Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court refusing Petitioners' petition for injunctive relief and determining that an easement did not exist across certain property, holding that Petitioners failed to establish either a prescriptive easement or an implied easement. In this dispute among five adult siblings, Petitioners, four siblings, filed a petition for injunctive relief against the fifth sibling, who owned the property at issue, claiming that an easement was necessary for them to access their property. The circuit court refused the injunction, concluding (1) Petitioners' use of the property was permissive so that Petitioners failed to prove adverse use required for a prescriptive easement; and (2) Petitioners failed to establish an implied easement because Petitioners offered no credible evidence of strict or reasonable necessity of prior use. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error in the superior court's judgment. View "Cantrell v. Cantrell" on Justia Law

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In this ongoing Marcellus shale litigation arising that arose from claims asserted by Plaintiffs - surface owners of several tracts of land - the Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Mass Litigation Panel (MLP) granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants - the leaseholder of the gas and oil estates and the company who was conducting the drilling - holding that there were no genuine issues of material fact precluding summary judgment. Plaintiffs alleged that their use and enjoyment of their land was being improperly and substantially burdened by horizontal wells being used to develop the Marcellus shale underlying their properties even where the wells were not physically located on Plaintiffs' properties. In granting summary judgment for Defendants the MLP concluded that the effects on the surface owners resulting from the horizontal drilling were within the implied rights to use the surface granted by virtue of the relevant severance deeds and did not impose a substantial burden on the surface owners. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs failed to establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the effects on their surface estates were reasonably necessary to develop the mineral estate or whether they were being substantially burdened by Defendants' activities. View "Andrews v. Antero Resources Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's order granting summary judgment to LML Properties, LLC on Hanover Resources, LLC's complaint alleging breach of contract against LML for enforcement of $4.7 million in mechanic's liens on the basis that the mechanic's liens were invalid under West Virginia law, holding that the mechanic's liens at issue were invalid. The liens in this case were filed under W. Va. Code 38-2-31 and -32 by Hanover, a provider of coal mining services, against the fee interest of a mineral estate partially owned by LML. The circuit court concluded that the liens were invalid and granted summary judgment to LML. The Supreme Court affirmed after considering the undisputed facts in the form of stipulations by the parties regarding their contractual responsibilities along with the framework in the mechanic's lien statutes and relevant case law, holding that the circuit court did not err in granting LML's motion for summary judgment. View "Hanover Resources, LLC v. LML Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the declaratory judgment order entered by the circuit court interpreting a 1977 quitclaim deed whereby the grantor gave the grantee a parcel of land and entering judgment in favor of the grantee's successors, holding that there was no error in the circuit court's findings. In the deed, the grantor imprecisely defined the parcel's southern border, leaving the questions of whether the grantee received a 93.15-acre parcel or only a 33-acre parcel. The trial court found the 1977 deed was unambiguous and then, after a trial, concluded that the grantee's successors owned the entire 93.15-acre parcel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court's decision was well supported by the record and was not clearly erroneous. View "Harrell v. Cain" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's order granting partial summary judgment, finding that Defendant trespassed on Plaintiffs' surface lands to the extent it was drilling for and removing minerals from neighboring properties and awarding Plaintiffs $190,000 in damages, holding that the partial summary judgment order and judgment order were supported by the record. The circuit court found that Defendant trespassed to the extent it used Plaintiffs' surface tracts to conduct operations under neighboring mineral estates. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a mineral owner or lessee does not have the right to use the surface to benefit mining or drilling operations on other lands in the absence of an express agreement with the surface owner permitting those operations; and (2) the circuit court correctly found that Defendant trespassed on Plaintiffs' surface lands to the extent it used those lands to extract minerals from neighboring properties. View "EQT Production Co. v. Crowder" on Justia Law

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In this matter arising from a condemnation proceeding initiated by the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways, the Supreme Court accepted questions certified by the circuit court and answered, among other things, that when the DOT initiates a condemnation proceeding that involves a partial taking of land in connection with a highway construction project and when, as a result of the project, a residue tract not needed by the State for public road purposes has been rendered landlocked, a court cannot require the Division of Highways to acquire the landlocked residue by condemnation. The federally-funded highway construction project in this case resulted in residue property being rendered landlocked. The Supreme Court answered questions certified to it by the circuit court and answered, under the circumstances of this case, that (1) the question of whether the residue has become an "uneconomic remnant" is not a question of fact to be determined by a jury; (2) the Division of Highways, over the objection of the landowner, may mitigate the damage to the residue by restoring reasonable public road access thereto; and (3) the trial court cannot require the Division to acquire the landlocked residue by condemnation. View "West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways v. Echols" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment against Petitioners in their action against Respondents based upon a coal lease agreement between the parties and granting summary judgment against Respondents’ counterclaim, holding that there was no error to the dismissal of the parties’ respective claims. In granting summary judgment against Petitioners, the circuit court concluded that Respondents had no obligation to diligently mine coal and did not have to make royalty payments based upon comparable sales by other mining companies. The circuit court also granted summary judgment against Respondents’ counterclaim seeking damages for Petitioners’ refusal to consent to an assignment or sublease of the coal lease and for alleged tortious interference with an asset agreement Respondents had with another company. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error in the circuit court’s judgment. View "Bruce McDonald Holding Co. v. Addington Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the circuit court granting declaratory relief in favor Berkeley County on the County’s suit against the City of Martinsburg seeking a ruling that real property owned by the County but located within the City limits was not subject to the City’s zoning ordinances, holding that the circuit court’s order was advisory in that it lacked a justiciable controversy sufficient to confer jurisdiction under the Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act. In vacating the circuit court’s order, the Supreme Court noted that the complaint revealed no actual, justiciable controversy because there was no specific project, building, or property identified by the County. Rather, the underlying suit claimed to apply generally to all real property owned by the County that may be involved in future, unspecified projects. The Court held that, under these circumstances, the circuit court engaged in an academic exercise, and its order amounted to an advisory opinion and, therefore, must be vacated. View "City of Martinsburg v. Berkeley County Council" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court certifying as final the prior orders that granted summary judgment to Respondents in this civil action arising out of the modification of covenants pertaining to a residential subdivision developed by RJM Holdings, LLC, holding that the genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment. On appeal, Petitioners argued that the circuit court erred by granting summary judgment because genuine issues of material fact existed regarding whether Respondents were engaged in a joint venture with RJM to develop the subdivision and whether the corporate veils of the respondent businesses should be pierced to hold certain individuals personally liable. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed, holding that genuine issues of material fact existed with respect to the conduct of Respondents and the use of the various business entities to develop the subdivision. View "Dailey v. RJM Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the circuit court’s order granting summary judgment to Respondents in this nuisance action against a shooting range, holding that because Petitioners’ plea for money damages accrued prior to the 2017 amendment of Va. Code 61-6-23, the Legislature could not retroactively bar Petitioners from pursuing their nuisance claim. Petitioners, who owned land in Frederick County, Virginia, sued Respondents for nuisance in 2015, claiming that noise from Respondents’ shooting ranges substantially and unreasonably interfered with their use and enjoyment of their rural property. In 2017, the legislature amended section 61-6-23 to bar nuisance claims against a shooting range if the range is in compliance with local noise ordinances. The legislature specified that the amendment applied retroactively. The circuit court dismissed Petitioners’ suit, concluding that the nuisance claim was retroactively barred. The Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court correctly applied the amendment to dismiss, retroactively, Petitioner’s nuisance claim seeking injunctive relief; but (2) because Petitioners’ plea for money damages accrued prior to the amendment, Petitioners’ right to pursue those damages was vested. The Supreme Court remanded the matter to the circuit court to resume proceedings in Petitioners’ nuisance claim for monetary damages. View "Goldstein v. Peacemaker Properties, LLC" on Justia Law