Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Minnesota Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the district court denying Plaintiff's claim in conciliation court against Defendants seeking replevin of her dog Oliver on the grounds that Plaintiff had abandoned Oliver, holding that, under Minn. Stat. 345.75, Plaintiff did not abandon her dog.At issue was whether section 345.75, which governs the abandonment of tangible personal property, abrogates by implication the common law governing the abandoning of tangible personal property. The court of appeals held that section 345.75 abrogated the common law of abandonment of tangible personal property by necessary implication. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) section 345.75 does not abrogate by implication the common law of abandonment of tangible personal property; and (2) Plaintiff did not abandon her dog under the statue, and the district court erred in concluding that Plaintiff abandoned her dog under the common law. View "Zephier v. Agate" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that groundwater is a Class 1 water under Minnesota law and therefore subject to secondary drinking water standards promulgated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).In 2018, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) issued a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System/State Disposal System permit to United States Steel Corporation (U.S. Steel) governing U.S. Steel's Minntac Tailings Basin Area in Mountain Iron and setting a groundwater sulfate limit of 250 mg/L at the facility's boundary that U.S. Steel must meet by 2025. On appeal, U.S. Steel argued that the MPCA did not have the authority to impose the sulfate standard in the permit because the EPA's secondary drinking water standards apply only to bodies of water classified as Class 1 waters and that groundwater is not classified as Class 1. The court of appeals agreed and reversed the MPCA's decision. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) groundwater is a Class 1 water under Minnesota law; and (2) therefore, the MPCA correctly exercised its authority by applying the Class 1 secondary drinking water standards to the permit. View "In re Reissuance of NPDES/SDS Permit to United States Steel Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint alleging that he witnessed Defendant's workers violate safety protocols resulting in contamination of his home, holding that Minn. Stat. 541.051 barred Plaintiff's claims.Plaintiff hired Defendant to remove a broken boiler that was insulated with asbestos and his asbestos pipe insulation. On March 12, 2014, a report confirmed Plaintiff's allegation that Defendant's workers tracked asbestos through Plaintiff's home. Plaintiff, however, did not sue Defendant until April 20, 2018. The district court dismissed the complaint on the grounds that the two-year statute of limitations in section 541.051 barred Plaintiff's claims. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's damages arose out of the defective and unsafe condition of an improvement to real property, and therefore, the two-year statute of limitations in section 541.051, subdivision 1(a) barred Plaintiff's claims. View "Moore v. Robinson Environmental, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court reversing a transfer penalty imposed by the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services on David Pfoser, a disabled Medicaid recipient who resided in a long-term care facility, after he transferred partial proceeds from the sale of a house into a pooled special-needs trust, holding that Pfoser made a satisfactory showing that he intended to receive valuable consideration for his transfer of assets.State and federal law impose a penalty on recipients, like Pfoser, of Medical Assistance for Long-Term Care benefits if they transfer assets for less than fair market value, but no penalty is imposed if the recipient makes a satisfactory showing that he intended to dispose of the assets either at fair market value or for other valuable consideration. See Minn. Stat. 256B.0595, subd. 4(a)(4). The Commissioner affirmed the transfer penalty imposed on Pfoser. The district court reversed, concluding that Pfoser received adequate compensation in the form of his vested equitable interest in the trust assets. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that substantial evidence did not support the Commissioner's decision to uphold the penalty. View "Pfoser v. Harpstead" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a letter contesting a notice of zoning violation was not a "request" as defined by Minn. Stat. 15.99, subd. (1)(c) and therefore did not entitle respondent property owners to the benefit of the automatic approval provision in Minn. Stat. 15.99, subd. (2)(a).The automatic approval provision requires agencies to, within sixty days, approve or deny a written zoning request. Failure to deny such a request within sixty days is deemed an approval of the request. Respondents received notice of a zoning violation from the City of Shorewood after installing a dock and contested the zoning violation in a written letter to the city planning commission. The City did not respond. Thereafter, Respondents were charged by criminal complaint with two misdemeanor violations of the city code. The district court granted Respondents' pretrial motion to dismiss, concluding that Respondents' letter was a "request" under Minn. Stat. 15.99, subd. 1(c), and therefore, Respondents' request for zoning action was automatically approved by operation of law. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the letter was not a "request" under the statute. View "State v. Sanschagrin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the district court's grant of summary judgment to Respondent on Appellant's adverse possession claim, holding that a claim of adverse possession to a portion of a separately assessed parcel requires the adverse claimant to pay taxes for at least five consecutive years unless a statutory exemption under Minn. Stat. 541.02 paragraph 3 applies.Appellant asserted adverse possession over a portion of two separately assessed parcels owned by Respondent. The district court ruled against Appellant's claim for both parcels. The court of appeals affirmed the court's grant of summary judgment to Defendant on Appellant's adverse possession claim for the west parcel but reversed the grant of summary judgment to Respondent as to the east parcel on the grounds that the percentage claimed did not trigger the tax payment requirement in section 541.02. Appellant appealed the court of appeals' decision that his adverse possession claim to fifty-two percent of the west parcel failed, arguing that the statute requires tax payment only for a claim to an entire separately assessed parcel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the plain language of section 541.02 requires tax payment on a portion of a parcel. View "St. Paul Park Refining Co. LLC v. Domeier" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the jury's award of damages to Tamara Laechelt in this eminent domain action, holding that evidence of construction-related interference that arises after the date of taking is admissible to establish the value of the remainder property.A panel of commissions determined the amount of compensation Laechelt should be awarded for the County's acquisition of temporary and permanent easements from Laechelt. The County appealed the award and moved to exclude evidence of construction-related interference because the interference occurred after the date of the taking. The district court denied the motion and subsequently denied the County's motion for a new trial. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err by denying the County a new trial. View "County of Hennepin v. Laechelt" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals defining AIM Development, LLC's nonconforming-use rights on a property containing a facility for nonhazardous, non-toxic industrial waste based on the terms of a state permit in effect at the time that it purchased the property, holding that a property owner's nonconforming-use rights are defined by the uses lawfully existing at the time of the adverse zoning change.In 2013, AIM Development purchased the property containing the waste facility, which had operated as a nonconforming use since 1989. At issue was the scope of AIM Development's nonconforming-use rights and whether the waste facility may accept waste from more than one source. Based on the terms of a state permit in effect when AIM Development purchase the property the court of appeals determined that the facility was limited to accepting waste from a recently demolished paper mill. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals erred in defining the scope of the nonconformity by the state permit; and (2) accepting waste from more than one source does not, standing alone, constitute an impermissible expansion of AIM Development's nonconforming-use rights. View "AIM Development (USA), LLC, Appellant, v. City of Sartell" on Justia Law

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In this case brought by two associations against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) arising out of alleged mismanagement of the groundwater-appropriation permitting process, the Supreme Court held that the two associations stated a claim under Minn. Stat. 116B.03 and that one of the associations failed to state a claim under the public trust doctrine.Two associations brought this suit against the DNR, alleging violations of the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act under section 116B.03 based on alleged pollution and impairment of White Bear Lake. The associations alleged that the DNR mismanaged the groundwater-appropriations permitting process, resulting in the lake's water levels reaching historic lows. One of the associations added a claim that the DNR had violated the common-law public trust doctrine. The district court found that the DNR had violated by section 116B.03 and the public trust doctrine. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the court of appeals (1) erred in concluding that the associations did not state a claim under section 116B.03; and (2) did not err in concluding that the one association failed to state a claim under the public trust doctrine. View "White Bear Lake Restoration Ass'n, ex rel. State v. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the tax court increasing the assessed unit value of a pipeline system for tax years 2015 and 2016, holding that the tax court did not err in its calculations for the cost indicator of value but erred in assigning equal weight to the cost and income indicators of value.On appeal, the taxpayer (1) challenged the tax court's market value determination, asserting that the court erred in its treatment of construction work in progress and external obsolescence in the computation of the cost indicator of value; and (2) challenged the weight that the court assigned to the cost indicator of value, as opposed to the income indicator, in determining the unit value of the pipeline system. The Supreme Court held that the tax court (1) did not err in its calculations for the cost indicator of value; but (2) erred by concluding that it had no discretion to adjust the default weightings prescribed by Minnesota Rule 8100.0300, subpart 5 for the cost and income indicators of value. View "Enbridge Energy, Limited Partnership v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law