Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court
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In these consolidated appeals related to the seizure of Appellants' property as part of a murder investigation the Supreme Court affirmed the Third District Court's dismissal of Appellants' causes of action and affirmed the Fourth District Court's denial of attorney fees, holding that the courts did not err.More than twenty years ago, Duchesne county law enforcement seized property belonging to Appellants as part of a murder investigation. Although some of the property was admitted into evidence in the murder trial, most of the property was not used in the criminal proceedings. Years later, Appellants sued the State and Duchesne County in the Third District Court to recover the seized property and for damages. While this litigation was ongoing, Appellants filed a petition to recover property in the Fourth District Court. The Third District Court dismissed the case. The Fourth District Court granted Appellants' petition but denied their motion for attorney fees. The Supreme Court affirmed both district courts, holding (1) the Third District Court correctly dismissed Appellants' causes of action as being barred by the Governmental Immunity Act of Utah, Utah Code 63G-7-101 to -904; and (2) the Fourth District Court correctly denied attorney fees. View "Pinder v. Duchesne" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the district court in favor of Plaintiffs on their claims of interference and negligence, holding that the district court erred in determining that Defendants interfered with Plaintiffs' wells and that remand was necessary on the negligence claim to consider whether it survives the dismissal of Plaintiffs' interference claims.Plaintiffs diverted their water obtained through their water rights through the use of two wells. Defendant had a junior water right and operated five wells that were deeper and stronger than Plaintiffs' wells. Plaintiffs brought this lawsuit alleging interference and negligence, claiming that Defendant interfered with their water rights because when one of Defendant's wells operated it lowered the water table and put the available water beyond the reach of Plaintiffs' pumps. The district ruled in favor of Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the district court's determination of interference, holding that Plaintiff failed to prove interference; and (2) declined to reverse the negligence ruling but, in light of the reversal of the district court's interference determinations, remanded this claim for reconsideration and further fact-finding, if necessary. View "Arave v. Pineview West Water Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the portion of the court of appeals' opinion reversing the district court's valuation decision regarding the just compensation as to a certain parcel of land, holding that Appellant did not provide a plausible basis for reversal of the district court.The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) condemned property owned by Coalt, Inc. (Parcel 84) in connection with the Legacy Parkway Project. UDOT later entered into a settlement agreement with public interest litigants agreeing to acquire additional mitigation property in connection with the Legacy Nature Preserve. This property included Parcel 84. Coalt argued that UDOT did not take Parcel 84 for the Legacy Parkway and therefore did not have the authority to condemn the property. In the alternative, Coalt argued that Coalt's compensation for the taking should include any increased market value caused by Parcel 84's proximity to the Legacy Parkway. The court of appeals concluded that UDOT had the authority to condemn Coalt's land but that just compensation should include any enhanced value caused by the Legacy Parkway. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) UDOT had authority to condemn Parcel 84 as mitigation for the Legacy Parkway Project; and (2) Coalt did not provide a plausible basis for reversal of the district court's valuation decision. View "Utah Department of Transportation v. Coalt, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the judgment of the district court against Rocky Ford Irrigation Company on its lawsuit against Kents Lake Reservoir Company seeking clarification regarding the priority of the parties' rights and Kents Lake's obligations as to the Beaver River administration and measurement, holding that the district court erred in denying Rocky Ford's motion for summary judgment.Specifically, the Supreme Court (1) reversed the district court's denial of Rocky Ford's motion for summary judgment, holding that Rocky Ford was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the second point on which it sought a declaration of rights; (2) affirmed the court's decision refusing to declare that Kents Lake could not store its efficiency gains; (3) reversed the court's denial of Rocky Ford's request for declaratory judgment as to Kents Lake's measurement obligations under a 1931 Beaver River Decree, holding that the clarification Rocky Ford sought was warranted; (4) affirmed the court's decision refusing to rescind the agreement entered into by the parties in 1953; and (5) reversed the decision awarding attorney fees to Kents Lake and Beaver City, holding that there was no basis for a determination that Rocky Ford filed or pursued its claims in bad faith. View "Rocky Ford Irrigation Co. v. Kents Lake Reservoir Co." on Justia Law

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In this appeal arising from a dispute between lien holders regarding the distribution of the money a foreclosure sale of Zermatt Resort had generated the Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals concluding that it had jurisdiction to resolve a procedural matter and affirming the district court, holding that the court of appeals did not have jurisdiction to resolve the matter.After the district court entered its final judgment in this matter but before the time to appeal expired Trapnell & Associates, LLC purchase the plaintiff's interest in the litigation. Trapnell filed a notice under Utah R. Civ. P. 17 that it was a real party in interest and, on that same day, lodged a notice of appeal. The court of appeals noted that it would have been better had Trapnell filed a motion invoking Utah R. Civ. P. 25(c) instead of a notice invoking rule 17 but ruled on the merits of Trapnell's arguments, concluding that because Trapnell had intended to become a party and the district court had treated Trapnell as a party, Trapnell had become a party. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals' decision, holding that the court of appeals erred in concluding that Trapnell had properly substituted into this matter. View "Trapnell & Associates, LLC v. Legacy Resorts, LLC" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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