Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
by
Plaintiffs filed a civil suit against an insurer based on allegations that the insurer negligently advised them that they did not need to purchase a builder's risk policy for a hotel project. The district court granted the insurer's motion for summary judgment, finding that the insurer had no duty to give advice about different coverages or to ensure that adequate coverage existed and that plaintiffs failed to show the existence of a special relationship between the agent and the insureds that would give rise to additional duties on the agent's part to ensure the insured had adequate coverage.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, finding that the trial court did not err in its resolution of the motion for summary judgment. View "I Square Management, LLC v. McGriff Insurance Services, Inc." on Justia Law

by
After Nygard removed his driveway and was about to pour a new one, an Orono inspector told Nygard that he needed a permit. The next day, Nygard finished the driveway and applied for a permit. The new driveway was narrower than the previous one. The city responded with a form, imposing several conditions. Nygard crossed out some conditions, initialed the modified form, and returned it. After several exchanges, the city notified Nygard that he must agree to the conditions or “this matter will be turned over to the prosecuting attorney.” Nygard did not acknowledge the conditions. A police officer drafted a statement of probable cause, alleging that “work had been completed without having first obtained a permit” and listing some alleged deficiencies in its construction. According to the Nygards, the police did not inspect the property and some allegations were not true.Nygard was acquitted of violating the city code. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming the code was void for vagueness and alleging First Amendment retaliation, abuse of process, and malicious prosecution. Nygard’s prosecution was not based on falsehoods. The report did not claim that the conditions were required by the code but that Nygard had not agreed to the conditions and had replaced a driveway without a permit. Any failure to investigate did not defeat probable cause; the city already knew that he installed a driveway without a permit. View "Nygard v. City of Orono" on Justia Law

by
Defendant and her then-husband bought a condo for $525,000 with the intention of making it their primary residence. To finance the purchase, the couple took out a mortgage with the Plaintiff bank. Defendant did not sign the note but consented to her husband doing so. The mortgage contained a "future advances" clause, which granted Plaintiff a security interest in the Mortgage covering future funds Defendant's husband might borrow.Four years later, Defendant's husband borrowed additional funds from Plaintiff to keep his business afloat. Defendant did not sign the note. A few months later, Defendant's husband filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and the condo was sold for $650,000, approximately $250,000 of which was deposited in escrow. The couple divorced and Defendant moved out of the state.In Defendant's husband's bankruptcy case, the court held a portion of the escrowed sale proceeds must pay down his business notes pursuant to the mortgage’s future advances clause and that he could not claim a homestead exemption. Plaintiff was granted summary judgment on its claims that Defendant's proceeds were also subject to the future advances clause and that Plaintiff could apply those proceeds to Defendant's husband's business note.Defendant appealed on several grounds, including unconscionability, contract formation, and public policy, all of which the court rejected, affirming the district court's granting of summary judgment to Plaintiff. View "Sanborn Savings Bank v. Connie Freed" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed a third-party slander-of-title claim against various defendants under Missouri law. Plaintiffs purchased a property in Putnam County, Missouri. Under Missouri law, a plaintiff must prove four elements for a slander of title claim: (1) an interest in the property, (2) that the words published were false, (3) “that the words were maliciously published,” and (4) that the plaintiff “suffered pecuniary loss” “as a result of the false statement.” The district court found the first two elements were met, but Plaintiff’s claim fails because it did not establish a dispute of material fact on the malice elementHere, the court found that the undisputed facts reflect only an “innocently or ignorantly made” mistake. They show that Defendants made an error in their normal course of duties, that Defendant told Plaintiff the error would be corrected as necessary, and that Defendant eventually corrected that error with its 2019 Affidavit. The court held that Plaintiff has produced no evidence that undermines the Defendants’ credibility, nor identified anything that suggests malice, or a reason for Defendants to harbor ill-will. Therefore, Plaintiff has not produced even a “scintilla” of contravening evidence. Thus, the court found that because Plaintiff failed to establish a genuine issue of material fact on a required element for its claim, the court affirmed the district court's granting of summary judgment for the Defendants. View "Erickson Cabin, LLC v. Busey Bank" on Justia Law

by
Counties sued to quiet title to section line rights-of-way within the Little Missouri National Grassland, a section of the Dakota Prairie Grasslands, and six roads located in McKenzie County. The State also sought to quiet title to section line rights-of-way in the Little Missouri grassland and two other parts of the Dakota Prairie Grasslands. The district court granted the government’s motion to dismiss all of the State’s claims and the Counties’ claim as to the Little Missouri National Grassland, and Plaintiffs appealed.The court found the statute of limitations began to run as to the Counties when they “knew or should have known” of the government’s claim. The statute of limitations would not begin to run as to the State until the government issued “public communications” that were “sufficiently specific as to be reasonably calculated” to give the State notice. Here, the Travel Plans and Public Notices were sufficient notice of the government’s exclusive claim to the 33 feet on either side of the section lines within the Dakota Prairie Grasslands over which Plaintiffs claim a right-of-way.Plaintiffs also argue that if the court finds that the Travel Plans and Public Notices did put Plaintiffs on notice, any such notice was only as to the section lines that fall within the specific areas where motor vehicle access was restricted. The court found that the Travel Plans and Public Notices made an adverse claim as to all the national grasslands within North Dakota, including areas over which USFS chose not to restrict travel. View "North Dakota v. United States" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the landlords' motion for a preliminary injunction in an action challenging the Minneapolis City Council's enactment of Ordinance No. 244.2030 under the Fifth Amendment's Takings Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause (and similar provisions of the Minnesota Constitution). The Ordinance requires landlords to evaluate applicants for rental housing by either (1) "inclusive screening criteria" or (2) "individualized assessment."The court concluded that the landlords have neither demonstrated a physical-invasion taking nor a Penn Central taking. The court stated that, due to the individualized assessment option, the Ordinance is a restriction on the landlords' ability to use their property, not a physical-invasion taking. Furthermore, the district court properly ruled that the landlords offered nothing but conclusory assertions of economic impact and interference with investment-backed expectations. Finally, the Ordinance withstands rational basis review where it does not infringe a fundamental right and where the government had a legitimate purpose in ameliorating problems that often prevent people from finding housing. View "301, 712, 2103 and 3151 LLC v. City of Minneapolis" on Justia Law

by
Tyler owned a Minneapolis condominium. She stopped paying her property taxes and accumulated a tax debt of $15,000. To satisfy the debt, Hennepin County foreclosed on Tyler’s property and sold it for $40,000. The county retained the net proceeds from the sale. Tyler sued the county, alleging that its retention of the surplus equity—the value of the condominium in excess of her $15,000 tax debt—constituted an unconstitutional taking, an unconstitutionally excessive fine, a violation of substantive due process, and unjust enrichment under state law.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of her complaint. Minnesota’s statutory tax-forfeiture plan allocates the entire surplus to various entities with no distribution of net proceeds to the former landowner; the statute abrogates any common-law rule that gave a former landowner a property right to surplus equity. Nothing in the Constitution prevents the government from retaining the surplus where the record shows adequate steps were taken to notify the owners of the charges due and the foreclosure proceedings. View "Tyler v. Minnesota" on Justia Law

by
After a fire destroyed Merechka's home, Vigilant denied his insurance claim, which sought $634,000 for the dwelling and $475,500 for its contents. During its investigation, Vigilant discovered that Merechka had filed for bankruptcy about four years earlier. According to his bankruptcy petition, he had around $9,000 in personal property, well short of the more than $600,000 (or $325,825, according to a third-party appraiser) that he reported to Vigilant. Without an explanation for the discrepancy, Vigilant suspected insurance fraud. Merechka assured Vigilant that he had acquired nearly all of his personal property after the bankruptcy using several sources of income: $700 per week he received for working for his brother, a $1,300 monthly social-security payment, and periodic payments from an investment account. The numbers did not add up, so Vigilant denied coverage under the policy’s concealment-or-fraud provision.Merechka sued. Vigilant filed a counterclaim, seeking reimbursement for the nearly $400,000 it had paid to Merechka’s mortgage lender. Applying Arkansas law, the district court determined that neither side owed anything. The Eighth Circuit reversed in part and remanded Vigilant’s claim. No reasonable juror could believe that Merechka acquired so much property in such a short time on his modest income; the circumstances indicate that the falsehood was intentional. View "Merechka v. Vigilant Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
The Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit to build student housing on the Russellville property, next to Arkansas Tech University. The land is bordered by two waterways. Downstream from the tract, the Corps maintains the Russellville Dike and Prairie Creek Pumping Station to protect Russellville from flooding by pumping water into the backwaters of the Arkansas River, away from the city. Upstream from the station is a sump, 730 acres of low-lying land that holds water that then flows toward the pumping station, The Corps purchased flowage easements giving it the right to flood the land subject to those easements to a certain elevation. Part of the tract at issue lies within the sump and is subject to an easement, "that no structures for human habitation shall be constructed." The owner proposed four apartment buildings on land subject to the easement.The Eighth Circuit upheld the denial of a permit. It is unlawful for anyone "in any manner whatever [to] impair the usefulness of any . . . work built by the United States . . . to prevent floods" unless the Corps permits it, 33 U.S.C. 408(a). The proposed construction would impair the usefulness of the Corps's pumping station. The Corps found that the structures would result in water velocities and depths that would be "a significant hazard that can deny escape," and "may threaten the lives and security of the people and property in Russellville.” View "Russellville Legends LLC v. United States Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against the Bank of the West in state court, seeking to set aside the trustee's sale of his property. After the claim was dismissed, plaintiff filed an amended complaint adding U.S. Bank as a defendant. The case was removed to federal district court where it was ultimately dismissed.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal orders, concluding that the federal law violations as alleged in the second amended complaint all occurred prior to the institution and maintenance of any foreclosure activity. Therefore, they were not defects in the trustee's sale under Nebraska law. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant's motion for leave to file a third amended complaint where the motion was procedurally defaulted and granting leave would be futile. View "Anderson v. Bank of the West" on Justia Law