Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama
by
Deutsche Bank National Trust Company sought to appeal a circuit court order in a foreclosure action it brought against Dortha and Randy Karr. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the order appealed from was not a final judgment, thus it dismissed the Bank's appeal. View "Deutsche Bank National Trust Company v. Karr" on Justia Law

by
Jimmy Leftwich, Jr., appealed a circuit court's denial of his motion for a new trial in his negligence action against Steven Brewster. Leftwich alleged that Brewster breached a duty to competently inspect a house that Leftwich purchased. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Brewster. On appeal, Leftwich contended the trial court erred in failing to disqualify two jurors for cause and that the trial court erroneously excluded vital evidence that provided estimated costs to repair the home. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the judgment of the trial court. View "Leftwich v. Brewster" on Justia Law

by
Josie Wright was injured when she fell in front of the Millbrook Civic Center. She and her husband James sued the City of Millbrook based on her injuries. The City's liability turned on a question of statutory interpretation. The City asked the Alabama Supreme Court to issue a writ of mandamus to direct the Elmore Circuit Court to grant the City's motion for a summary judgment on the basis of Article 2 of the recreational-use statutes, sections 35-15- 20 through -28, Ala. Code 1975. That article immunized landowners from liability for accidents that occur on "outdoor recreational land." Because the City did not show the civic center was included within the definition of "outdoor recreational land" in Article 2, the Court denied the petition. View "Ex parte City of Millbrook." on Justia Law

by
Mark Rosenthal ("Mark"), as personal representative of the estate of Richard Rosenthal, deceased ("Richard"), appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of JRHBW Realty, Inc., d/b/a RealtySouth ("RealtySouth"), and Charles Valekis on Richard's claims alleging breach of contract and negligence/wantonness. In early June 2013, Richard retained RealtySouth through its agent Valekis to assist him in locating a new house to purchase. Valekis told Richard about an unlisted property that Valekis believed would meet Richard's needs. Richard testified that he told Valekis that he would not buy the home without having a structural engineer examine it. Richard testified that, based on Valekis's representation that he had had a structural engineer inspect the home and on Valekis's representation that Garland Caudle, a home inspector (but not a structural engineer) had not found any structural issues, he placed an offer on the home. Richard closed on the home on July 19, 2013, and he moved into the home soon thereafter. After he had lived in the home for several months, Richard concluded that the home was too small and that he needed a larger home. He again engaged the services of Valekis and RealtySouth to sell the home. After the home was placed on the real-estate market, Richard began to notice problems with it. Valekis subsequently informed Richard that numerous potential buyers were concerned with the condition of the home. Ultimately, Richard had the home inspected by a foundation-repair contractor, and that contractor recommended that Richard hire a structural engineer. The structural engineer determined the home was experiencing significant structural distress and estimated that fixing the issues would cost over $100,000. In 2015, Richard sued RealtySouth, Valekis, Caudle, Foundations Unlimited of Alabama, and the Coopers (the previous owners of the house). The Alabama Supreme Court concluded Mark's allegation of a breach of contract by Valekis apart from the agency agreement was without merit. As the circuit court concluded, the agency agreement "contains language that RealtySouth and Valekis did not assume any responsibility to inspect the property or retain building experts to inspect the property," so the Court concluded the agency agreement did not provide a basis for Richard's breach-of-contract claim. Accordingly, the circuit court correctly entered a summary judgment in favor of RealtySouth and Valekis with respect to any alleged breach of contract. View "Estate of Richard Rosenthal v. JRHBW Realty, Inc., d/b/a RealtySouth" on Justia Law

by
Dale Forbes, as administrator ad litem for the estate of Gay Nell Mize, appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of Platinum Mortgage, Inc. ("Platinum"), and PennyMac Loan Services, LLC ("PennyMac"). Gay Nell signed, and the record contained, a notarized power of attorney. The limited power of attorney authorized Gay Nell's husband, Charles Mize, to execute, on Gay Nell's behalf, certain documents in a transaction refinancing the Mizes' house. On the authority of the power of attorney, Charles borrowed $175,000 from Platinum and gave Platinum a mortgage on the Mizes' residence, executing both a loan agreement and a mortgage. Platinum then assigned the loan and mortgage to PennyMac. In 2015, Gay Nell was declared incompetent and a conservator was appointed for her. The conservator sued multiple defendants, including Platinum and PennyMac, alleging that the power of attorney executed by Gay Nell was invalid, that Gay Nell was not bound by the loan agreement and the mortgage executed by Charles, and that the Mizes' house was not encumbered by the mortgage. Platinum and PennyMac filed separate motions for a summary judgment. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the estate did not provide any persuasive argument that would render the loan agreement and the mortgage anything other than valid and binding on Gay Nell. "The trial court in the present case determined, and rightly so, that Platinum and PennyMac properly relied on the power of attorney, because they had no actual knowledge that it was anything other than a valid instrument authorizing Charles to execute the loan agreement and the mortgage as Gay Nell's duly authorized agent." Accordingly, the Court affirmed summary judgment. View "Forbes v. Platinum Mortgage, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Rose McClurg sued Birmingham Realty Company ("BRC") based on injuries she sustained when she fell in the parking lot of a shopping center owned by BRC. The circuit court entered a summary judgment in favor of BRC, and McClurg appealed. Because there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the hole in which McClurg stepped was an open and obvious danger, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed summary judgement. View "McClurg v. Birmingham Realty Company" on Justia Law

by
On April 1, 2016, Lasonya Lindsey agreed to purchase real property located in Selma from Doris Wallace. Attorney Charles Sims III was retained by one or both of the transacting parties in connection with the sale. On April 26, Sims incorrectly represented to Lindsey that the property was unencumbered by any liens. The transaction closed two days later. In November 2017, Lindsey received written notice that the property had been sold two days earlier at a foreclosure sale after Wallace defaulted on a mortgage on the property. Lindsey and her family were ordered to immediately vacate the property, on which they had already spent $20,000 improving. In early 2018, Lindsey brought a single-count complaint against Sims under the Alabama Legal Services Liability Act, alleging that Sims breached his duty of care by misrepresenting the property. Lindsey filed a first amended complaint on January 31 for the sole purpose of correcting the spelling of Sims's name. Neither the original complaint nor the first amended complaint contained a jury demand. Sims answered the first amended complaint on March 8, and on April 25 he submitted a response to Lindsey's interrogatories in which he stated that he had never represented Lindsey, that his only involvement in the transaction had been to prepare a warranty deed at Wallace's direction, and that he did not perform any title work as part of his representation of Wallace. Lindsay amended the complaint a second time, which included, for the first time, a jury demand on all counts. Relevant here, Sims moved to strike the jury demand, asserting it was made more than 30 days after service of the last pleading on the triable issue: Sims' March 8, 2018, answer. The trial court granted this motion, and Lindsay petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief, directing the trial court to vacate its order. Because any error could be adequately remedied on appeal, the Supreme Court denied Lindsey's petition for a writ of mandamus to the extent it asks the Court to direct the trial court to vacate its order dismissing counts III and IV of the second amended complaint. The Court granted the petition for a writ of mandamus, however, to the extent it asks the Court to direct the trial court to vacate its order striking the jury demand in the second amended complaint with respect to new issues. The second amended complaint included two new issues –- the conflict-of- interest allegation against Sims in count I and the fraud claim against Wallace in count II –- and Lindsey made a timely demand for a trial by jury on both of those issues. View "Ex parte Lasonya Lindsey" on Justia Law

by
The City of Daphne ("the City") appealed a circuit court judgment entered in favor of David and Sarah Fannon, in an action seeking damages pursuant to section 235, Ala. Const. 1901, for the taking of, injury to, or destruction of the Fannons' property for public use. In 1990, the Fannons purchased an unimproved lot on Lovett Lane in Daphne and constructed a house on that lot. To the north of, and parallel to, their lot was a 30-foot right- of-way that was owned by the City. A streambed that was approximately three feet wide meandered along the right-of-way, partially onto the Fannons' lot, and back into the right-of-way and then into Mobile Bay. Also, the right-of-way was wooded and heavily covered with vegetation. The Fannons placed an 18-inch-diameter PVC pipe under the foundation of their house and along the path of the streambed where it meandered onto their lot so that the water would continue to flow into the Bay. Over time, the City made changes to the right-of-way, taking out vegetation and covered it with sand and riprap. Years later, City workers removed the riprap and installed a pipe that dumped into the streamed near the Fannons' property. This changed the water flow around the Fannon property, causing washout and flooding due to increased velocity of water flowing through the City's pipe. A jury ultimately returned a verdict in favor of the Fannons, awarding them compensatory damages on their inverse-condemnation claim. The City appealed. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court concurred with the trial court on the trial court's judgment with respect to trespass and negligence; it reversed, however, with respect to inverse-condemnation and remanded for further proceedings. View "City of Daphne v. Fannon" on Justia Law

by
Patricia Devine sued to invalidate a foreclosure sale that divested her interest in a property located in Elberta, Alabama. The trial court explained that the foreclosure was lawful and that Devine's lawsuit was, in any event, barred by the statute of limitations and precluded by the doctrine of res judicata. Devine insisted on appeal that the foreclosure was illegal and therefore void, but the Alabama Supreme Court found she failed to address the trial court's application of the statute of limitations and the doctrine of res judicata. The trial court was therefore affirmed. View "Devine v. Bank of New York Mellon Company" on Justia Law

by
CityR Eagle Landing, LLC ("CityR"), and Foresite Realty Management, LLC ("Foresite"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Montgomery Circuit Court to vacate its order appointing Kia Scott as guardian ad litem for certain minor parties to the underlying action against CityR and Foresite. In 2016, residents of Eagle Landing Apartments, an apartment complex owned by CityR and managed by Foresite, sued CityR and Foresite, among others. They asserted claims of breach of contract, breach of implied warranty, negligence, wantonness, premises liability, negligent hiring, trespass, and nuisance, all arising out of conditions at the apartment complex. The residents were adults living in the apartments with their minor children, who were represented in the action by their parents. All the residents were represented by legal counsel. The Supreme Court determined the trial court exceeded its discretion in appointing a guardian ad litem to represent the minor residents when there was no conflict of interest between the minor residents and their parents. "At this point in the proceedings . . . the parents' interests are aligned with those of their children. . . . [W]ith nothing before us to reflect a conflict of interest between any parent and child involved as parties in the litigation, and no proposed settlement agreement currently before the trial court for review, there is no need for a guardian ad litem for the remaining minors at this stage of the proceedings." Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted the petition and issued the writ, directing the trial court to rescind its order of April 4, 2019, appointing the guardian ad litem to represent the remaining minor residents. View "Ex parte CityR Eagle Landing, LLC" on Justia Law