Articles Posted in Alaska Supreme Court

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
After a Montana state court issued a series of judgments against Donald Tangwall and his family, the family members transferred two pieces of property to the “Toni 1 Trust,” a trust allegedly created under Alaska law. A Montana state court and an Alaska bankruptcy court found that the transfers were made to avoid the judgments and were therefore fraudulent. Tangwall, the trustee of the Trust, then filed this suit, arguing that Alaska state courts have exclusive jurisdiction over such fraudulent transfer actions under AS 34.40.110(k). The Alaska Supreme Court concluded this statute could not unilaterally deprive other state and federal courts of jurisdiction, therefore it affirmed dismissal of Tangwall’s complaint. View "Toni 1 Trust v. Wacker" on Justia Law

by
Rand Hooks, Jr. defaulted on a loan, leading to a non-judicial foreclosure of a deed of trust on his property. He filed suit against the property’s new owner and the credit union that initiated the foreclosure, arguing the foreclosure and the transactions preceding it were fraudulent and invalid. The superior court granted summary judgment for the defendants. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s conclusion that the borrower failed to demonstrate an issue of material fact concerning the loan origination and the foreclosure. Furthermore, the Supreme Court rejected the borrower’s claims that the superior court judge was biased and that the borrower’s right to due process was violated. View "Hooks v. Alaska USA Federal Credit Union" on Justia Law

by
Kenneth Kessler purchased a condominium in the summer of 1999, shortly before he and Dianna Kessler began dating. Kenneth and Dianna lived in that condominium for nearly all of their 15-year relationship. In its property division order following the couple’s divorce, the superior court found that the condominium was originally Kenneth’s separate property but that it had transmuted into the couple’s marital property. Kenneth appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court reversed and remanded. The Court found the condominium only became marital property if Kenneth intended to donate it to the marital estate, and agreed with Kenneth that the evidence at trial did not demonstrate he possessed any such intent. By this opinion, the Court clarified Alaska law on transmutation by implied interspousal gift. View "Kessler v. Kessler" on Justia Law

by
Two adjoining landowners disputed the creation and continuing validity of an easement for ingress and egress. The superior court held that a valid easement was created but had been extinguished by prescription. The issue this case presented for the Alaska Supreme Court’s review centered on whether one party’s mining activities, placing gravel piles, equipment, and a processing plant in the easement, were sufficient to prescriptively extinguish the entire easement. The Court held they were not: although the processing plant extinguished the portion of the easement on which it stood, the evidence presented regarding the gravel piles and equipment was insufficient to support extinguishing the entire easement. View "Reeves v. Godspeed Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The City of Cordova evicted commercial tenants from city-owned land and was granted a money judgment against them for unpaid rent and sales taxes. The tenants left behind various improvements, as well as items of personal property related to their operation of a marine fueling facility on the land. The city pursued collection of its money judgment for several years before suspending its efforts; about eight years later it resumed its attempts to collect. The tenants, contending that they had reasonably assumed by the passage of time that the judgment had been satisfied, moved for an accounting of their left-behind property and the amount still owing on the judgment. The city informed the superior court that it had executed only on bank accounts and wages and that several improvements had reverted to city ownership and therefore did not count against the judgment. It claimed not to know what happened to the rest of the property the tenants identified as having been left behind. The superior court found the city’s response sufficient and allowed execution to continue. The tenants appealed, arguing that they were entitled to a better accounting of their left-behind property and that the city was estopped from contending that the judgment was still unsatisfied. The Alaska Supreme Court agreed in part, holding that it was the city’s burden to produce evidence of the property’s disposition and that it failed to carry this burden. Furthermore, the Supreme Court held there were genuine issues of material fact about whether the city was estopped from contending that the judgment remains unsatisfied. The Court therefore reversed the superior court’s order accepting the accounting and allowing execution to continue. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Beecher v. City of Cordova" on Justia Law

by
A mother and son disputed ownership of a house in Ketchikan. The son contended his mother gave him the property following her husband’s death, and that he spent years repairing and renovating it on the understanding that it was his. His mother argued the house was still hers, and agreed to transfer title only if her son repaired the property and paid off the mortgage, which he failed to do. Following a bench trial on the son’s quiet title claim, the superior court found that he failed to prove his mother’s intent to transfer the property. Because the superior court properly applied the relevant legal doctrines and did not clearly err in its findings of fact, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed its judgment. View "Dixon v. Dixon" on Justia Law