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Plaintiff and her sister inherited a San Jose house when their mother died in 2003. They took title as tenants-in-common. A recorded deed reflected that each owned an undivided 50 percent interest. Plaintiff lived in the home; her sister did not. In 2009, plaintiff’s sister granted her a life estate in the 50 percent interest that plaintiff did not already own. The deed reflecting that transfer was recorded. The 2009 transfer resulted in plaintiff having sole ownership rights for the rest of her life, with her sister regaining a 50 percent interest in the property on plaintiff’s death. Based on the 2009 transfer, the County reassessed the property’s value under a statute allowing for recalculation of a property’s tax basis upon a change in ownership. The new valuation resulted in a higher property tax bill. Plaintiff unsuccessfully requested a revised assessment on the ground that the creation of a life estate did not constitute a change in ownership. Plaintiff then sued, seeking a property tax refund. The court appeal affirmed a holding that the 2009 deed granting plaintiff a life estate constituted a change in ownership and the reassessment was in conformity with the law. View "Durante v. County of Santa Clara" on Justia Law

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Robert Robinson appealed a circuit court's dismissal of his action against Harrigan Timberlands Limited Partnership ("Harrigan"), Scotch Land Management, LLC ("Scotch"), Fulton Logging Company, LLC ("Fulton"), Black Sheep Woodlands, LLC ("Black Sheep"), and Todd Overstreet d/b/a Overstreet Timber Company ("Overstreet") (collectively referred to as "the Harrigan defendants") for the alleged wrongful cutting of timber. The pivotal factor in the trial court's judgment that the eastern boundary line of "Parcel Two" was located in one location suggested by the documentary evidence rather than another location suggested by documentary evidence was the court's on-site inspection of the property, an inspection made during the summary-judgment stage of the proceedings. Ultimately, the trier of fact may reject Robinson's contention that the "Bassetts Creek" referred to in his deeds as marking the eastern boundary of Parcel Two was in a different location than the location suggested by the Harrigan defendants. But, on the record before the Alabama Supreme Court, that was not a judgment that appropriately could be determined by summary judgment. Therefore, the trial court's judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Robinson v. Harrigan Timberlands Limited Partnership" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court ordering Defendant to pay restitution to the City of Davenport for damage to patrol vehicles after Defendant pleaded guilty to criminal mischief and eluding an officer, holding that a government entity may, under the right circumstances, be a victim under the Iowa criminal restitution statute, Iowa Code chapter 910, under this Court’s precedents. On appeal, Defendant conceded that the Davenport police vehicles incurred damage when police officers attempted to stop him during a high-speed chase but argued that damage to police cars from a chase of a fleeing suspect is not recoverable under Iowa’s restitution statute. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under the causation standard in the Restatement (Third) of Torts, the damage to the police vehicles would be within the scope of liability in a negligence action against Defendant; (2) the firefighter’s rule has no application in this case; and (3) the express legislative adoption of limited restitution for emergency response costs in drunk driving cases under Iowa Code 910.1(4) does prevent a restitution to the City of Davenport in this case. View "State v. Shears" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the Board of Tax Appeals (BTA) rejecting the method of valuation espoused by an appraiser for the property owner, HCP EMOH, LLC, to derive an opinion of value for an assisted-living facility and instead adopting the valuation reached by an appraiser for the Washington County Board of Revision (BOR) and Washington County Auditor (collectively, the county), holding that the BTA erred in adopting the county’s appraisal. The property at issue consisted of two parcels constituting almost seven acres of land and was improved with a one-story assisted-living facility. At issue was how an appraiser should separate the family’s business value from the value of the realty. HCP’s appraiser relied on apartment comparable to reach a value for the property. The county, however, relied on data from the assisted-living-facility market. The Supreme Court vacated the BTA’s decision, holding (1) case law permits but does not require consideration of apartment comparable; but (2) the county’s appraiser was not scrupulous in selecting data that led him to value the business rather than the realty. View "HCP EMOH, LLC v. Washington County Board of Revision" on Justia Law

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In this case involving two resolutions that would enable Ivory Development, LLC to develop land on which the old Cottonwood Mall once stood the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court that Resolution 2018-16 was referable and Resolution 2018-17 was not referable, holding that the district court did not err in finding that the City of Holladay was exercising its legislative powers when it approved Resolution 2018-16 and was exercising its administrative powers when it approved Resolution 2018-17. In May 2018, the City approved the two resolutions at issue. Thereafter, a group of citizens from Holladay petitioned to subject the Resolutions to a public vote by referendum. The district court ordered that the City place only the referendum petition on Resolution 2018-16 on the ballot. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Resolution 2018-16 is legislative in nature and therefore referable; and (2) Resolution 2018-17 is administrative in nature and therefore not referable. View "Baker v. Carlson" on Justia Law

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In 2004-2006, Pulte purchased 540 acres of Clarksburg land, then governed by the 1994 Master Plan, which divided development into four stages. In the fourth stage, the area containing Pulte’s land was to be developed into residential communities. Pulte’s land was designated as a receiving property for Transferable Development Rights (TDRs) and was zoned for one-acre lots. Pulte could increase the allowable density to two units per acre by purchasing TDRs from agricultural properties in other Montgomery County areas, which would restrict future development of the agricultural property. Pulte invested 12 million dollars in TDRs. Under the Plan, there were prerequisites to Stage 4 development. All had occurred by 2009. The Plan stated that Stage 4 developments can proceed once public agencies and the developer have complied with all “implementing mechanisms,” which included Water and Sewer Plan amendments. Pulte submitted its Water and Sewer Request to the County and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in 2009, with a $10,000 filing fee. The County never acted on Pulte’s application. In 2012, Pulte submitted a Pre-Application Concept Plan to the Commission, which rejected the plan. The agencies refused to meet and stopped responding to Pulte’s communications but reopened the Plan to study the watershed in which Pulte’s land is located and ultimately imposed regulatory changes that severely reduced the number of dwellings Pulte could build and imposed additional costly burdens. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Pulte’s due process, equal protection, and regulatory taking claims, stating that federal courts are not the appropriate forum to challenge local land use determinations. Pulte had no constitutional property interest in developing its land as it had contemplated, and local authorities had a plausible, rational basis for their actions. View "Pulte Home Corp. v. Montgomery County" on Justia Law

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Montecito neighbors had a dispute over an easement created by recording in 1994, which contained an unpaved road. The owner of the burdened property wanted the easement limited to historical use; a new owner of the other property wanted to use the road for construction traffic and asserted that he might pave the road. The trial court “interpreted” the easement, ruled that the easement was ambiguous, decided the case based upon extrinsic evidence of historic use, and added language limiting the easement. The court of appeal reversed and remanded with directions, noting that the use of the easement for construction traffic has become a moot issue. An ambiguity is not apparent from the “failure” to specify how frequently the road can be used or the type of vehicle allowed on the road, but ambiguity is not the test for admission of extrinsic evidence. A bona fide purchaser could reasonably rely on the language of the grant of the easement, which gave him “a use limited only by the requirement that it be reasonably necessary and consistent with the purpose[] for which the easement was granted,” i.e., “access, ingress, and egress to vehicles and pedestrians.” View "Zissler v. Saville" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment in favor of Arizona Snowbowl Resort Limited Partnership (Snowbowl) and the City of Flagstaff on the public nuisance claim brought by the Hopi Tribe, holding that environmental damage to public land with religious, cultural or emotional significance to the plaintiff is not special injury for purposes of the public nuisance doctrine. The Tribe brought a claim of public nuisance based on Snowbowl's use of reclaimed wastewater for snowmaking on Northern Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks. At issue was whether the Hopi sufficiently alleged a “special injury” for an actionable public nuisance claim. The Tribe alleged that it would suffer special injury by the interference with the Tribe’s cultural use of the public wilderness for religious and ceremonial purposes. The trial court ruled that the Tribe failed to satisfy the special injury requirement on the basis of religious or cultural practices. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that while the Tribe sufficiently alleged that the use of reclaimed wastewater on the San Francisco Peaks constituted a public nuisance the Tribe failed to articulate any harm beyond that suffered by the general public. View "Hopi Tribe v. Arizona Snowbowl Resort Limited Partnership" on Justia Law

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In this property dispute, the Supreme Court retained Indiana’s common-law rule prohibiting the unilateral relocation of fixed easements and affirmed the trial court’s entry of judgment for Joseph DeSpirito on his petition for judicial review and against Richland Convenience Store Partners, LLC (Richland) and the Town of Ellettsville, Indiana Plan Commission (Commission). Despite the opposition of DeSpirito, who owned an adjacent lot, the Commission approved Richland’s request to relocate a utility easement on its lot. On judicial review, the trial court granted summary judgment against Richland and the Commission, finding that DeSpirito had a fixed utility easement through Richland’s lot and that the easement’s fixed location meant it could not be changed by either party without consent of the other. At issue on appeal was whether the Court should adhere to Indiana’s longstanding common-law rule requiring all affected estate-holders to consent to the relocation of a fixed easement or to adopt the position of the Third Restatement of Property (Servitudes), which permits the unilateral relocation of easements if a court finds the proposed relocation is reasonable, consistent with the normal use and development of the servant estate, and does not adversely affect the dominant estate. The Supreme Court rejected the minority approach reflected in the Third Restatement and affirmed. View "Town of Ellettsville, Indiana Plan Commission v. DeSpirito" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court affirming the decision of the Wyoming State Board of Equalization (state) reversing the decision of the Washakie County Board of Equalization (county board) reversing the valuations of the Washakie County Assessor classifying Taxpayers’ four properties as either residential or vacant residential for tax purposes, holding that Taxpayers’ property did not qualify for classification as agricultural lands. Taxpayers separately owned four parcels of land in Washakie County, Wyoming. In March 2014, the Assessor issued notices of assessment for Taxpayers’ properties classifying the parcels as either residential or residential vacant. The county board reversed the valuations, concluding that Taxpayers had demonstrated that their properties met the four requirements under Wyo. Stat. Ann. 39-13-103(b)(x)(B) to be taxed as agricultural land. The state board reversed. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Taxpayers failed to meet their burden to overcome the presumption in favor of the Assessor’s assessments. View "Helmut v. Mueller Limited Partnership v. Treanor" on Justia Law