Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court
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In this quiet title action, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court's denial of Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, holding that the Wrongful Lien Act, the statute of frauds, and caselaw have not declared that restrictive covenants recorded without the signature of the affected landowner are absolutely void. In 1973, Charles Lewton signed and recorded documents purporting to create a homeowners association (HOA) covering 2,000 acres of land. Landowners purchased properties within the HOA's boundaries. In 2015, Landowners discovered that Lewton had owned just eight acres of the 2,000 acres purported to be included in the HOA, and no other landowners signed the recorded documents. Landowners subsequently brought this action to quiet title to their property, arguing that the HOA and its restrictive covenants were void ab initio based on public policy. The district court denied Landowners' motion for summary judgment, applying the two-factor test set forth in Ockey v. Lehmer, 189 P.3d 51 (Utah 2008). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that restrictive covenants that are recorded without the signature of the affected landowner are voidable and therefore ratifiable. View "WDIS, LLC v. Hi-Country Estates Homeowners Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing the challenges brought by Salt Lake City to four provisions of the Utah Inland Port Authority Act, holding that the challenged zoning provisions did not violate the Utah Constitution.The Act requires that Salt Lake City, West Valley City, and Magna adopt specific zoning regulations and permissions favorable to developing an inland port in the area. Salt Lake brought this action alleging that four provisions of the Act violated the Utah Constitution's Uniform Operation of Laws and Ripper clauses. The district court rejected the City's claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the zoning provisions were rationally related to a legitimate legislative purpose and therefore did not violate the Uniform Operation of Laws Clause; and (2) the zoning provisions did not delegate municipal functions in violation of the Ripper Clause. View "Salt Lake City Corp. v. Inland Port Authority" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court dismissing this case claiming that the Traverse Ridge Special Service District needed either to stop charging members The Cove at Little Valley Homeowners Association for services it had never provided or to start plowing snow from private roads in front of homes in the Cove, holding that the district court erred in part.The Service District filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim because the Draper City Code did not require it to service private roads and because the Homeowners Association needed to bring its challenge in a manner dictated by the Utah Tax Code. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Cove's first cause of action but reversed its dismissal of the second reversed in part, holding that the district court erred when it concluded that the assessment its members paid to the Service District was a tax as a matter of law. View "Cove at Little Valley Homeowners Ass'n v. Traverse Ridge Special Service District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the conclusion of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint against Washington County School District claiming that the School District had failed to offer it the right of first refusal to repurchase its former property, holding that the court of appeals erred in its interpretation of Utah Code 78-34-20(1)(b), replaced by Utah Code 78B-6-521(1)(a)(ii).Several years after Plaintiff sold a parcel of land to the School District the School District resold the property. Because Utah law requires a government entity to offer property acquired through condemnation or a threat of condemnation to the original owner before disposing of it Plaintiff bought suit, arguing that the School district acquired its property under a threat of condemnation. The district court dismissed the suit for failure to state a claim. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that a government entity does not specifically authorize the use of eminent domain until it approves an eminent domain lawsuit in an open meeting. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the statute did not support the appellate court's interpretation of what it means to be specifically authorized. View "Cardiff Wales, LLC v. Washington County School District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court denying Landowners' motion for summary judgment in their action to quiet title to their property against a homeowners association (HOA), holding that the district court did not err.Landowners purchased properties within the boundaries of the HOA but later discovered that the person who signed and recorded the documents purporting to create the HOA owned a mere 0.4 percent of the territory he sought to include within the boundaries of the HOA, and no other landowners had signed the recorded documents. Landowners, who met resistance in trying to develop their property, brought this action alleging that the HOA and its subsequently amended restrictive covenants were void ab initio. The district court denied Landowners' motion for summary judgment. On appeal, Landowners argued that the covenants must be declared absolutely void under the test set forth in Ockey v. Lehmer, 189 P.3d 51 (Utah 2008). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that restrictive covenants that are recorded without the signature of the affected landowner are voidable, not absolutely void. View "WDIS, LLC v. Hi-Country Estates Homeowners Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the district court dismissing Honnen Equipment Company's (Honnen) breach of contract claim brought brought against Daz Management, LLC (LLC), holding that all elements of claim preclusion were met, and therefore, the breach of contract claim was barred.Honnen sued Tony Daz (Daz) claiming that Daz negligently operated and damaged a grader that had been rented by the LLC from Honnen and thus breached the rental agreement. The district court ruled for Daz on both Honnen's breach of contract and negligence claim. Thereafter, Honnen brought a second action against the LLC asserting the same claims. After Honnen voluntarily dismissed its negligence claim the district court dismissed the breach of contract claim under the claim preclusion branch of res judicata. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Honnen's breach of contract claim was barred. View "Honnen Equipment Co. v. DAZ Management, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiffs' claims against Intermountain GeoEnvironmental Services, Inc. (IGES), holding that the court of appeals correctly construed the Economic Loss Statute, Utah Code 78B-4-513(1) to (2), to reach Plaintiffs' negligence claims.After moving into their home, Plaintiffs discovered that the walls and foundation were cracking due to "failure surfaces" in the soil approximately sixty-five feet beneath their home. Plaintiffs brought suit against IGES, a geotechnical engineering firm that provided a geotechnical report stating that the site was safe for residential construction, asserting a variety of tort and contract claims. The district court dismissed the claims. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiffs brought an action for defective design, and therefore, the Economic Loss Statute applied and barred Plaintiffs' negligence claims; and (2) the court of appeals did not err in failing to analyze whether a common law independent duty exception applied to their claims because no common law exception was available. View "Hayes v. Intermountain GeoEnvironmental Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court in this case involving a challenge to one party's failure to abide by a provision in the parties' contract, holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to relief. Kiernan Family Draper, LLC (Kiernan) and Hidden Valley Health Center, LC and Hidden Valley, LLC (collectively, Hidden Valley) collaborated to develop their neighboring properties into a shopping center and entered into a declaration of covenants, conditions, and restrictions. At issue was the declaration's statement that a certain number of parking spaces would be provided and the antiwaiver provision stating that a party's failure to enforce a provision of the declaration shall not be construed as a waiver. Fifteen years after Hidden Valley finished construction on its parcel Kiernan sued, challenging Hidden Valley's failure to provide the required parking spaces. The district court applied the statute of limitations to bar Kiernan from enforcing the parking ratio as written in the declaration and in limiting Kiernan's recovery to the post-construction "status quo." The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the declaration's antiwaiver provisions preserved the parking provision despite Kiernan's delay in bringing suit; (2) the statute of limitations barred Kiernan from enforcing the parking provision as written; and (3) Kiernan's claim was subject to the statute of limitations even though it alleged harm to a property right. View "Kiernan Family Draper v. Hidden Valley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the equitable estoppel doctrine offers a discrete basis for tolling a statute of limitations in Utah.Owners executed a trust deed note with Alpine East Investors, LLC for certain property and promised to pay the note in full within two years. The promise was not fulfilled. After the foreclosure limitations period had expired, Owners sought to enjoin Alpine East from foreclosing its trust deed on the property and a determination that Alpine East had no valid interest in the property. Alpine East invoked the doctrine of equitable estoppel seeking to toll the limitations period. Owners argued that equitable estoppel is not a stand-alone basis for defeating a statute of limitations defense. The district court granted summary judgment for Owners, declaring that the limitations period for enforcing the trust deed had expired before Alpine East recorded a notice of default or filed an action to foreclose. Thereafter, the court granted Alpine East's Rule 59 motion to revise the ruling, concluding that findings of fact existed precluding summary judgment. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the district court, holding (1) equitable estoppel is a discrete basis for tolling a statute of limitations; but (2) a mere promise to pay, without more, is insufficient to invoke equitable estoppel. View "Fitzgerald v. Spearhead Investments, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court finding Yvonne Martin in unlawful detainer and entering a judgment that included a substantial award, holding that the court of appeals did not err.Upon her divorce from Petter Kristensen, the divorce court awarded Yvonne temporary possession of the marital home - which was owned by Petter's father, Frank - during the pendency of the divorce proceedings. After Yvonne filed for divorce Frank served her with a notice to vacate. Yvonne refused to vacate, and Frank filed an unlawful detainer action against her. A jury concluded that Frank was the rightful owner of the property and that Yvonne was guilty of unlawful detainer starting five days after Frank filed the notice to vacate. On appeal, Yvonne argued that the temporary possession order precluded Frank from seeking the remedies available in an unlawful detainer action. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the possession orders in the divorce proceeding functioned like a temporary possession order in an unlawful detainer proceeding in that they precluded Yvonne's eviction from the property but did not affect the availability of statutory remedies for unlawful detainer. View "Martin v. Kristensen" on Justia Law