Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
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In this case, the plaintiff, Chicago Joe's Tea Room LLC, had plans to open an adult entertainment business in a suburb of Chicago. However, the Village of Broadview denied the plaintiff's application for a special-use permit, which led to the plaintiff claiming that their constitutional rights were violated. The plaintiff sought millions of dollars in lost profits for the business that never opened. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois excluded most of the plaintiff's evidence and theories for lost-profit damages due to substantive and procedural issues. The court then awarded the plaintiff just $15,111 in damages. The plaintiff appealed, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the decision of the lower court, finding no abuses of discretion. The appellate court stated that the plaintiff's calculations of lost profits were beyond the scope of the plaintiff's personal knowledge of a similar business and required expert-like analysis and adjustments. The court also ruled that the plaintiff failed to disclose necessary damages evidence in a timely manner, a violation of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The plaintiff was also denied the opportunity to amend their complaint to challenge a state statute, as the request was made a decade after the issue became relevant. The court found that granting the amendment would have caused undue delay and prejudice to the Village. View "Chicago Joe's Tea Room, LLC v. Village of Broadview" on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit addressed a dispute involving the owners of two parcels of real estate in Chicago who contended that banks tried to collect notes and mortgages that belonged to different financial institutions. The state judiciary had ruled that the banks were entitled to foreclose on both parcels, but the properties had not yet been sold and no final judgments defining the debt were in place. The plaintiffs attempted to initiate federal litigation under the holding of Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Industries Corp., arguing that their case was still pending. However, the district court dismissed the case, citing the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which states that only the Supreme Court of the United States can review the judgments of state courts in civil suits.The Appeals court held that the application of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine was incorrect in this case because the foreclosure litigation in Illinois was not yet "final". According to the court, the foreclosure process in Illinois continues until the property is sold, the sale is confirmed, and the court either enters a deficiency judgment or distributes the surplus. Since these steps had not occurred, the plaintiffs had not yet "lost the war", and thus parallel state and federal litigation could be pursued as per Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Industries Corp.However, by the time the district court dismissed this suit, the state litigation about one parcel was over because a sale had occurred and been confirmed, and by the time the Appeals court heard oral argument that was true for the second parcel as well. The Appeals court stated that Illinois law forbids sequential litigation about the same claim even when the plaintiff in the second case offers novel arguments. The court found that the plaintiffs could have presented their constitutional arguments in the state court system and were not free to shift what is effectively an appellate argument to a different judicial system.The court also noted that Joel Chupack, the lead defendant, was the trial judge in the state case and was not a party to either state case. He did not claim the benefit of preclusion. Judge Chupack was found to be entitled to absolute immunity from damages, as he acted in a judicial capacity.The judgment of the district court was modified to reflect a dismissal with prejudice rather than a dismissal for lack of jurisdiction, and as so modified it was affirmed. View "Bryant v. Chupack" on Justia Law

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In this case heard in the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, an accident occurred at a construction site which resulted in bodily injuries to Gaylon Cruse and Mark Duckworth. During the installation of roof trusses, a power crane operated by Douglas Forrest was prematurely released, causing a truss to fall and collapse onto other trusses, injuring Cruse and Duckworth. Southern Truss, the owner of the truck to which the crane was attached, had two insurance policies - a commercial auto policy from Artisan and Truckers Casualty Company (Artisan) and a commercial general liability policy from The Burlington Insurance Company (Burlington). Both insurance companies denied a duty to defend in the underlying lawsuit initiated by Cruse and Duckworth.Artisan filed a suit in federal court seeking a declaration that it owed no duty to defend under its auto policy due to an operations exclusion clause and that Burlington owed a duty to defend. The district court denied both companies' motions for judgment, finding an ambiguity in Artisan's policy that should be construed in favor of the insured and that Burlington had a duty to defend some claims not covered by Artisan's policy. Both Artisan and Burlington appealed.The appeals court, applying Illinois law and conducting a de novo review, found no ambiguity in Artisan's policy. The court concluded that the operations exclusion applied because the injuries arose from the operation of the crane attached to the truck, whose primary purpose was to provide mobility to the crane. As such, Artisan had no duty to defend. Since Artisan had no duty to defend, the court determined that Burlington did have a duty to defend under its policy. Thus, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the district court. View "Artisan and Truckers Casualty Company v. Burlington Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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Randall Ewing and Yasmany Gomez entered into a contract with 1645 W. Farragut LLC (Farragut) to purchase a house. The house was in need of substantial renovations, but Ewing and Gomez proceeded with the contract based on Farragut's assurance that the house would be renovated and ready by closing time. Unbeknownst to Ewing and Gomez, the house was under a stop work order, which hindered their ability to secure a mortgage. When they requested their earnest money back, Farragut refused. They subsequently sued Farragut for breach of contract, common law fraud, and fraud under the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois found Farragut liable for fraud and breach of contract and awarded Ewing and Gomez $905,000 in damages. Farragut appealed the decision and Ewing and Gomez cross-appealed, seeking to add Farragut's principal, Erik Carrier, to the case. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the District Court's decisions, finding that the record supported the damages awarded and that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion for a new trial and the motions to amend. View "Ewing v. 1645 W. Farragut LLC" on Justia Law

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The Shelbyville Post Office is the closest one to Ellison’s home and the largest in that area of Indiana. Ellison keeps a P.O. box at Shelbyville or her non-profit organization, which educates the public about accessibility for people with disabilities. Ellison cannot enter the Shelbyville Post Office because it has only one customer entrance: at the top of its front steps. Ellison can ask for help from the loading dock or from a van-accessible parking space, use the Postal Service’s website, or visit wheelchair-accessible locations in surrounding towns. After multiple complaints about the inconvenience of those options, the City of Shelbyville offered to pay for a ramp at the front entrance. The Postal Service declined, citing a policy of refusing donations for exterior physical improvements.In a suit under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794(a), the district court entered summary judgment, concluding that Ellison could meaningfully access the program through its website and three wheelchair-accessible locations within a 15-minute drive of her home. The Seventh Circuit vacated and remanded for consideration of whether Ellison’s proposed accommodation (a ramp) is reasonable. The Shelbyville Post Office does not provide a significant level of access, and the alternative locations are further away and open for fewer hours than Shelbyville. View "Ellison v. United States Postal Service" on Justia Law

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Willow purchased a house that needed repairs. Bids for the work exceeded $100,000. Renovations began in 2017 but soon halted. After several years passed, with the house remaining empty, the Village proposed its demolition as a nuisance. The Village published notice, posted notices on the house, and mailed notice to Willow, which concedes having actual knowledge of the impending demolition. Willow did not respond until the week scheduled for the demolition when its lawyer proposed a meeting. The parcel was sold at auction to satisfy the Village’s lien for demolition expenses.Willow sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming a taking without compensation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the Village. Demolition of a dilapidated structure that constitutes a public nuisance is not problematic under the Due Process Clause and does not require compensation. The protection that the federal Constitution offers to property owners is notice and an opportunity for a hearing. The Village gave such a notice to Willow, which did not ask for a hearing. Illinois law offers procedures that are constitutionally adequate; someone wanting to stop a demolition need only file suit in state court, which automatically blocks action until the judge decides whether the building meets the statutory criteria for demolition. The district court was not required to decide a state law inverse-condemnation claim. View "Willow Way, LLC v. Village of Lyons, Illinois" on Justia Law

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In 2008, Paris, a small, rural Kenosha County, Wisconsin community, enacted its “Sex Offender Residency Restrictions” ordinance, limiting where certain designated sex offenders could live within the town. The ordinance prohibits designated offenders from living within 6,500 feet of certain protected locations where children are known to congregate and prohibits designated offenders from living within 6,500 feet of any other designated offender Nelson, a former Paris resident and designated offender, was cited for violating the ordinance’s designated offenders restriction. His suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, argued that the ordinance—both facially and as applied—violated his constitutional right to substantive due process and Article I’s prohibition on ex post facto laws.The Seventh Circuit affirmed, in part, summary judgment in favor of Paris, noting that Nelson conceded that the “protected locations” ordinance is rationally related to Paris’s legitimate interest in protecting children. Paris’s restriction prohibiting designated offenders from living within 6,500 feet of protected locations does not violate the Constitution’s Ex Post Facto Clause because it is not “so punitive either in purpose or effect” as to negate Paris’s nonpunitive intent for the restriction. The court remanded the question of Paris’s restriction prohibiting designated offenders from living within 6,500 feet of each other. View "Nelson v. Town of Paris" on Justia Law

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In a suit filed in 2014 under the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3601–19, Cook County claimed that the banks made credit too readily available to some borrowers, who defaulted, and then foreclosed on the loans in a way that injured the County. The County alleged the banks targeted potential minority borrowers for unchecked or improper credit approval decisions, which allowed them to receive loans they could not afford; discretionary application of surcharge of additional points, fees, and other credit and servicing costs above otherwise objective risk-based financing rates; higher cost loan products; and undisclosed inflation of appraisal values to support inflated loan amounts. When many of the borrowers could not repay, the County asserts, it had to deal with vacant properties and lost tax revenue and transfer fees.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. Entertaining suits to recover damages for any foreseeable result of an FHA violation would risk “massive and complex damages litigation.” Proximate cause under the FHA requires “some direct relation between the injury asserted and the injurious conduct alleged.” Cook County seeks a remedy for effects far beyond “the first step.” The directly injured parties are the borrowers, who lost both housing and money. The banks are secondary losers. The County is at best a tertiary loser; its injury derives from the injuries to the borrowers and banks. View "County of Cook v. Bank of America Corp." on Justia Law

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Luster was buying a house on contract and had already paid the owner at least 20 percent of the price of the home. The village contacted Luster to obtain the property to create a municipal park. Luster rebuffed this offer. The village then contacted the seller. Luster claims the village knew of his contract but convinced the seller to convey a warranty deed to the village without notifying Luster. The village then sent a letter to Luster demanding immediate possession of the property. According to Luster, he was unable to insure the house because of the ownership dispute. The house burned down while Luster was attempting to quiet title, destroying his family’s possessions and leaving them homeless. Luster sued the village under 42 U.S.C. 1983, seeking damages for his lost property and the village’s “malicious conduct.” He alleged that the village took the home without adequate notice and an opportunity to be heard.The Seventh Circuit vacated the dismissal of the complaint. Luster’s complaint does not allege or permit a reasonable inference that he was deprived of his property by the random, unauthorized acts of any village employee. Absent any obvious reason why the village could not have provided advance notice and a pre-deprivation hearing before it seized Luster’s property interest, the adequacy of a post-deprivation remedy is irrelevant. View "Luster v. Village of Ashmore" on Justia Law

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Wilson was traveling at O’Hare airport with $33,783 in cash. The Drug Enforcement Administration seized the money, suspecting that the proceeds were from illegal drug activity. DEA notified Wilson that it would declare the seized cash as government property by administrative forfeiture. Under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act (CAFRA), 18 U.S.C. 983(a)(1)(A), Wilson had to file a “claim” with DEA by September 25, 2020. She received the required notice that failure to file a timely claim would waive her right to contest the forfeiture. On September 18, 2020, Wilson’s attorney mistakenly filed the wrong form, a “petition for remission,” which seeks to reduce the amount of seized money subject to forfeiture. Wilson’s attorney realized the mistake about five months later and sent a letter. DEA declined to correct the error.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Wilson’s Motion to Recover Seized Property under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(g), which “is properly invoked to request the return of seized property before forfeiture proceedings have been initiated.” CAFRA is “the exclusive remedy for seeking to set aside a declaration of forfeiture.” Wilson did not assert any challenge to the notice she received from the DEA; her argument amounted to a request for equitable relief. Apart from challenges based on notice, “Congress has authorized no other means for challenging a declaration of forfeiture” in federal court. View "Wilson v. United States" on Justia Law