Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama
Forbes v. Platinum Mortgage, Inc.
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
McClurg v. Birmingham Realty Company
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
Ex parte Lasonya Lindsey
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
City of Daphne v. Fannon
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
Devine v. Bank of New York Mellon Company
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
Ex parte CityR Eagle Landing, LLC
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
Ex parte S. Mark Booth.
S. Mark Booth petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the the trial court to dismiss an action filed against him by the City of Guin. In 2008, Booth and the City entered into a contract entitled "Commercial Development Agreement." The agreement provided that the City would sell Booth approximately 40 acres of real property located in Marion County at a price of $5,000 per acre. Booth, in turn, promised to subdivide the property into lots for commercial development. The agreement included a provision granting the City the right to repurchase the property should Booth fail to develop the land within three years following the execution of the agreement. In 2017, the City sued Booth, asserting a claim for specific performance pursuant to the agreement's repurchase option. The City alleged Booth failed to construct at least one commercial facility on the property within three years from the effective date of the agreement. The City alleged that it had "timely tendered the purchase price to [Booth] and requested a conveyance of the real property described in the contract but [that Booth] refused to accept the tender or to make the conveyance." Booth moved to dismiss, arguing that, although he had fulfilled his obligations under the agreement by developing a hotel on the property, the City's complaint seeking to specifically enforce the repurchase of the property pursuant to its option to repurchase in Section 4.4(b) of the agreement was time-barred by the two-year statutory limitations period for such options in 35-4-76(a), Ala. Code 1975. After review, the Supreme Court granted Booth's petition as to the City's claims for specific performance, and its claims alleging fraud and breach of contact; the trial court was ordered to dismiss those claims. The Court denied Booth's petition relating to the City's rescission claim. View "Ex parte S. Mark Booth." on Justia Law
Austill III v. Prescott
In case no. 1170709, Jere Austill III appealed a circuit court judgment permitting Tyler Montana Jul Prescott to redeem certain real property under sections 40-10-82 and 40-10-83, Ala. Code 1975. Specifically, Austill argued that, through adverse possession, he had "cut off" Prescott's right to redeem the property. Because the Alabama Supreme Court concluded that, by virtue of an adverse judgment in an earlier quiet-title action, Austill was precluded by the doctrine of res judicata from claiming an interest in the property through the extinguishment of Prescott's right of redemption. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed that portion of the trial court's judgment that challenged in Austill's appeal. In case no. 1170730, Prescott cross-appealed the trial court's denial of his motion for an award of attorney fees under the Alabama Litigation Accountability Act ("the ALAA"). In support thereof, Prescott argued Austill asserted his argument that he cut off Prescott's right of judicial redemption without substantial justification. The Supreme Court concluded the trial court did not exceed its discretion in denying Prescott's motion, and affirmed that portion of the trial court's judgment. View "Austill III v. Prescott" on Justia Law
Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, as trustee of any specific residential mortgage-backed security
Deutsche Bank National Trust Company ("Deutsche Bank"); MERSCORP, Inc., and Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (collectively, "MERS"); and CIS Financial Services, Inc. ("CIS"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for permission, pursuant to Rule 5, Ala. R. App. P., to appeal the trial court's denial of their motions seeking to dismiss the claims of the plaintiffs-- Walker County and Rick Allison, in his official capacity as judge of probate of Walker County (collectively, "plaintiffs")--seeking class-based relief on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated Alabama counties and judges of probate. At issue was a particular aspect of the mortgage-securitization process. Deutsche Bank served as trustee for numerous residential mortgage-backed security ("RMBS") trusts containing mortgages for properties located in Walker County and other Alabama counties. In this case, plaintiffs initiated the underlying litigation against Deutsche Bank "seeking to recover the benefit [Deutsche Bank allegedly] received by relying on the real property recording systems of the Counties without compensating the Counties for that benefit." Plaintiffs alleged that Alabama law requires mortgage assignments to be recorded; therefore, they maintained, the MERS system used by Deutsche Bank avoided the proper recording of mortgage assignments, along with the payment of the requisite filing fees, and has resulted in lost income to county governments. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed the trial court and remanded: “We see no intent in the Code section to embrace a mandatory rule that all conveyances, which would include not only real-property conveyances but also apparently all conveyances of personal property, are required to be recorded in the probate court. Instead, 35-4-50 simply states that the probate court is where conveyances that are required by law to be filed must be filed. Section 35-4-51, in turn, is the Code section that provides for the recording of conveyances generally, and it places a duty on only the probate court to accept those filings. The arguments before us demonstrate no legal duty to record mortgage assignments.” View "Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, as trustee of any specific residential mortgage-backed security" on Justia Law
Ex parte David and Lisa McDaniel.
Plaintiffs David and Lisa McDaniel petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Shelby Circuit Court to vacate its order staying the proceedings against defendants Southern Craftsman Custom Homes, Inc. ("SCCH"); Jeffrey Rusert; Larry Curry, Sr.; SouthFirst Bancshares, Inc., d/b/a SouthFirst Bank ("SouthFirst"); Mari Gunnels; and Danny Keeney. At the time of this opinion, Rusert was awaiting the outcome of a federal criminal investigation against him. In 2017, the McDaniels contacted Rusert for the purpose of entering into an agreement with SCCH to build a house. According to the McDaniels, Rusert represented himself as the president of SCCH. At some point, Rusert recommended that the McDaniels speak with Gunnels, who worked for SouthFirst, to secure a loan to pay for the construction of the new house. In November 2017, with Gunnels's assistance, the McDaniels began the process of applying for a construction loan with SouthFirst. The loan closing occurred on January 26, 2018. The McDaniels executed, among other agreements, a written construction-loan agreement, a promissory note, and a construction-loan disbursement agreement. The McDaniels met with Rusert to discuss some concerns they had with the ongoing construction. During that meeting, Rusert provided the McDaniels with a credit application from a local building-supply company and asked them to execute it so that, he said, he could use the McDaniels' credit to purchase building materials and supplies. The McDaniels learned that the company refused to do business with SCCH, Rusert, and Curry because all three had purportedly failed to pay significant amounts owed the company. The McDaniels immediately contacted Gunnels and placed a "stop-payment" order on the most recent draw request from SCCH and Rusert. Thereafter, the McDaniels sued SCCH, Rusert, Curry, SouthFirst, Gunnels, and Keeney. In their complaint, the McDaniels sought damages for negligence, suppression, fraudulent misrepresentation, civil conspiracy, conversion, and the infliction of emotional distress. The McDaniels further alleged breach-of-contract claims against SouthFirst, SCCH, Rusert, and Curry, as well as a claim of breach of fiduciary duties against SouthFirst. Finally, the McDaniels sought a judgment against SouthFirst, Gunnels, and Keeney declaring the loan agreement and mortgage void. Rusert and SCCH moved to stay the civil proceedings against them pending the outcome of a federal criminal investigation against Rusert, which the trial court granted. The Alabama Supreme Court determined, however, the McDaniels established a clear legal right to relief from the trial court's order. Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted the petition for a writ of mandamus and directed the trial court to vacate its order staying the underlying case. View "Ex parte David and Lisa McDaniel." on Justia Law