Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Vision Net, Inc.'s motion for summary judgment and granting summary judgment to the Montana Department of Revenue (DOR), holding that the district court did not err by holding that the DOR properly centrally assessed Vision Net's property. Vision Net filed a petition for declaratory judgment challenging the DOR's decision to reclassify its property. The district court held that the DOR could properly centrally assess Vision Net's property, resulting in a significant increase in Vision Net's state tax liability. On appeal, Vision Net argued that DOR's central assessment violated its statutory rights and its constitutional rights of equal protection and equalization under Mont. Const. art. II, 4 and art. VII, 3. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly held that Vision Net was subject to central assessment and that Vision Net's constitutional challenge was without merit. View "Vision Net, Inc. v. State, Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting Defendants summary judgment and concluding that Elk Valley Road burdened Lots 70 and 71 to the benefit of other subdivision lot owners for ingress and agree to and from the adjoining off-plat land and concluding that Plaintiffs had no right to obstruct Elk Valley Road. The district court concluded that a sixty-foot-wide roadway easement (Elk Valley Road) existed that straddled the boundary of Plaintiffs' adjoining lots to the benefit of the other platted subdivision lots for ingress and egress to and from the subdivision and adjoining off-plat land. The court further denied Plaintiffs' damages claims in trespass and for property damage resulting from the removal and destruction of the gate placed across the roadway by Plaintiffs to limit access to the adjoining land to themselves and their guests. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court properly concluded that (1) the relevant deeds and referenced subdivision plat created a roadway easement over Lots 70 and 71 to the benefit of other subdivision lots; (2) the disputed use of the roadway did not unreasonably interfere with use of the servient estates; and (3) Plaintiffs were not entitled to damages. View "O'Keefe v. Mustang Ranches HOA" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order entered by the Montana Water Court determining the volume of water to which the City of Fort Peck was entitled pursuant to its Claim 40E 182897-00 in Missouri River Basin between the Musselshell River and Fort Peck Dam, holding that the Water Court did not violate Ford Peck's due process right and that the Water Court's conclusions were correct. On appeal, Fort Peck argued that the Water Court erred by entering conclusions in contradiction to a pretrial order and that its due process rights were violated because it was not provided notice or an opportunity to present evidence concerning current use or abandonment of historical volume. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that Fort Peck had adequate notice and an opportunity to be heard before the Water Court entered its final order, both for purposes of the pretrial order and for due process and that the Water Court's conclusions were without error. View "United States Army Corps of Engineers; City of Fort Peck" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court finding Defendants strictly liable for the breach of a pond on their property and awarding damages to Plaintiffs, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion in the proceedings below. Defendants purchased property in Whitefish that included a 4.5 million-gallon manmade fish pond built by a previous owner. Plaintiffs later purchased land downhill from Defendants' property. After Plaintiffs hired experts to design and build a driveway to access the property, Defendants' pond breached its banks, and water flowed downslope. Plaintiffs' experts concluded that historical drainage patterns were greatly altered by the pond breach and doubled the driveway construction bid. Plaintiffs brought suit against Defendants for strict liability. The district court entered judgment for Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err when it concluded that the pond constituted an abnormally dangerous condition that warranted the application of strict liability and when it allowed Plaintiffs to claim the full amount of damages for the increased cost of their driveway project. View "Covey v. Brishka" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Landowners' petition for writ of review asserting that the Ravalli County Board of County Commissioners exceeded its jurisdiction to grant or deny Landowners' petition for abandonment, holding that Landowners failed to meet the statutory requirement for issuance of a writ of review. Landowners erected a gate that obstructed a portion of a county road. Landowners petitioned the Board to abandon that portion of the road, but the Board denied the petition for abandonment and ordered the gate removed. Landowners later filed their petition for a writ of review. The district court denied Landowners' petition for a writ of review and accompanying application for preliminary injunction on the basis that the Board did not exceed its jurisdiction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Landowners failed to show that the Board exceeded its jurisdiction. View "Bugli v. Ravalli County" on Justia Law

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In this case challenging the approval of a permit to build a bridge on certain property the Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court entering judgment in favor of Community Association for North Shore Conservation, Inc. (CANSC) and the order denying CANSC's request for attorney fees, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion. Intervenor Jolene Dugan, who owned a peninsula-shaped parcel of land on the shore of Flathead Lake, sought to build a bridge on her property to connect what was sometimes an intermittent island to the mainland. The Flathead County Board of County Commissioners approved the permit, and Dugan built the bridge. CANSC sought to overturn the approval of Dugan's permit. The district court entered an order requiring Dugan to take down the bridge and restore the area. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) CANSC had standing to bring this lawsuit; (2) the Board's approval of the bridge permit was arbitrary and capricious; (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it ordered Dugan to restore the lake to its original state; and (4) the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing CANSC's request for attorney fees. View "Community Ass'n for North Shore Conservation, Inc. v. Flathead County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court denying Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment in this case alleging a violation of Article 9A of Montana's adopted version of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), holding that the district court erred when it concluded that Article 9 no longer applied to the agreement between the parties. Plaintiffs and Defendants entered into an installment sale contract and security agreement to buy a mobile home. When Plaintiffs continually missed payments on the mobile home Defendants sent a notice of default and then demanded the outstanding balance on the agreement. Plaintiffs moved out of the mobile home and voluntarily returned it to Defendants. After Defendants sold the mobile home to a new buyer Plaintiffs brought suit alleging that Defendants violated provision of Article 9A. The district court denied Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and entered judgment in favor of Defendants. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there were no genuine issues of material fact as to Defendants' UCC violations, and Plaintiffs were entitled to judgment as a matter of law on that issue. View "Christman v. Clause" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Montana Water Court holding that Appellants failed to prove a long period of continuous nonuse and therefore failed to show Claimant or his predecessors' presumed intent to abandon the water rights, holding that the Water Court did not err. Specifically, the Court held (1) the Water Court did not err in concluding that Appellants failed to establish a continuous period of nonuse; (2) the failure to assert water rights through the water commissioner is not the equivalent of nonuse; (3) the Water Court did not commit clear error in not addressing the issue of partial abandonment; and (4) the Water Court did not err in concluding that the appropriate remedy for Appellants would be to file a dissatisfied water use complaint or pursue contempt proceedings. View "Klamert v. Iverson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the district court granting summary judgment to the State of Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Birk Engineering and Bret A. Birk (Birks) and Flathead County on Amber Norbeck and Andrew Norbeck's complaint asserting violations of the Montana Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act, negligence, negligent misrepresentation, continuing nuisance, and constructive fraud, holding that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to Defendants. After the Norbecks built a home in a subdivision they experienced flooding and ongoing water quality issues. When the Norbecks could not sell their home using conventional financing due to DEQ violation notices the Norbecks brought this suit. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly determined that the Norbecks' claims were not commenced within the applicable statutes of limitation. View "Norbeck v. Flathead County" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning a boundary realignment agreement entered into between the parties in this case, the Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting specific performance of a contract to Plaintiff, holding that the district court correctly determined that the cause of action was timely prosecuted by Plaintiff and that Plaintiff was entitled to specific performance of a contract. The district court ruled that Plaintiff was entitled to specific performance and dismissed Defendants' trespass claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err by concluding that Plaintiff's breach of contract claim was not barred by the relevant statute of limitation; (2) did not err by determining that Plaintiff was entitled to specific performance of the contract; and (3) properly dismissed Defendants' trespass claim. View "Miller v. Kleppen" on Justia Law