Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Utah Supreme Court
Kiernan Family Draper v. Hidden Valley
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
Fitzgerald v. Spearhead Investments, LLC
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
Martin v. Kristensen
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
Pinder v. Duchesne
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
Arave v. Pineview West Water Co.
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
Utah Department of Transportation v. Coalt, Inc.
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
Rocky Ford Irrigation Co. v. Kents Lake Reservoir Co.
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
Trapnell & Associates, LLC v. Legacy Resorts, LLC
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
Utah Department of Transportation v. Boggess-Draper Co.
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
Salt Lake City Corp. v. Haik
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