Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court

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In this case involving a dispute over whether an easement by prescription existed to use a circular driveway touching adjacent cabins, the Supreme Court held that it improvidently granted certiorari. The trial court granted the Judd family a prescriptive easement for both access and parking purposes. The court of appeals affirmed the easement for access, while limiting its scope, and reversed the easement for parking. The Supreme Court exercised its certiorari authority to determine questions over the correct standards for establishing prescriptive rights but then concluded that this case was not suitable for certiorari review under Utah R. App. P. 46. View "Judd v. Bowen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the state district court’s dismissal of Appellant’s petition asking the court to force the Utah Highway Patrol and Utah Department of Public Safety (collectively, UHP) to return his money held for forfeiture, holding that the court had in rem jurisdiction over Appellant’s funds under the Forfeiture and Disposition of Property Act (Act). The UHP seized Appellant’s funds in the amount of $500,000 under the Act. The money sat in a UHP bank account for seventy-five days, and no Utah state district court filed forfeiture proceedings. Meanwhile, a federal magistrate issued a seizure warrant for the money on behalf of the DEA. While UHP sent a check for the cash amount, the DEA never cashed the check. Appellant filed a petition in state district court requesting a return of his funds because the prosecuting attorneys failed to take action under Utah Code 24-4-104(1)(a) to avert a law enforcement duty to “return [the] seized property.” The UHP ultimately dismissed the petition, concluding that it lacked in rem jurisdiction of the seized funds based on principles of comity. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the district court had in rem jurisdiction over the property because it was the first to properly exercise in rem jurisdiction to the exclusion of any other court. View "Savely v. Utah Highway Patrol" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s finding that Mark Haik lacked standing to challenge a change application that sought to add acreage to accommodate a private water system and the court’s denial of Haik’s motion to amend his petition, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion. Haik, who wanted water for his undeveloped canyon lots, challenged a change application that would add acreage to accommodate a water system that would serve ten homes in Little Cottonwood Canyon. After the State Engineer approved the application, Haik filed petition seeking a trial de novo of the State Engineer’s order. Haik also moved for leave to amend. The district court dismissed Haik’s petition, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction because Haik lacked standing where the change application did not directly impact Haik’s property or his water rights. The court also denied Haik’s motion to amend. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Haik lacked standing because he was not aggrieved by an order of the State Engineer; and (2) Haik’s motion to amend was properly denied because Haik did not attach a proposed amended petition and any amendment would be futile. View "Haik v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a party alleging error by a land use authority is no longer required to establish that the “decision would have been different” but for the error under the standard set forth in Springville Citizens for a Better Community v. City of Springville, 979 P.2d 332 (Utah 1999). Instead, a party can establish prejudice by showing a reasonable likelihood that the error changed the land use authority’s decision. Appellants brought this lawsuit challenging the South Salt Lake City Council’s decision to close a portion of Truman and Burton Avenues. The City Council voted to vacate both streets in response to a petition by a car dealership. The district court granted summary judgment for the City. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the revised and clarified standard set forth in this opinion, Appellants failed to identify any prejudice resulting from any alleged deficiency in the petition. In addition, the petition to vacate was valid under Utah Code 10-2a-609.5, and notice of the City Council meetings was sufficient under Utah Code 10-9a-208. View "Potter v. South Salt Lake City" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Oil, Gas, and Mining to impose a joint operating agreement (JOA) on J.P. Furlong Company’s relationship with the party operating a drilling unit that included Furlong’s mineral lease. Furlong complained that the Board accepted, without making any of the changes to the JOA that Furlong wanted, the JOA the operator proposed. On appeal, Furlong argued that the Board erroneously applied the law to conclude that the JOA was just and reasonable and that there was not substantial evidence to support the Board’s decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Board correctly applied the law and rendered a decision supported by substantial evidence. View "J.P. Furlong Co. v. Board of Oil & Gas Mining" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision to award prejudgment interest to LeGrand and concluded that Celtic Bank was the prevailing party on the prejudgment interest issues. LeGrand Johnson Construction Company filed an action seeking to enforce its mechanic’s lien on property owned by B2AC, LLC for the unpaid value of construction services, and Celtic Bank, B2AC’s lender, sought to foreclose on the same property after B2AC failed to pay on its loan. The action resulted in a lien for $237,294 and an award of attorney fees and costs. Thereafter, the district court determined that LeGrand’s lien, rather than Celtic Bank’s lien, had priority and awarded LeGrand attorney fees and costs. The court then ruled that LeGrand was entitled to recover eighteen percent in prejudgment and postjudgment interest from Celtic Bank based on LeGrand’s contract with B2AC. The Supreme Court (1) reinforced its holding in Jordan Construction, Inc. v. Federal National Mortgage Ass’n, 408 P.3d 296 (Utah 2017), that prejudgment interest is not available under the 2008 version of the Utah Mechanic’s Lien Act; and (2) vacated the attorney fee award because it was based, in part, on the notion that LeGrand had succeeded in establishing its right to prejudgment interest. View "LeGrand Johnson Construction Co. v. Celtic Bank Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiffs’ complaint against Weber County claiming that the County had violated Utah Code 59-22-103 and 59-2-103.5, which establish the tax exemption for primary residential property. Plaintiffs paid taxes on their primary residence but later learned that the County had not given them the residential exemption. The district court entered a judgment on the pleadings dismissing Plaintiffs’ causes of action, concluding, inter alia, that the assessor acted within the scope of his authority in reclassifying Plaintiffs’ property as “non-primary residential.” In affirming, the Supreme Court held that Plaintiffs’ challenges to the taxes they paid must fall under Utah Code 59-2-1321, which requires taxpayers to point an “error or illegality that is readily apparent from county records.” Because Plaintiffs did not challenge this requirement or show that the alleged errors or illegalities were readily apparent, the district court did not err in its judgment. View "Hammons v. Weber County" on Justia Law

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The doctrine of equitable conversion operates to protect a buyer’s interest in the land from the time a land sales contract is capable of being specifically enforced by the buyer. The Utah Supreme Court affirmed the district courts judgment that the seller's creditor was unable to attach a judgment lien to land that the seller had already entered into a real estate purchase contract to sell. In this case, the real estate purchase contract was an executory real estate contract and, as such, it was subject to the equitable conversion doctrine. View "SMS Financial v. CCB, LLC" on Justia Law

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The one-mile stretch of the Weber River at issue in this case is a “navigable water” under the Public Waters Access Act, and therefore, the public has a statutory right to recreational use to that stretch of the river. Utah Stream Access Coalition (USAC) filed this suit seeking a declaration that USAC has a right to use for recreation a one-mile stretch of the Weber River. USAC sought an injunction barring property owners and state officials from interfering with its members’ recreational use rights. The district court concluded that the disputed section of the river was navigable and issued an injunction preventing landowners and state officers from interfering with the recreational use rights of the public on this stretch of the river. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court determination that the disputed segment of the Weber River is navigable water under the Act, holding that there was sufficient evidence to support the determination that the relevant stretch of the river was commercially useful on a regular basis and not merely in an occasional season of high water. View "Utah Stream Access Coalition v. Orange Street Development" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s grant of Patricia and Robert Porenta’s marital home to Patricia in this case involving a fraudulent transfer of the home to Robert’s mother (Mother). During the divorce proceedings of Patricia and Robert, Robert transferred his interest in the couple’s marital home to Mother with the intent to avoid Patricia’s claim to the home. Robert subsequently died, and the divorce case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Thereafter, Patricia filed this action against Mother alleging that the transfer was fraudulent under the Utah Fraudulent Transfer Act. The district court granted the marital home to Patricia. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Utah Fraudulent Transfer Act requires an ongoing debtor-creditor relationship when a claim under the Act is filed, and the debtor-creditor relationship was in this case was not extinguished when Robert died because an ongoing debtor-creditor relationship existed between Patricia and Robert’s estate; and (2) the trial court did not err in granting Patricia the entire marital home rather than money damages, but the matter is remanded for a determination of the current status of title. View "Porenta v. Porenta" on Justia Law