Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arkansas Supreme Court
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In September 2021, Aaron Welch died intestate, leaving behind a widow, Kristin Welch, and two minor children from his previous marriage. Kristin Welch, appointed as the administratrix of Aaron Welch's estate, filed an application for reservation of homestead & dower with the Pope County Circuit Court, claiming a homestead interest in the mortgaged home she had lived in with her late husband. Katelyn Gipson, the natural guardian of the minor children, argued that Kristin Welch did not have such an interest based on Arkansas Code Ann. § 28-39-201. This statute requires a surviving spouse to have been continuously married to the deceased for more than a year to have a homestead interest. Kristin Welch challenged the constitutionality of this statute, but the circuit court found it constitutional and ruled that she did not have a homestead interest in the property.On appeal, the Supreme Court of Arkansas affirmed the lower court's decision. The Supreme Court noted that the Arkansas Constitution's provision on homestead rights was gender-based and had been previously declared unconstitutional for violating the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. Consequently, the statutory provision, Ark. Code Ann. § 28-39-201(d), which is gender-neutral and requires the continuous marriage condition, stands as the controlling law. The court found no error in the circuit court's application of this statute and concluded that Kristin Welch, having been married to the decedent for less than a year, did not have a statutory homestead interest in the property. View "WELCH ex rel. ESTATE OF AARON WELCH v. GIPSON" on Justia Law

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This case concerns a dispute arising from a real estate transaction between appellants Donnell and Marilyn Bauer and appellees Jesse Lee and Mary A. Beamon. The Bauers sold Lot 24A to the Beamons, failing to disclose certain defects and issues related to the property. After the sale, the Beamons discovered a mold issue in the residence and soil instability on an adjacent lot, Lot 18, which the Bauers had also owned. The Beamons attempted to remediate these issues, incurring significant costs. They ultimately sought to rescind the contract, alleging fraud and deceit by the Bauers.The Supreme Court of Arkansas affirmed the lower court's denial of the Beamons’ rescission claim, finding that the Beamons had waived their right to rescission by taking possession of the property, engaging in mold eradication, and attempting to remediate the soil conditions on the hillside. These actions were found to be inconsistent with an intent to rescind.However, the court reversed the lower court's award of damages to the Beamons for breach of contract. The court found that the Beamons had not alleged breach of contract in their complaint, and thus could not recover damages on that basis. Furthermore, the court found that the Bauers' constitutional right to a jury trial had been violated, as the Beamons’ claim for rescission, an equitable remedy, had been tried without a jury, and the Bauers were not given a jury trial on the legal claim for damages. View "BAUER V. BEAMON" on Justia Law

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In this case presenting four questions of law concerning the constitutionality of Act 1108 of 2021, which amended section 18-50-116 of the Arkansas Statutory Foreclosure Act, the Supreme Court held that Act 1108 cannot apply retroactively to a mortgagor whose claim has vested and declined to answer the remaining certified questions.At issue before the Supreme Court was whether Act 1108 was unconstitutional (1) because it applies retroactively; (2) because the term “substantially comply” in section 2(d)(2)(D) is void for vagueness; (3) because it deletes Section 2(d)(2)(C)(ii); or (4) for any other reason the Court may find. The Supreme Court held that Act 1108 cannot apply retroactively to mortgagors with pending claims and declined answer the remainder of the certified question because the answer would not be dispositive of any issue between the parties. View "Alpe v. Federal Nat'l Mortgage Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court dismissing Appellant's illegal exaction complaint with prejudice under Ark. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to allege facts upon which relief can be granted, holding that the circuit court erred.Appellant, a taxpayer, filed a complaint against Preferred Family Healthcare, Inc. (PFH), a provider of healthcare services, alleging that a significant portion of the funds PFH received from the State between 2010 and 2017 were acquired using unlawful means. The circuit court dismissed the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) on the grounds that Appellant did not allege any wrongdoing on the State's part. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a plaintiff is not required to allege wrongful state action in every case in order to state a claim for a "public funds" illegal exaction. View "Parsons v. Preferred Family Healthcare, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and dismissed as moot in part the order of the circuit court that disposed of Appellant's motion for the return of seized property, holding that the circuit court correctly held that Appellant's available remedy was a separate action in the civil division of the circuit court or some other remedy.The county sheriff seized thirty-one dogs belonging to Appellant. Appellant was subsequently found guilty of thirty-one misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty. After the circuit court dismissed the charges on speedy-trial grounds Appellant filed a motion to have the dogs returned to her. The circuit court did not order the return of the seized dogs or that Appellant be compensated for the property. The Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to provide the requested relief; and (2) Appellant's constitutional arguments were moot. View "Siegel v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court decree quieting and confirming title in 173.5 acres of Lee County property in favor of Appellees in this case, holding that the circuit court's findings were clearly erroneous.Appellants filed a partition petition in the circuit court. Appellees filed a counterclaim to quiet title, asserting that they owned the property through adverse possession. The circuit court entered a decree quieting and confirming title in favor of Appellees and declaring all other claims null and void. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the cotenants of the property were entitled to actual notice of Appellees' adverse claim to the property and that Appellees did not meet the actual notice requirement. View "Trice v. Trice" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order the circuit court certifying a class action against Defendants, holding that the circuit court did not err or abuse its discretion.Plaintiffs filed a class action complaint against Defendants, alleging, on their own behalf and on behalf of others similarly situated, that their water systems were contaminated with sewage due to Defendants' negligence. Plaintiffs moved for class certification. The circuit court certified the class as to their negligence and breach of contract claims. On appeal, Defendants argued that the circuit court erred in finding that class was ascertainable and that common issues predominated and erred in certifying the breach of contract claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in certifying the class. View "C.J. Mahan Construction Co. v. Betzner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed and remanded in part, and dismissed as moot in part the circuit court's order granting summary judgment in favor of the the City of North Little Rock, the City's mayor, certain City Council members, and other City officials and dismissing Plaintiff's action challenging the City's decision to condemn certain property, holding that some of Plaintiff's arguments on appeal were moot.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) Plaintiff's argument that the City Council proceeding did not contain any factual findings to support the condemnation and demolition of Plaintiff's property was moot; (2) there was no longer a justiciable controversy regarding Plaintiff's failure-to-exhaust argument, and therefore, the issue was moot; (3) summary judgment was properly granted to the City as to argument that the City's condemnation ordinance violated due process; (4) the circuit court did not err in granting summary judgment on the claim that the City's ordinance was unconstitutionally vague; and (5) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in declining to grant Plaintiff's renewed motion to strike the City's amended answer and affirmative defenses. View "Convent Corp. v. City of North Little Rock" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court affirming the Pulaski County Assessor's denial of the Little Rock Municipal Airport Commission's tax exemption for three land parcels, holding that because the Airport used the unleased properties exclusively for public purposes, they were exempt from taxation.After the Assessor denied the Airport's application for tax exemptions the Airport filed four amended complaints. The circuit court granted the Assessor's motion for summary judgment, concluding that the properties were not exempt from taxation. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Airport directly used the subject properties exclusively for public purposes when the properties were unleased; and (2) therefore, the properties exempt from taxation during the periods were they were unleased. View "City of Little Rock v. Ward" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court concluding that Regions Bank and Optimum Agriculture, LLC had lien priority to crop proceeds and that Optimum Agriculture, LLC was entitled to a statutory landlord lien, holding that the circuit court did not clearly err.On appeal, AgriFund, LLC, one of the three creditors in this intercreditor dispute over lien priority to the crop proceeds, argued that its lien was superior to those held by Regions and Optimum. The Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed, holding that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, the circuit court did not clearly err in finding that AgriFund did not have priority to the proceeds and that Optimum held a landlord's lien. View "Agrifund, LLC v. Regions Bank" on Justia Law