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 granting Lease Option Solution, LLC's (LOS) motion for summary judgment on lien property and entering judgment in favor of ACI Construction, LLC on its unjust enrichment claim, holding that the district court did not err.ACI filed this action for lien foreclosure, naming as defendants all parties with liens or interest in the property and alleging, as relevant to this appeal, unjust enrichment against LOS. LOS sought summary judgment regarding priority of liens on certain property. The district court granted summary judgment to LOS on the issue of lien priority and entered judgment for ACI on its unjust enrichment claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in its determination of lien priority; and (2) did not err by determining that ACI was entitled to recover under the theory that LOS was unjustly enriched. View "A.C.I. Construction, LLC v. Elevated Property Investments, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court upholding the Broadwater Conservation District's (BCD) declaratory ruling determining that Montana Gulch is a "stream" subject to the regulatory provisions of The Natural Streambed and Land Preservation Act of 1975, Mont. Code Ann. 75-7-103, holding that there was no error.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the BCD and the district court did not err in determining that Montana Gulch could be classified as a "natural, perennial-flowing stream" under the jurisdiction of the Streambed Act upon a finding that it would have flowed perennially without human activity; (2) the BCD properly examined historical evidence when determining whether Montana Gulch would have flowed perennially in the absence of human activity; (3) the BCD's determination that Montana Gulch was under the Streambed Act's jurisdiction was not arbitrary and capricious; and (4) the BCD and the district court did not err in considering subsurface flows in Montana Gulch. View "Fortner v. Broadwater Conservation District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's ruling that the Dearborn Meadows Land Owners Association, Inc. (DMLOA) established on behalf of its members an implied easement by preexisting use and a prescriptive easement over Powerline Road across the property of JRN Holdings, LLC, holding that the district court erred in part.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the district court (1) did not err in declaring an implied easement by preexisting use for residential use of the Dearborn Meadows properties that had no other means of access to reach their land; (2) erred in determining that the implied easement extended to other DMLOA members; (3) did not err in determining that all DMLOA members held a prescriptive easement for both residential and recreational uses; (4) erred in ruling that either an implied easement or a prescriptive easement existed for use by the public; and (5) erred by awarding attorney fees to the DMLOA. View "JRN Holdings, LLC v. Dearborn Meadows Land Owners Ass'n, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court accepted a state law question certified by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit regarding whether, under Montana law, parasitic emotional distress damages are available for an underlying negligence claim for personal property damage or loss, answering the question in the negative.After Plaintiffs took their vehicle to Costco's tire center a Costco employee gave the keys to a man who falsely claimed to be Plaintiffs' son. Plaintiffs found their vehicle, but several items had been stolen. Plaintiffs sued, bringing claims of bailment and negligence. In instructing the jury, the district court told jurors that if they found for Plaintiffs on the negligence claim, they must determine the amount of damages to compensate them for any parasitic damages caused. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiffs. Costco appealed the award for non-property damages, arguing that the verdict was premised on the federal district court's incorrect instruction for consideration of parasitic emotional distress damages arising from the loss of personal property. The Ninth Circuit then certified the question at issue. The Supreme Court answered that parasitic emotional distress damages are not available for an underlying negligence claim for personal property damage or loss. View "Childress v. Costco Wholesale Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment to Sieben Ranch Company regarding a road dispute concerning Lyons Creek Road, holding that the district court correctly held that Lyons Creek Road, traversing northwesterly beyond the gate installed by Sieben Ranch, was private.Sieben Ranch filed for declaratory and injunctive relief, asserting that Defendants had no legal access over Sieben Ranch property via Lyons Creek Road. The district court granted summary judgment for Sieben Ranch, concluding that Defendants had no right of access over Sieben Ranch. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Lyons Creek Road was a public road up to Sieben Ranch's gate, at which point it became a private road subject to a conservation easement; and (2) Defendants did not have an express easement conveyed by the conservation easement for purposes of crossing Sieben Ranch property via Lyons Creek Road. View "Sieben Ranch Co. v. Adams" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court holding that the Secret Gulch Road Easement was an easement in gross, vacating Plaintiffs' temporary restraining order, denying Plaintiffs injunctive relief, and awarding Defendants costs and attorney's fees, holding that the Secret Gulch Road Easement was appurtenant.Plaintiffs filed a complaint seeking a preliminary injunction order against Defendant. The district court denied the request, holding that the Secret Gulch Road Easement was in gross rather than appurtenant. The order awarded costs, damages and attorney's fees to Defendants. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court erred in its determination that the Secret Gulch Road Easement was in gross because the easement was appurtenant; and (2) as such, Plaintiffs had the right to utilize the Secret Gulch Road Easement. View "Wilkinson, LLC v. Erler" on Justia Law

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In this road dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment to Seiben Ranch Company, holding that the district court correctly concluded that Lyons Creek Road, traversing northwesterly beyond the gate installed by Sieben Ranch, was private.Sieben Ranch filed for declaratory and injunctive relief asserting that Defendants had no legal access over Sieben Ranch property via Lyons Creek Road. The district court granted summary judgment for Sieben Ranch. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly concluded that Lyons Creek Road was a public highway up until Sieben Ranch's gate and properly granted summary judgment to Sieben Ranch; and (2) the district court correctly concluded that Defendants did not have an express easement to access Sieben Ranch's property. View "Sieben Ranch Co. v. Adams" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court affirming the decision of the Stillwater Board of County Commissioners to abandon a portion of Eerie Drive, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that substantial evidence supported the Board's decision.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not err in limiting its review of the record to whether there was sufficient evidence that the Board exceeded its jurisdiction to justify intruding on the Board's inherent discretion regarding road abandonment decisions; and (2) the district court did not err in concluding that the Board adequately documented its decision, as required by the statutes governing county road abandonment and caselaw. View "Williams v. Stillwater Board of County Commissioners" on Justia Law

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In this property dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the summary judgment order entered by the district court in favor of Old Public National Title Insurance Company and Security Title and Abstract Company (collectively, Defendants) upon the parties' stipulated "threshold legal issue" regarding Defendants' duty to Plaintiffs, holding that the district court did not err.At issue was whether Defendants owed a legal duty arising out of their issuance of a preliminary title commitment. Plaintiffs filed this action alleging negligence, professional negligence, and negligent misrepresentation on the part of Defendants when conducting a title examination. The district court concluded that Plaintiffs' claims were foreclosed because the statutes governing the issuance of a title insurance policy did not impose a duty with respect to an offer of title insurance in a preliminary commitment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs' claims could not be sustained. View "Phipps v. Old Republic National Title Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) on Alexander and Ilma Brishkas' claims of inverse condemnation, negligence, and attorney fees and costs, holding that the district court did not err.The Brishkas sued MDT alleging that the breach of their 4.5 million-gallon, manmade fishpond on their property resulted from MDT's improvement of Montana Highway 487. The next year, Michael and Stacey Covey and the Covey Trust (collectively, the Coveys) sued the Brishkas for damages suffered to their property as a result of the breach of the pond. The jury returned a verdict against the Brishkas and award damages to the Coveys. Thereafter, MDT filed a motion for summary judgment. The district court granted the motion, concluding that the Brishkas were collaterally estopped from relitigating the issues of proximate cause and damages. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court properly determined that the elements of collateral estoppel were satisfied and that the Brishkas' claims were precluded. View "Brishka v. Department of Transportation" on Justia Law