Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Rhode Island Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court entered in favor of Plaintiffs, Charles and Nicole Martin, on their claim for injunctive relief allowing them to access a common driveway for the purpose of entering and existing their property and enjoining Defendants, Glenn and Valerie Wilson, from interfering with such use, holding that the trial justice did not err.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the trial justice (1) did not err by allowing parol evidence to be admitted; (2) neither overlooked nor misconceived material evidence in finding that Plaintiffs established an implied easement over the disputed section of the common driveway; and (3) did not err by finding that Defendants' counterclaims for declaratory judgment, trespass, and equitable relief were moot. View "Martin v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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In this partition action, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court ruling that Plaintiff's death terminated her interest in a joint tenancy, holding that R.I. Gen. Laws 34-15-12 abrogates the common law right of survivorship in a joint tenancy when an action for partition is pending.Plaintiff filed a partition action requesting that the superior court partition property she owned in a joint tenancy with Defendants. Defendants asserted counterclaims for unjust enrichment and breach of agreement. While the litigation was pending, Plaintiff died. Defendants moved to dismiss the partition action, asserting that Plaintiff's property interest had passed to the remaining joint tenants by operation of law upon Plaintiff's demise. The hearing justice granted the motion. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that Plaintiff's decease did not abate her action for partition, and therefore, the litigation remained pending. View "Butler v. Gavek" on Justia Law

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In this foreclosure action, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the superior court, holding that questions of disputed material facts existed regarding Plaintiff's claims for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing that could not be resolved on a motion for judgment on the pleadings.Defendants, as mortgagees, caused a foreclosure sale to be conducted for certain property. Plaintiff was the successful bidder. Defendants were prepared to convey title to Plaintiff but when Defendants asserted that Plaintiff was liable for all costs that had accrued with respect to the property, but Plaintiff disputed this liability. Defendants then caused a foreclosure-of-bid letter to be sent to Plaintiff. Plaintiff brought this action alleging four counts. The superior court granted Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment as to the claim under the Unfair Trade Practice and Consumer Protection Act and otherwise vacated the judgment, holding that the district court erred in granting judgment on the pleadings as to the remaining counts. View "Premier Home Restoration, LLC v. Federal National Mortgage Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant and dismissing Plaintiffs' claim for breach of the implied warranty of habitability, holding that Plaintiffs' claim for breach of the implied warranty of habitability was time barred.Plaintiffs purchased a home from Defendant and received a warranty deed. Plaintiffs later brought this action alleging seven counts. The hearing justice granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant on all counts, determining that Plaintiffs' tort claims were barred by the statute of repose and that this Court's holding in Nichols v. R.R. Beaufort & Associates, Inc., 727 A.2d 174 (R.I. 1999), barred Plaintiffs' claim based on the implied warranty of habitability. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Nichols applies to original homeowners, and therefore, homeowners have a period of ten years following substantial completion of improvement to real property to discover a latent defect; and (2) Plaintiffs' claim for breach of the implied warranty of habitability in this case was time barred. View "Mondoux v. Vanghel" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of purchasers of a marina, holding that Plaintiff's claims were barred by the doctrine of res judicata.An earlier partition action was commenced to settle an intrafamily properly dispute among descendants of Eleanor Mott. In that action, a special master, who was appointed to manage the businesses of the various properties subject to partition, terminated Plaintiff's lease to one of those properties, a marina, because a bona fide purchaser had agreed to purchase the various properties during the course of the partition proceeding, in which Plaintiff had participated. Plaintiff then initiated this action to challenge the special master's authority to terminate Plaintiff's lease. The superior court granted summary judgment to the purchasers of the marina, finding that Plaintiff's claims were barred by res judicata. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the hearing justice did not err by granting summary judgment for Defendants on res judicata grounds. View "BI Boat Basin Associates, LLC v. Sky Blue Pink, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Plaintiff, Bank of America, in this consolidated appeal, holding that the hearing justice did not err.Defendants were the sole principles of an LLC. The LLC executed a promissory note to Plaintiff secured by a first-position mortgage on the property. On the same day, Defendants executed a guaranty of the loan agreement. When the LLC failed to pay the note, Plaintiff filed complaints in Connecticut Superior Court and in Rhode Island Superior Court seeking to foreclose on the property and arguing that Defendants were jointly and severally liable for the indebtedness due under their guaranty. In both actions, final judgment was entered in favor of Plaintiff. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the hearing justice did not err when he (1) granted Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment as to Defendants' liability on the guaranty; (2) found that Defendants were bound by the Connecticut Superior Court's deficiency calculation; and (3) denied Defendant's motion to amend his answer without holding a hearing. View "Bank of America, N.A. v. Fay" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Gonsalves-Pastore Realty, LLC and dismissing Mauro Poletti's negligence complaint, holding that summary judgment was properly granted.Poletti entered into an agreement with Linda Glynn, a licensed real estate agent, to assist him in the purchase of real estate for investment purposes. Later, Glynn granted two mortgages on property purchased in furtherance of Poletti's investment plan and used the resulting funds in contravention of that plan. In his complaint, Plaintiff alleged that Gonsalves-Pastore, as Glynn's employer or principal, breached its fiduciary duty to Poletti to oversee Glynn such that Glynn was acting in the best interests of Poletti and that no loss would ever occur to Poletti. The hearing justice granted summary judgment for Gonsalves-Pastore. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the hearing justice did not err in (1) determining that no genuine issue of material fact remained as to whether or not a fiduciary relationship existed between Poletti and Gonsalves-Pastore; and (2) concluding that no genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether or not Defendant was liable for Glynn's alleged acts of malfeasance. View "Poletti v. Glynn" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendant, Pinto's Auto & truck Repair, LLC, in this action alleging that Defendant's repairs to Plaintiff's 2004 Freightliner Columbia were faulty, holding that the hearing justice properly granted summary judgment in Defendant's favor.The hearing justice granted summary judgment for Defendant because Plaintiff did not produce the required expert testimony to demonstrate that there was a genuine issue of material fact in dispute regarding Defendant's allegedly negligent failure to observe industry standard, negligent service and installation, and failure to deliver a properly serviced truck. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment was proper where Plaintiff produced no admissible evidence that Defendant negligently repaired the Freightliner, breached any contract it had with Plaintiff by failing to deliver a properly serviced truck, or alternatively, was unjustly enriched by accepting Plaintiff's money without completing proper repairs. View "Vicente v. Pinto's Auto & Truck Repair, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the superior court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint against Defendants and declaring that a foreclosure sale of Plaintiff's property was valid, holding that the foreclosure sale was void because the notice of default sent to Plaintiff failed to comply with the terms of the mortgage.In 2007, Plaintiff purchased property and granted a mortgage on the property to secure a loan. In 2014, Plaintiff became delinquent on the mortgage. The mortgagee sent a notice of default and intent to accelerate to Plaintiff. After Plaintiff failed to cure the default, Plaintiff's property was sold at foreclosure sale. Plaintiff filed suit, alleging that the default notice was deficient and thus the foreclosure sale was void. After Defendants' motion for summary judgment was denied, Defendants sought declaratory relief seeking a declaration that the default notice sent to Plaintiff complied with the terms of the mortgage. The trial justice ruled in favor of Defendants. An order then entered dismissing Plaintiff's complaint and declaring the foreclosure sale valid. The Supreme Court vacated the order of the superior court, holding that the default notice failed strictly to comply with the terms of the mortgage, and therefore, Defendants failed to satisfy the condition precedent to a valid foreclosure. View "Woel v. Christiana Trust" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered in this case in what situations a non-attorney who performs one or more of the various services that are associated with a real estate transaction is engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.The Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee transmitted three reports to the Supreme Court concluding that Respondents had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by engaging in several aspects of residential real estate transactions that constitute the practice of law. The Supreme Court declined to adopt the Committee's recommendations in part and accepted them in part, holding (1) title insurance companies and their agencies do not engage in the unauthorized practice of law when they conduct a residential real estate closing, draft a residency affidavit, and draft a limited durable power of attorney when those activities are carried out in connection with the issuance of title insurance; (2) a title insurance company by conduct the examination of title for marketability only if a licensed attorney conducts the examination; and (3) drafting a deed constitutes the practice of law and that an attorney is required to either draft the deed or review it after its has been prepared. View "In re William E. Paplauskas, Jr." on Justia Law