Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama
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Wynlake Residential Association, Inc. ("the homeowners' association"), Wynlake Development, LLC, SERMA Holdings, LLC, Builder1.com, LLC, J. Michael White, Shandi Nickell, and Mary P. White ("the defendants") appealed a circuit court's judgment on an arbitration award entered against them. Because the defendants' appeal was untimely, the Alabama Supreme Court dismissed the appeal. View "Wynlake Residential Association, Inc, et al. v. Hulsey et al." on Justia Law

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The City of Gulf Shores ("the City") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Baldwin Circuit Court to dismiss tort claims brought against the City. The City contended the claims were barred by the recreational-use statutes found at 35-15-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975. In June 2018, Sophia Paulinelli (minor) was injured while walking on a wooden boardwalk owned by the City. The boardwalk ran over beach property and allowed pedestrians to access the public beach. In addition to owning the boardwalk, the City owned the beach property on which the boardwalk sat. Sophia was walking on the boardwalk behind a man when the man stepped on a board, causing the board to spring up from the boardwalk. The dislodged board had a screw protruding from it, and the board and screw fell on Sophia's foot, impaling the screw in her big toe. In May 2019, Sophia's father, Ronald Paulinelli, sued the City and fictitiously named defendants claiming negligence and wantonness. The City moved for summary judgment, arguing it was entitled to immunity under the recreational-use statues. Two precedential cases were central to Ronald's argument the City was not entitled to immunity. The Supreme Court found nothing in the record that the City ever presented to the circuit court the arguments that it presented to the Supreme Court regarding the applicability of those decisions. Accordingly, the Court did not consider those arguments, and denied the City's petition. The Court expressed no opinion regarding the merits of Ronald's claims; rather the Court's decision was based on the City's failure to preserve key arguments before the circuit court. View "Ex parte City of Gulf Shores." on Justia Law

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Norma Peinhardt and Larry Todd, who sought to sell real property and a divide of the sale proceeds, appealed a trial court's grant of summary judgment entered against them and in favor of Louise Peinhardt and Amelia Peinhardt. The property at issue was originally owned by Louis Peinhardt, who died in 1964. Louis had three children by his first wife Emma: Amelia, Herman ("Louis Jr.") and Louise; Louis had one daughter by his second wife, Marie: Linda Chambers. In 1965, Marie, Linda, and Linda's husband Leon executed a deed granting title to real property to Louis Jr., Amelia, and Louise. In 2006, Louis Jr. filed a complaint seeking a sale for division of the property. For reasons that not entirely clear from the record, the case remained idle at the circuit court for several years. However, on June 22, 2016, Louis Jr. executed a warranty deed in which he purported to convey his interest in the subject property to his wife, Norma Peinhardt ("Norma"), and his stepson, Larry Todd ("Larry"), "as joint tenants with a right of survivorship." In 2020, Amelia and Louise filed a summary-judgment motion in which they contended that a survivorship provision was part of the 1965 deed, and therefore Louis Jr.'s conveyance of his interest in the property to Norma and Larry was a nullity because Amelia and Louise had not granted consent to the conveyance. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the 1965 deed conveyed a joint tenancy in the portion of the subject property at issue rather than a tenancy in common with a right of survivorship. As a result, Louis Jr.'s conveyance of his interest in the portion of the subject property at issue was permissible. Accordingly, the circuit court's grant of summary judgment was issued in error. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Peinhardt v. Peinhardt" on Justia Law

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The Sumter County Board of Education ("the SCBE") appealed a circuit court's dismissal of its complaint asserting claims of reformation of a deed, breach of contract, and fraud, as well as seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, against the University of West Alabama ("UWA"); UWA's president Dr. Kenneth Tucker, in his individual and official capacities; and UWA's former president, Dr. Richard Holland, in his individual and official capacities. Because a new high school had been built, in early 2010 the SCBE closed Livingston High School ("LHS"). Shortly thereafter, officials from UWA approached the SCBE about the possibility of purchasing the LHS property. In 2011, a "Statutory Warranty Deed" conveying the LHS property from the SCBE to UWA ("the deed") was executed, and it was signed on the SCBE's behalf by Dr. Morton. The deed did not contain any restrictions on the LHS property or its use. The deed was recorded in the Sumter Probate Court on June 27, 2011. In May 2017, the University Charter School ("UCS") filed an application with the Alabama Public Charter School Commission ("the APCSC") to establish a charter school in Sumter County. In its application, UCS stated that the LHS property was its first choice for the location of the school. The APCSC approved UCS's application in July 2017. In October 2017, it was publicly announced that UWA had an agreement with UCS for UCS to use the LHS property to house its school.3 The SCBE's complaint alleged that in November 2017 the SCBE contacted UWA president Dr. Tucker and "requested that Defendant UWA honor its covenant not to use Livingston High School property as a K-12 charter school." However, UCS continued its preparations, and in August 2018 UCS opened its charter school on the LHS property with over 300 students attending. In May 2018, the SCBE filed the complaint at issue here, and the circuit court ultimately dismissed the complaint. Because the Alabama Supreme Court found that a restrictive covenant in the sales contract violated clear public policies of the Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act, the restrictive covenant was unenforceable. Therefore, the circuit court's judgment dismissing all the claims against the University defendants was affirmed. View "Sumter County Board of Education v. University of West Alabama, et al." on Justia Law

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The City of Birmingham ("the City") appealed a circuit court's denial of its motion to vacate a quiet-title judgment in favor of Metropolitan Management of Alabama, LLC ("Metropolitan"). In 1999, the State of Alabama purchased a parcel of property at a tax sale. The City's Director of Finance conducted a public sale, selling and conveying a delinquent demolition assessment against the property. The City purchased that assessment interest and, in February 2007, recorded a deed showing the conveyance. In 2017, the property was sold by the State, and Michael Froelich, who was the managing member of Metropolitan, obtained title to the property by a tax deed. Froelich conveyed the property to Metropolitan by quitclaim deed. In 2018, Metropolitan commenced a quiet title action, naming Constance Wambo as a defendant possessing an interest in the property, and identified as fictitiously named defendants "any individuals and/or entities who may claim an interest now or in the future in the property ..., whose true identity is currently unknown to [the] Plaintiff." Metropolitan filed an affidavit in which Froelich averred that he, after a diligent search with the assistance of an attorney, had been unable to identify any other interest holders. In November 2019, the court entered a judgment quieting title to the property in Metropolitan, conveying to Metropolitan fee-simple title to the exclusion of all others, voiding any claims of the defendants, and making Metropolitan's claim of interest superior to any other. In early 2020, Metropolitan's attorney contacted counsel for the City regarding the City's recorded assessment interest. In June 2020, the City filed a motion to intervene in the quiet-title action and a motion to vacate the judgment as void under Rule 60(b)(4). The court denied the City's motion to vacate without stating grounds. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed, finding the law imputes to purchasers knowledge of the contents of recorded documents, and that such constructive notice of a defendant's residence generally suffices for "know[ledge]" of that residence under Rule 4.3(b). Metropolitan did not provide any reason why a reasonable probate-records search would not have disclosed the City's deed. Because Metropolitan had knowledge of the City's residence, Metropolitan's service by publication without first attempting another means of service failed to comply with Rule 4.3(b). View "City of Birmingham v. Metropolitan Management of Alabama, LLC" on Justia Law

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In case number 1190525, Paul Childs and Granger Construction Company, LLC ("Granger Construction"), appealed a circuit court judgment entered in favor of Harry ("Bud") and Brenda Pommer. In their cross-appeal, case number 1190580, the Pommers appealed the trial court's judgment entered in favor of Melissa Granger ("Melissa"), as the administratrix of the estate of Daniel Granger ("Granger"), deceased. In 2014, the Pommers decided to build a garage on property that they owned in Fairhope, Alabama. Childs was referred to Bud for the work. Childs brought Granger into the project as the licensed contractor for the work. The evidence presented at trial indicated that the project experienced significant delays. Evidence was presented indicating that Granger and Childs performed some of the physical labor on the project. In March 2015, when an invoice was presented to the Pommers, Bud and Brenda told the Childs and Granger that they did not want to give them another check based on how things had been going. A "heated" meeting between the parties resulted in the Pommers hiring an attorney. Bud requested the City conduct an inspection; the garage did not pass. The Pommers subsequently hired another contractor and other companies to repair work done by Granger Construction and to complete unfinished work on the project. The Pommers ultimately sued Childs and Granger Construction for breach of contract. Childs and Granger Construction filed their answer to the amended complaint and a counterclaim, asserting breach of contract/unjust enrichment against the Pommers. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court as to Granger Construction in case number 1190525. The Court reversed the trial court as to Childs, and rendered judgment in favor of Childs. In case number 1190580, the Court affirmed the trial court. View "Childs et al. v. Pommer" on Justia Law

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Ciro Alcantara-Angeles appealed a circuit court judgment dismissing a complaint he filed against the Birmingham Water Works Board ("the Board"). In July 2020, Alcantara-Angeles filed a "complaint for declaratory judgment and motion to compel" against the Board. In relevant part, Alcantara-Angeles alleged that, in June 2019, he visited the Board's office to inquire about having water service installed at a parcel of real property he owned. According to Alcantara-Angeles, he paid a deposit of $375 to have water service connected to his property. He alleged that the Board gave him a quote of $1,739, in addition to his deposit, to have water service connected, which he said he attempted to pay. However, according to Alcantara-Angeles, he was instructed to wait for a letter from the Board before making payment. Alcantara-Angeles alleged that the Board gave him a new quote of $15,025 in July 2019, stating that the pipeline system supplying Alcantara-Angeles's parcel and the adjacent parcel was corroded and needed to be replaced at his expense. Alcantara-Angeles contended the Board had failed to properly maintain the pipeline system at issue, which he contended was located on city property. He requested a judgment declaring that he was required to pay only the additional $1,739, as allegedly originally quoted to have water service connected to his parcel and that the Board was obligated to bear the cost of replacing the corroded pipelines to establish the water service. After conducting a hearing, the circuit court granted the Board's amended motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, without specifying the reason for its decision. Alcantara-Angeles appealed. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed the circuit court, finding Alcantara-Angeles adequately alleged a justicible controversy that the circuit court had authority to consider. View "Alcantara-Angeles v. Birmingham Water Works Board" on Justia Law

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Brett/Robinson Gulf Corporation ("Brett/Robinson"); Claudette Brett, as the personal representative of the estate of Tillis Brett; Thomas Brett; William Robinson, Jr.; and Brett Real Estate and Robinson Development Company, Inc. ("Brett Real Estate") (collectively referred to as "the developer parties"), appealed a circuit court's judgment entered in favor of Phoenix on the Bay II Owners Association, Inc. ("the Association"), and Pamela Montgomery. Phoenix on the Bay II ('POB II') was a condominium project. Four areas of POB II were in dispute; the Association and Montgomery contended these four areas were not lawfully created units, and constituted common areas of the condominium. Brett/Robinson sued the Association and Montgomery asserting a trespass claim, alleging that the Association and Montgomery had willfully and intentionally trespassed on the "check-in unit" and the "maintenance unit" (two of the disputed areas). It also asserted claims that the Association and Montgomery had interfered with its business relationships and contractual relationships with condominium unit owners who rented out their units at Phoenix on the Bay II ("POB II") through Brett/Robinson. The trial court entered an order in which it found the Association and Montgomery were entitled to the equitable relief they had requested. The trial court then set forth the revised ownership interest in the common elements for each unit type; struck a formula for determining each unit percentage share of the common expenses (which had included the commercial units); and set forth a revised formula for determining the percentage of each unit's share of the common expenses, without including the commercial units. That resulted in increasing the ownership interest in the common elements for the owners of each of the remaining units and increasing each remaining unit owner's percentage share of the common expenses. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court determined the trial court erred when it found that the commercial units were not validly created and when it amended and reformed the Second Declaration in accordance with that finding. Accordingly, the trial court's judgment was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Brett/Robinson Gulf Corp. v. Phoenix on the Bay II Owners Association, Inc. et al." on Justia Law

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Damon Stephens appealed a circuit court order ordering that certain property located on Old Railroad Bed Road in Toney, ("the property"), be partitioned by sale, pursuant to the Alabama Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act ("the Heirs Act"). In September 2017, Michael Claridy filed a complaint to quiet title to the property and requested that the circuit court partition the property by sale on the basis that the property could not be equitably divided or partitioned in kind. Stephens acquired his interest in the property in 2019; he has neither lived on the property nor paid taxes on the property. Stephens stated that he had lived on the property and made improvements to some of the buildings there. Following an initial hearing, the circuit court determined that the property was heirs property governed by the Heirs Act. Based on the testimony, the evidentiary materials, and the judge's personal observation of the property, the circuit court concluded that there was no method by which the property could be partitioned in kind to adequately preserve each cotenant's interest in the property. Accordingly, the circuit court entered a detailed judgment ordering that the property be partitioned by sale via public auction. Stephens contended the circuit court erred by ordering a partition by sale because, he contended, the court considered only one factor in its analysis, provided no discussion of the other factors, and provided no analysis regarding whether any particular cotenant would be greatly prejudiced by a partition in kind. Finding no reversible error, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's order. View "Stephens v. Claridy" on Justia Law

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Pentagon Federal Credit Union ("PenFed") purchased Susan McMahan's house at a foreclosure sale and sold it less than a year later. They disagreed about how to divide the sales proceeds. In "PenFed I," the Alabama Supreme Court reversed a circuit court judgment in favor of McMahan, holding that the trial court had erred by not considering PenFed's unjust-enrichment argument. On remand, the trial court concluded that the doctrine of unjust enrichment did not apply and again entered judgment in favor of McMahan. PenFed appealed. After review, the Supreme Court found McMahan sued PenFed, arguing she was entitled to $94,741.20 of the $157,525 that PenFed received when it sold the house she had lost in foreclosure. PenFed conceded that McMahan should have received $3,484.66 of the sales proceeds but argued that it was entitled to retain $91,256.54 of the amount she sought -- because that was how much it cost PenFed to pay off her debt to Wells Fargo so that the property could be sold unencumbered by Wells Fargo's lien. The trial court awarded the disputed $91,256.54 to McMahan, but the doctrine of unjust enrichment will not allow her to receive those funds. The trial court's judgment was therefore reversed, and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Pentagon Federal Credit Union v. McMahan" on Justia Law