Articles Posted in Virginia Supreme Court

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To purchase her home, Kim King executed a promissory note to Virginia Housing Development Authority (“VHDA”) that was secured by a deed of trust. When King lost her full-time job, she arranged for a special forbearance agreement with VHDA. The VHDA eventually foreclosed on King’s loan, and King’s home was sold. King filed a complaint against VHDA and Evans & Bryant, PLC (“Evans”), as substitute trustee, alleging, among other things, that (1) certain federal regulations prevented VHDA from foreclosing until she was three months in arrears and VHDA had a face-to-face meeting with her, and (2) VHDA breached the deed of trust by foreclosing before it fulfilled these requirements and Evans breached its fiduciary duty by foreclosing when neither of the requirements had been met. The trial court sustained Defendants’ demurrers. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded, holding that the trial court (1) erred in sustaining the demurrers regarding the failure to hold a face-to-face meeting prior to foreclosure; and (2) did not err in sustaining demurrers against King’s allegation of breach of contract regarding the forbearance agreement and against King's requests for declaratory judgment, rescission, and to quiet title. View "Squire v. Va. Housing Dev. Auth." on Justia Law

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In 1940, property owners (Yanceys) and the predecessor to Norfolk Southern Railway Company (together, Norfolk) entered into an agreement (Agreement) whereby Norfolk agreed to construct and maintain a private grade grossing over its railroad tracks. In 1996, E.A. Breeden, Inc. acquired part of the Yancey estate and leased a house upon this track to Todd Ditton and his wife. Ditton was injured when his vehicle was struck by a Norfolk train at the crossing. Ditton filed an action against Norfolk, and the parties settled. In 2006, Norfolk filed an action against Breeden seeking to recover the settlement amount based on an indemnity clause in the Agreement. The circuit court ruled that Norfolk was not entitled to indemnification or contribution from Breeden because Ditton was a successor in interest under the terms of the Agreement and his use of the crossing was independent of Breeden. Subsequently, Norfolk removed the private crossing, and Breeden sought a permanent injunction requiring Norfolk to replace and maintain the crossing. The circuit court granted the request for injunctive relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding there was no material breach by Breeden and in granting the injunction. View "Norfolk S. Ry. v. E.A. Breeden, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1989, Plaintiff inherited an interest in a real estate cooperative (“the Association”). Plaintiff became a member of the cooperative and executed a mutual ownership contract with the Association in which Plaintiff acquired a possessory interest in a dwelling (“unit”). A paragraph of the contract (“the Provide and Pay Provision”) required the association to "provide and pay for the property" except that Plaintiff shall make “minor interior repairs.” In 2011, Plaintiff began experiencing plumbing problems in her unit. After the Association refused to replace Plaintiff’s pipes, Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that the Provide and Pay Provision obligated the Association to replace the pipes. The circuit court concluded that the Provide and Pay Provision did not obligate the Association to replace the pipes and declined to award Plaintiff attorneys’ fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err by (1) finding that Plaintiff failed to prove that the parties intended the Association to make the repairs Plaintiff sought; and (2) declining to award Plaintiff attorneys’ fees. View "Robinson-Huntley v. G.W. Carver Mut. Homes Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The Chincoteague Inn constructed a floating platform secured alongside its building to be used as part of the Inn’s restaurant. The platform was situated partially over state-owned submerged lands. In an enforcement action, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission directed removal of a portion of the platform. The circuit court set aside the Commission’s decision and dismissed with prejudice the Commission’s enforcement action, finding that the Commission lacked jurisdiction to require removal of the floating platform. A panel of the court of appeals reversed, holding that under the facts of this case, federal maritime law did not preempt the Commission’s authority to order the removal of the floating platform over state-owned submerged lands. The court of appeals then granted the Inn’s petition for a rehearing en banc, vacated the panel opinion, and affirmed the circuit court’s determination that the Commission lacked jurisdiction over the floating platform. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals erred in interpreting the scope of the Commission’s authority under Va. Code Ann. 28.2-1203(A); and (2) because the court of appeals’ en banc opinion did not address the issue of federal preemption, that issue remained outstanding. Remanded. View "Va. Marine Res. Comm'n v. Chincoteague Inn" on Justia Law

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Lessee leased property owned by Owners pursuant to a lease agreement. A billboard was located on the property that had been declared illegal because it exceeded the permitted height limitations. Lessee and Owners filed a joint application for a variance with the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) to allow the billboard to remain at its existing height. The BZA denied the variance. The circuit court upheld the BZA’s decision. Lessee appealed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred by applying an improper standard of review when considering the BZA’s decision to deny the request for a variance. Remanded. View "Lamar Co., LLC v. City of Richmond" on Justia Law

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The City of Richmond brought an enforcement action against the owners of real property (Owners) and the lessee of the property (Lessee), seeking removal of a billboard that Lessee maintained on the property, or, in the alternative, an order requiring the billboard to be lowered to a conforming height. Owners and Lessee filed separate complaints for declaratory judgment against the City, alleging that the City could not require removal of the billboard if the City had been paid taxes for more than fifteen years pursuant to Va. Code Ann. 15.2-2307. The circuit court sustained the demurrers filed by the City and dismissed the complaint, concluding that section 15.2-2307 was “merely enabling” legislation and that private property owners did not have the statutory vested rights protections unless a local government chose to adopt an implementing ordinance thereunder. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred by holding that section 15.2-2307 was “merely enabling” legislation. View "Lamar Co., LLC v. City of Richmond" on Justia Law

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Jerry Ferguson constructed a causeway extending to an island in the Rappahannock River. Plaintiffs later acquired the property adjacent to the island and causeway and all riparian rights appurtenant to the shoreline. In 1988, Ferguson acquired the island and causeway via quitclaim deed. In 2006, Plaintiffs filed suit seeking a judgment against Ferguson for interfering with their riparian rights. The suit ended with a settlement agreement in which Ferguson agreed to purchase Plaintiffs’ shoreline property. Ferguson defaulted on his payment. In 2010, the circuit court entered an order concluding that Plaintiffs were the owners of the shoreline property and Ferguson owned no shoreline property or riparian rights in the area claimed by Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs subsequently filed an ejectment action against Ferguson alleging that his oyster house on the island was located within their riparian zone. The circuit court awarded Plaintiffs fee simple possession of the oyster house. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in determining that Ferguson could not rely on Va. Code Ann. 28.2-1200.1(B)(2) to defeat Plaintiffs’ claim for ejectment or to establish ownership rights in the bottomlands under the island and causeway; and (2) the circuit court did not err in ordering Ferguson to vacate the oyster house. View "Ferguson v. Stokes" on Justia Law

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Jay and Judith Turim were trustees of a family trust that owned property in a subdivision. Barbara Beach, the owner of a neighboring property in the subdivision, erected a wall at one end of the Turims’ purported private walk easement and had concrete poured over the steps located within the easement that provided usable access to the Turims’ lot. The Turims filed an amended complaint alleging a private nuisance against Beach and asking the trial court to issue an injunction requiring Beach to remove the wall and restore the steps. The circuit court held that an express easement had been created in favor of the Turims over Beach’s property and granted an injunction requiring Beach to remove the wall and to restore the steps within the easement to their former condition. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court and vacated the injunction, holding that the Turims were the beneficiaries of an express easement over the private walk, as the subdivision deed did not create an express easement in favor of the Turims. View "Beach v. Turim" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was Va. Code Ann. 15.2-2303.1:1(A), which provides that cash payment made pursuant to a cash proffer offered or accepted for residential construction on a per-dwelling unit shall be accepted by any locality only after the completion of the final inspection of the property. Here several developers and Williamsburg Landing (collectively, Respondents) made proffers to the County, which included per-dwelling cash payments, related to the rezoning of their property. The cash payments for some dwelling units made by Respondents were accepted by the County under the terms of the proffers after June 30, 2010 and prior to the completion of a final inspection of the dwelling units. The County filed a complaint for declaratory judgment, contending that section 15.2-2303.1:1(A) had no application to proffers agreed to prior to its effective date of July 1, 2010. The district court granted summary judgment to Respondents. The Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment, holding that the circuit court did not err in ruling that section 15.2-2303.1:1(A) applies to all payments of cash proffers due on or after July 1, 2010 regardless of whether the proffers were agreed to prior to that date. View "Bd. of Supervisors of James City County v. Windmill Meadows, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 1887, Jacob and Marry Fuller conveyed the coal interests in their 414-acre tract to Joseph Doran and W.A. Dick. In 1918, W.T. Fuller, the successor in interest to the Fullers, conveyed to Unice Nuckles a seventy-five-acre portion of the 414-acre tract. Appellant, as lessee under the successors in interest to Nuckles, claimed the mineral rights, excluding coal, in the seventy-five acre tract. Appellees claimed those same rights as successors in interest to the Fullers. The circuit court concluded that the 1918 deed excepted all coals and minerals from the conveyance and that, therefore, Appellees owned the mineral estate. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the 1918 deed conveyed to Nuckles and her successors in interest all of the mineral estate in the seventy-five acres except the coal previously conveyed to others. View "CNX Gas Co. v. Rasnake" on Justia Law