Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court
by
In this eminent domain action, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court endorsing a "general rule that a party may not rely on post-valuation facts and circumstances to prove severance damages," holding that there is no categorical rule foreclosing the relevance of evidence of a subsequent transaction involving the property in question. In 2009, a portion of Plaintiff's property was taken by the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT). During the subsequent litigation, the parties disputed the amount of damages for the condemned property and on the amount of severance damages as to Plaintiff's remaining property. Plaintiff eventually sold the remaining property, which was developed into two car dealerships. On a pretrial motion in limine the district court excluded this development, concluding that that the property had to be valued as of the date of the taking and based on what a willing buyer and seller would have known at that time. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there is no categorical rule deeming post-valuation-date evidence irrelevant to the determination of fair market value under Utah Code 78B-6-511 and -512. View "Utah Department of Transportation v. Boggess-Draper Co." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the district court's dismissal of the Pearl Raty Trust's claim that it is an inhabitant of Salt Lake City and thereby entitled to the City's water under Utah Const. art. XI, 6, holding that the Trust failed to persuade the Court that the Utah voters who ratified the Constitution would have considered it an inhabitant of the City. The Trust sought water for an undeveloped lot it owned in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Although the lot sat in unincorporated Salt Lake County, the lot fell within Salt Lake City's water service area. The court of appeals ruled that the Trust was not an inhabitant of the City because it "merely holds undeveloped property within territory over which the City asserts water rights and extra-territorial jurisdiction." The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Trust failed to persuade that the people who ratified the Utah Constitution understood the word "inhabitants" to encompass any person who owned property in a city's approved water service area. View "Salt Lake City Corp. v. Haik" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court, on summary judgment, ruling that a prescriptive easement had been formed, but held that the court incorrectly instructed the jury regarding the scope of the prescriptive easement and therefore remanded the case for a new trial with the correct jury instruction. On summary judgment, the district court determined that Appellees had established a prescriptive easement across the property of Appellants. After a trial for a determination of the scope of that easement, the jury returned a verdict, and the court entered a final judgment. The Supreme Court held (1) on summary judgment, the district court did not err in ruling that a prescriptive easement had formed; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in its decisions regarding the admissibility of the parties' respective expert witnesses; but (3) the district court erred in instructing the jury regarding the scope of the prescriptive easement, necessitating a new trial. View "Harrison v. SPAH Family Ltd." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court determining that SRB Investment Company had established a prescriptive easement but prohibiting SRB from using the easement for any reason other than to access the SRB property for the purposes of ranching or farming, holding that the court improperly focused on the purposes for which SRB's land would be used rather than on the purpose for which the relevant portion of the servant estate would be used. SRB sought access to its property through a prescriptive easement crossing land owned by the Spencer family. The district court determined that SRB had acquired a prescriptive easement across the Spencer property and then limited the scope of the easement. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred in defining the scope of the easement based on how SRB used its own property during the prescriptive period and instead should have defined the scope of the easement based on how SRB used the Spencer's property during that period. View "SRB Investment Co., Ltd. v. Spencer" on Justia Law

by
In this action brought by Claimants seeking recovery for physical takings as well as severance damages for their property's decrease in market value after the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) condemned portions of their land the Supreme Court affirmed the conclusion of the court of appeals upholding the jury's verdict awarding claimants $2.3 million in severance damages, holding that the jury's award of severance damages was appropriate. The UDOT projects involved the reconstruction of a freeway interchange near Claimants' property. UDOT's condemnation of a portion of the property owned by Claimants interfered with both the property's visibility and its convenient "right-out" exits that provided access to the freeway. The jury awarded $2.3 million in severance damages. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the severance damages awarded were appropriate because Claimants put on adequate evidence that their damages were caused by UDOT's construction of an improvement in the form of the new interchange. View "Utah Department of Transportation v. Target Corp." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the district court's determination that the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake & Sandy (Metro) has authority to impose land use restrictions on real property it does not own, holding that Metro's authority over the property did not extend beyond the authority it derived from its easement rights and that the district court's determination regarding the scope of the easement was in error. Metro owned an easement across land owned by the SHCH Alaska Trust. The district court found that Metro's status as a limited purpose local district of the state granted Metro authority beyond what is generally enjoyed by an easement holder to impose restrictions on Alaska's use of the property. The district court also determined that Metro's easement was 200 feet wide, basing the determination on a written description of the easement created by a civil engineer for the Federal Bureau of Reclamation in 1961. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court incorrectly interpreted the Limited Purpose Local Districts Act, Utah Code Title 17B, because no provision in the Act authorizes Metro to regulate Alaska's use of its own property; and (2) the court erred in concluding that the civil engineer's written description regarding the easement's scope was dispositive. View "Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake & Sandy v. SHCH Alaska Trust" on Justia Law

by
In this dispute between a homeowner's association (HOA) and a group of landowners (WDIS) within the HOA's boundaries, the Supreme Court reversed the district court's dismissal of WDIS's quiet title claim and the court's res judicata determination without reaching the merits, holding that no statute of limitations applied to the quiet title claim and that the HOA failed adequately to brief the res judicata issue. At the district court level WDIS brought an action to quiet title in its properties against the HOA, seeking a judicial declaration that its properties were not encumbered by the HOA's covenants and restrictions. In dismissing the action, the district court determined that it was barred by the statute of limitations and that the doctrine of res judicata precluded WDIS from challenging certain encumbrances enacted in 1990. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because WDIS was able to establish a prima facie case of quiet title without first receiving some other relief from the court no statute of limitations applied to WDIS's quiet title claim; and (2) the HOA failed adequately to brief the res judicata issue. View "WDIS, LLC v. Hi-Country Estates Homeowners Ass'n" on Justia Law

by
In this dispute between parties that both had water rights in the Beaver River the Supreme Court affirmed the portion of the judgment of the district court against Rocky Ford Irrigation Company on its claims against Kents Lake Reservoir Company seeking clarification regarding priority of rights and Kents Lake's obligations as to river administration but reversed the district court's decision not to clarify Kents Lake's measurement obligations, holding that Rocky Ford was entitled to clarification in this regard. As changed occurred both in water rights and in irrigation techniques and the administration of the Beaver River grew more complex, Rocky Ford brought this action against Kents Lake. The district court declined all of Rocky Ford's claims and awarded attorney fees to Kents Lake and Beaver City sua sponte. The Supreme Court held (1) the trial court properly denied Rocky Ford's motion for summary judgment; (2) the trial court did not err when it refused to enter a declaratory judgment that Kents Lake cannot store the water it saves through increased efficiency; (3) the district court erred in refusing to enter a declaratory judgment regarding Kents Lake's measurement obligations; and (4) Kents Lake and Beaver City were not entitled to attorney fees. View "Rocky Ford Irrigation Co. v. Kents Lake Reservoir Co." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court granting Defendant's motion for summary judgment on the complaint filed by Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake and Sandy (Metro) seeking injunctive relief and other claims regarding Defendant's improvements to his property, in violation to Metro's regulations, on the grounds that Metro's claims were not yet ripe, holding that the parties' claims were ripe. Metro was a quasi-governmental entity known as a limited purpose local district, created for the purpose of operating the Salt Lake Aqueduct (SLA). Metro owned land in fee and had various easements along the SLA corridor, and one of those easements crossed Defendant's backyard. When Defendant made improvements to his property in violation of Metro's regulations over non-Metro district use of SLA corridor lands such as Defendant's, Defendant brought this lawsuit. The district court dismissed Metro's claims as not ripe, finding that determining whether Defendant had unreasonably interfered with the easement was speculative. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the parties had present and competing interests in the land at issue and because Metro claimed Defendant was currently violating its alleged regulatory authority, the issues presented in this case were ripe. View "Metro Water District of Salt Lake & Sandy v. Sorf" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court declining to enter summary judgment for Appellants on the grounds that the Utah Declaratory Judgment Act requires neighbors objecting to fences that encroach on bridle paths to sue all homeowners whose property is subject to the bridle path easement, rather than just those homeowners who have fences that infringe on the path, holding that no such joinder is required. Appellants brought suit alleging that Appellees - four of approximately one hundred homeowners in Bell Canyon Acres Community - intruded upon bridle paths in the neighborhood for the use of residents, thereby violating the restrictive covenants that apply to the lots in Bell Canyon Acres. Appellants sought a declaratory judgment determining the parties' on the bridle paths and declaring that Appellees were encroaching on the bridle paths. The district court denied Appellants' motion for summary judgment, concluding that Utah Code 78B-6-403(1) required that all homeowners in the community whose property was subject to the restrictive covenants and the bridle path easement (the outsiders) were required to be joined. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 403 provided no impediment to the declaratory judgment Appellants sought and that the outsiders did not need to be joined as parties. View "Bell Canyon Acres Homeowners Ass'n v. McLelland" on Justia Law