It therefore affirmed the superior court’s decision. View "Fannon v. Polo" on Justia Law

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A man sued his neighbors, alleging that an access road on their property caused flooding on his property. After he reached a settlement with the neighbors, the man stipulated to a dismissal of his claims with prejudice. Three years later the man again sued the neighbors as well as the Municipality of Anchorage, alleging that the flooding had continued and asserting new claims of nuisance, trespass, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and breach of contract. The superior court granted summary judgment for the Municipality on the basis of either collateral estoppel or res judicata. The man appealed; the Alaska Supreme Court reversed the grant of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Strong v. Williams" on Justia Law

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A commercial tenant breached its lease and owed unpaid rent. The landlord sued and obtained a writ of attachment against any funds owed the tenant from Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). DHSS replied to the writ by stating it owed nothing to the tenant because a recent audit showed the tenant owed DHSS $1.4 million. Without responding to DHSS’s reply the landlord moved for a writ of execution against DHSS, which the superior court denied after finding there were no funds to attach. The court denied the landlord’s motion for reconsideration, as well as its request for a hearing to examine DHSS. The landlord appealed the denial of its motion for reconsideration and sought a remand for a hearing to examine DHSS. In affirming the superior court, the Alaska Supreme Court concluded the superior court was correct in denying reconsideration of its order regarding the writ of execution. View "Arcticorp v. C Care Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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Landowners sued their neighbors over use of a well and an access easement, and the neighbors counterclaimed for damages caused by interference with their water rights and loss of access to their cabin. The superior court ruled in favor of the neighbors following trial and awarded them compensatory loss-of-use damages, as well as full attorney’s fees based in part on a finding that the landowners had engaged in vexatious and bad faith conduct. The landowners appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the superior court did not clearly err in the findings underlying its damages award, and it did not abuse its discretion in its award of full attorney’s fees to the neighbors. View "Keenan v. Meyer" on Justia Law

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Property Owners appealed special assessments that the Anchorage Municipal Assembly levied on their lots to pay for recently constructed road, water, and sewer improvement projects benefiting the lots. The Property Owners claimed the special assessments improperly included nearly $1 million in costs from another municipal utility project unrelated to the improvements built for the benefit of their lots. They also claimed the special assessments exceeded limits set by ordinance and that the assessed costs were disproportionate to the benefits provided by the improvements, violating municipal ordinance, charter, and state law. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court concluded the Assembly’s allocation of costs among these projects was supported by substantial evidence and that the ordinance limit the Property Owners relied on did not apply to these assessments. Furthermore, the Court concluded the Property Owners did not rebut the presumption of correctness that attached to the Assembly’s proportionality decisions. Therefore, the Court affirmed the superior court’s decision affirming the Assembly’s special assessment determinations. View "Fink v. Municipality of Anchorage" on Justia Law

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In 2009 Calvin Miller purchased from June Fowler by warranty deed an eight-unit, three-story apartment building located in Anchorage. Miller filed suit to bar the seller’s attempt to foreclose on the property after he stopped making payments. Miller also alleged that the seller had misrepresented the condition of the building’s sewer lines at the time of sale. The superior court granted summary judgment in the seller’s favor on all of the misrepresentation claims on the basis that they were barred by the statute of limitations. During the trial, the superior court denied the purchaser leave to amend his complaint. After a bench trial on the remaining claims, the superior court concluded that the seller did not wrongfully foreclose on the building because the purchaser was in default. Miller appealed these three decisions. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court reversed the grant of summary judgment because the seller failed to establish an absence of material fact issues regarding when the purchaser’s causes of action accrued. The Court vacated the order denying the wrongful foreclosure claim because the superior court erred when it found the purchaser in default. The Court affirmed the denial of the purchaser’s motion to amend. View "Miller v. Fowler" on Justia Law

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The City of Juneau kept a campground open through the winter to accommodate the local homeless population. A campground resident was shot and severely injured. He sued the municipality for damages, arguing primarily that the municipality did not do enough to prevent alcohol-related violence at the campground. He also argued that the campground’s caretaker performed his duties negligently, that this negligence precipitated the shooting, and that the municipality was vicariously liable for the caretaker’s actions. The superior court granted summary judgment for the municipality on all claims, concluding the municipality could not, under the doctrine of discretionary function immunity, be liable for any decision requiring “deliberation” and “judgment.” It also concluded that the municipality was not vicariously liable for the caretaker’s alleged negligence because his challenged actions were outside the scope of his employment. The shooting victim appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the application of discretionary function immunity to bar some of his claims was error, as they related to “operational” rather than “planning” decisions. Furthermore, the Court found genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment on the shooting victim’s claims for negligent supervision and vicarious liability. Therefore, the Court affirmed the superior court’s judgment in part, reversed it in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Lane v. City & Borough of Juneau" on Justia Law

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This appeal presented a question of whether odors emanating from a farmer’s storage of septage on his farmland created a nuisance to adjacent landowners when the trial court found the farmer was not engaged in commercial agricultural operations but was actually using the farm’s septage lagoons to store septage from his separate septic pumping and storing business. The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s finding that the storage of septage created a nuisance and its conclusion that the storage of septage was not protected by the Right to Farm Act. View "Riddle v. Lanser" on Justia Law

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This appeal presented a question of whether odors emanating from a farmer’s storage of septage on his farmland created a nuisance to adjacent landowners when the trial court found the farmer was not engaged in commercial agricultural operations but was actually using the farm’s septage lagoons to store septage from his separate septic pumping and storing business. The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s finding that the storage of septage created a nuisance and its conclusion that the storage of septage was not protected by the Right to Farm Act. View "Riddle v. Lanser" on Justia Law