Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Wyoming Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court forfeiting $470,040 in United States currency seized from Robert Miller to the State under the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act, Wyo. Stat. Ann. 35-7-1001 to -1060, holding that the State unreasonably delayed filing the action. Miller filed a motion to dismiss the case on grounds that the State's 270-day delay in instituting proceedings violated the statutory requirement that the State institute such proceedings "promptly" and his due process rights under the United States Constitution. The district court denied the motion and forfeited the currency to the State. The Supreme Court applied the four-factor balancing test from Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514 (1972), to assess whether Miller's right to due process had been violated. The Court then reversed and remanded for dismissal with prejudice, holding that the State failed "promptly" to institute the forfeiture proceedings, in violation of section 35-7-1049(c) and Miller's right to due process under the federal Constitution. View "Miller v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff on his adverse possession claim and in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff's prescriptive easement and implied easement claims, holding that material issues of fact precluded summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff on his adverse possession claim and this error hindered review of the prescriptive easement claim. At issue was the property boundary between two residential lots connected by a shared driveway. Plaintiff claimed that he had adversely possessed a thirty-inch strip of Defendant's driveway, that he had an easement over the entire driveway, and that Defendant had intentionally trespassed on the adversely possessed portion of his property. The district court granted summary judgment for Plaintiff on the adverse possession claim and granted summary judgment for Defendant on the prescriptive easement and implied easement claims. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the court erred in granting summary judgment on the adverse possession claim because issues of material fact concerning hostility existed; (2) because the prescriptive easement cannot be resolved independent of the adverse possession claim, review on this claim was precluded; and (3) the district court did not err in granting summary judgment for Defendant on the implied easement claim. View "Hulme v. O'Hare" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning a "race to permit" dispute between the parties in this case, both of whom held mineral interests in certain drilling and spacing units and both of whom wanted to be the "operator" of those units, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that the district court and not the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission was the proper forum to resolve this case. Defendant won the race to permit and obtained operator status over the lands at issue. Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that Defendant violated Wyo. Stat. Ann. 40-27-101, which prohibits a party from trespassing on private lands to unlawfully collect resource data. The district court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss, concluding that the Commission had primary jurisdiction to resolve the dispute and that Plaintiff failed to exhaust its administrative remedies. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff sufficiently pleaded standing under section 40-27-101 and the Declaratory Judgments Act; (2) the district court abused in dismissing the complaint for failure to exhaust administrative remedies because the Commission did not have jurisdiction to consider Plaintiff's civil trespass claim; and (3) the court abused its discretion in relying on the primary jurisdiction doctrine. View "Devon Energy Production, LP v. Grayson Mill Operating, LLC" on Justia Law

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In property dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court entering summary judgment in favor of The Nature Conservancy finding a conservation easement unambiguously burdened two parcels of property thereby limiting what the owner could construct on those parcels, holding that the district court was correct in entering summary judgment in favor of the Conservancy. Appellants, who owned the two parcels of land at issue, sought declaratory relief after the Conservancy, the administrator of the conservation easement, rejected Appellants' plan to construct buildings on each of the two parcels. The Conservancy counterclaimed for declaratory relief seeking a declaration that the conservation easement burdened and encumbered Appellants' parcels of property and limited construction on the property. The district court granted summary judgment and entered judgment on the pleadings in favor of the Conservancy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in entering summary judgment for the Conservancy; and (2) the district court did not err when it entered judgment on the pleadings dismissing Appellants' claims for breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. View "Four B Properties, LLC v. Nature Conservancy" on Justia Law

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In this inverse condemnation action the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court entering judgment of a matter of law that Appellant failed to establish a taking and failed to provide proof of damages, holding that the trial court did not err in granting a directed verdict based on insufficient evidence of the value of Appellant's property. In her action, Appellant alleged that a road expansion project took a portion of her real property in Johnson County. The trial court entered a judgment as a matter of law, concluding that Appellant did not meet her burden to show that a taking occurred and that the evidence would be inadequate to prove any measure of damages for a partial taking. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court properly entered a judgment as a matter of law that Appellant failed to establish a taking and failed to provide proof of damages. View "Byrnes v. Johnson County Commissioners" on Justia Law

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In this complaint for establishment of a private road the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court adopting the viewers and appraisers' recommendations regarding the route conditions and use restrictions, and damages, holding that the court erred in its award of damages. Appellee brought this action proposing that the court designate a route along an existing, unnamed, two-track road that is already subject to easements. The district court appointed three viewers to assess the proposed routes and submit recommendations to the court for the private road, any conditions and restrictions that should be placed on the private road, and damages. The district court determined that the viewers' route represented the most reasonable and convenient route for the private road, declined to impose Appellants' requested restrictions, and adopted the viewers' recommendation as to damages. The Supreme Court remanded for further proceedings on damages, holding that the district court (1) did not err when it designated the viewers' route for Appellee's private road; (2) did not err when it declined to limit use of the private road to a single family dwelling and agricultural purposes and to prohibit Appellee from using it for subdivision; but (3) erred in its award of damages. View "Sharpe v. Timchula" on Justia Law

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In this action brought by Plaintiff seeking to collect on a promissory note the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendants' motions to dismiss and granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff, holding that the district court did not err in its rulings. Defendants executed the promissory note in Idaho and delivered it to Plaintiffs in payment for real estate located in Idaho. The note was originally secured by a deed of trust in the property. Plaintiff later sued Defendants in the district court in Teton County, Wyoming seeking to collect on the note. Defendants filed motions to dismiss on the basis that the Wyoming district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and the lawsuit was time barred. The district court denied the motions to dismiss and granted Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under the circumstances of this case, the district court had subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction over Defendants; (2) the district court properly applied the correct Idaho statute of limitations; and (3) the district court did not err in awarding interest, attorney's fees and costs to Plaintiff. View "Woodie v. Whitesell" on Justia Law

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In this adverse possession case involving two cattle ranches the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs, holding that genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment. Defendant owned a ranch that was historically known as Burnett Ranch. Plaintiffs were the most recent owners of Warbonnet Ranch. Plaintiffs filed a complaint for declaratory judgment and petition to quiet title with respect to three non-contiguous parcels of property that were deeded to Plaintiffs but fenced into Burnett Ranch. Defendant counterclaimed for adverse possession of those parcels. The district court granted summary judgment for Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that genuine issues of material fact precluded entry of summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. View "Little Medicine Creek Ranch, Inc. v. D'elia" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court partitioning a vacant lot that Rhonda Gallagher and Curtis Townsend owned as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, holding that the district court improperly partitioned the property. Gallagher filed suit seeking partition of the lot she and Townsend owned as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. The district court ordered the sale of the lot if neither party elected to purchase the other party's share and that equitable division of the proceeds was proper. After valuing the property at $33,500, the court ordered that Townsend was entitled to the first $25,017.20 in proceeds from the sale of the property. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court properly concluded that each party owned an undivided, one-half interest in the property; (2) after deciding the parties' interests, the district court erred by exercising its equitable powers to divest Gallagher of her interest in the property; and (3) the district court clearly erred in finding that Townsend paid $4,251.53 in property taxes. View "Gallagher v. Townsend" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order on summary judgment motions and order after bench trial in this dispute arising from an ill-conceived business conveyance plan during a downturn in the oil market, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion in any respect. Three Garland brothers, who had separate entities providing specialized services to the oil industry, formed a company with their companies as members and the Garlands individually as members. Alex Mantle was president of the company. Mantle and the Garlands later entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) providing that Mantle and his wife would buy the company, but Mantle backed out of the deal. The Garlands liquidated the company, and this litigation followed. The district court disposed of some claims on summary judgment and resolved the remainder after a bench trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Garlands and their entities did not abandon their counterclaims; (2) the MOU was an enforceable contract; (3) the district court correctly dismissed the Mantles’ fraud claim; (4) the district court correctly concluded that some conveyances by the Garlands fit the definitions of a fraudulent conveyance; (5) the elements for LLC veil-piercing were absent; and (6) the Garlands did not owe Mantle a duty of good faith. View "Garland v. Mantle" on Justia Law