Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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Karen and Jerome Schirado appealed a judgment granting the City of Glen Ullin and the Glen Ullin Park District permanent injunctive relief and awarding the Park District attorney’s fees. The Schirados owned land near both Park District and City property. In 2013, the Park District sued the Schirados to enjoin them from fencing and allowing their horses to graze on Park District lots. The Park District was granted default judgment. In 2019, the Park District and the City sued again, alleging the Schirados violated the 2013 judgment. The suit contained claims similar to the 2013 suit, with additional claims involving the City’s streets and alleys which were not involved in the original action. The Schirados conceded they placed fencing on the properties and allowed their horses to graze, but alleged they were given permission by the City. The district court granted a preliminary injunction in favor of the City and the Park District. The court found the Schirados in contempt of court because of their violation of the 2013 judgment, and awarded attorney’s fees and costs to the City and the Park District. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed the judgment in favor of the City, and reversed and remanded the fee award for the district court to explain its rationale for the award, including which amount is a sanction for contempt, and which portion is allocated to each plaintiff. On remand, the Schirados moved a new trial, claiming Karen Schirado possessed additional testimony and evidence “necessary to allow her to fully present her case.” The district court denied the motion for trial and concluded the Schirados had two opportunities to present evidence of an oral or written agreement to use the City property and failed to do so. The court granted the City’s motion for summary judgment, concluding the Schirados failed to present admissible evidence in resistance to the City and Park District’s motion for summary judgment. The court also granted the City and the Park District permanent injunctive relief and awarded the Park District $5,460.00 in attorney’s fees. The Schirados appeal from the amended judgment. Finding no reversible error in the amendment judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "City of Glen Ullin, et al. v. Schirado, et al." on Justia Law

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Earl Schwartz Company and the co-personal representatives of the Estate of Earl N. Schwartz (amongst others, together “ESCO”) and SunBehm Gas, Inc. appealed a judgment quieting title to oil and gas interests in Great Plains Royalty Corporation. Great Plains cross appealed, arguing the district court erred when it denied its claims for damages. Great Plains’ creditors filed an involuntary petition for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in 1968. The case was converted to a Chapter 7 liquidation proceeding. The bankruptcy trustee prepared an inventory and published a notice of sale that listed various assets, including oil and gas interests. Earl Schwartz was the highest bidder. Schwartz entered into an agreement with SunBehm to sell certain interests described in the notice, and the district court order approved the transfer of those interests directly from the bankruptcy estate to SunBehm. The bankruptcy case was closed in 1974. Great Plains’ creditors were not initially paid in full; the bankruptcy case was reopened in 2013, Great Plains’ creditors were paid in full with interest, and adversary proceedings were brought to determine ownership of various oil and gas interests, to which ESCO was a party. ESCO argued the bankruptcy sale transferred all of the interests owned by Great Plains, regardless of whether they were listed in the notice of sale. The bankruptcy court rejected ESCO’s argument and determined title to various properties (not the subject of the present appeal). Then in 2016, Great Plains brought this quiet title action against ESCO and SunBehm; ESCO and SunBehm brought quiet title cross claims. The district court held a bench trial and found the bankruptcy trustee intended to sell “100%” of all of the oil and gas interests Great Plains owned at the time of the bankruptcy. But the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed, finding the district court erred when it determined the bankruptcy trustee intended to sell all of Great Plains’ interests, including those not listed in the notice of sale. On remand, ESCO and SunBehm claimed they held equitable title to oil and gas interests in various tracts identified in the notice of sale, interest which were confirmed by the bankruptcy court. The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s ruling on collateral estoppel as a misapplication of the law, and vacated the court’s title determination and its denial of Great Plains’ conversion claim. The case was remanded for the court to determine whether ownership of any interests in the tracts identified in the notice of sale passed to ESCO or SunBehm by virtue of the bankruptcy sale and confirmation order. View "Great Plains Royalty Corp. v. Earl Schwartz Co., et al." on Justia Law

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Landowners Cash Aaland, Larry Bakko, and Penny Cirks, appealed orders granting the Cass County Joint Water Resource District (the “District”) a right of entry onto their properties to conduct surveys and examinations related to the Fargo-Moorhead Flood Diversion Project. The Landowners argued these surveys and examinations are beyond the scope of N.D.C.C. 32-15-06. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed, concluding the District’s right of entry exceeded the limited testing permitted under the statute. The matter was remanded for a determination on attorney’s fees and costs. View "Cass County Joint Water Resource District v. Aaland, et al." on Justia Law

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James Seidel, Troy Seidel, and Gravel Supply LLC (Defendants) appealed a judgment awarding the Estate of Leroy Seidel $68,958.75 relating to the Defendants’ sale of gravel from certain real property. Defendants argued Leroy Seidel did not own any gravel interests in the property because he had conveyed his interests to James Seidel in a 2008 warranty deed. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed and remanded, concluding Leroy Seidel indeed did not own any gravel or other surface mineral interests in the subject property. View "Estate of Seidel v. Seidel, et al." on Justia Law

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R & F Financial Services, LLC, appealed a district court order dismissing its claims against Cudd Pressure Control, Inc., and RPC, Inc., and granting Cudd’s and RPC’s counterclaims and cross claims. North American Building Solutions, LLC (“NABS”) and Cudd Pressure Control, Inc. (“Cudd”) entered into an agreement where Cudd would lease from NABS 60 temporary housing modules for employee housing. The terms of the Lease required Cudd, at its sole expense, to obtain any conditional use permits, variances or zoning approvals “required by any local, city, township, county or state authorities, which are necessary for the installation and construction of the modules upon the Real Property.” The Lease was set to commence following substantial completion of the installation of all the modules and was to expire 60 months following the commencement date. NABS assigned its interest in 28 modules under lease to R & F; NABS sold the modules to R & F by bill of sale. Cudd accepted the final 32 modules from NABS, to which R & F was not a party. RPC, as the parent company of Cudd, guaranteed Cudd’s performance of payment obligations to R & F under the Lease. The Lease was for a set term and did not contain an option for Cudd to purchase the modules at the expiration of that set term. At the time R & F purchased NABS’s interest in the Lease, it understood the purpose of the Lease was to fulfill Cudd’s need for employee housing. The County required a conditional use permit for workforce housing, and Cudd had been issued a permit allowing for the use of the modules as workforce housing. The City of Williston annexed the Property within its corporate limits. Thereafter, the City adopted a resolution that declared all workforce housing was temporary and extension of permits was subject to review. The City modified the expiration date policy and extended all approvals for workforce housing facilities to December 31, 2015, such that all permits would expire the same day. In December 2015, Cudd successfully extended its permit for the maximum time permitted to July 1, 2016. Cudd sent a letter to NABS stating that it viewed the Lease as being terminated by operation of law as of July 1, 2016. R & F argued the trial court erred in finding the Lease was not a finance lease and, in the alternative, that the court erred in finding the doctrines of impossibility of performance and frustration of purpose to be inapplicable. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "R & F Financial Services v. North American Building Solutions, et al." on Justia Law

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Riley Kuntz appealed the district court’s default judgment entered in his favor. Kuntz sued Ashlynn Leiss and Joseph Westbrook for trespass and theft of his cat trap. Neither Leiss nor Westbrook answered the complaint or otherwise appeared. Following an evidentiary hearing, the district court granted default judgment in favor of Kuntz. The court found a trespass and conversion of the cat trap had occurred. The court awarded Kuntz a money judgment for conversion of the cat trap, but found he did not suffer any actual damages as a result of the trespass. Kuntz argues the district court erred by denying his damages for trespass. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Kuntz v. Leiss, et al." on Justia Law

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Following a bench trial, Kelly and Debra Perhus appealed from a district court judgment quieting title to disputed property in Kevin and Angela McCarvel. Kelly Perhus was the record title owner of the property. The court found the disputed parcel was .41 acres in size. The McCarvels owned the property adjacent to the disputed parcel and the Perhuses’ property. The McCarvels purchased their property in 2003. The trial court traced ownership of the McCarvel property back to 1992. The disputed parcel was set off from the rest of the Perhus property due to road construction predating 1992. The court found the McCarvels “maintained a dike, planted trees, mowed the grass and maintained a driveway across the disputed property.” The court ultimately held the McCarvels met their claim for adverse possession by clear and convincing evidence. It also found the McCarvels met all the elements for boundary by acquiescence. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "McCarvel, et al. v. Perhus, et al." on Justia Law

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Three Aces Properties LLC appealed, and United Rentals (North America), Inc., cross-appealed a judgment and orders denying their motions to amend the judgment. In 2017, Three Aces sued United Rentals for breach of contract and waste. Three Aces claimed United Rentals breached the lease by failing to pay rent after it vacated the property, failing to maintain and repair the parking area, and failing to maintain and repair the premises. Three Aces alleged United Rentals’ use of the premises resulted in destruction of the asphalt parking area and damages to the building and other areas of the property. Three Aces claimed United Rentals attempted to repair the parking area by replacing the asphalt paving with scoria, the City of Williston notified the parties that replacement of the asphalt with scoria violated zoning ordinances, and the parties disagreed about which party had an obligation to repair the parking area. Three Aces argued the district court erred by failing to award it damages for its breach of contract claims. United Rentals argued the court erred in dismissing its breach of contract and constructive eviction claim. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Three Aces Properties v. United Rentals" on Justia Law

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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