Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court interpreting and modifying a prior 2014 judgment that previously adjudicated that Plaintiffs had established various prescriptive easement rights over certain land before Defendants acquired it in the 1980s, holding that the court misinterpreted the 2014 judgment.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not err when it concluded that Mont. R. Civ. P. 59-60 did not apply to Defendants' motions for subsequent interpretation and clarification of the 2014 judgment; (2) the district court erred when it construed the 2014 judgment as ambiguous on its face or in effect; and (3) the district court erroneously altered and amended the substance of the 2014 judgment inconsistent with its manifestly intended original meaning and effect. View "Meine v. Hren Ranches, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case involving a grant of easement and easement agreement between Roger Peters and Carrie Peters and Douglas Hubbards and Nathan Hubbards the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the Peterses, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion.The easement agreement in this case granted the Hubbards an easement to use a road crossing the Peterses' land. The Peterses later rescinded the agreement, but the Hubbards continued to use the road. The Peterses subsequently filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that the rescission was proper and that the Hubbards' rights under the agreement were terminated. The Hubbards filed a counterclaim asserting claims for a private prescriptive easement and a public prescriptive easement. The district court granted summary judgment for the Peterses on all issues. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in interpreting the language of the easement agreement; (2) the Hubbards did not establish either a private or public prescriptive easement across the Peterses' property covered in the easement agreement; and (3) the district court properly awarded attorney fees to the Peterses. View "Peters v. Hubbard" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing K&J Investments, LLC's petition and complaint for judicial review, rescission, and unjust enrichment against the Flathead County Board of Commissioners and Flathead County Treasurer, holding that the district court properly dismissed all claims for want of jurisdiction.K&J, an investment company, purchased a tax sale certificate from Flathead County for the property at issue for $1,512. K&J later filed an application for refund and abatement due to alleged erroneous property assessments. The Flathead County Board of Commissioners denied the application. K&J filed a petition for judicial review seeking to reverse the Commissioners' denial of tax refund and abatement and including a complaint for rescission of the tax sale certificate and seeking relief for all taxes paid under a theory of unjust enrichment. The district court dismissed the petition and complaint, ruling that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction because K&J did not follow the required process for seeking reassessment and exhausting administrative remedies. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Mont. Code Ann. 15-16-604 did not grant the district court authority to consider K&J's claims. View "K & J Investments, LLC v. Flathead County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Appellant's petition compelling Appellee, the Missoula County Clerk and Recorder, to record Appellant's certificate of survey (COS), holding that Appellee did not have a clear legal duty to record the COS.The district court dismissed Appellant's petition for writ of mandamus, finding that Appellee was not under a clear, non-discretionary, legal duty to record Appellant's COS bearing language certifying that a subdivision qualified for an exemption that the relevant reviewing authority found to be inapplicable and declined to approve. The Supreme Court affirmed holding that the district court was correct in dismissing the petition for writ of mandamus because Appellee was not under a clear legal duty to record a COS bearing a certification of exemption from sanitary review that Appellant was not approved for. View "Richards v. Gernant" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's order denying the petition filed by the City of Bozeman seeking judicial review of a final order of the Department of Natural Resources (DNRC) granting Utility Solutions, LLC's application to change a water right, holding that the court did not err in determining that the City's water facility plan did not qualify as an interest protectable from adverse effects under Mont. Code Ann. 85-2-402(2)(a).Utility Solutions filed its change application for authorization to change the place of use of its water use permit. The City filed an objection, arguing that the application would adversely affect the City's possessory interest in the area that was established by the City's adoption of a growth policy, as expanded geographically by an updated water facility plan. The DNRC hearing examiner granted the change application, concluding that although the change application resulted in a geographic overlap of the place of use with the City's water facility plan, the overlap did not result in an adverse effect within the meaning of section 85-2-402(2)(a). The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in affirming the DNRC's determination that Utility Solutions carried its burden to prove the City did not have an interest protectable from adverse effects. View "City of Bozeman v. Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court affirming the Acting Roosevelt County Superintendent of School's grant of a territory transfer from Poplar Elementary School District No. 9 to Froid Elementary School District No. 65 pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 20-6-105, holding that the Acting Superintendent did not abuse her discretion, and that Poplar's constitutional challenges failed.On appeal, Poplar argued that the Acting Superintendent's decision granting the territory transfer petition constituted an abuse of discretion and that section 20-6-105, the territory transfer statute, is unconstitutional both facially and as applied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly determined that the Acting Superintendent did not abuse her discretion in granting the petition to transfer the transfer territory; (2) the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel barred Poplar's facial constitutional challenge; and (3) Poplar's as-applied challenge failed because a school district does not have a constitutional right to due process. View "Poplar Elementary School District No. 9 v. Froid Elementary School District No. 65" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the orders of the district court holding Plaintiff liable for additional taxes Defendants owed as a result of Plaintiff's prepayment on the contract, holding that Plaintiff was obligated to pay additional taxes that were incurred by Defendants over the term of the contract.Plaintiff entered into an agreement with Defendants for the purchase of real property. Plaintiff later sued, alleging that its obligations under the agreement were satisfied and seeking an order requiring Defendants to reconvey the property to Plaintiff. Defendants counterclaimed for breach of contract. After a trial, the district court held that Plaintiff had not fulfilled all obligations under the contract. The court awarded Defendants damages and denied Defendants' request for prejudgment interest on the damage award. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the district court (1) correctly found that Plaintiff did not extinguish its obligations under the contract; (2) correctly denied Defendants' motion for prejudgment interest; but (3) erred when it interpreted the relevant documents to obligate Plaintiff to pay the additional taxes that were incurred by Defendants in the year the prepayment was made instead of the total additional taxes Defendants incurred over the term of the contract. View "First National Properties, LLC v. Hilstead Trust" on Justia Law

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In this case involving six water right claims on Big Warm Creek the Supreme Court affirmed the Water Court's final order, holding that the Water Court did not err or abuse its discretion.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the Water Court (1) did not err by finding no ambiguity in the language of the deeds conveying portions of the Phillips Ranch, and the appurtenant water rights, from David Drum to Lloyd Knudsen, Wayne Norman, and Springdale Colony, Inc.; (2) did not err by declining to resort to extrinsic evidence of the parties’ intent; (3) did not err by apportioning the water pro-rata based on the parties’ historical use; and (4) did not abuse its discretion by denying Little Big Warm Ranch’s post-judgment motion for relief from the court’s final order. View "Little Big Warm Ranch, LLC v. Doll" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court's entry of summary judgment in favor of Elk Grove Development Company (Elk Grove) and the Elk Grove Homeowners Association (HOA) and entry of an injunction enjoining the Four Corners County Water and Sewer District from using the Elk Grove Subdivision's water "sourced from any of the wells located within the Subdivision and from the Water Right for use upon property outside the Subdivision, holding that the district court erred in determining that the Subdivision Covenant was a reasonable restraint upon the alienation of a water right.On appeal, the Water District argued that the Covenant was an unreasonable restraint on alienation because it usurped the State's jurisdiction over its water and violated the state water law requirement that waters be put to beneficial use. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred to the extent that it held the Covenant was a reasonable restraint on the alienation of the Subdivision's water and Water Right and so enjoined the Water District. View "Elk Grove Development Co. v. Four Corners County Water & Sewer District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed but on different grounds the summary judgment granted by the district court ruling that the equitable doctrine of unjust enrichment precluded the claim brought by Mountain Water Company for a general property tax refund on taxes that accrued during the pendency of a condemnation action initiated by the City of Missoula, holding that Mountain Water contractually waived its right to property tax proration and reimbursement from or against the City under Mont. Code Ann. 70-30-315.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court erred in concluding that the doctrine of unjust enrichment precluded relief on Mountain Water's claim for property tax proration and relief under Mont. Code Ann. 70-30-315; (2) the district court erred in concluding that, but for application of equitable unjust enrichment, section 70-30-315 would entitle Mountain Water to a general property tax refund under Mont. Code Ann. 15-1-402(1)-(2), (6)(b)(i) and -406(1)-(3); (3) Mountain Water contractually waived its right to property tax proportion and reimbursement from the City under section 70-30-315; and (4) the district court correctly concluded that Mountain Water's subsequent assertion of a general property tax refund claim did not breach the parties' 2017 condemnation action settlement agreement. View "Mountain Water v. Department of Revenue" on Justia Law