Articles Posted in U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals

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This appeal concerns a dispute over church property between a dissident local congregation (Saint James) and the national church (AME) with which it had been affiliated for many decades. The court held that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Saint James's first-filed state court eviction action, and that federal precedent mandates that the district court abstain from the exercise of jurisdiction over AME's federal complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief while the remanded eviction action is pending in state court. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's rulings and remanded Saint James's eviction action to state court and to stay AME's federal action during the pendency of the state proceedings. View "African Methodist Episcopal Church v. Lucien, Jr., et al." on Justia Law

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Whitehouse appealed a second time from a ruling of the Tax Court disallowing a significant portion of a tax deduction claimed for a historic conservation easement. The easement burdened the Maison Blanche building in New Orleans with a number of restrictions and affirmative obligations, all revolving around maintaining the appearance of the ornate facade. Whitehouse claimed a charitable contribution deduction for the easement. The Commissioner allowed a deduction for less than the amount Whitehouse claimed and further assessed a gross undervaluation penalty. The court affirmed the tax court's second valuation; vacated the tax court's enforcement of the gross undervaluation of the penalty because the tax court clearly erred in applying it; and remanded for entry of judgment. View "Whitehouse Hotel Ltd. Prtnshp., et al. v. CIR" on Justia Law

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A non-debtor spouse contended that her homestead rights in the Texas residence that she shares with her husband, the debtor in bankruptcy, precluded a forced sale of the property and alternatively, that if a sale occurred, she must be compensated for the loss of her homestead interest in the property. The bankruptcy court held that the non-debtor spouse's homestead rights were limited to the dollar amount of the exemption in 11 U.S.C. 522(p) and that there was no unconstitutional taking of the value of the non-debtor spouse's interest in the homestead. The court affirmed the district court's affirmance of the bankruptcy court's holdings. View "Kim, et al. v. Dome Entertainment Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against defendants after plaintiffs failed to make the required payments on their home equity loan. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the district court's dismissal of their claims. Determining that the court had appellate jurisdiction, the court concluded that plaintiffs failed to controvert evidence that a letter was indeed sent to them notifying them of the change to their loan servicer. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of Bank of America's and Deutsche Banks' motion for summary judgment in part on plaintiffs' Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), 2 U.S.C. 2605, claim. The court concluded that plaintiffs have made no factual allegations that Morgan Stanley was involved in the alleged unlawful conduct in connection with plaintiffs' home equity loan and the district court did not err in granting Morgan Stanley's motion to dismiss. The district court also did not err in granting Barrett Daffin's motion to dismiss. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiffs' motion for sanctions and motion to compel discovery. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Haase, et al. v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Debtor challenged the district court's determination that proceeds from the post-certification sale of an exempted homestead revert to the estate if not reinvested within six months. The "snapshot rule" of bankruptcy law holds that all exemptions are determined at the time the bankruptcy petition is filed, and that they do not change due to subsequent events. In re Zibman held that proceeds from the pre-petition of a sale of a Texas homestead are not permanently immune from bankruptcy creditors. Under the court's precedent, the sale of the homestead voided the homestead exemption and the failure to reinvest the proceeds within six months voided the proceeds exemption, regardless of whether the sale occurred pre- or post- petition. This interpretation of 11 U.S.C. 522(c) is in accordance with Texas law and the decisions of the court. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Viegelahn v. Frost" on Justia Law

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Amzak appealed the district court's summary judgment on its loan loss claims against its title insurance policy provider and related entities. The court concluded that Amzak failed to show that it suffered actual loss because of a failure of title and STL could not be held responsible for any harm suffered by Amzak. The court formalized the holding in First State Bank v. American Title and likewise rejected the guarantee rationale of Citicorp Savings of Illinois v. Stewart Title Guaranty Co., and agreed with the district court's rejection of Amzak's argument that STL breached the title policy at the time of the loan because its mortgage was voidable at that time. The court also disposed of Amzak's negligence claim where STL's delay in making a complete filing of Amzak's mortgage was not a legal cause of Amzak's loss. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Amzak Capital Mgmt. v. Stewart Title" on Justia Law

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This case arose from the collapse of a real estate transaction. The ART entities filed suit alleging that Clapper defrauded them by representing that "there was no title problems," and seeking a declaratory judgment that they "properly terminated" the deal. The Clapper entities countersued, alleging that the ART entities breached the agreement by purporting to terminate the deal. In this appeal, the court held that the ART entities' decision not to cross-appeal the jury's fraud findings in the first district proceeding prevented them from raising the same rejected fraud claims in the second district court proceeding. Because the contribution amounts overlap, and because the parties neither identified language in the agreement nor an explanation from the district court supporting this double counting of damages, the court held that the district court's decision to combine the amounts was in error. Accordingly, the court vacated the award of combined contribution amounts and remanded for further proceedings. The court addressed remaining claims and affirmed the district court's judgment in all other respects. View "American Midwest, Inc., et al. v. Clapper, et al." on Justia Law

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Acting as receiver, the FDIC conveyed substantially all of WaMU's assets and liabilities to JPMorgan Chase, including certain long-term real-estate leases. At issue was whether the owners of the leased tracts could enforce the leases against Chase by virtue of the FDIC's conveyance. The court held that, in the interest of maintaining uniformity in the construction and enforcement of federal contracts, the landlords did not qualify as third-party beneficiaries. The court concluded, however, that the landlords have "standing" to prove the content of the Agreement and that the Agreement, properly construed, was a complete "assignment" sufficient to create privity of estate under Texas law. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Excel Willowbrook, L.L.C., et al. v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants on plaintiff's claims arising out of the threatened foreclosure on two residential investment properties he owned. The court concluded that the district court correctly determined that Deutsche Bank was a mortgagee and could proceed with the foreclosure action; as a non-party mortgagor, and without any evidence showing plaintiff to be an intended third-party beneficiary, the court concluded that plaintiff lacked the requisite standing to bring suit to enforce the terms of the Pooling & Services Agreement that governed the assignment of the mortgagor's notes; and the requirement in Tex. Prop. Code 51.0001(3) that the current mortgagee provide the notice required the court also to consider defendants' argument that quasi-estoppel under Texas law precluded plaintiff from challenging GMAC's status as mortgage servicer. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Farkas v. GMAC Mortgage, L.L.C., et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against North American after the moving company severely damaged or loss some of plaintiff's items. Because plaintiff's claims arose out of the interstate shipment of her possessions, the Carmack Amendment, 29 U.S.C. 14706 et seq., provided the sole and exclusive remedy. The district court granted summary judgment for North America, determining that her claim for damages did not satisfy regulatory requirements. The court concluded that plaintiff's demand letter unequivocally requested that North American remit payment totaling $182,750.00 and constituted a written communication containing facts sufficient to identify the shipment, asserting liability, and making claims for the payment of a specified amount under 49 C.F.R. 1005.2(b). The plain language of the regulation's minimum filing requirements required nothing more. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for North America and remanded for further proceedings. View "Williams v. N. Amer. Van Lines of Texas, Inc., et al." on Justia Law