Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama
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In case 1190468, Lewis and Ellen Richardson, and in case 1190469, Sherry Phelps (collectively, "the landowners") appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Mobile County, Alabama in their respective actions against the County. The landowners asserted the County was responsible for flooding that damaged the landowners' personal property, allegedly decreased the value of their residential property, and made travel over the roads in their neighborhood unsafe and inconvenient. The trial court concluded the County owed no duty to remediate the flooding. To this, the Alabama Supreme Court agreed: the landowners did not demonstrate the County owed them a duty to prevent the flooding of their property. However, the Court concluded the County did owe a duty to keep its roads safe and convenient for travel, and the landowners could seek to enforce that duty. The Supreme Court therefore affirmed the trial court in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Richardson et al. v. County of Mobile" on Justia Law

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Advanced Disposal Services South, LLC, Advanced Disposal Services Alabama Holdings, LLC, Advanced Disposal Services, Inc., Tallassee Waste Disposal Center, Inc., and Stone's Throw Landfill, LLC (collectively, "Advanced Disposal"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to order the Macon Circuit Court ("the trial court") to dismiss, an action filed by Jerry Tarver, Sr., because, they claimed, the action cannot proceed in the absence of the City of Tallassee ("the City") as a party. In May 2017, Tarver sued Advanced Disposal, the utilities board, and fictitiously named defendants seeking monetary damages as well as injunctive relief for exposure to allegedly contaminated water that had been illegally "discharged" into the river and ultimately sold by the utilities board for consumption by its customers. The complaint alleged Advanced Disposal unlawfully discharged its leachate into the City's stabilization pond, knowing that the leachate could not be properly treated before the resulting effluent was discharged into the river. Tarver also alleged Advanced Disposal discharged "pollutants" into various creeks and tributaries flowing into the river in violation of its storm-water discharge permit. The Alabama Supreme Court denied relief, finding that this action could proceed in equity and good conscience without the City. "The City's role in the underlying dispute potentially makes the City a joint tortfeasor with Advanced Disposal, the utilities board, and MCWA; it does not, however, make the City an indispensable party under the particular facts of this case." View "Ex parte Advanced Disposal Services South, LLC" on Justia Law

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Aaron Kyle Steward sued Nationwide Property and Casualty Insurance Company ("Nationwide"), seeking uninsured-motorist ("UM") benefits after he was injured in an accident at a publicly owned and operated all-terrain-vehicle ("ATV") park. The circuit court entered summary judgment in Steward's favor, ruling that the ATV that collided with the one on which he was riding was an "uninsured motor vehicle" for purposes of Steward's automobile-insurance policies with Nationwide, and Nationwide appealed. Because the Alabama Supreme Court concluded that the roads on which the accident occurred were "public roads" under the policies, judgment was affirmed. View "Nationwide Property and Casualty Insurance Company v. Steward" on Justia Law

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James Kidd, Jr., and Carolyn Kidd appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Edwin and Dianne Benson in their action against the Bensons arising out of a real-estate transaction. In this case, the Kidds signed a purchase agreement expressly stating that they were accepting the property in its "AS IS, WHERE IS, CONDITION." Despite "heightened" knowledge, they did not have the property or its structures professionally inspected. Because the Kidds purchased the property in its "as is" condition, without having a bluff area inspected, they could not invoke the health-or-safety exception to the doctrine of caveat emptor in an attempt to impose upon the Bensons a duty to disclose. Accordingly, the Kidds failed to present sufficient evidence creating a genuine issue of material fact not only as to their fraud claims, but also as to their negligence and wantonness claims. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Kidd v. Benson" on Justia Law

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Capitol Farmers Market, Inc. appealed a circuit court order entered in favor of Cindy C. Warren Delongchamp. In 2003, Delongchamp acquired two adjacent parcels of property burdened by restrictive covenants by her predecessor-in-interest. In 2015, Capitol Farmers Market acquired two adjacent parcels of property. The parties agreed that one of the parcels ("the Capitol Farmers Market property") was included within the property similarly burdened by the restrictive covenants (the 1982 Declaration). The Capitol Farmers Market property abutted the Delongchamp property; it was undisputed that the other parcel acquired by Capitol Farmers Market was not subject to the restrictive covenants set out in the 1982 Declaration. In September 2017, Delongchamp filed a complaint in the circuit court that, as amended, sought a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief regarding the Capitol Farmers Market property, alleging that Capitol Farmers Market was planning to "subdivide the Capitol [Farmers Market p]roperty into a high density residential subdivision with proposed lots being substantially less than the required five (5) acre minimum." Delongchamp sought a judgment declaring that the Capitol Farmers Market property was encumbered by the restrictive covenants set out in the 1982 Declaration and that Capitol Farmers Market was required to abide by the restrictive covenants on the Capitol Farmers Market property. Delongchamp also sought an injunction restraining Capitol Farmers Market from "violating" the restrictive covenants set out in the 1982 Declaration "to include, but not limited to, subdividing the Capitol [Farmers Market] property into lots less than five (5) acres." In August 2019, the special master filed a report of his findings and his recommendation in the circuit court. On appeal, the Alabama Supreme Court determined an adjacent property owner, whose property was also burdened by the 1982 covenants, should have been joined as a party to this action. "If Alfa cannot be made a party, the circuit court should consider the reasons Alfa cannot be joined and decide whether the action should proceed in Alfa's absence. In light of the foregoing, we express no opinion concerning the merits of the arguments made by the parties on appeal." View "Capitol Farmers Market, Inc. v. Delongchamp" on Justia Law

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Synergies3 Tec Services, LLC ("Synergies3"), and DIRECTV, LLC ("DIRECTV"), appealed a circuit court judgment in favor of Lisa Corvo and Thomas Bonds and against Synergies3 and DIRECTV based on the doctrine of respondeat superior and a claim alleging negligent hiring, training, and supervision. Corvo and her fiance Bonds sued Daniel McLaughlin, Raymond Castro, and DIRECTV in the trial court, asserting claims of conversion and theft as to a diamond that had been removed from an engagement ring and $160 cash that, they alleged, had been taken from the master bedroom of Corvo's house on Ono Island when McLaughlin and Castro, employees of Synergies3, installed DIRECTV equipment in Corvo's house. Corvo and Bonds asserted the conversion and theft claims against DIRECTV under the doctrine of respondeat superior and, in addition, asserted claims against DIRECTV of negligent and wanton hiring, training, and supervision. They also sought damages for mental anguish and punitive damages. While the Alabama Supreme Court found the trial court did not err in denying Synergies3 and DIRECTV's motion for a judgment as a matter of law as to Corvo and Bonds's claim of negligent hiring, training, and supervision of Castro, but that punitive damages were improperly awarded. Judgment was reversed insofar as it held Synergies3 and DIRECTV vicariously or directly liable on the claims of theft and conversion, and insofar as it awarded punitive damages. The judgment was affirmed insofar as it held Synergies3 and DIRECTV liable for the negligent hiring, training, and supervision of Castro and awarded compensatory and mental-anguish damages. View "Synergies3 Tec Services, LLC, et al. v. Corvo" on Justia Law

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Leah Brown, Robert Allen Brown ("Allen"), and Cheryl Woddail ("Cheryl") were heirs of Pauline Brown ("Brown"), who died without a will. Leah, Allen, and Cheryl appealed a circuit court judgment authorizing Ellen Berry-Pratt, the administrator of Brown's estate, to sell certain real property owned by Brown at the time of her death. Because Leah, Allen, and Cheryl did not establish the circuit court erred by entering its judgment in favor of Berry-Pratt, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Brown v. Berry-Pratt, as successor administrator of the Estate of Pauline Brown" on Justia Law

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Mark Stiff's property was sold at a tax sale that took place inside the Bessemer courthouse instead of "in front of the door of the courthouse" as required by section 40-10-15, Ala. Code 1975. He argued that the sale was void because of that irregularity. To that, the Alabama Supreme Court agreed and therefore reversed the circuit court's judgment refusing to set aside the tax sale. "The tax-sale statutes include a clear list of procedures designed to protect the rights of property owners and the public. The requirement that a tax sale be held in a uniform public location encourages fairness and transparency, and it supports the legitimacy of the tax-sale system as a whole. If the 'in front of the door of the courthouse' requirement is no longer important to Alabamians, it is up to the legislature (not the courts) to remove it." View "Stiff v. Equivest Financial, LLC" on Justia Law

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Kevin Crook appealed summary judgment entered in favor of Allstate Indemnity Company ("Allstate Indemnity"), Allstate Insurance Company ("Allstate Insurance"), and The Barker Agency (hereinafter collectively referred to as "the defendants"). Crook owns lake-front property in Tuscaloosa County. The property consists of a house, a bathhouse, a garage, a deck, and a boat dock. In 2006, Crook, through The Barker Agency, obtained property insurance on the house and other structures from Allstate Indemnity. Allstate Indemnity issued a policy to Crook ("the policy") and provided uninterrupted insurance coverage of Crook's house from 2006 through 2015. On February 12, 2015, Allstate Indemnity conducted an inspection of the property for underwriting purposes. After the inspection, on February 23, 2015, The Barker Agency sent Crook a letter with the results, finding no "issues that impact [Crook's] current coverage, and you do not need to do anything further. ...our inspection... focused only on identifying certain types of hazards or conditions that might impact your future insurance coverage. It may not have identified some other hazards of conditions on your property." In April 2015, a storm damaged the deck and the boat dock. Ultimately, Crook sued defendants for breach of contract, bad-faith failure to pay a claim, negligent/wanton procurement of insurance, and estoppel, all relating to the policy's coverage of the storm damage. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court found no reversible error in the grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants and affirmed. View "Crook v. Allstate Indemnity Company, et al." on Justia Law

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Nancy Beamon, personal representative of the estate of Lois P. Arnott, filed a petition for a writ of mandamus requesting that the Alabama Supreme Court order the Washington Circuit Court to dismiss the complaint filed against her by Bruce Allen Arnott. Donovan Arnott, Jr., was married to Lois Arnott. The two were residents of Lee County, Georgia. Bruce was the son of Donovan and Lois. Lois had two children from a prior marriage, Beamon and John Edward Terry. Donovan adopted Beamon but did not adopt Terry. Donovan died testate in 2014. In his will, Donovan left a house and two lots located in Clarke County to Lois. Donovan devised a remainder fee-simple interest in the "Atchison" tract to Bruce; a reminder fee-simple interest in the Smith tract to Beamon; and a remainder fee-simple interest in the "Taylor" tract to Terry. Lois died testate in 2017. In his complaint, Bruce alleged Lois, as the life tenant to the Atchison tract, had timber on the land clear cut in 2016, and took no steps to replant trees as was required by the terms of Donovan's will. Bruce argued the obligation of timber regeneration passed to Lois' estate. Bruce alleged though the estate promised to compensate him (as the remainder person), but made no payment. The Alabama Supreme Court granted Beamon's petition for mandamus relief: Bruce's claim was, in actuality, a claim against Lois's estate and that he was suing Beamon in her capacity as the executor of Lois's estate. However, Beamon, in her capacity as the executor of Lois's estate, had no authority to defend a suit in Alabama because the letters testamentary appointing her were issued by the Georgia court. Therefore, the circuit court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction over claims against Beamon in her capacity as the executor of Lois's estate. Accordingly, it erred when it denied Beamon's motion to dismiss the claims against her. View "Ex parte Nancy Beamon." on Justia Law