Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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Lavern Behm appealed a judgment ordering Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. (“MDU”) to pay him $17,443 in attorney’s fees and costs incurred in an eminent domain action. Behm argued his constitutional rights were violated in the eminent domain action, and the district court erred by failing to award him some of the attorney’s fees he requested. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "MDU v. Behm" on Justia Law

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Gail Howard, Bruce Lindvig, and Milton Lindvig, personally and as Successor Personal Representative to the Estate of Ralph H. Lindvig, (together “the estate of Ralph Lindvig”) appealed a judgment entered in consolidated formal probate proceedings. In 2007, due to financial concerns related to paying for Ralph's care, his wife Dorothy Lindvig, acting as Ralph's attorney in fact, sold portions of Ralph's interests in the land he received from his parents to Milton Lindvig, Ralph's brother. The transfers were made by two warranty deeds, each of which severed the minerals and reserved them to Ralph and Dorothy as joint tenants. In May of 2007, Dorothy, again acting as Ralph's attorney in fact, conveyed the Wattam land to herself by warranty deed. When Ralph died, Dorothy was the personal representative of his estate. After her death in 2009, she was replaced by Milton. Dorothy died intestate, survived by a brother and her sister, Patricia Jellum, who was the personal representative of Dorothy's estate. The estate of Ralph Lindvig filed a petition in Dorothy's probate proceedings to set aside the intestate distribution of the minerals she severed and the Wattam land she conveyed to herself. The estate argued the transfers were beyond Dorothy's authority because they diminished the size of his estate and were not approved by a court, all in contravention of the power of attorney’s gifting provisions. The parties stipulated to consolidating the two probates as formal administrations. The probate court determined Dorothy did not breach her fiduciary duties by engaging in improper self-dealing. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the probate court's judgment. View "Estate of Lindvig" on Justia Law

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Joel Finstrom, James Finstrom and Annette Hauser appeal from orders and a judgment denying their claims related to Ruth Finstrom’s estate. Ruth and Carl Finstrom had seven children: James, Daniel , Joel, Annette Hauser, Janice Schulz, Mark, and Rebecca Lusk. In the late 1980s, Carl and Daniel Finstrom began farming together. According to trial testimony, Daniel made oral agreements with his parents to acquire three quarters of real property. In 2011 Daniel believed he had fulfilled the agreements, but Carl requested an additional $240,000 for the property. In August 2011, Ruth and Carl executed identical wills. The wills devised one-third of a quarter section of property to Joel, stating he had paid one-third of the price for the property. The quarter devised to Joel was one of the quarters Daniel believed he purchased. Carl died in November 2011. In December 2012, Ruth executed a contract for deed conveying the three quarters of real property to Daniel and Teresa Finstrom for $240,000. Ruth executed a new will in July 2015, devising the residue of her estate to her seven children in equal shares. In July 2016, Ruth conveyed additional real property to her daughter Janice Schulz. Ruth died in December 2016. In December 2016, the district court admitted Ruth Finstrom’s 2015 will to informal probate and appointed James personal representative. In March 2017, Joel filed a claim against the estate, asserting the estate owed him $200,000 for the value of an interest he owned in Ruth's real property. Joel also claimed the estate owed him $2,000 per month for providing Ruth in-home health care from May 1, 2015, to April 21, 2016. In May 2017, Mark petitioned for the removal of James as personal representative. In September 2017, James, individually and as personal representative, sued Schulz and Daniel and Teresa Finstrom seeking to invalidate the real property conveyances Ruth made to them. James Finstrom argued Ruth was unduly influenced in conveying the property. Schulz and Daniel and Teresa Finstrom denied the claims and counterclaimed, arguing James breached his fiduciary duties to the estate. James resigned as personal representative and Heartland Trust Company was appointed as successor personal representative. On March 12, 2019, the district court issued its findings of fact, conclusions of law and order for judgment, ruling Ruth's 2015 will was valid and revoked her 2011 will. The court denied Joel's claim he had an interest in Ruth's real property, and upheld Ruth's conveyances to Schulz and Daniel and Teresa Finstrom. The court found Ruth did not lack mental capacity to make the conveyances. The court also found Daniel and Teresa Finstrom did not have a confidential relationship with Ruth, and Ruth was not unduly influenced. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Joel, James and Annette's claims against the estate. View "Estate of Finstrom" on Justia Law

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RFM-TREI Jefferson Apartments, LLC; RFM-TREI Lincoln Apartments, LLC; Dickinson Homestay, LLC; and Lodgepros Dickinson, LLC (together “the Taxpayers”) appealed district court judgments affirming the Stark County Board of Commissioners’ (“the Board”) denials of their applications for tax abatements or refunds. The Taxpayers collectively owned two apartment complexes and two hotels located in the City of Dickinson. The Taxpayers filed applications for abatement or refund of their 2016 property taxes. The Taxpayers’ opinions of value for each property differed from the City’s valuations by a range of roughly $1.8 million to $20.3 million. After holding a hearing, the City recommended the Board deny each application. The Board indeed denied the abatement applications in four separate written decisions. Using the same language in each, the Board concluded the assessor’s valuations were not “in error, invalid, inequitable, unjust, or arrived at in an arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable manner.” The decisions also explained the Board did not believe the Taxpayers provided “sufficient enough information relating to the subject properties, or the local market for competing properties, to lead us to the same value conclusions requested by the applicant.” The district court affirmed each denial in separate, written orders and judgments. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the Board acted arbitrarily and unreasonably in adopting assessments exceeding the true and full value of the property. The Court reversed the district court judgments and the Board’s decisions denying the Taxpayers’ abatement applications. The matters were remanded for a new hearing to determine the “true and full value” of the properties and reconsideration of the abatement applications. View "RFM-TREI Jefferson Apartments v. Stark County Board of Comm'rs" on Justia Law

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G&D Enterprises (“G&D”) appealed the dismissal of its claims against against Merrilynn Liebelt. G&D and Liebelt owned adjacent properties in the City of Beulah, North Dakota. In the summer of 2015, G&D discovered a private water line while digging on its property, puncturing the line. The water line crossed a portion of G&D’s property and supplied water to Liebelt’s residence on her property. Before either G&D or Liebelt owned their respective property, both properties had been one lot. The existence of the water line was not recorded, and neither party had actual knowledge of the water line before G&D discovered it. It was undisputed that there was no express easement of record for the water line. In November 2017, G&D filed a summons and complaint at district court, asserting claims against Liebelt for private nuisance and civil trespass and seeking damages and injunctive relief. Liebelt answered, denying the allegations and asserting G&D was not entitled to any damages, injunctive relief, or recovery. In March 2019, Liebelt moved the district court for summary judgment on all claims. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the court erred in granting summary judgment because the court misapplied the law, and genuine issues of material fact existed on G&D’s claims for nuisance and trespass, and the court erred in dismissing G&D’s request for injunctive relief. View "G & D Enterprises v. Liebelt" on Justia Law

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Robert Hall appealed a judgment entered in favor of the defendants Estate of John Hall, Deborah Hall, and Leslie Hall Butzer ("Hall defendants") in this action to quiet title to a non-participating royalty interest (NPRI) in certain real property. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion in vacating a default judgment against John Hall. However, because res judicata did not bar Robert Hall’s claims, the court erred in granting summary judgment to the Hall defendants. The matter was therefore affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Hall v. Hall, et al." on Justia Law

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Cash Aaland, Larry Bakko, and Penny Cirks (the “Landowners”) moved to stay, pending appeal, district court orders granting the Cass County Joint Water Resource District (the “District”) a right of entry onto their properties. In September and December 2019, the District contacted the Landowners seeking easements on their properties to conduct long-term monitoring for the Fargo-Moorhead Flood Diversion Project (the “Project”). After the District failed to obtain these easements, it applied for a permit to enter the Landowners’ properties to monitor environmental impacts in connection with the Project through December 2021. The application provided that access to the Landowners’ properties was necessary to conduct examinations, surveys, and mapping, including geomorphic examinations requiring installation of survey monuments on certain properties. The Landowners opposed the District’s application. To the North Dakota Supreme Court, the Landowners argued that without a stay, they would suffer irreparable injury. Finding the Landowners would not suffer irreparable injury, the Court denied the motion to stay the district court orders. View "Cass County Joint Water Resource District v. Aaland, et al." on Justia Law

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Appellants, the Pederson defendants, appealed after a district court granted summary judgment quieting title to certain mineral interests in appellees, the Muhlbradt plaintiffs. The Pederson defendants argued the court erred in deciding a deed did not except or reserve a future 50 percent interest in the disputed mineral interests to the defendants or their predecessor in interest. They further contended the court erred in relying on division orders to conclude the defendants’ predecessor in interest conveyed the disputed mineral interests. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Muhlbradt, et al. v. Pederson, et al." on Justia Law

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Dennis Thorson appeals from a judgment ordering him to remove a building from Keith Kvande’s property. Kvande owns real property described as Lot 3 in Block 1 of the School Addition to the City of Wheelock, Williams County, North Dakota. In 2012, Thorson purchased a building located in Epping, North Dakota. Kvande and Thorson had multiple discussions about moving the building to Kvande’s property. Thorson claimed they discussed moving the building onto Kvande’s property permanently, but Kvande claimed they only discussed moving the building onto his property for temporary storage. The parties did not have a written agreement about the property or the building. In fall 2012, Thorson had a concrete foundation poured for the building on Kvande’s property and moved the building onto the foundation. Thorson hooked the building up to sewer, water, and electrical service, and he began living in the building. Thorson did not pay Kvande rent or purchase the property. In May 2015 or 2016, Kvande demanded Thorson vacate the property, but Thorson did not leave. Kvande then attempted to evict Thorson from the property. In September 2017, Kvande sued Thorson, requesting the district court order Thorson to remove the building from the property and return the property to its prior state or award him the cost of having the building removed and the property restored. On appeal, Thorson argued laches and equitable estoppel applied and prevented Thorson’s removal from the property. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err by finding laches and equitable estoppel did not apply and did not preclude the court from ordering the removal of the building from Kvande’s property. View "Kvande v. Thorson" on Justia Law

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The dispute concerned lots, streets, and alleys within or near the City of Glen Ullin. The lots, streets, and alleys were all surveyed and platted, but undeveloped. The Park District owned or had authority over the lots. The City had authority over the streets and alleys, which ran adjacent to and between the lots. The Schirados owned land near both the Park District property and the City property. The Shirados appealed after the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the City and the Park District, concluding the case was res judicata due to a prior lawsuit between the Park District and the Schirados. The court entered judgment enjoining the Schirados from placing any obstruction or personal property on certain City lands and on certain Park District lands and awarded attorney’s fees. After its review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the court properly applied the doctrine of res judicata to the Park District lands, which were the subject of the prior lawsuit, but it erred when it applied res judicata to the City lands, which were not included in the prior lawsuit. The Court therefore affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated the award of attorney’s fees and costs, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "City of Glen Ullin, et al. v. Schirado, et al." on Justia Law