Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama
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Plaintiff Terri Anderson appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of the defendants. At issue was an agreement to purchase certain residential property located on Ono Island in Baldwin County, Alabama ("the property") for $1.4 million. In 2012, Robert Bowling III acquired the property and executed a promissory note in favor of Merchants Bank. Merchants Bank subsequently assigned the promissory note and its mortgage interest in the property to Wells Fargo Bank ("Wells Fargo"). In 2018, Bowling conveyed his interest in the property to Robin and Michael Coleman via a vendor's lien deed. The Colemans executed a promissory note evidencing a debt to Bowling. In 2020, the Colemans conveyed a partial interest in the property to their friends, France Frederick and Thomas Sparks. In March 2021, the Colemans, Frederick, and Sparks entered into a purchase agreement regarding the property with Anderson. In April 2021, the sellers decided they had made a mistake by agreeing to sell the property. Robin Coleman eventually sent a communication to Anderson's realtor explaining, in relevant part: "We have voided the contract you sent us and have decided to keep our property." Anderson then initiated this action seeking an injunction prohibiting the sellers from violating the terms of the purchase agreement and a judgment requiring specific performance under the terms of the purchase agreement or, as an alternative to specific performance if the court were to determine that such relief was unavailable, damages for breach of contract. The sellers moved to dismiss Anderson's complaint, arguing that title to the property was unmarketable due to Bowling's and Wells Fargo's respective unsatisfied interests in the property. Accordingly, they contended, the language of the purchase agreement required a refund to Anderson of her earnest-money deposit and an automatic termination of the purchase agreement. The Alabama Supreme Court held only that the sellers could not invoke the marketability requirement of the termination provision set out in the purchase agreement to unilaterally rescind the purchase agreement under the circumstances presented by the record because it appeared that Anderson was willing to waive marketability of the sellers' title to the property to purchase whatever interest they were able to convey and because the sellers have expressly agreed to sell their interest in the property to Anderson, provided that the other pertinent contingencies of the purchase agreement were met. Judgment was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Anderson v. Coleman, et al." on Justia Law

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Robert Robinson sued several timber companies for cutting timber on land, located between two creek beds, that Robinson alleged was his. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of the timber companies. Because Robinson failed to submit substantial evidence that he owned the land, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. View "Robinson v. Harrigan Timberlands Limited Partnership, et al." on Justia Law

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Equivest Financial, LLC, bought property owned by Mark Stiff and Jim Stiff at a tax sale. The Alabama Supreme Court later declared that sale void. After the case was remanded for further proceedings, including consideration of Equivest's alternative claim for relief, the trial court entered judgment in Equivest's favor. Mark appealed that judgment, arguing that the trial court erred: (1) by awarding Equivest interest on the amount it bid in excess of the delinquent taxes; and (2) by awarding Equivest interest that accrued, and by failing to award him costs that he incurred, after he tendered an offer of judgment. The Supreme Court rejected these arguments and affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Stiff v. Equivest Financial, LLC" on Justia Law

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Howard Moore and Charles Lloyd were judgment creditors in the aggregate amount of $185,000. In 2012, Moore and Lloyd obtained a writ of execution and the property, in which Mikul had an ownership interest, was sold at an execution sale, at which Moore and Lloyd were the highest bidders at $130,000. There was a question regarding whether Moore and Lloyd were required to pay any cash to obtain a sheriff's execution deed concerning the property, given that the amount of their judgment exceeded the amount of the execution sale price. Moore and Lloyd petitioned for a writ of mandamus to resolve the issue, and Mikul intervened. Moore and Lloyd ultimately prevailed, and the circuit court directed the sheriff to sign and deliver a deed to the property to Moore and Lloyd. Mikul appealed to the Court of Civil Appeals, which transferred the appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's judgment, without an opinion. Days later, Moore and Lloyd initiated an ejectment action against Mikul. Ultimately, the circuit court entered an order in October 2018 concluding that Moore and Lloyd were entitled to possession of the property and that Mikul was not liable to Moore and Lloyd for mesne profits or rents. However, in the same order, the circuit court immediately stayed execution of the order after considering the parties' arguments regarding whether Mikul should be required to post a supersedeas bond to stay execution of the judgment, insofar as it awarded Moore and Lloyd possession of the property, should Mikul choose to appeal. Moore and Lloyd again petitioned for mandamus relief, challenging the October 2018 order. The circuit court in April 2019 concluded it lacked jurisdiction to modify the October 2018 order because Moore and Lloyd had not filed a timely postjudgment motion with respect to the October 2018 order. Mikul moved to quash a writ of execution, referencing the October 2018 court order staying such proceedings. Moore and Lloyd petitioned the Court of Civil Appeals, which again transferred the case to the Supreme Court, who in turn again denied review. Moore and Lloyd filed the ejectment action at issue here. Mikul moved for summary judgment, asserting that the relief sought by Moore and Lloyd should be denied based on the defenses of equitable estoppel, laches and res judicata. A majority of the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's last order, finding Moore and Lloyd failed to demonstrate the circuit court's judgment should have been reversed. View "Moore v. Mikul" on Justia Law

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Brett Deslonde appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of Nationstar Mortgage, LLC, doing business as Mr. Cooper ("Nationstar"), and The Bank of New York Mellon, as trustee for Nationstar Home Equity Loan Trust 2007-C ("BNYM"), on Deslonde's claim seeking reformation of a loan-modification agreement on the ground of mutual mistake. In December 2006, Deslonde purchased real property in Fairhope, Alabama with a loan from Nationstar. Deslonde subsequently defaulted on his mortgage payments and applied for a loan modification through Nationstar's loss-mitigation program. By letter dated February 2014, Nationstar notified Deslonde that he had been approved for a "trial period plan" under the federal Home Affordable Modification Program ("the federal program"). Under the federal program, Deslonde was required to make three monthly trial payments in the amount of $1,767.38 and to submit all required documentation for participation in the program, including an executed loan-modification agreement. In July 2014, Nationstar informed Deslonde that his request for a loan modification under the federal program had been denied because he had not returned an executed loan-modification agreement or made the trial payments. That letter informed Deslonde that there were other possible alternatives that might be available to him if he was unable to make his regular loan payments. Deslonde submitted a second application package for loss mitigation in October 2014. Under the executed modification agreement from the second application, Deslonde made monthly payments sufficient to cover only interest and escrow charges on the loan. The loan-modification period, however, expired in November 2016, at which time the monthly payments reverted to the premodification amount so as to include principal on the loan. After the loan-modification period expired, Deslonde made three additional monthly payments, but he then ceased making payments altogether. In an attempt to avoid foreclosure, Deslonde filed a complaint against Nationstar and BNYM in the Baldwin Circuit Court ("the trial court"), requesting a temporary restraining order enjoining foreclosure of the mortgage, a judgment declaring the parties' rights under the executed modification agreement, and reformation of the executed modification agreement on the ground of mutual mistake. Finding that the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of Nationstar and BNYM, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Deslonde v. Nationstar Mortgage, LLC, d/b/a Mr. Cooper et al." on Justia Law

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In July 2009, JPMC Specialty Mortgage, LLC ("JPMC"), foreclosed on a property in Grand Bay, Alabama that had once been owned by the parents of Marian S.A. Tipp. Since that time, Tipp filed one lawsuit after another seeking to unravel that foreclosure and gain ownership of the property. After concluding that Tipp's claims in her most recent lawsuit were barred by the doctrine of res judicata, the applicable statutes of limitations, and Alabama's abatement statute, the trial court entered summary judgment in favor of JPMC. Because of Tipp's history of litigation against JPMC, the trial court also entered a permanent injunction that prohibited her from initiating any further proceedings related to the foreclosure of the Grand Bay property without first obtaining permission from that court. Tipp appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. View "Tipp v. JPMC Specialty Mortgage, LLC" on Justia Law

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Sandra Gleason filed suit against Charles Halsey and Jim McDonough d/b/a Jim McDonough Home Inspection ("McDonough"), seeking to recover for damage that Gleason allegedly incurred as a result of defendants' allegedly negligent and/or fraudulent conduct associated with Gleason's purchase of a house from Halsey and McDonough's inspection of the house. Although Gleason's claims against Halsey and McDonough involve different legal theories, the issue underlying the claims was essentially the same: whether the house was inspected. The issue underlying Gleason's claims against Halsey was whether McDonough's inspection of the house could be credited to Gleason for purposes of determining whether Gleason may assert an argument under the health or safety exception to the doctrine of caveat emptor; the issue underlying Gleason's claims against McDonough appeared to be whether McDonough owed Gleason a duty in inspecting the house or in consulting with Gleason as she personally inspected the house. The Alabama Supreme Court found that Gleason's claims against Halsey, the judgment on which was certified as final under Rule 54(b), and Gleason's claims against McDonough that remain pending in the circuit court "are so closely intertwined that separate adjudication would pose an unreasonable risk of inconsistent results." As a result, the Court concluded that the circuit court exceeded its discretion in certifying the June 23, 2021, order granting Halsey's summary-judgment motion as final. The Court therefore dismissed the appeal. View "Gleason v. Halsey" on Justia Law

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Capitol Farmers Market, Inc., appealed a circuit court order entered in favor of Angie and Russell Ingram, enforcing certain restrictive covenants on property owned by Capitol Farmers Market that abutted property owned by the Ingrams. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court determined the trial court did not err in upholding the restrictive covenants found in the respective property declarations. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "Capitol Farmers Market, Inc. v. Ingram" on Justia Law

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In case no. 1190816, appellant-plaintiff SE Property Holdings, LLC ("SEPH"), appealed a circuit court's denial of its petition seeking to hold appellee-defendant David Harrell in contempt for failing to comply with the trial court's postjudgment charging order entered in a previous action involving the parties and its failure to hold a hearing on its contempt petition. In case no. 1190814, SEPH petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, seeking the same relief. The Supreme Court consolidated the proceedings ex mero motu. In case no. 1190816, the Supreme Court found nothing in the record indicating that a hearing was held or that, if one was held, Harrell was "notified ... of the time and place for the hearing on the petition." Thus, in case no. 1190816, judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. Case 1190814 was dismissed. View "Ex parte SE Property Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law

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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