Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Indiana
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The Supreme Court ruled that the forfeiture of Tyson Timbs's his white Land Rover was unconstitutional, holding that Timbs met his high burden to show that the harshness of his Land Rover's forfeiture was grossly disproportionate to the gravity of the underlying offense and his culpability for the vehicle's misuse.The State filed a civil forfeiture complaint alleging that Timbs had used his Land Rover to illegally purchase, possess, and deal narcotics. The trial court entered judgment for Timbs. The case made its way up to the Supreme Court of the United States. On remand, the Supreme Court held that the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment includes both instrumentality and proportionality limitations for use-based in rem fines like the forfeiture of Timbs's vehicle and that such fines are constitutional if two requirements are met. The Supreme Court held that the forfeiture fell within the Excessive Fines Clauses's instrumentality limit but remanded for the trial court to determine whether the harshness of the forfeiture penalty was grossly disproportional to the gravity of the offense. The trial court determined that Timbs had shown gross disproportionality. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Timbs met his burden to show gross disproportionality and that the Land Rover's forfeiture was unconstitutional. View "State v. Timbs" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court reversing the order of the City of Bloomington Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) affirming the decision of the City of Bloomington citing UJ-Eighty Corporation for a zoning violation, holding that there were not constitutional violations in this case.UJ-Eighty owned a fraternity house at Indiana University (IU) in Bloomington that was located within a district zoned by the City to permit limited residential uses. UJ-Eighty leased its house to an IU-sanctioned fraternity, but before the lease ended, IU revoked its recognition and approval of the fraternity, which meant that no one could live there. Bloomington cited UJ-Eighty for a zoning violation when two residents remained in the house. The BZA affirmed. UJ-Eighty appealed, arguing that the City impermissibly delegated its zoning authority to IJ by allowing it unilaterally to define fraternities and sororities. The trial court agreed and struck down the ordinance's definition of fraternities and sororities under the state and federal constitutions. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Bloomington did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment because the ordinance was not an impermissible delegation of power or a denial of due process. View "City of Bloomington Board of Zoning Appeals v. UJ-Eighty Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Indiana Land Trust's motion to set aside a tax deed, holding that the LaPorte County Auditor gave adequate notice reasonably calculated to inform Indiana Land Trust Company of the impeding tax sale of the property.Taxes went unpaid on a vacant property from 2009 to 2015. The county auditor sent notice of an impending tax sale via certified letter and first-class mail to the notice listed on the deed for the property. The certified letter came back as undeliverable, and the first-class mail was not returned. Notice was eventually published in the local newspaper. The property sold, and a tax deed was issued to the purchaser. When the original owner learned of the sale it moved to set aside the tax deed due to insufficient notice. The trial court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the county auditor provided adequate notice and was not required to search its own internal records for a better tax sale notice address; and (2) the trial court properly denied Indiana Land Trust's motion to set aside the tax deed. View "Indiana Land Trust Co. v. XL Investment Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court finding a statute stopping the City of Bloomington's proposed annexation of several areas of land and prohibiting the City from attempting to annex the areas for five years unconstitutional, holding that the statute is unconstitutional special legislation in violation of Ind. Const. art. IV, 23.While Bloomington was taking steps toward annexation, the General Assembly passed Ind. Code 36-4-3-11.8 cutting off the City's proposed annexation and prohibiting the City from trying to annex the same areas for the next five years. The City sought declaratory and injunctive relief. The trial court granted summary judgment for the City, declaring the statute unconstitutional under Article 4, Sections 19 and 23 of the Indiana Constitution. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the City can bring this declaratory judgment action against the Governor; and (2) section 11.8 is unconstitutional special legislation. View "Holcomb v. City of Bloomington" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court in this declaratory judgment action against Governor Holcomb, holding that the statute passed by the legislature in 2017 stopping the City of Bloomington's proposed annexation of several areas of land and prohibiting the City from trying to annex the areas for five years is unconstitutional special legislation in violation of Ind. Const. art. IV, 23.In 2017, the Bloomington mayor announced plans for a proposed annexation of several areas of land. After the City Council adopted the initiating resolutions and Bloomington took its initial steps toward annexation, the General Assembly passed legislation codified at Ind. Code 36-4-3-11.8 cutting off Bloomington's proposed annexation and prohibiting the City from trying to annex the same areas for the next five years. The City brought this suit seeking declarations that section 11.8 constitutes unconstitutional special legislation and violates article 4, section 19's single-subject rule. The trial court declared section 11.8 unconstitutional under article 4, sections 19 and 23 of the Indiana Constitution. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 11.8 constitutes impermissible special legislation. View "Holcomb v. City of Bloomington" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court denying Indiana Land Trust's motion to set aside a tax deed, holding that the LaPorte County Auditor gave adequate notice reasonably calculated to inform Indiana Land Trust Company of the impending tax sale of the property.From 2009 to 2015, the owner of vacant property did not pay property taxes. Through a third-party service, the county auditor sent simultaneous notice of an impending tax sale by way of certified letter and first-class mail to the address listed on the deed for the property. The owner, however, had moved and had not updated its address. Later, notice was published in the local newspaper. The property eventually sold and a tax deed was issued to the purchaser. The original owner moved to set aside the tax deed due to insufficient notice. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's denial of Indiana Land Trust Company's motion to set aside the tax deed, holding that the county auditor provided notice reasonably calculated, under all circumstances, to apprise the owner of the pendency of the action and afforded them an opportunity to present their objections. View "Indiana Land Trust Co. v. XL Investment Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the trial court awarding attorney's fees to Defendants in this dispute over the proposed construction of seven billboards, holding that the trial court's decision to award attorney's fees was an abuse of discretion.River Ridge Development Authority (RRDA) sued Defendants seeking a declaration that seven billboards that were set to be constructed near the planned entrance of RRDA's $25 million expansion to The River Ridge Commerce Center violated the Town of Utica's zoning ordinance. During the litigation, the relevant portion of the road along which the billboards were to be constructed was approved to become a scenic byway. Thereafter, RRDA voluntarily dismissed its complaint with prejudice. Defendants filed motions to recover attorney's fees, claiming that RRDA's behavior during litigation justified such an award. The trial court granted the motions in full. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) on the record, Defendants failed to show that any exception to the American Rule requiring each party to pay its own attorney's fees applied; and (2) therefore, the trial court abused its discretion in awarding attorney's fees. View "River Ridge Development Authority v. Outfront Media, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this dispute over the ownership of a criminal justice center the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court ordering that the title of the center be given to Floyd County, holding that the turn-over provision in the lease between the County and the Building Authority was valid and enforceable.In 1991, the New Albany, Floyd County Indiana Building Authority issued bonds to finance a criminal justice center (the Center). Pursuant to an inter-local agreement, the Building Authority would own the Center, the County would lease it, and the City of New Albany would sublease space from the County. In 1992, the County and the Building Authority executed a lease with a fifteen-year term. The lease included a turn-over provision providing that if the County did not exercise its option to purchase the Center and to renew the lease then upon expiration of the lease the Center should become property of the County. After the lease expired the Building Authority declined to transfer title. The County filed suit seeking declaratory judgment and specific performance. The Supreme Court held that the turn-over provision in the lease was valid and required that title be given to the County. View "City of New Albany v. Board of Commissioners of County of Floyd" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the trial court concluding that Plaintiff, who purchased a gravesite and later discovered that the cemetery resold the gravesite and allowed someone else to be buried there, was not entitled to the relief provided by Indiana's wrongful burial statutes, holding that Plaintiff was entitled to correction of the wrongful burial.Three decades after purchasing five contiguous gravesites, Plaintiff learned that a stranger was buried in one of those gravesites. The cemetery refused Plaintiff's demand to move the stranger's remains. Plaintiff brought this lawsuit seeking an order for the cemetery to remove the stranger's remains from the graveside and restore it to her. The trial court concluded that Plaintiff failed to show the cemetery committed wrongful burial. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's denial of damages and attorney's fees but otherwise reversed, holding that the trial court erred in concluding that Plaintiff failed to prove a wrongful burial and that the relief Plaintiff should receive is that the cemetery owner correct the wrongful burial by removing the stranger's remains from the gravesite and restoring it for Plaintiff's use. View "Salyer v. Washington Regular Baptist Church Cemetery" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the trial court dismissing a lender's complaint seeking to recover on an accelerated promissory note, holding that, under either of two statutes of limitations, the lender can assert its claim.As explained today in Blair v. EMC Mortgage, LLC, __ N.E.3d __ (Ind. Feb. 17, 2020), two statutes of limitations apply equally to a cause of action upon a promissory note. Further explained in Blair is that the Supreme Court will not impose an additional rule of reasonableness on a mortgage lender's ability to bring an action upon a closed installment contract. In the instant case, Borrower executed a promissory note and mortgage to be paid in monthly installments over twenty-five years. After Borrower stopped making payments on the note Lender accelerated the debt, demanding payment in full. Borrower did not pay, and Lender sued. Borrower moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the claim was barred by Ind. Code 34-11-2-9. The court of appeals affirmed and held that Borrower waived its argument that Ind. Code 26-1-3.1-118(a) should also apply. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Borrower did not waive its argument under section 26-1-3.1-118(a); and (2) Borrower can equally recover amounts owed under either statute of limitations. View "Collins Asset Group, LLC v. Alkhemer Alialy" on Justia Law