Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court concluding that each party in this case held an express easement over the other's property based on their predecessor's easement agreement and that agreement's subsequent incorporation into later conveyances, holding that the court's conclusions were without error. Stephen and Sharon Wiegele and West Dry Creek Ranch, LLC owned adjacent properties in Park County, Montana. Each party asserted an express easement over the other's property and denied that their properties were burdened by the other's claimed easements. The district court held that West Dry Creek had an express easement over the Wiegeles' property and that the Wiegeles had an express easement over West Dry Creek's property. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court's findings of fact were not clearly erroneous. View "Wiegele v. West Dry Creek Ranch, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's denial of Rose Everett-Martin's motion to set aside the jury's verdict of trespassing, holding that the district court did not err in entering a judgment granting equitable relief in the form of possession of real property. Shirley Renz filed a complaint for possession or trespass against her daughter, Rose, alleging that Rose had occupied Shirley's twenty-acre property with Shirley's express permission and had begun interfering with Shirley's use and enjoyment of the property. Rose counterclaimed for, among other things, unjust enrichment. The jury determined (1) Rose was trespassing on Shirley's property, but the trespass did not cause Shirley money damages; and (2) Shirley was unjustly enriched at the expense of Rose. The district court awarded $35,000 in favor of Rose and ordered possession of the real property to Shirley. On appeal, Rose argued that the court's judgment granting equitable relief did not comport with the jury's trespass finding. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in entering a judgment granting possession of real property. View "Renz v. Everett-Martin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting the motion to dismiss filed by the City of Bozeman, holding that Mont. Code Ann. 85-2-114 does not provide an implied private right of action for judicial enforcement of the Montana Water Use Act. Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that the City was in violation of the Act due to unpermitted water use and seeking injunctive relief and attorney fees. The City filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, arguing that the Act does not create a private right of action for enforcement through injunctive relief, nor does it create a private right of action. The district court granted the City's motion to dismiss, concluding that section 85-2-114, which allows for judicial enforcement of the Act, doesn't support an implied private right of action for enforcement. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the provisions of section 85-2-114 preclude the possibility that the Act provides an implied private right of enforcement of the Act. View "Lyman Creek, LLC v. City of Bozeman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court concluding that Whitefish Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, Inc. (the Congregation) had a valid, enforceable easement across the property owned by Giuseppe and Jamie Caltabiano and granting a permanent injunction prohibiting the Caltabianos from interfering with the Congregation's use of the easement, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not err when it considered extrinsic evidence and found an easement in favor of the Congregation; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it entered a permanent injunction prohibiting the Caltabianos from interfering with the Congregation's access to its property from Lion Mountain Road; and (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it declined to award the Congregation attorney fees. View "Whitefish Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, Inc. v. Caltabiano" on Justia Law

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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