Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in South Dakota Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court determining that a limited private easement granted Thomas Estes the right of access across Lot 2R within the Estes Subdivision solely to repair or install water lines and that a prescriptive easement did not exist in favor of Estes for the use of a road (Easement Road) that crossed Lot 2R, holding that the circuit court did not err. Estes owned Lots 3 and 4R2 in the subdivision, and Kathrine owned Lot 2R. After hostiles developed concerning Estes' use of the Easement Road, the parties filed multiple claims against one another. After several of the claims were settled or resolved on summary judgment the circuit court resolved the remaining claims during a bench trial. Estes appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err when it limited the private easement granting a right of access across Lot 2R solely for the repair or installation of water lines; and (2) the circuit court did not err in determining that the evidence did not satisfy the elements for a prescriptive easement. View "Helleberg v. Estes" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court affirming the assessed value of Appellants' agricultural land by the Meade County Commission sitting as a board of equalization (the Board), holding that the circuit court did not err. Before the Board, Appellants argued that the director of equalization incorrectly applied statutory provisions to determine their land's production value. The Board further adjusted the assessment from an average of $519 per acre down to an average of $512 per acre. Appellants appealed the Board's decision to circuit court. After a trial de novo, the circuit court affirmed the Board's tax assessment of the property. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err when it determined that (1) the Board complied with the statutory provisions for evaluating agricultural land in their assessment of Appellants' property; and (2) the Board's tax assessment of the property did not violate provisions of the South Dakota Constitution that require uniform taxation at no more than its actual value. View "Trask v. Meade County Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court denying Karen Dunham's petition for writ of certiorari challenging the decision of the Lake County Board of Adjustment (Board) approving Hodne Homes, LLC's requests for a variance and conditional use permit (CUP), holding that the Board exceeded its authority in granting the variance but did not exceed its legal authority when it approved the CUP. Hodne Homes purchased a Lake County lot to build a facility to store and display boats. Hodne Homes sought the variance and CUP because the proposed facility exceeded the size and setback restrictions for the lot under the Lake County Zoning Ordinance. Dunham, an adjoining landowner, objected, but the Board granted both requests. The court of appeals denied Dunham's petition for writ of certiorari challenging the Board's decision. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the Board exceeded its legal authority under the ordinance when it approved the variance; and (2) the Board did not exceed its authority under the ordinance when it approved the CUP, the Board's decision did not violate Dunham's due process rights, and the Board committed no procedural errors in its approval of the CUP. View "Dunham v. Lake County Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's dismissal of Plaintiff's deceit claim and affirmed the circuit court's rulings as to Plaintiff's breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation and fraud claims and as to Defendants' counterclaim seeking damages under two three-year lease agreements allowing Plaintiff to rent Defendants' ranch, holding that the circuit court erred in concluding that Defendants fraudulently induced Plaintiff to enter into one of the leases. Following disputes between the parties, Defendants refused Plaintiff's lease payments for the second year. Plaintiff filed suit, and Defendants counterclaimed. The trial court found one lease valid and binding and the other lease valid but voidable. A jury awarded damages to both parties. The Supreme Court reversed in part and otherwise affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in its evidentiary rulings and in its jury instructions; (2) the circuit court did not err when it found the second lease voidable instead of void; and (3) the circuit court erred when it granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's claim that Defendants fraudulently induced him to enter into the second lease. The Court remanded the case for a new trial on Plaintiff's deceit claim. View "Knecht v. Evridge" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Lake County Board of Commissioners, sitting as the Lake County Drainage Board (Board), approving the application for permits filed by Steven Carmody and Edward Becker to install drain tile on their respective properties in Lake County, holding that the circuit court did not err when it affirmed the Board's decision to issue the drainage permits. James Carmody objected to both permits and appealed the Board's approval of the permits to the circuit court. The circuit court applied the abuse of discretion standard of review and affirmed the Board's approval of the drainage permits. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) applied the correct standard of review and burden of proof to Carmody's appeal of the drainage permits; and (2) did not abuse its discretion when it affirmed the Board's decision to issue the drainage permits. View "Carmody v. Lake County Board Of Commissioners" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the decision of the circuit court dismissing an application for a writ of prohibition, sua sponte, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that the circuit court erred by dismissing the alternative application for writ of certiorari. Triple K Land, LLC successfully applied to the Hanson County Board of adjustment for a conditional use permit to construct a pig nursery facility. Loren Huber and Amy Nolan-Huber (the Hubers), adjacent property owners, applied for a writ of prohibition, alternatively designating the application as a verified petition setting forth the illegality of the Board's decision. During a hearing, the circuit court granted Triple K's oral motion to intervene. The court then dismissed the application for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) insofar as the circuit court dismissed the claim for writ of prohibition, it did not err; (2) the Hubers complied with the requirements of S.D. Codified Laws 11-2-61, and the circuit court had subject matter jurisdiction to hear the matter by writ of certiorari; and (3) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in granting Triple K's motion to intervene. View "Huber v. Hanson County Planning Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of the Estate of Kenneth Stoebner in this breach of fiduciary duty claim against Curtis Huether, who served as Stoebner's attorney-in-fact under a power of attorney, holding that summary judgment was properly granted. Under his role of Stoebner's attorney-infant Huether executed a sale of Stoebner's real property to himself four days before Stoebner died. Stoebner's Estate commenced this action for breach of fiduciary duty, alleging that Huether engaged in an act of self-dealing when he executed the purchase agreement and warranty deed in his own favor as the attorney-in-fact for Stoebner. The circuit court granted summary judgment to the Estate and ordered that the sale be declared null and void. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that no genuine disputes of material fact existed regarding Huether's fiduciary duty to Stoebner to not engage in acts of self-dealing under the provisions of the power of attorney. View "Estate of Stoebner v. Huether" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the circuit court's judgment granting Defendants summary judgment in part and, after a trial, entering a judgment consistent with the jury verdict, holding that a new trial on Plaintiffs' conversion and unjust enrichment claims was necessary. Plaintiffs loaned Defendants nearly $1.2 million, securing the loans with fifty-five promissory notes. Plaintiffs later sued Defendants for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and conversion. Defendants counterclaimed for conversion and unjust enrichment. The circuit court granted Defendants summary judgment in part, dismissing forty-eight of the promissory notes as time barred and concluding that the related mortgage was unenforceable. After a trial, the jury returned a verdict for Plaintiffs on their breach of contract claim, rejected their claim for conversion, and awarded Defendants $135,000 on their conversion counterclaim. The jury then rendered an advisory verdict for Defendants as to the parties' competing claims for unjust enrichment. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the circuit court (1) abused its discretion by giving a missing witness instruction at trial, (2) erred by allowing the jury to determine the date to begin calculating interest on the enforceable promissory notes, and (3) erred in allowing the jury to consider evidence of the time-barred notes when considering Plaintiffs' claims of unjust enrichment. View "Mealy v. Prins" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismissing Plaintiff's suit claiming that he was financially damaged by Defendants' fraud and conspiracy and deprived of control over the family ranch, holding that the circuit court properly concluded that Plaintiff's suit was time barred. This case arose out of a family dispute over ownership and control of a family ranch. Plaintiff sued his mother, brothers, former attorney, and two business entities charging Defendants with, among other things, conversion, fraud, and conspiracy to commit fraud and requesting punitive and compensatory damages. The circuit court granted Defendants' motions for summary judgment on all claims, concluding that Plaintiff's claims were time barred. The circuit court then granted Defendants' motions for attorney fees, concluding that Plaintiff's lawsuit was frivolous and malicious. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) properly concluded that Plaintiff's suit was time barred; and (2) did not abuse its discretion by awarding attorney fees to Defendants. View "Healy v. Osborne" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's order dismissing this action brought by Bingham Farms Trust objecting to a special assessment lien levied upon its property by the City of Belle Fourche and affirmed the court's denial of the City's request for attorney fees, holding that the court had jurisdiction to determine the enforceability of the lien against Bingham. The circuit court declined to consider the merits of the parties' arguments regarding enforceability of the lien and instead granted the City's motion to dismiss on the grounds that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court had the jurisdiction to hear and determine Bingham's argument that the lien was not enforceable against it, and therefore, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion when it denied the City's request for attorney fees. View "Bingham Farms Trust v. City Of Belle Fourche" on Justia Law