Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Jones, Jr. v. Wells Fargo Bank
Plaintiff filed suit against Wells Fargo and JPMorgan for breach of fiduciary duty after the banks served as trustees for plaintiff's trusts. The district court dismissed all but one of plaintiff's claims, finding a breach as to the remaining claim. The Fifth Circuit held that because plaintiff neither pleaded nor tried his case on the frivolous-lawsuit theory, and because Wells Fargo did not consent to a post-trial amendment, it was improper for the district court to award damages against Wells Fargo on that theory. The court also held that plaintiff's claim that he should have received insurance proceeds upon the House Trust's termination was time-barred; the court declined to consider plaintiff's claim that Wells Fargo double-billed the trusts; plaintiff's claim that Wells Fargo breached its fiduciary duty by using trust funds to pay for legal expenses was time-barred; the court rejected plaintiff's claim that Wells Fargo breached a fiduciary duty by failing to advise him; and plaintiff's claim that JPMorgan breached a fiduciary duty by failing to convey title to certain mineral interests was time-barred. View "Jones, Jr. v. Wells Fargo Bank" on Justia Law
Guilbeau v. Hess Corp.
Plaintiff purchased property on which oil and gas operations had been conducted. Plaintiff filed suit against Hess, asserting claims for damages stemming from contamination caused by the oil- and gas-related activities on the tract. The oil and gas leases expired in 1973 and plaintiff purchased the property in 2007, when all wells had been plugged and abandoned. The district court granted Hess's motion for summary judgment, concluding that the subsequent purchaser rule barred plaintiff's claims. The court explained that a clear consensus has emerged among all Louisiana appellate courts that have considered the issue, and they have held that the subsequent purchaser rule does apply to cases, like this one, involving expired mineral leases. Because this case presented no occasion to depart from precedent, the court deferred to these precedents, and held that the subsequent purchaser doctrine barred plaintiff's claims. The court noted that although the denial of a writ is not necessarily an approval of the appellate court's decision nor precedential, the Louisiana Supreme Court has had multiple opportunities to consider this issue and has repeatedly declined to do so. Finally, the court declined to certify questions to the state court. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Guilbeau v. Hess Corp." on Justia Law
Board of Commissioners of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority v. Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.
The Board filed suit in Louisiana state court against various companies involved in the exploration for and production of oil reserves off the southern coast of the United States, alleging that defendants' exploration activities caused infrastructural and ecological damage to coastal lands overseen by the Board that increased the risk of flooding due to storm surges and necessitated costly flood protection measures. The district court denied the Board's motion to remand after removal to federal court, and then granted defendants' motion for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. The court concluded that the Board's negligence and nuisance claims necessarily raised federal issues sufficient to justify federal jurisdiction and thus the court did not reach the remaining issues. The court also concluded that the district court properly dismissed the negligence claim because the Board failed to establish that defendants breached a duty of care to it under the facts alleged, the Board's strict liability claim failed because the Board did not state a claim that defendants owed it a duty of care; the district court properly dismissed the servitude of drain claim; and the Board failed to state a claim for nuisance. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Board of Commissioners of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority v. Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co." on Justia Law
Alexander v. Ameripro Funding
Twelve individuals in the Houston area who receive Section 8 housing assistance filed suit against AmeriPro and Wells Fargo, alleging discrimination in violation of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), 15 U.S.C. 1691 et seq., on the basis of their receipt of public assistance income. The district court granted defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) motion and dismissed the claims. The court concluded that the Wells Fargo Applicants did not plausibly allege that Wells Fargo discriminated against them on the basis of their Section 8 income or failed to consider their Section 8 income in assessing their creditworthiness; the AmeriPro Inquirers did not plausibly allege that they are "applicants" under the ECOA because they did not actually apply for credit with AmeriPro; and the AmeriPro Applicants did not plausibly allege that Wells Fargo was a "creditor" with respect to them. Therefore, the court affirmed as to these claims. The court concluded that the AmeriPro Applicants did plausibly allege violations of the ECOA by alleging that AmeriPro refused to consider their Section 8 income in assessing their creditworthiness as mortgage applicants, and that they received mortgages on less favorable terms and in lesser amounts than they would have had their Section 8 income been considered. Accordingly, the court reversed as to these claims and remanded for further proceedings. View "Alexander v. Ameripro Funding" on Justia Law
Foster v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Co.
This appeal involves the Bank, Ocwen, and Power Default's attempt to foreclose on property in Grand Prairie, Texas. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's denial of her motion for remand based on its finding that Power Default, a non-diverse defendant and substitute trustee for the attempted foreclosure, was improperly joined in the proceeding because the foreclosure did not take place. The district court concluded that plaintiff had no wrongful foreclosure claim against Power Default absent an actual foreclosure. In this case, because she would have been unable to assert a cause of action against Power Default in state court, the district court found that joinder of Power Default as a defendant was improper. Therefore, the court agreed with the district court's analysis and conclusion denying plaintiff's motion to remand to state court. The court also agreed with the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants, concluding that plaintiff may not assert a cause of action for wrongful foreclosure. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Foster v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Co." on Justia Law
Malvino v. Delluniversita
The executor of Bonnie Pereida's estate filed suit and obtained a judgment on claims brought under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1961. Pereida had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on rare coins that she thought would be a good hedge against inflation. In this case, the majority owner of the company that sold her the coins also owned the company that acted as a purportedly independent grader of the coins, and the grades it had assigned did not reflect the coins’ value. The court concluded that Pereida's RICO claims survived her death, but that the evidence did not prove a pattern of racketeering activity at trial. The court found that there is no evidence from which to conclude that the fraud Pereida fell victim to would have continued indefinitely but for this lawsuit. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings as to state law claims. View "Malvino v. Delluniversita" on Justia Law
United States v. 2005 Pilatus Aircraft
After a criminal investigation resulted in the Government seizing a 2005 Pilatus Aircraft, Bearing Tail No. N679PE, and instituting a civil forfeiture proceeding against the plane, Claimants claimed interest in the aircraft. Claimants are Pablo Zarate Juarez, who is a Mexican citizen, as well as Viza Construction and Premier International Holdings. The district court dismissed the claims under the Fugitive Disentitlement statute, 28 U.S.C. 2466, and denied Claimants' motion to stay the civil proceedings. The court concluded that the record supports a finding that Zarate remained outside the United States to intentionally avoid criminal prosecution. Therefore, the elements of section 2466 are met and the claims in opposition lack merit. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. 2005 Pilatus Aircraft" on Justia Law
Hoffman v. Martinez
After plaintiff sold a Mark Rothko painting to David Martinez through L&M Arts, she filed suit alleging that she was fraudulently induced into selling the painting with assurances of secrecy and that the eventual public re-sale of the painting constituted a breach of a confidentiality provision in her agreement with the original buyer. The court concluded that plaintiff failed to show that a genuine dispute of material fact exists regarding each element of Texas fraudulent inducement; L&M was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on plaintiff's breach-of-contract claim where the confidentiality clause did not require secrecy as to the fact of the 2007 sale, and the jury therefore did not hear evidence from which it could reasonably have found that L&M breached the Agreement; and even if a reasonable jury could have found that L&M breached the agreement, L&M would nevertheless be entitled to judgment as a matter of law because the jury’s damages award rested on a legally non-viable measure of damages. The court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment for L&M on plaintiff's fraudulent inducement claim; affirmed the district court's judgment as a matter of law for the Martinez defendants on plaintiff's breach-of-contract claim; reversed the denial of judgment as a matter of law for L&M on plaintiff's breach-of-contract claim; and affirmed the denial of plaintiff's motion for attorney's fees under Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code 38.001(8). The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Hoffman v. Martinez" on Justia Law
LSR Consulting v. Wells Fargo Bank
LSR appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment denying its wrongful-foreclosure claims and award of attorneys' fees to Wells Fargo. The court concluded that Wells Fargo is entitled to summary judgment on the wrongful-foreclosure claim because LSR cannot establish an essential element. Under Texas law, a party alleging wrongful foreclosure must prove a defect in the foreclosure-sale proceedings. In this case, the court concluded that there is no genuine dispute as to whether Wells Fargo mailed notices of intent to accelerate. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that LSR brought its Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692g, claim in bad faith and for the purpose of harassment. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "LSR Consulting v. Wells Fargo Bank" on Justia Law
Johnson v. World Alliance Fin. Corp.
Plaintiff filed suit against WAF and RMS, alleging breach of a reverse mortgage agreement and fraudulent inducement. Plaintiff primarily argued that the property’s foreclosure could have been avoided if WAF had not issued a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (a HECM) in violation of the United States Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines. The court held that HUD regulations govern the relationship between the reverse-mortgage lender and HUD as insurer of the loan. HUD regulations do not give the borrower a private cause of action unless the regulations are expressly incorporated into the lender-borrower agreement. The court affirmed the district court's summary judgment dismissal, holding that plaintiff cannot assert a claim against defendants for breach of HUD regulations, there was no breach of contract, and no valid fraudulent inducement claim. View "Johnson v. World Alliance Fin. Corp." on Justia Law