Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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Fred Sande, the personal representative of the Estate of Geraldine Sande, appealed a judgment distributing the estate. Geraldine Sande and her son, Philip Sande, owned Sande Music Company, a partnership. Geraldine owned 55 percent of the partnership and Philip owned the remaining 45 percent. In March 2010, Geraldine and Philip sold the company for $800,000, of which $600,000 was paid shortly after the sale and the remaining amount was to be paid in installments. Philip executed a promissory note in the amount of $55,000 in favor of Geraldine. Philip died on August 17, 2014, and his wife, Paulette Sande, was appointed the personal representative of his estate. Fred filed an inventory and appraisement of Geraldine's estate, which included real property, Geraldine's share of Sande Music sale proceeds, the $55,000 promissory note from Philip, and other assets. Philip objected to the inventory and appraisement, demanded an accounting of Geraldine's Estate, and requested the immediate return of any Estate assets. Philip alleged the Estate’s real property was undervalued, Fred removed assets from the real property, Fred conveyed real property to himself, and deprived Philip of his interest in the property, and alleged Fred failed to pay rent for use of the Estate's property while conducting business there. Philip also claimed that the value of the promissory note did not reflect payments that had been made and that there were no assets from the sale of Sande Music at the time of Geraldine's death. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the evidence supported the district court’s findings, the court’s finding that Fred breached his fiduciary duty was not clearly erroneous, and the court did not abuse its discretion by denying Fred's request for personal representative’s fees and attorney’s fees. View "Estate of Sande" on Justia Law

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Gary Haas, Brenda Haas, and the estate of Jenny Haas appealed a district court judgment dismissing their complaint against Hudson & Wylie LLP and its agents Terry Hudson, Doreen Hudson, and Luann Wiley. The Haases and Hudson & Wiley LLP owned adjacent parcels of land in Rolette County, North Dakota. All property at issue in this case was once owned by W.A. Lawston. Lawston partitioned the land and conveyed a parcel to Edwin Haas in 1962, and he conveyed the adjacent parcel to Raymond Hudson in 1968. Edwin's parcel was conveyed to Jenny in 2004, and Raymond's parcel was conveyed to Hudson & Wiley LLP in 2006. A 2.19-acre parcel and a 3.5-acre parcel of the Hudson property lie north of the road adjacent to the Haas property. The Haases used the 2.19-acre and 3.5-acre portions of the Hudson property north of the road for grazing cattle and cutting hay since the early 1960s. In April 2018, the Haases filed a complaint in district court alleging adverse possession, acquiescence, trespass, and willful damage to property. The district court found that Gary's use of the land was permissive, the court concluded the Haases had not adversely possessed the property because their use and possession of the parcels was not hostile. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in admitting hearsay testimony central to its decision, and reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Haas, et al. v. Hudson & Wylie LLP, et al." on Justia Law

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Janice and Robert Rieger appealed, and Lyle Ackerman and Kathleen Rub cross-appealed, a district court order directing the sale of real property owned by the Riegers, Ackerman, and Rub. Janice Rieger, Ackerman, and Rub owned a 473-acre parcel of agricultural property in Grant County, North Dakota. In May 2017, Janice Rieger sued Ackerman and Rub for partition of the property. Rieger proposed a partition of the property into thirds. Under the proposal, Rieger would receive the southern third of the property and Ackerman and Rub would split the remaining two-thirds of the property. Ackerman and Rub opposed Rieger’s proposal and requested a sale of the property. After a February 2019 trial, the district court ordered that the Riegers could have their proposed third of the property if the remainder could be “sold for 2/3 of the $917,000 amount indicated in a 2016 appraisal, or such other amount as may be agreed upon by the parties” within six months. If two-thirds of the property could not be sold for a satisfactory amount within six months, the court ordered the entire property be sold. The Riegers argued on appeal the district court erred in ordering a sale of the whole property if two-thirds of the property could not be sold within six months. The Riegers argued the court should have ordered a partition of the property. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the district court did not err with respect to its order regarding the property; however, the Court determined the Riegers’ motion for attorney’s fees was premature because they brought it within the six-month period to sell two-thirds of the property. The Court found that the district court did not deny the Riegers’ motion under N.D.C.C. 32-16-45. The Supreme Court remanded for the district court to decide the Riegers’ motion under N.D.C.C. 32-16-45. View "Rieger v. Ackerman, et al." on Justia Law

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Cheryl Reese appealed an amended judgment entered after the district court granted summary judgment deciding ownership of certain mineral interests and the right to receive the mineral royalties and bonus payments. In 2005, Dennis Reese and Tia Reese-Young, who both owned an interest in the minerals at the time, entered into an oil and gas lease for the property. After several conveyances, Dennis and Cheryl Reese owned a 12.5% interest in the minerals as joint tenants, and Reese-Young owned a 12.5% interest in the minerals as a tenant in common with Dennis and Cheryl. In July 2008, Dennis and Cheryl conveyed their 12.5% interest to Reese-Young by quit claim deed and reserved a life estate interest in the minerals. Dennis died in September 2008. In 2017, Cheryl sued Tia Reese-Young to quiet title and for declaratory judgment determining that Cheryl was the sole remaining life tenant in the property and that she was entitled to all of the proceeds to be derived from the minerals during her lifetime. Reese-Young argued the deed creating the life estate in Cheryl Reese did not explicitly reserve to Cheryl Reese an interest in the royalties, the deed was unambiguous, there were no disputed issues of material fact, and Tia Reese-Young is entitled to all of the income derived from the oil and gas production as a matter of law. Cheryl argued the unambiguous language of the deed established she reserved a life estate in the minerals and she was entitled to receive the royalty payments under the open mines doctrine because an oil and gas lease had been executed and oil and gas were being produced before the life estate was created. When the district court ruled in favor of Reese-Young, Cheryl appealed. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded as a matter of law, Cheryl was entitled to the proceeds from the oil and gas production, including the royalties and bonus payments, and she was not required to hold the proceeds in trust for Reese-Young. Judgment was reversed. View "Reese v. Reese-Young" on Justia Law

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Gerald Aftem and Aftem Lake Developments Inc. (Aftem) appealed a district court judgment dismissing its lawsuit against the Riverview Homeowners Association. In 1998, Aftem purchased 10.69 acres of real property in Mountrail County. Aftem subdivided part of the property into three platted subdivisions; Arrowhead Point, Bridgeview, and Riverview Estates, collectively referred to as the Riverview Subdivisions. Each subdivision plat stated the roads and public rights of way were dedicated to the public. In 2015, the Riverview HOA developed and built a water utility system for the subdivisions. Portions of the water system were located underneath the platted subdivision roads. Aftem sued the Riverview HOA for trespass and negligence, alleging it did not have permission to run its water lines underneath the subdivision roads to which Aftem claimed ownership. Aftem claimed it owned the roads within the subdivision because, although the County Commission approved the plats, the County did not maintain the roads. Riverview HOA denied the allegations, claiming the County Commission’s approval of the subdivision plats divested Aftem of ownership in the subdivision roads. The district court granted Riverview HOA’s motion and concluded Aftem had no ownership interest in the subdivision roads. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, finding Aftem’s subdivision plats satisfied N.D.C.C. section§ 40-50.1-01, 40-50.1-03, and 40-50.1-04. "The plats dedicated the use of the subdivision roads and public rights of way to the public forever. Thus, under N.D.C.C. 40-50.1-05, Aftem’s dedication of the subdivision roads and public rights of way divested Aftem of ownership in the roads." View "Aftem Lake Developments Inc. v. Riverview Homeowners Assoc." on Justia Law

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Craig Hauer appealed the dismissal of complaint seeking reformation of a deed to secure hunting access to property he had conveyed to Kurt and Lois Zerr. In 2013, Hauer sold land to the Zerrs. The parties’ contract and deed both include language reflecting the parties’ intent to allow Hauer to reserve hunting access to the land. Hauer accessed the land to hunt pursuant to the reservation until the Zerrs, believing the reservation to be unenforceable pursuant to N.D.C.C. 47- 05-17, denied Hauer access to the property. Hauer initiated this action seeking to reform the deed to reflect the parties’ intent to allow Hauer access to the property. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court correctly dismissed Hauer’s complaint seeking reformation of the deed and affirmed the district court. View "Hauer v. Zerr, et al." on Justia Law

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Linus and Raymond Poitra appeal the district court judgment of eviction. The Poitras argue the district court erred by exercising jurisdiction over this matter, and by sending a North Dakota law enforcement officer onto the reservation to evict tribal members from property within the Turtle Mountain Reservation. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the Poitras did not meet their burden under either "Montana" exception, and did not explain how a district court was divested of subject matter jurisdiction to grant a judgment of eviction. The district court judgment was therefore affirmed. View "Gustafson v. Poitra, et al." on Justia Law

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Michael and Bonita McDougall appealed a judgment dismissing their deceit and unjust enrichment claims against AgCountry Farm Credit Services, PCA and granting summary judgment in favor of AgCountry on its claims to enforce assignment of rents and to foreclose a mortgage. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court erred by concluding the McDougalls’ deceit claim was precluded by the statute of frauds. Therefore the Court reversef the judgment as to the deceit and unjust enrichment claims, affirmed judgment on the remaining claims, and remanded. View "McDougall, et al. v. AgCountry Farm Credit Services, PCA, et al." on Justia Law

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Larry Alber appealed a district court order denying his motion for injunctive relief against the City of Marion. Alber also appealed an order denying his motion for reconsideration. In 2003, the City sued Alber, alleging certain abandoned vehicles on Alber’s property violated a City ordinance and were a public nuisance. The district court entered a judgment against Alber finding the vehicles on Alber’s property were a public nuisance. The judgment required Alber to remove or lawfully maintain the vehicles. In 2013, the district court found Alber in contempt for violating the 2003 judgment’s requirement that he maintain the vehicles or remove them from his property. The court ordered Alber to remove all nuisance vehicles from his property. The court also ordered that any vehicles not removed by Alber could be removed by the City. In December 2016, Alber moved for injunctive relief, requesting a temporary restraining order prohibiting the City from entering his property to remove nuisance vehicles. As it related to the denial of his motion for injunctive relief, the North Dakota Supreme Court determined Alber’s brief failed to demonstrate that any of the injunctive relief factors weighed in his favor: he did not show a substantial probability of succeeding on the merits, proof of irreparable injury, harm to other interested parties, and how the public interest would be benefited by the granting of injunctive relief. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court. View "North Dakota ex rel. City of Marion v. Alber" on Justia Law

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Karen Wieland appeals from a judgment allowing the city of Fargo to take her property for flood mitigation purposes and awarding her $939,044.32 in just compensation, attorney fees, costs, and statutory expenses. Because the district court did not misapply the law in concluding the taking of Wieland’s property was necessary for a public use, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirm the judgment. View "City of Fargo v. Wieland" on Justia Law