Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
McElroy Coal Co. v. Dobbs
The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's grant of partial summary judgment finding that Gary Dobbs retained his right to purchase pasture land under a 1976 option agreement and that Terry and Catherine Dobbs triggered that right to purchase when they signed a 2007 option agreement, holding that the circuit court did not err.After Lyle Hobbs died, the land he owned passed to his wife and two sons, Terry and Gary. The trio conveyed a small parcel to the sons for a slaughterhouse. The remaining land, including a pasture, was conveyed to Terry and his wife, Catherine. Gary reserved the right to buy back the pasture land if Terry died or if Terry and Catherine decided to sell or assign the pasture land. Gary subsequently purchased the slaughterhouse property at auction. Decades later, Terry and Catherine entered into an option agreement with McElroy Coal Company to either sell the pasture land or provide McElroy Coal a waiver of liability for the company's mining operations. McElroy Coal chose a waiver and paid Terry and Catherine. Thereafter, Gary sued McElroy Coal and Terry and Catherine, alleging that they breached the 1976 option agreement. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Gary. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err. View "McElroy Coal Co. v. Dobbs" on Justia Law
EQT Production Co. v. Antero Resources Corp.
The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's order granting Antero Resources Corporation partial summary judgment on its claim for declaratory judgment, holding that the court did not err in concluding that the Antero top lease took priority over the EQT Production Company base lease covering the same property.Larry and Linda Lemasters, who owned the oil and gas underlying a tract of land, entered into an oil and gas lease (the base lease) with an LLC that later assigned the lease to EQT. The Lemasters subsequently entered into an oil and gas lease with Antero (the top lease). The lease was made effective immediately upon expiration of the primary term of the base lease. The Lemasters and EQT (together, Defendants) subsequently entered into a base lease amendment agreeing to extend the primary term of the base lease. Antero filed a complaint against Defendants asserting claims for, inter alia, breach of contract and declaratory judgment. The circuit court awarded summary judgment for Antero on its declaratory judgment claim, determining that the base lease and its amendment were subject to the Antero top lease. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court did not err in declaring that the top lease was the valid and existing oil and gas lease covering the subject property. View "EQT Production Co. v. Antero Resources Corp." on Justia Law
Bison Interests, LLC, v. Antero Resources Corp.
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment for Antero Resources Corp. and declaring that Bison Interests, LLC was entitled to no overriding royalty interest in the Marcellus shale formation underlying certain gas wells, holding that the declaratory judgment sought by Antero was barred by the doctrines of res judicata and judicial estoppel.The circuit court found Antero's action was barred neither by res judicata nor collateral estoppel because the issue of Bison's entitlement to an overriding royalty in the Marcellus shale production had not been finally adjudicated in prior litigation. The court further found that Antero was not judicially estopped from bringing its claim. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Antero's action for declaratory relief was barred by the doctrine of res judicata; and (2) Antero's action was similarly, and independently, barred by the doctrine of judicial estoppel. View "Bison Interests, LLC, v. Antero Resources Corp." on Justia Law
City of Morgantown v. Calvary Baptist Church
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court finding that, as applied to an unimproved eighty-foot subdivided piece of property owned by the Calvary Baptist Church, the City of Morgantown's enforcement of its R-1 single-family residential zoning classification was unconstitutional, holding that the zoning ordinance, as applied to the particular property of the Church, was arbitrary and unreasonable.Upon finding that the enforcement of the R-1 single-family residential zoning classification was unconstitutional the circuit court ordered the City to cure the unconstitutional zoning classification of the property by amending it to that of a B-2 service business district that permits various commercial uses of the property. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court's order declaring the zoning enforcement action unconstitutional and ordering the City to cure the classification error by amending the classification of the partition was proper. View "City of Morgantown v. Calvary Baptist Church" on Justia Law
Gomez v. Smith
The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the judgment of the circuit court in a conversion case granting motions to dismiss on the ground that all pleadings filed on behalf of the Estate of A. Rafael Gomez by a non-attorney executor and all arguments made by him in court proceedings constituted the unlawful practice of law, and (2) found that the appeal in a companion case, a will contest, was improvidently granted.The Estate sought reversal of a circuit court dismissing its lawsuit on the ground that Mark Gomez, as a non-attorney executor, was not authorized to file pleadings or otherwise represent the Estate in judicial proceedings. Mark, together with his brothers, also filed a will contest in which Mark filed pleadings and argued on both his own behalf and on behalf of the Estate. The Supreme Court held (1) as to the conversion case, Mark, a non-attorney executor, was engaged in the unlawful practice of law, and therefore, the circuit court properly dismissed the case; and (2) as to the will contest, the court did not make any rulings that conclusively determined any issue in the case, and therefore, the appeal was improvidently granted. View "Gomez v. Smith" on Justia Law
Raymond H. v. Cammie H.
The Supreme Court reversed in part the circuit court's decision affirming the order of the family court in this divorce proceeding, holding that under the provisions of W. Va. Code § 43- 1-2(a)–(e), where a spouse conveys a security interest in her separate real property by a deed of trust and fails to give notice of the conveyance to the non-title holding spouse within thirty days of the transaction, then in the event of a divorce within five years of the conveyance, the real property shall be deemed a part of the conveyancer’s marital property for purposes of determining equitable distribution or support awards and assigned a value equal to its fair market value at the time of the conveyance.The family court here initially concluded that the fair market value of the wife's separate property was attributable as a marital asset. The circuit court reversed in part, concluding that the value of the real estate conveyed by a deed of trust was not the total market value of the property but the value of the security interest. On remand, the family court recalculated equitable distribution pursuant to the circuit court's directive. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed in part and remanded for a recalculation of equitable support. View "Raymond H. v. Cammie H." on Justia Law
Teubert Family Farms, LLC v. Bragg
The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's final order finding that Kenneth and Aimee Bragg had met every element of their adverse possession claim as a matter of law, despite questions of fact pertaining to permissive use of the 9.21 acres of disputed property, holding that summary judgment was not appropriate in this case.Teubert Family Farms, LLC filed a complaint against the Braggs seeking to quiet title, requesting injunctive relief, and alleging slander of title. The Braggs filed a counterclaim alleging adverse possession as to the disputed property. The circuit court granted summary judgment to the Braggs. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred by finding no material question of fact was in dispute as to whether the Braggs satisfied every element required of an adverse possession claim. View "Teubert Family Farms, LLC v. Bragg" on Justia Law
West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways v. Pifer
The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment ruling that Lawrence Pifer and Michael Pifer were entitled to damages related to condemnation blight and the jury's award of damages for condemnation blight but reversed and remanded with directions for the trial court to recalculate interest on the award in accordance with W. Va. Code 54-2-14a, holding that the trial court erred when calculating interest on the jury award.The Pifers were operators of a family business operated on a 2.45 acre parcel. The Division of Highways filed a petition to condemn the Pifers' land for a public use. The parties disagreed on the matter of just compensation, and the matter went to trial. In addition to seeking compensation the Pifers claimed that they suffered damages for rental loss due to condemnation blight. The jury found that the Pifers suffered damages related to condemnation blight. The trial court calculated pre-petition interest at ten percent and ten percent interest to the total award from the date of the petition. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the jury's award of damages for condemnation blight was proper but that the trial court erred in calculating interest on the jury award. View "West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways v. Pifer" on Justia Law
Golden Eagle Resources,II, LLC v. Willow Run Energy, LLC
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the circuit court refusing to enforce an arbitration agreement, holding that individuals may agree to arbitrate a dispute regarding a cloud on the title to real estate.Plaintiff and Defendant entered into a contract whereby Plaintiff would convey almost 1,000 acres of mineral interests to Defendant. The contract contained an arbitration clause requiring the parties to refer any dispute about the parties' performance of the contract to arbitration. Later, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant seeking, inter alia, a declaratory judgment to determine whether a cloud on the title to the mineral interests existed. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss and to compel the parties to arbitrate. The circuit court refused the motion, finding that Plaintiff's claims fell outside the scope of the arbitration clause because, as a matter of public policy, property rights are not subject to arbitration. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) parties may agree to submit to arbitration questions concerning clouds on the title to any estate, right, or interest in real property despite W. Va. Code 51-2-2(d) vesting circuit courts with jurisdiction to resolve those questions; and (2) there was an, enforceable agreement to arbitrate here, and the parties' controversy fell within the scope of that arbitration agreement. View "Golden Eagle Resources,II, LLC v. Willow Run Energy, LLC" on Justia Law
Banbury Holdings, LLC v. May
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying Petitioner's renewed motion for summary judgment and granting declaratory relief, holding that judicial estoppel applied to this appeal.Robert May brought an injunction proceeding against Mark-Banbury, LLC, the owner of property that it developed as The Lakes, after Mark-Banbury, LLC began draining water across May's land without May's permission. The circuit court awarded damages and an injunction prohibiting Mark-Banbury, LLC from future development of The Lakes until flooding and damages were stopped. The judgment order was recorded. Banbury Holdings, LLC subsequently purchased The Lakes and filed this collateral proceeding for declaratory judgment requesting that the circuit court declare that the judgment order in the injunction proceeding as void as to Banbury Holdings and its successors in title. The circuit court denied relief, finding that the prior litigation, in which Banbury Holdings was a party, ran with the land and was binding upon Banbury Holdings and all its successors in title. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Banbury Holdings was judicially estopped from asserting conflicting positions in this collateral proceeding. View "Banbury Holdings, LLC v. May" on Justia Law