Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama
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Harold Wallace, a tenant of the Housing Authority of the City of Talladega, fell while descending the back-porch stairs of his apartment due to missing handrails. Wallace sued the Housing Authority for negligence and wantonness. The Housing Authority moved for a summary judgment, arguing that the lack of handrails was an "open and obvious" danger and that Wallace had conceded in his deposition that he was aware of this. The trial court granted the Housing Authority's motion for a summary judgment. Wallace appealed to the Court of Civil Appeals.The Court of Civil Appeals reversed the trial court's summary judgment in favor of the Housing Authority. The Housing Authority then petitioned the Supreme Court of Alabama for certiorari review, arguing that the Court of Civil Appeals' decision conflicts with a prior decision in Daniels v. Wiley, where the court affirmed a summary judgment for the defendant landlord after concluding that the landlord had no duty to the plaintiff tenant with respect to risks created by the muddy condition of a sidewalk within her apartment complex because the danger was "open and obvious."The Supreme Court of Alabama affirmed the decision of the Court of Civil Appeals, concluding that the decision does not conflict with Daniels. The court clarified that while the Daniels decision is sound, it should not be interpreted as rejecting a landlord's duties under the circumstances described in §§ 360 and 361 of the First Restatement and the Second Restatement. The court found that the Housing Authority failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the principles set forth in §§ 360 and 361 apply to the circumstances in this case, and therefore, the Housing Authority was not entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. View "Ex parte The Housing Authority of the City of Talladega" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Alabama reviewed a case involving a dispute over an undeveloped island ("the island") located within a canal system on Ono Island, a residential subdivision. The island was created during the development of the canal system and was later sold in a tax sale. F Family South, LLC ("FFS") acquired the island and sought to construct a boat shelter on it. The Property Owners Association of Ono Island, Inc. ("the POA") objected, arguing that the island was subject to certain covenants restricting its use.The Baldwin Circuit Court ruled in favor of the POA, finding that the island was subject to both express and implied covenants restricting its use. The court also invalidated the 1995 tax sale through which FFS had obtained ownership of the island, and declared the POA as the island's owner.FFS appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in voiding the 1995 tax sale and in concluding that the island was subject to the covenants. The Supreme Court of Alabama reversed the trial court's decision to void the tax sale, but affirmed the finding that the island was subject to implied restrictive covenants governing its use. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the Supreme Court's opinion. View "F Family South, LLC v. Property Owners Association of Ono Island, Inc." on Justia Law

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The case involves siblings Kim J. Washington and Katrina J. Williams who filed a lawsuit against their brother Elrick Earl Johnson seeking to partition a jointly owned real property. The property in question is "heirs property" under the Alabama Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act ("the Heirs Act"). The plaintiffs proposed to sell the property, a plan Johnson disagreed with, arguing that the property could be partitioned in kind.The Baldwin Circuit Court conducted a bench trial on the matter. The plaintiffs argued that the property was incapable of being equally and equitably partitioned in kind, hence their request for the property to be sold and the proceeds divided among the parties according to their respective ownership interests. Johnson, on the other hand, disputed this claim, suggesting that the property could be partitioned in kind.The trial court granted Johnson's motion for a judgment as a matter of law, finding that the plaintiffs failed to meet their burden of proof that the property could not be equitably divided. The court did not order that the property be partitioned in kind or otherwise equitably divided.The Supreme Court of Alabama affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court agreed with the trial court's finding that the property could be partitioned in kind. However, it reversed the trial court's judgment to the extent that it failed to order that the property be partitioned in kind, as required by the Heirs Act. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. View "Washington v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute among Players Recreation Group, LLC, an Alabama limited-liability company, three of its members, Jason L. McCarty, Felix McCarty, and Doyle Sadler, and S&M Associates, Inc., a company owned by Sadler. The LLC, established in 1999, owns and operates a bowling alley known as 'the Super Bowl.' In 2003, S&M, a company owned by Sadler, loaned the LLC $150,000, which is evidenced by a promissory note. In 2006, the Super Bowl began incurring substantial losses, and the LLC ultimately defaulted on the promissory note payable to S&M. In July 2015, S&M and Sadler sued the LLC and the other members of the LLC, asserting a breach-of-contract claim and a claim seeking an accounting. In August 2015, the LLC, Jason, and Felix filed an answer and a counterclaim, alleging that Sadler had breached his duty of loyalty and his duty of care to the LLC.The case proceeded to a bench trial. The parties initially stipulated that the LLC owed S&M a total of $310,139.66 on the promissory note; the trial court ultimately entered a judgment against the LLC for that amount based on the parties' stipulation. The case was then tried solely on the counterclaims asserted against Sadler by the LLC, Jason, and Felix. The trial court entered a judgment against Sadler on the counterclaims, based on its findings that Sadler had breached not only a duty of loyalty and a duty of care to the LLC, but also the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing owed to the LLC. The trial court assessed damages against Sadler in the amount of $368,167.92.On appeal to the Supreme Court of Alabama, Sadler argued that the trial court erred insofar as it entered a judgment against him on the counterclaims asserted against him by the LLC, Jason, and Felix. The Supreme Court of Alabama agreed and reversed the judgment entered against Sadler on the counterclaims asserted against him because there was no evidence to support findings that Sadler had breached the duty of loyalty and the duty of care owed to the LLC or the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and remanded the case to the trial court for the entry of a judgment consistent with this opinion.On remand, S&M and Sadler filed a motion for attorney's fees, costs, and expenses. The trial court denied the motions for attorney's fees, costs, and expenses. The trial court also found that the LLC had incurred $2,713,230.33 in expenses without contribution by Sadler or Scott Montgomery. That finding was not disturbed on appeal and has become the law of the case. The trial court took judicial notice that Jason and Felix McCarty have perfected, as the remaining members of the LLC, that claim or debt by filing a second mortgage with the Probate Court of Jefferson County, which second mortgage is inferior to the mortgage held by the late Ferris Ritchey’s real estate company, and the perfection of this claim makes it a priority over and superior to the claims of other creditors, including S&M.S&M and Sadler appealed the trial court's order on remand. The Supreme Court of Alabama affirmed the trial court's order on remand insofar as it denied S&M's and Sadler's requests for attorney's fees and costs, reversed the order insofar as it addressed the LLC's mortgage executed in favor of Jason and Felix and its purported priority, and remanded this case with instructions for the trial court to set aside that portion of its order that addressed the LLC's mortgage and its purported priority. View "S&M Associates, Inc. v. Players Recreation Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute over church property between Harvest Church-Dothan ("Harvest") and the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, Inc. ("the AWFC") and the General Council on Finance and Administration of the United Methodist Church ("the GCFA"). Harvest sought a judgment declaring that the AWFC and the GCFA lack any legally cognizable interest in real or personal property held by Harvest, as well as injunctive relief preventing the AWFC and the GCFA from interfering with Harvest's use, ownership, or control of the local church property.The AWFC and the GCFA moved to dismiss the action, arguing that the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction based on the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine, which prohibits civil courts from adjudicating disputes concerning spiritual or ecclesiastical matters. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss. The AWFC and the GCFA then petitioned the Supreme Court of Alabama for a writ of mandamus directing the trial court to dismiss the underlying action.The Supreme Court of Alabama denied the petition, concluding that the AWFC and the GCFA have not met their burden of demonstrating a clear legal right to have the complaint against them dismissed. The court found that the dispute pertains solely to the ownership and control of the local church property, an issue that civil courts generally can resolve by applying "neutral principles of law." The court also found that the AWFC and the GCFA failed to demonstrate that the trial court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over the GCFA was improper. The action will continue in the trial court for further proceedings. View "Ex parte The Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case involves a property dispute between two neighboring condominium associations, Phoenix East Association, Inc. ("Phoenix East") and Perdido Dunes Tower Condominium Association, Inc., a Master Association ("Perdido Dunes"). The dispute centers on a two-and-a-half-foot-wide strip of land between their properties. Perdido Dunes claimed it had acquired title to the disputed property through adverse possession. Phoenix East disagreed, asserting that Perdido Dunes had only used the property with Phoenix East's permission.The Baldwin Circuit Court held a bench trial and ruled in favor of Perdido Dunes, granting it a prescriptive easement over the disputed property. Phoenix East appealed this decision, arguing that the Alabama Uniform Condominium Act prohibited the trial court from awarding Perdido Dunes a prescriptive easement on Phoenix East's property. Phoenix East also contended that Perdido Dunes did not adequately prove adverse use or claim of right, which are two elements of a prescriptive easement.The Supreme Court of Alabama affirmed the lower court's decision. The court found that the Condominium Act did not categorically bar judicially imposed prescriptive easements. It also found that there was sufficient evidence of a prescriptive easement, as Perdido Dunes had used the premises for a period of twenty years or more, adversely to the owner of the premises, under claim of right, exclusive, continuous, and uninterrupted, with actual or presumptive knowledge of the owner. Lastly, the court ruled that Perdido Dunes was not required to join every unit owner to the litigation, as the Condominium Act specifically contemplates that condominium associations will represent their individual members in litigation. View "Phoenix East Association, Inc. v. Perdido Dunes Tower Condominium Association, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Alabama ruled in a case concerning a dispute over the amount of ad valorem taxes owed by Indorama Ventures Xylenes & PTA, LLC for the personal property at a petrochemical plant that it owns in Morgan County.The Morgan County Revenue Commissioner assessed Indorama's personal-property value at nearly 1.5 times the amount that Indorama had paid for the plant, which Indorama challenged before the Morgan County Board of Equalization. After the Board affirmed the Commissioner's assessments, Indorama appealed the decisions to the Morgan Circuit Court. The circuit court ruled in favor of Indorama, determining that the fair market value of the property was roughly $150 million less than the Board's appraisal.The Board then appealed to the Supreme Court of Alabama, arguing that the circuit court's valuation was contrary to the evidence and violated Alabama law. However, the Supreme Court of Alabama affirmed the judgment of the circuit court, stating that under Alabama law, the circuit court was entitled to consider "all the evidence," and was not restricted to any particular method of valuation.Furthermore, the Supreme Court of Alabama also affirmed the circuit court's application of the corporate rate to the prejudgment interest on Indorama's overpayment, determining that this was correct under Alabama law. View "Morgan County Board of Equalization v. Indorama Ventures Xylenes & PTA, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this case, Charles Crowder bought a property owned by Delores Blevins at a tax sale. After the purchase, Crowder took possession of the property and made improvements. Subsequently, Blevins sought to redeem the property following the statutory procedures. The Jefferson Probate Court granted Blevins's redemption petition and entered a judgment in her favor. Crowder then filed a postjudgment motion to set aside that judgment and a Rule 60(b)(4) motion to vacate the judgment, both of which the probate court denied.In his appeal, Crowder contested the process of service arguing that he had not been properly served with Blevins's redemption petition. He claimed that the signature on the return receipt was not his and that he had moved out of the address where the service was delivered before Blevins filed the redemption petition. However, Crowder both received and sent correspondences to and from the contested address after he claimed to have moved. Moreover, he did not deny that the signature on the return receipt was his at any point during the proceedings in the probate court.The Supreme Court of Alabama dismissed the appeal in part and affirmed the probate court's judgment. It found that Crowder failed to file a timely appeal concerning the probate court's judgment on the merits. Additionally, the court concluded that the probate court's judgment was valid and properly denied Crowder's Rule 60(b)(4) motion. View "Crowder v. Blevins" on Justia Law

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In this case, Richard Mullen and Cheryl Mullen petitioned the Supreme Court of Alabama for a writ of mandamus to direct the Jefferson Circuit Court to transfer their case to the Walker Circuit Court. The case at hand arises from a dispute between the Mullens and Karl Leo and Fay Leo, who purchased a parcel of property from the Mullens in Walker County. The Leos alleged that the Mullens, unlicensed homebuilders, sold them a residence with multiple latent defects and refused to remedy these defects. The Leos filed a suit against the Mullens in the Jefferson Circuit Court, where the Mullens resided, claiming breach of contract, breach of the implied warranty of habitability, fraud, negligence, and fraudulent suppression.The Mullens sought dismissal or transfer of the case to Walker County, arguing that as the property in question was located there, it was the appropriate venue. The Jefferson Circuit Court, however, denied their motion. The Mullens then petitioned the Supreme Court of Alabama, arguing that Walker County was the proper venue due to the location of the property and the Leos' request for equitable relief in their complaint.The Supreme Court of Alabama granted the Mullens' petition for a writ of mandamus. The Court found that the property sold by the Mullens to the Leos in Walker County was the "subject matter" of the action within the meaning of Rule 82(b)(1)(B). Therefore, the Court directed the Jefferson Circuit Court to vacate its order denying the Mullens' motion to transfer the action and to transfer the case to the Walker Circuit Court. View "Ex parte Mullen" on Justia Law

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This case involved an appeal by John William Riley against a judgment by the Autauga Circuit Court, Alabama. The judgment declared that Kenneth R. Boles had an easement by prescription across a road on Riley's property. Riley's property is a 25-acre parcel located in Autauga County, and the road in dispute leads back to the property owned by Boles. Boles sought to establish that he and his predecessors in title had used the road adversely to Riley for more than 20 years, a requirement for establishing a prescriptive easement under Alabama law.The Supreme Court of Alabama affirmed the circuit court's order denying Riley's motion to dismiss the case, on the grounds that the dispute between the parties constituted a justiciable controversy. However, the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's declaration in favor of Boles. The court found that Boles had not established a prescriptive easement across Riley's property.Boles had relied on the use of the road by a friend and hunting partner, Edmondson, to establish a continuous 20-year period of adverse use. However, Edmondson was not a predecessor in title to Boles and had no title to any relevant real-property interest that he could have transferred to Boles. Thus, the court ruled that the relationship between Edmondson and Boles did not satisfy the legal requirement for "tacking" the periods of use to establish a prescriptive easement. Hence, the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's declaration that Boles had established a prescriptive easement across Riley's property. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the opinion. View "Riley v. Boles" on Justia Law