Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing these appeals brought by Appellant seeking to keep money owed to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts based on the fugitive disentitlement doctrine, holding that the district court dismissed the appeal prematurely and that the early dismissal was an abuse of discretion. Thomas Sheedy bought Carol Thibodeau's house and gave it to Appellant Donald Kupperstein, an attorney licensed in Massachusetts. The state court reversed the sale, but Appellant kept collecting rent. Appellant fought to keep the money, and by the time these appeals reached the First Circuit Appellant had defied seven state court orders, four arrest warrants, and numerous contempt sanctions. Appellant filed for bankruptcy in hopes that the Bankruptcy Code's automatic stay would stop the state court from enforcing its orders. The bankruptcy court subsequently lifted the stay, then Appellant "went AWOL." The district court dismissed Appellant's appeal based on the rule that a fugitive forfeits the right to appeal the judgment he's fleeing. The First Circuit held that reversal was required because the district court's inherent power to protect its own proceedings was not implicated in this case. The Court then remanded the case for the district court to decide the merits of Appellant's appeals. View "Kupperstein v. Schall" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Defendant's and dismissing Plaintiffs' claim that the City of Fitchburg's refusal to exempt four sober houses Plaintiffs operated for recovering addicts from a legal requirement to install sprinklers in the sober houses violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that the requested accommodation was not reasonable. Plaintiffs brought this suit under the ADA, 42 U.S.C. 12101-12213, and the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3601-3631, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA). The district court dismissed the suit on summary judgment, concluding that Plaintiffs failed to show that an exemption from the sprinkler requirement was either reasonable or necessary to allow recovering addicts to live in and benefit from the sober houses. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in entering summary judgment on Plaintiffs' ADA and FHAA reasonable accommodation claims. View "Summers v. City of Fitchburg" on Justia Law

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In this foreclosure case, a panel of the First Circuit withdrew its earlier opinion in this case, vacated the judgment below, and certified a question to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), reasoning that if serious harm was threatened as a result of this litigation that might prompt the SJC to reexamine its precedents, the SJC can address it. In the First Circuit's previous decision, the panel concluded that JP Mortgage Chase, holder of a mortgage on Plaintiffs' home, could not properly foreclose the mortgage based on Plaintiffs' failure to pay their required months installments because the foreclosure notice was inaccurate. Citing wide support from the banking community, Chase filed a petition for rehearing, claiming that a state banking regulation required Chase to use the precise language it had used in its pre-foreclosure notice to Plaintiffs. The First Circuit ordered certification of a question to the SJC regarding the pre-foreclosure notice in this case and whether the notice was inaccurate or deceptive in a manner that rendered the subsequent foreclosure sale void under Massachusetts law. View "Thompson v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) in this case regarding the allegedly invalidity of a foreclosure, holding that the Merrill doctrine, which requires a showing of actual authority as a basis for holding a federal instrumentality vicariously liable for the acts of its agents, applied to Fannie Mae. Appellant took out a loan secured by a mortgage on his residence. The lender assigned the mortgage loan to Fannie Mae, and the loan was serviced by Ditech Financial LLC. After the home was foreclosed on, Appellant filed suit. Appellant asserted common-law claims alleging that Fannie Mae was vicariously liable for deceit and negligent misrepresentation committed by Ditech employees. Fannie Mae moved for summary judgment claiming that its liability was pretermitted by the Merrill doctrine. See Federal Crop Insurance Co. v. Merrill, 332 U.S. 380 (1947). The district court agreed and granted summary judgment. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the Merrill doctrine barred Appellant's suit. View "Faiella v. Federal National Mortgage Association" on Justia Law

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In this case brought by Puerto Rico general obligation bondholders (Bondholders), the First Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Bondholders' complaint seeking injunctive and declaratory relief claiming that they possessed a priority and property interest over certain revenues of the Puerto Rico government, holding that the district court correctly dismissed the Bondholders' complaint. This case arose from the restructuring of Puerto Rico's public debt under Title III of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act of 2016 (PROMESA). The Bondholders sought declarations to confirm their property rights to certain revenues of the Puerto Rico government, determine that the diversion of the revenues constituted an unconstitutional taking, and specify appropriate uses for those revenues. The district court dismissed certain counts of the Bondholders' complaint as seeking improper advisory opinions, another count presenting a takings claim as unripe, and almost all the remaining counts as barred under section 305 of PROMESA. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court properly dismissed all counts. View "Aurelius Capital Master, Ltd. v. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico" on Justia Law

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In this diversity case, the First Circuit affirmed the district court’s conclusion that Deutsche Bank National Trust Company’s mortgage interest in a property in New Hampshire was subject to a homestead right of Jennifer Pike, the property’s resident, and the district court’s denial of Pike’s request for attorney’s fees, holding that the district court did not err. After consolidating Pike’s appeal from the denial of her request for attorney’s fees with Deutsche Bank’s appeal, the First Circuit held (1) the district court correctly determined that Pike retained her homestead right under the plain language of a divorce decree; (2) the district court correctly declined to apply equitable subrogation to defeat Pike’s homestead right; and (3) the district court correctly concluded that Pike was not entitled to attorney’s fees under a New Hampshire state statute and the mortgage because she was not the “borrower” for purposes of the mortgage. View "Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. v. Pike" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court granting Bank’s motion to dismiss this case alleging that Bank failed to comply with the notice requirements in Plaintiffs’ mortgage before foreclosing on their property, holding that Bank’s failure to strictly comply with paragraph 22 of the mortgage invalidated the foreclosure. Paragraph 22 required that prior to accelerating payment by Plaintiffs, the mortgagee had to provide Plaintiffs with notice specifying certain elements. After Bank sent default and acceleration notices to Plaintiffs Plaintiff failed to cure the default, and Bank conducted a foreclosure sale. Plaintiffs then filed a complaint alleging that Bank failed to comply with the paragraph 22 notice requirements prior to foreclosing on their property. The district court granted Bank’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, concluding that Bank’s default and acceleration notice strictly complied with paragraph 22. The First Circuit disagreed, holding (1) the mortgage terms for which Massachusetts courts demand strict compliance include the provisions in paragraph 22 requiring and prescribing the preforeclosure default notice; and (2) because the default letter omitted certain information that rendered the notice potentially deceptive the Bank violated the strict compliance requirement, thus invalidating the foreclosure. View "Thompson v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s order dismissing the case brought by Plaintiff seeking to have the district court address the same grievances she brought without success in the Massachusetts state courts, holding that Supreme Court case law divests federal courts of subject-matter jurisdiction in such cases. A bank commenced a summary process action in the Worcester Housing Court seeking to evict Plaintiff. Plaintiff counterclaimed. The Housing Court eventually entered final judgment awarding possession of the property to the bank. Plaintiff’s appeal was unsuccessful. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a civil action against the bank in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, alleging wrongful foreclosure and other claims relating to the same issues she addressed in the summary process action. The district court granted the bank’s motion to dismiss, concluding that the doctrine set forth in D.C. Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 482 (1983) and Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 415-16 (1923), deprived the federal courts of subject-matter jurisdiction. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the district court lacked jurisdiction where Plaintiff’s federal suit sought to invalidate the antecedent state courts’ judgments. View "Klimowicz v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Co." on Justia Law

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In this action filed by Plaintiffs seeking to enjoin their property’s foreclosure sale, the First Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ complaint under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) and the denial of Plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the statute of limitations applied to the bulk of Plaintiffs' claims. Plaintiffs obtained a loan from Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. to refinance their Massachusetts property. After Plaintiffs defaulted on their loan they initiated this action to void their transaction and enjoin their property’s foreclosure sale. The district court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss the bulk of Plaintiffs’ claims as time-barred and denied Plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court properly found that the statute of limitations applied to the majority of Plaintiffs’ claims; and (2) the remainder of Plaintiffs’ arguments were meritless. View "Harry v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed in substantial part the district court’s judgment dismissing US Bank’s complaint against HLC Escrow, Inc. and First American Title Insurance Company, vacating only its dismissal of US Bank’s claim against First American alleging violation of Maine’s Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act (USCPA), which the First Circuit concluded was timely filed. US Bank, the current holder of a 2007 mortgage that incorrectly identified a parcel of unimproved land rather than the correct parcel of improved land that encompassed the mortgagors’ residence, sued the closing agent and the title insurer in 2016. The complaint included causes of action for negligence and “duty of care” against HLC Escrow, and negligence, unilateral mistake, and violation of USCPA against First American. The district court dismissed the complaint in its entirety, concluding that Maine’s six-year statute of limitations for civil actions barred US Bank’s claims. The First Circuit vacated the dismissal with respect to US Bank’s USCPA claim against First American and otherwise affirmed, holding that the USCPA claim was timely for statute of limitations purposes but that the remainder of US Bank’s claims were untimely filed. View "US Bank, N.A. v. HLC Escrow, Inc." on Justia Law