Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court vacated the opinions of the court of appeals and the circuit court in this case involving the issues of the mandatory recusal of the trial judge and the interpretation of deeds, holding that the circuit court judge in this instance was required to recuse, necessitating this Court's setting aside the judgment.In this property dispute centering on the ownership of a right of way following a railroad's abandonment, the trial judge adjudged Plaintiff the owner of the property. The court of appeals affirmed. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial judge should have recused himself from the matter. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) Defendant sufficiently established that, in this proceeding, the trial judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned and that his recusal was mandatory; and (2) interpretation of deeds and the devolution and ownership of a right of way following a railroad's abandonment are matters of law, which an appellate court reviews do novo. View "Abbott, Inc. v. Guirguis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' decision affirming the circuit court's summary judgment in favor of Kentucky Tax Company, LLC on Kentucky Tax's suit to foreclose its lien on certain property and to collect amounts owed by Pleasant Unions, LLC, holding that Kentucky Tax did not comply with statutory notice requirements.Kentucky Tax acquired a certificate of delinquency for property owned by Pleasant Unions. Kentucky Tax then brought this action. Kentucky Tax filed a motion for summary judgment, attaching letters to show that it had satisfied the notice requirements of Ky. Rev. Stat. 134.490. In response, Pleasant Unions claimed that Kentucky Tax had not proven that two letters were actually mailed. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Kentucky Tax, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) an affidavit from Kentucky Tax's attorney tendered in support of its summary judgment motion was not sufficient proof of mailing as required by the applicable statute; and (2) summary judgment was premature because a genuine issue of material fact existed as to Kentucky Tax's compliance with the notice requirements of section 134.490. View "Pleasant Unions, LLC v. Kentucky Tax Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's ruling that Ky. Rev. Stat. 391.033 and Ky. Rev. Stat. 411.137 (together, "Mandy Jo's Law") precluded Appellant from recovering his intestate share of the settlement proceeds connected with the wrongful death of his son, Brandon Blake, holding that the trial court did not err in finding that Appellant willfully abandoned Brandon.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court's failure to remove Appellees Melanie and Derek Blake as co-administrators of Brandon's estate was harmless error; (2) the trial court correctly employed the preponderance of the evidence standard of proof; (3) the trial court did not clearly err in finding that Appellant willfully abandoned Brandon under sections 391.033 and 411.137; and (4) equitable estoppel did not preclude Melanie from raising Mandy Jo's Law as a defense. View "Simms v. Estate of Blake" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' decision reversing the circuit court's order dismissing Property Owners' appeal from the decision of the Kenton County Board of Adjustment granting approval of a conditional use application to allow the operation of a nursery school in a residential zone, holding that Kentucky law requires that a party must claim to be "injured or aggrieved" to perfect an appeal to circuit court under Ky. Rev. Stat. 100.347(1).After the Board unanimously granted the conditional use application Property Owners filed an appeal, alleging that the Board's action was improper because it did not meet certain statutory requirements and the requirements of the Kenton County Zoning Ordinance. The circuit court dismissed the appeal, concluding that Property Owners failed to allege that they were injured or aggrieved by the final action of the Board, and therefore, the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The court of appeals reversed, interpreting the "injured or aggrieved" language to be a standing requirement rather than a jurisdiction requirement. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Property Owners failed to follow the appeal procedures in section 100.347(1) by not claiming in the complaint to be injured or aggrieved, and therefore, the circuit court appeals properly dismissed the action for lack of jurisdiction. View "Kenton County Board of Adjustment v. Meitzen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Bingham Greenebaum Doll law firm that enforced the mortgage on Meredith Lawrence's Gallatin County property, holding that there were genuine issues of material fact that must be resolved by the trial court before summary judgment could be granted.The trial court proceedings in this case resulted in the foreclosure and judicial sale of some of Lawrence's property. On appeal, Lawrence challenged the grant of summary judgment and attacked the validity of the judicial sale of the property. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment below and remanded the case, holding that the trial court erred in granting Bingham summary judgment because numerous genuine issues of material facts remained unresolved. View "Lawrence v. Bingham Greenebaum Doll, LLP" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals concluding that a promissory note executed by Ronny Stamper in April 1997 qualified as a negotiable instrument and, consequently, applying the six-year statute of limitations under Article 3 of Kentucky's Uniform Commercial Code, holding that the court of appeals properly considered Ky. Rev. Stat. 355.3-118 and that the note was a negotiable instrument under Ky. Rev. Stat. 355.3-104.Community Financial Services Bank brought this suit in January 2016 to enforce the promissory note at issue. Stamper argued that the action was untimely under the fifteen-year statute of limitations for written contracts. The trial court granted summary judgment for the Bank, concluding that the fifteen-year statute of limitations had not yet expired based on the maturity date listed on the promissory note. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the applicable statute of limitations was section 355.3-118 and, therefore, the action was time-barred. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Bank's attempt to enforce the promissory note was untimely under section 355.3-118. View "Community Financial Services Bank v. Stamper" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Bingham Greenbaum Doll law firm (Bingham) in this ongoing dispute between Bingham and Meredith Lawrence, holding that the trial court erroneously granted summary judgment in favor of Bingham.The litigation in this case resulted in the foreclosure and judicial sale of some of Lawrence's property. The Supreme Court vacated the summary judgment and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings, holding (1) Lawrence's arguments challenging the Gallatin Circuit Court's jurisdiction over his case were without merit; and (2) the trial court erred in granting Bingham summary judgment because genuine issues of material fact remained unresolved. View "Lawrence v. Bingham Greenebaum Doll, LLP" on Justia Law

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In this real property dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the opinion of the court of appeals reversing a jury verdict and resulting judgment in favor of Defendants, holding that the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury in a way that allowed the jury to address a factual dispute to resolve it.The parties in this case owned adjoining farms. At issue was whether Plaintiffs' use of a road access across Defendants' land had ripened into a prescriptive easement. The jury found in favor of Defendants, which meant that Plaintiffs had no right to use the disputed road. The trial court entered judgment in conformity with the jury's verdict. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury in conformance with the rule in Ward v. Stewart, 435 S.W.2d (Ky. 1968). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) when confronted with conflicting evidence on the issue of permissive versus prescriptive use of the road at issue, the trial court abused its discretion by failing to provide a burden-shifting Ward instruction; and (2) Ky. R. Evid. 801A(c)(2) did not apply to except certain testimony under the hearsay rule. View "Melton v. Cross" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court dismissing Plaintiff’s claim against the heirs of the Decedent seeking to enforce a judgment lien against real property owned by the Decedent at his death, holding that Plaintiff’s tort claim, which accrued prior to the date of death, made Plaintiff a creditor of the Decedent and his Estate.Plaintiff filed a tort action against the Decedent, who subsequently died, and judgment was entered for Plaintiff. Plaintiff then filed a judgment lien against the Estate’s property. In a separate action, Bank filed a foreclosure action seeking to enforce its mortgages against the Decedent’s real property. Plaintiff sought to intervene in the foreclosure action. The trial court concluded that Plaintiff failed to state a claim because at the time of death, the Decedent’s real property immediately passed to his heirs at law, subject only to the claims of creditors, and that Plaintiff’s tort claim did not qualify him as a creditor. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff became a creditor of the Decedent when the tort occurred, and the fact that the claim was reduced to judgment and a judgment lien filed postmortem had no impact on Plaintiff’s status as a creditor of the estate. View "Gregory v. Hardgrove" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the circuit court did not err in enforcing Deed of Restrictions for Woodlawn Estates Subdivision Section II by granting judgment in favor of Don Hensley against Keith Gadd and JHT Properties, LLC (collectively, Gadd) on the basis that Gadd was renting private residences in the Subdivision as short-term vacation rentals in contravention of restrictions on commercial use of the property at issue.Hensley filed a complaint against Gadd alleging violations of the restrictions. Gadd filed a counterclaim for harassment. The trial court concluded that Gadd’s short-term rentals constituted a business in violation of the restrictions and dismissed Gadd’s harassment counterclaim. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the restrictions were ambiguous in that they permitted rentals and should be construed in favor of the free use of property. The court, however, affirmed dismissal of Gadd’s counterclaim. The Supreme Court reversed and vacated so much of the court of appeals’ opinion as reversed the trial court’s judgment and otherwise affirmed, holding (1) the restriction limited commercial uses and required the lots to be used for single-family residential purposes, and (2) Gadd’s use of the property violated the Deed of Restrictions. View "Hensley v. Gadd" on Justia Law