Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court
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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

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court in favor of Matthew Needham on a foreclosure complaint filed by Wilmington Savings Fund Society as Trustee for Hilldale Trust (Wilmington) and remanded the matter for entry of judgment for Wilmington, holding a mortgagee may delegate to an agent its duty to provide a notice of the right to cure pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 14, 6111(1). After Needham defaulted on his loan, loan servicer BSI Financial Services sent Needham a notice of the right to cure on behalf of Ventures Trust, the then-holder of the note and mortgage. Thereafter, Ventures Trust filed a foreclosure complaint. Wilmington, which was assigned the mortgage and note, was subsequently substituted as Plaintiff. The trial court entered judgment for Needham, concluding that because the notice was sent by the loan servicer rather than the mortgagee, the notice was insufficient to satisfy the requirements of section 6111. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that neither the mortgage contract nor Me. Rev. Stat. 6111(1) prohibited the mortgagee from delegating to an agent loan servicer its duty to give a notice of the right to cure to Needham. View "Wilmington Savings Fund Society, FSB v. Needham" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court dismissing for lack of subject matter jurisdiction Plaintiffs’ Me. R. Civ. P. 80B complaint for review of factual findings made by the Board of Appeals of the Town of York, holding that the superior court had jurisdiction to review the Board’s decision. Plaintiffs contacted the Town’s Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) to express their concern that their neighbor’s use of his property was not consistent with the previous owner’s nonconforming use. The CEO found no violations. The Board found that the neighbor’s use of the lot did not constitute a change in use but was rather an intensification of the previous use. Plaintiffs appealed to the superior court pursuant to Rule 80B. The court granted the Town’s motion to dismiss, concluding that the Board’s review of the CEO’s decision was advisory and, therefore, unreviewable. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that, absent an express provision in the Town’s ordinance stating that Plaintiffs may not appeal, a determination of whether there has been a violation of the ordinance is reviewable on appeal. View "Raposa v. Town of York" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the the district court granting summary judgment in favor of MaineStream Finance on Jacob Berry’s complaint seeking the return of a 2016 Chevrolet Camaro, holding that summary judgment was improper on the facts of this case. In 2016, MaineStream filed an action against Dwight Moody, Berry’s uncle, to repossess two race cars - including the car called “Outlaw" - that Moody had pledged as collateral in a security agreement. The court found that Moody was the owner of Outlaw and entered a final judgment. In 2017, Berry brought this action against MaineStream, alleging that MaineStream wrongfully seized his 2016 Chevrolet Camaro. The district court granted MaineStream’s motion for summary judgment based on MaineStream’s assertion that, in the 2016 action, the court determined that Moody owned the car and that Berry was barred from seeking relief pursuant to the doctrine of res judicata. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment, holding that summary judgment was improper because the record did not establish that Outlaw was the same vehicle was the one that was at issue in the instant case. View "Berry v. Mainstream Finance" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Littlebrook Airpark Condominium Association on the Association’s action for a declaratory judgment on the issue of the effectiveness of a lease amendment, holding that the amendment was void. The superior court found that, although the lease amendment resulted in a default of the mortgage encumbering property owned by Sweet Peas, LLC, the lease amendment was still effective. On appeal, Sweet Peas and party-in-interest Jean Hardy argued that the amendment was void because any rights created by the amendment were subordinate to the existing mortgage on the property and were therefore extinguished by Hardy’s foreclosure. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed, holding that the lease amendment was invalid because it was a new interest created after the mortgage, rendering the amendment junior to the mortgage. View "Littlebrook Airpark Condominium Ass’n v. Sweet Peas, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this dispute over the location of the boundary between the land of Appellees and the land of Appellants, the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court declaring the location of that boundary line, holding that the superior court did not err or abuse its discretion. On appeal, Appellants generally challenged the discretionary decisions made by the trial court in its management of the proceeding. The Supreme Judicial Court denied the challenges, holding that, contrary to Appellants’ contentions, the trial court did not err or abuse its discretion either in its case management orders or in its findings and conclusions. View "Gammon v. Boggs" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of the Town of Glenburn on its land use violation complaint but vacated the civil penalty imposed by the district court, holding that the record was devoid of any evidence of one of the factors that Me. Rev. Stat. 30-A, 4452(3)(E) requires the court to consider. The land use violation complaint in this case was filed pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 30-A, 4452 and Me. R. Civ. P. 80K. The Supreme Court vacated the civil penalty but otherwise affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not violate Appellant’s procedural due process right by allowing one of the Town’s witnesses to testify by telephone; (2) the district court did not err by not excluding, sua sponte, testimony from the Town’s Code Enforcement Officer concerning a witness’s two out-of-court statements; and (3) on the evidence before it, the district court could not have considered the extent to which the violations on the property may have continued after notification to Appellant - a factor that must be considered by the court before assessing a civil penalty. View "Town of Glenburn v. Pinkham" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court denying Jerry Philogene’s motion to set aside a default and for relief from a judgment, holding that Philogene demonstrated excusable neglect. The default judgment in this case extinguished Philogene’s property rights to $16,545 in cash seized as part of a civil asset forfeiture proceeding, initiated following a motor vehicle stop and the filing of criminal charges connected with Philogene’s operation of the vehicle. After entry of the default judgment, Philogene filed a motion to set aside the default and for relief from the judgment. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that Philogene’s assumption that his criminal attorney was representing him in the civil forfeiture matter did not constitute excusable neglect and that Philogene’s claim that he possessed the $16,545 in order to purchase a car for his sister did not constitute a meritorious defense. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) Philogene showed a reasonable excuse for his inattention to the forfeiture proceedings; and (2) Philogene demonstrated a meritorious defense to the underlying charges. View "State v. Philogene" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated a judgment of foreclosure entered by the district court in favor of M&T Bank following a nonjury trial on M&T Bank’s complaint and remanded for entry of a judgment in favor of Lawrence Plaisted, holding (1) M&T Bank failed to lay a proper foundation for admitting loan servicing records pursuant to the business records exception to the hearsay rule, and (2) M&T Bank failed to prove the amount owed on the note. On appeal, Plaisted argued that the court abused its discretion by admitting Exhibit E pursuant to the business records exception to the hearsay rule and erred in concluding that M&T Bank proved the amount owed on the note. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed, holding that M&T Bank failed to meet its burden of proving the amount owed by presenting evidence of information regarding the original amount of the loan, the total amount paid by the mortgagor, and other information in a form that was both accessible and admissible. View "M&T Bank v. Plaisted" on Justia Law