Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

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Lavern Behm appealed a judgment ordering Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. (“MDU”) to pay him $17,443 in attorney’s fees and costs incurred in an eminent domain action. Behm argued his constitutional rights were violated in the eminent domain action, and the district court erred by failing to award him some of the attorney’s fees he requested. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "MDU v. Behm" on Justia Law

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Gail Howard, Bruce Lindvig, and Milton Lindvig, personally and as Successor Personal Representative to the Estate of Ralph H. Lindvig, (together “the estate of Ralph Lindvig”) appealed a judgment entered in consolidated formal probate proceedings. In 2007, due to financial concerns related to paying for Ralph's care, his wife Dorothy Lindvig, acting as Ralph's attorney in fact, sold portions of Ralph's interests in the land he received from his parents to Milton Lindvig, Ralph's brother. The transfers were made by two warranty deeds, each of which severed the minerals and reserved them to Ralph and Dorothy as joint tenants. In May of 2007, Dorothy, again acting as Ralph's attorney in fact, conveyed the Wattam land to herself by warranty deed. When Ralph died, Dorothy was the personal representative of his estate. After her death in 2009, she was replaced by Milton. Dorothy died intestate, survived by a brother and her sister, Patricia Jellum, who was the personal representative of Dorothy's estate. The estate of Ralph Lindvig filed a petition in Dorothy's probate proceedings to set aside the intestate distribution of the minerals she severed and the Wattam land she conveyed to herself. The estate argued the transfers were beyond Dorothy's authority because they diminished the size of his estate and were not approved by a court, all in contravention of the power of attorney’s gifting provisions. The parties stipulated to consolidating the two probates as formal administrations. The probate court determined Dorothy did not breach her fiduciary duties by engaging in improper self-dealing. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the probate court's judgment. View "Estate of Lindvig" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, neighbors of Murphy-Brown's hog production facilities, filed suit against the company, seeking relief under state nuisance law from odors, pests, and noises they attribute to farming practices Murphy-Brown implemented at an industrial-scale hog feeding farm. On appeal, Murphy-Brown challenges a jury verdict against it awarding compensatory and punitive damages to plaintiffs.As a preliminary matter, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment rejecting Murphy-Brown's argument that Kinlaw Farms was a necessary and indispensable party under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19. Furthermore, the district court's decision as to the applicable statute of limitations was not legal error, and refusing to give the inapplicable jury instruction on continuing nuisances was not an abuse of discretion.The court affirmed the jury's verdict as to liability for compensatory and punitive damages. The court rejected Murphy-Brown's contention that North Carolina private nuisance law bars recovery of compensatory damages of any kind pursuant to the 2017 Right to Farm Act amendment. Rather, the court concluded that the amendment represents a substantive, forward-looking change in the law, and affirmed the district court's conclusion that the issue of annoyance and discomfort damages should go to the jury based on longstanding North Carolina case law allowing such recovery in nuisance suits. The court also affirmed the district court's decisions as to the admission and exclusion of expert testimony, and the district court's jury instruction as to vicarious liability because the contested jury instruction did not prejudice Murphy-Brown. However, the court vacated the jury's judgment as to the amount of punitive damages and remanded for rehearing on the punitive damages issue without the parent company financial evidence, including executive compensation. View "McKiver v. Murphy-Brown, LLC" on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs filed suit concerning flood damage to their Maine Township property after heavy rains in September 2008, alleging that public entities breached duties owed to them with respect to a stormwater drainage system located near their properties. Plaintiffs claimed that certain actions by the defendants increased water flow to the area and that there has been major flooding in the past. After a 2002 event, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources discovered “numerous bottlenecks and obstructions to flow as the causes of the invasive flooding” in the community. The trial court dismissed, finding that the defendants owed no duty to plaintiffs under the public duty rule and plaintiffs had not alleged any special duty. In the meantime, the Illinois Supreme Court (Coleman) abolished the public duty rule, which provided that a local governmental entity does not owe any duty to individual members of the public to provide adequate governmental services. The trial court found that the new law set forth in Coleman should not be retroactively applied.The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. Coleman clearly established a new principle of law, overturning decades of existing precedent. Given these circumstances and the two rationales for abolishing the public duty rule, the new law announced in Coleman would not be thwarted by its prospective application. Prospective application avoids substantial inequitable results for defendants who have relied upon the public duty rule throughout the long course of this litigation. View "Tzakis v. Maine Township" on Justia Law

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Defendants Shane and Trina Beattie appealed a superior court orderthat dismissed with prejudice their preliminary objection challenging the State’s taking of 0.93 acres of their land in fee simple, as well as permanent and temporary easements. The Beatties argued the trial court erred when, in dismissing their preliminary objection which challenged the necessity and net-public benefit of the taking, the trial court applied the fraud or gross mistake standard of review set forth in RSA chapter 230 rather than a de novo standard pursuant to RSA chapter 498-A. The State contended the trial court did not err because RSA chapter 230, not RSA chapter 498-A governed the outcome of the case. The New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed with the Beatties, reversed and remanded. View "New Hampshire v. Beattie" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff executed a deed granting defendant a joint interest in his condominium, plaintiff filed suit years later seeking quiet title to the condominium in his favor. Plaintiff argued, among other things, that the deed should be rescinded under Civil Code section 1590 as a gift made in contemplation of marriage. The trial court ruled in favor of plaintiff on the quiet title claim and entered judgment requiring defendant to reconvey title.In the published portion of this opinion, the Court of Appeal held that the tolling rule in Muktarian v. Barmby (1965) 63 Cal.2d 558, 560, applies to defendant's statute of limitations defense and applies in the context of plaintiff's claim for relief under section 1590. The court explained that, as long as plaintiff enjoyed possession of the condominium and defendant did not press her adverse claim against him in a manner that threatened or disturbed that possession, no statute of limitations began to run. That plaintiff's theory of relief at trial was premised on section 1590 does not change the court's analysis of whether the Muktarian tolling rule applies to the quiet title claim under the facts of this case. View "Reuter v. Macal" on Justia Law

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In this tax appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the final order of the circuit court determining that certain purchases of tangible personal property and services made by Antero Resources Corporation did not qualify for the direct use exemption under W. Va. Code 9(b)(2) and 11-15A-3(a)(2) (the direct use exemption), holding that Antero was entitled to the direct use exemption for certain purchases and services.The office of tax appeals reimposed a sale and use tax assessment against Antero for purchases and rentals of certain personal property and services. The circuit court reversed, determining that because certain purchases of tangible personal property and services made by Antero were not directly used in its natural resource production, they did not qualify for the direct use exemption. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that Antero (1) was entitled to the direct use exemption for crew quarters and related equipment, portable toils, sewage systems, related water systems, and septic cleaning charges; and (2) was not entitled to the exemption for the rentals of trash trailers and waste receptacles. View "Antero Resources Corp. v. Steager" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered in the affirmative a question certified to it by the Bankruptcy Court for the North District of West Virginia, concluding that a manufactured home with a title issued by the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) may be converted to real property by operation of common law even when the home still maintains a motor vehicle title.At issue was how, under state law, one can perfect a security interest upon a manufactured home that maintains both personal and real property characteristics. The Supreme Court determined that satisfying the requirements of Snuffer v. Spangler, 92 S.E. 106 ( W. Va. 1917) converts the legal character of a manufactured home from personal to real property such that a lien on that property may be perfected by deed of trust even if the home's owners have not cancelled the DMV title under the cancellation procedure of W. Va. Cod3 17A-3-12b(a). View "Sheehan v. Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment to Ruth Ann Pinson and dismissing Denise Johnson's claim that Ruth's husband, Mark Pinson, violated West Virginia's Uniform Fraudulent Transfers Act's (UFTA), W. Va. Code 40-1A-1 to -15, prohibition against fraudulent transfers, holding that Plaintiff did not present evidence demonstrating the existence of a material fact regarding Mark's status as her debtor within the meaning of the UFTA.Johnson asserted that Mark conveyed real property to Ruth with the intent to hinder, delay, or defraud Johnson's attempt to collect on a judgment assigned to her by a third party. The circuit court found that Ruth was entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not misinterpret the UFTA or err in denying Johnson's motion to amend the complaint to add Mark as a defendant. View "Johnson v. Pinson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Petitioners' motion for a new trial and renewed motion for a new trial after a bench trial, holding that the circuit court did not err in finding that Petitioners had neither an express easement nor a prescriptive easement across Respondents' property.At issue was an internal private road on Respondents' property that stretched to Petitioners' property. Respondents eventually revoked permission to use the internal road and blocked Petitioners' access across the private road. The circuit court determined that Petitioners had neither an express easement nor a prescriptive easement across Respondents' property. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in finding (1) no express easement existed that granted Petitioners the right to use the private road crossing Respondents' property; and (2) no easement across Respondents' land was established by prescription. View "Carr v. Veach" on Justia Law