Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court
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In this dispute between Beachfront Owners and the Town of Kennebunkport over who held title to disputed portions of Goose Rocks Beach the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the holding of the trial court that, under the circumstances of this case, legal title to the property was held by the Town for the benefit of the public. The Beachfront Owners sued the Town seeking a declaratory judgment that each of their parcels includes land to the mean low water mark - subject to public rights to fish, fowl, and navigate in the intertidal zone. The Beachfront Owners also sought to quiet title to their alleged breach property. In response, the Town asserted its title to the beach and the dry sand above it and that it and the public had the right to use those areas. The superior court determined that the Town held title - derived from the original Town proprietors' ownership of common land - to the dry sand and beach in front of the majority of the properties in dispute. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that title to the disputed land seaward of the seawall, including the beach, was held by the Town for the benefit of the public. View "Almeder v. Town of Kennebunkport" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the superior court denying Beal Bank USA's complaint to compel the assignment of a mortgage to Beal by the insolvent originating lender, New Century Mortgage Corporation, holding that the court did not err in denying the relief sought by Beal to compel assignment of the mortgage in this case. On appeal, Beal argued that because it was the holder of the note secured by the mortgage, the court erred when it failed to apply the equitable trust doctrine to conclude that New Century held the mortgage in trust for Beal and that Beal was entitled to an assignment of the mortgage. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) although the holder of the note may retain some equitable interest in the accompanying mortgage, any such interest, standing alone, does not equate to actual ownership of the mortgage, nor is the interest sufficient to establish a pre-foreclosure right to compel its assignment; and (2) Beal did not produce sufficient independent evidence of ownership of the mortgage to compel an assignment. View "Beal Bank USA v. New Century Mortgage Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Richard Tranfield and Karla Doremus-Tranfield (the Tranfields) on their complaint alleging that Patricia Arcuni-English's installation of trees on the boundary line between the parties' properties constituted a nuisance under both common law and Maine's spite fence statute, Me. Rev. Stat. 17, 2801, holding that the court did not err. The superior court determined that Arcuni-English's installation of trees on the parties' boundary line constituted a spite fence because her installation of more than thirty trees, which created a dense and continuous wall, was done with malice. The court ordered Arcuni-English to remove every other tree along the boundary line, remove the trees that were planted as an additional row to fill in gaps, and trim the trees to a height no greater than ten feet. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the court did not err in determining that the Transfields demonstrated that Arcuri-English had a dominantly malicious move; (2) the court did not err by finding that the height of the trees unnecessarily exceeded six feet; and (3) the court crafted a fair remedy based on its findings. View "Tranfield v. Arcuni-English" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the superior court on a variety of claims and counterclaims concerning the use and ownership of certain property in Cape Elizabeth and declaring Cunner Lane II, LLC the owner of certain property, as shown on a 1929 subdivision plan, holding that the court correctly granted Cunner Lane II a declaratory judgment that it held record title to the property. David Smith, Cunner Lane, LLC and Cunner Lane II, LLC (Cunner Lane II) appealed from the judgment. Cunner Lane Owners and Robert Siegel appealed from the judgment with regard to the court's determination declaring Cunner Lane II the owner of the property. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded the case, holding (1) the court correctly determined that Cunner Lane II held title to the property; (2) the court erred in making any determinations concerning Siegel's ownership of Brook Road and in declaring certain Cunner Lane Owners owners to the centerline of Brook Road in its entirety; and (3) any adverse possession claims will require additional litigation. View "Fissmer v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court entering summary judgment in favor of Defendants on Plaintiff's complaint alleging attorney malpractice, holding that the court erred in concluding that Plaintiff failed to present evidence of causation to proceed with its legal malpractice claim. Plaintiff submitted an application for site plan review for approval of a commercial facility. The town's planning board approved the application. Abutters to the site appeal the decision to the town's board of appeals (BOA), and Plaintiff hired Defendants to represent it before the BOA. The BOA ultimately reversed the planning board's decision. Plaintiff appealed, but because Defendants failed to file a brief, the appeal was dismissed. Plaintiff then brought this action alleging that it suffered harm due to Defendants' negligence. The court granted summary judgment for Defendants, concluding that Plaintiff could not show either that the planning board's decision would have been upheld or that the BOA's decision would have been overturned absent Defendants' negligence. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded for further proceedings, holding that the superior court, had it originally reviewed the planning board's decision, would have concluded that the board's approval of the site plan did not reflect error. View "MSR Recycling, LLC v. Weeks & Hutchins, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the business and consumer docket dismissing as time-barred Plaintiff's complaint against U.S. Bank, N.A., the servicer of a mortgage she executed to secure a loan, holding that the court correctly dismissed the complaint as untimely filed. Plaintiff fully performed her obligations arising from a transaction in which she borrowed money and executed a mortgage to secure the loan. Four years after her claim accrued, Plaintiff brought this action under Me. Rev. Stat. 33, 551, alleging that U.S. Bank did not fulfill its statutory duty when it came time for the mortgage to be discharged. The business and consumer docket concluded that the claim was subject to the one-year limitation period set forth in Me. Rev. Stat. 14, 858 and was thus time-barred. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the court correctly dismissed the complaint because it was subject to the one-year statute of limitations. View "Denutte v. U.S. Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying First Financial, Inc.'s motion for relief from judgment after the court denied its motion to dismiss its foreclosure complaint against Peter and Judith Morrison and granted the Morrisons' motion for judgment on the pleadings, holding that the trial court did not err. In their motion for judgment on the pleadings the Morrisons asserted that First Financial's notice of default and the right to cure did not comply with the requirements of Me. Rev. Stat. 14, 6111. First Financial then filed a motion to dismiss its foreclosure complaint without prejudice. The court summarily denied First Financial's motion to dismiss and granted the Morrison's motion for judgment on the pleadings. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that where evidence of a properly served notice of default and mortgagor's right to cure in compliance with statutory requirements is an essential element to support a judgment of foreclosure, the court did not err in granting the Morrisons' motion for judgment and denying First Financial's motion for dismissal without prejudice. View "First Financial, Inc. v. Morrison" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court dismissing Appellants' claim for a declaratory judgment in this zoning dispute, holding that the superior court did not err in dismissing the claim as duplicative of Appellants' appeal from a municipal action that was included in the same complaint. Appellants owned a parcel of land that abutted a parcel owned by Landowners. After the zoning board of appeals (ZBA) approved Landowners' application for permission to raze an existing house located on their property and to build a new one Appellants filed a complaint against the Town of Cape Elizabeth and Landowners, asserting, inter alia, a request for judicial review of the ZBA's approval of Appellants' application pursuant to Me. R. Civ. P. 80B and an independent claim for a declaratory judgment that section 19-6-11(E)(2) of the Cape Elizabeth Zoning Ordinance is preempted by the state's Mandatory Shoreland Zoning Act, Me. Rev. Stat. 38, 439-A(4)(C)(1). The superior court dismissed the declaratory judgment claim as duplicative of the Rule 80B appeal. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that because Appellants' claim for declaratory relief was not independent from its Rule 80B, the superior court's dismissal of the declaratory judgment claim as duplicative was not an abuse of discretion. View "Cape Shore House Owners Ass'n v. Town of Cape Elizabeth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the Business and Consumer Docket entering a declaratory judgment invalidating all rules and regulations previously promulgated by Fall Line Condominium Association's Board of Directors, holding that the declaratory judgment voiding rules and regulations not approved by a majority in interest of unit owners that concern the use of units, common areas, and facilities was proper but that the declaratory judgment as to all other rules and regulations was not. Plaintiffs, who owned a unit at Fall Line, filed a complaint against the Association and certain members of the Board seeking a declaratory judgment that all rules, regulations, and limitations affecting unit owners and their use of their units and any common element at the condominiums not approved by a majority in interest by the unit owners were void. The Business Court granted summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the Association's bylaws unambiguously states that the Board, in order to promulgate or amend rules of conduct concerning the use of the units, common areas, and facilities, must seek approval from a majority in interest of unit owners; and (2) there is no such limitation on other types of rules or regulations governing the general operation and use of the property. View "Scott v. Fall Line Condominium Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Property Owners in this property dispute, holding that rockweed, a species of seaweed that grows in Maine's intertidal zone, is private property that belongings to the adjoining upland landowner who owns the intertidal soil in fee simple and is therefore not public property. Acadian Seaplants, Ltd. harvested rockweed attached to intertidal land without permission of Property Owners, owners of upland property where the rockweed grew. Property Owners commenced this action against Acadian seeking a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. The superior court entered judgment in favor of Property Owners. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that rockweed in the intertidal zone belongs to the upland property owner and is therefore not held in trust by the State for public use and cannot be harvested by members of the public as a matter of right. View "Ross v. Acadian Seaplants, Ltd." on Justia Law