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

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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A group of Arkansas landowners sued Lawrence County, alleging that a bridge constructed by the county had caused their farms to flood, constituting an unlawful taking of their properties without just compensation, in violation of the U.S. and Arkansas Constitutions. The landowners claimed that the bridge acted as a dam, forcing excessive water into the Cache River, which then spilled onto their farms. They presented expert testimony to support their claims and sought damages based on the fair rental value of their properties during the period of the alleged taking.The district court upheld a jury award of nearly $350,000 to the landowners but rejected their request for an order to tear down the bridge. The county appealed the damages award, arguing that the landowners had failed to offer sufficient evidence of damages since they did not calculate the value of crops actually lost. The landowners cross-appealed the denial of their request for injunctive relief.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision on the damages award, holding that the evidence permitted the jury to make a fair and reasonable approximation of damages. The court found that the landowners were not obliged to prove damages by providing evidence of the amount of crops they expected to grow versus the amount of crops they actually grew due to increased flooding. Instead, they were entitled to recover the fair rental value of the property during the period of the taking.However, the court vacated the district court's order denying injunctive relief and remanded for the court to give the landowners' request a more focused consideration. The court found that the district court had relied heavily on the law of standing, which was not at issue, and had ventured into areas that had little bearing on a proper evaluation of the request for injunctive relief. View "Watkins v. Lawrence County, Arkansas" on Justia Law

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The case involves Continental Resources, Inc., an Oklahoma oil and gas company, and Rick and Rosella Fisher, who own a farm in North Dakota. Continental drilled a horizontal disposal well on the Fishers' property to inject saltwater waste into the pore space of a rock formation known as the Lodgepole. The Fishers sued Continental, claiming that the company had no right to drill the well. The district court ruled that Continental had the right to proceed with drilling and using the well as long as the use was reasonable, but the Fishers were entitled to compensation for any proven damage to their pore space.The district court denied Continental's motion for judgment as a matter of law and the jury awarded the Fishers $22,440.25. Continental then renewed its motion for judgment as a matter of law and, in the alternative, moved for a new trial. The Fishers moved for an award of attorneys’ fees and costs. The district court denied Continental’s motion and awarded the Fishers $249,243.60 in attorneys’ fees and $87,639.89 in costs.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the third-party contracts and Rick Fisher’s testimony. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's award of attorneys’ fees and costs to the Fishers. View "Continental Resources, Inc. v. Fisher" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reviewed a case involving a group of plaintiffs who owned properties near proposed wind turbine sites in Page County, Iowa. The plaintiffs sued the county, its board of supervisors, and county officials after the board issued a commercial wind energy permit to Shenandoah Hills Wind Project, LLC (SHW). The plaintiffs claimed that the issuance of the permit violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Iowa Constitution, Iowa Code, and county ordinances. They also claimed that county officials violated the Iowa Open Meetings Act by holding nonpublic meetings on SHW's application. The defendants removed the case to federal court based on the federal due process claim.The district court dismissed the federal due process claim for lack of prudential standing and as implausibly pleaded under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). It also dismissed the state claims as time-barred under Iowa law and implausibly pleaded under Rule 12(b)(6). After the district court's decision, the county revoked the permit. Despite the revocation, the plaintiffs appealed the district court's order.The Court of Appeals held that the county's revocation of SHW's permit mooted the plaintiffs' claims, except for their claims under the Iowa Open Meetings Act. The court affirmed the district court's exercise of supplemental jurisdiction over these remaining claims and its dismissal of them. The court vacated the remainder of the district court's order and remanded the case to the district court with instructions to dismiss the non-Open Meetings claims as moot. View "Hunter v. Page County, Iowa" on Justia Law

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In March 2021, Jeffrey A. Winder and Heather Durbin rented a room at a motel. During check-in, the motel manager, Gary McCullough, warned Winder that any illegal activity would result in eviction. The next day, McCullough entered the room for cleaning and discovered a backpack containing what appeared to be methamphetamine. He immediately called 911 and informed the responding officers about his discovery. Upon the officers' arrival, McCullough granted them permission to enter the room, which led to them finding more drugs and a handgun. Winder and Durbin were later arrested when they returned to the motel; another gun and more drugs were found in their vehicle.Before trial, Winder moved to suppress all the evidence obtained from the warrantless search of the motel room, arguing that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated. A magistrate judge recommended that the motion to suppress be denied. The district court adopted this recommendation, ruling that Winder had been evicted at the time of the search and that the officers had probable cause to search the backpack based on McCullough's account. Winder pleaded guilty conditionally to one count of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, reserving his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress.On appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, the court affirmed the district court's denial of the motion to suppress. The court found that Winder was lawfully ejected from the motel room prior to the officers' entry, thus eliminating his expectation of privacy. The court also ruled that the officers' search of the backpack did not violate the Fourth Amendment as it did not exceed the scope of McCullough's private search. Consequently, the use of a drug dog and the subsequent seizure of evidence did not violate Winder's Fourth Amendment rights. Therefore, the judgment of the district court was affirmed. View "United States v. Winder" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed a district court's grant of summary judgment, based on qualified immunity, in favor of government attorneys Michael Spindler-Krage and Thomas Canan. The plaintiff, Michael Davitt, had brought a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against Spindler-Krage and Canan, alleging they violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they advised police that Davitt could be removed from his hotel room without eviction proceedings.During the COVID-19 pandemic, Olmsted County, Minnesota, arranged temporary, non-communal housing for elderly and vulnerable homeless individuals. Davitt, who was 69 years old and homeless, was moved into a Super 8 hotel room. When the county stopped paying for his room, Davitt refused to leave, citing a Minnesota governor's executive order temporarily prohibiting evictions. Spindler-Krage and Canan, after reviewing the relevant state law, the executive order, and the Agreement for Hotel Guests, advised the police that Davitt was a hotel guest, not a tenant protected by the executive order.In granting Spindler-Krage and Canan summary judgment based on qualified immunity, the district court found that no case law, statute, or other legal authority clearly established that Davitt was a tenant with a constitutionally protected right to his hotel room. The court also found that the advice provided to the police was objectively reasonable. The Court of Appeals agreed, ruling that Spindler-Krage and Canan did not violate Davitt’s clearly established rights and were thus entitled to qualified immunity. View "Davitt v. Krage" on Justia Law

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The case involves Sanimax USA, LLC, who sued the City of South Saint Paul, Minnesota, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the city's zoning and odor ordinances violated the First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause. Sanimax contended that the city enacted these ordinances in retaliation for Sanimax challenging prior ordinances and that the ordinances unfairly singled out Sanimax. The district court granted the city's motion for summary judgment on all counts.Sanimax operates a rendering plant in South Saint Paul that processes animal carcasses and organic byproducts, emitting pungent, foul odors that have drawn numerous complaints from nearby residents and businesses. Sanimax was designated as a "Significant Odor Generator" by the city, and later challenged the constitutionality of the city's odor ordinance, alleging that it was unconstitutionally vague.The United States Court of Appeals For the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The Court found that Sanimax failed to show that the city's actions were a direct retaliation for Sanimax's prior lawsuits challenging the city's ordinances. Additionally, the Court rejected Sanimax's argument that it was unfairly singled out, finding that Sanimax was not similarly situated to other businesses due to the significantly higher number of odor complaints it generated. Lastly, the Court rejected Sanimax's argument that the city's odor ordinance was unconstitutionally vague, finding that the ordinance provided sufficient notice of the prohibited conduct and did not lend itself to arbitrary enforcement. View "Sanimax USA, LLC v. City of South St. Paul" on Justia Law

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The case in question pertains to a dispute over the enforceability of dragnet clauses within mortgages used to secure loans funding Frank Welte’s farming operations. The Vera T. Welte Testamentary Trust, of which Frank Welte is the sole beneficiary, pledged its property as security for these loans, which were provided by Roger Rand, another Iowa farmer. The Trust's primary asset is 160 acres of farmland that were leased to Frank. Upon Rand's death, his estate initiated a foreclosure action against the Trust's farmland. The Trust subsequently filed for chapter 12 bankruptcy, which led to a stay of the foreclosure action against the Trust.The Estate filed a proof of claim and a motion to dismiss the Trust’s bankruptcy petition, alleging that the Trust was not a business trust as required by chapter 12. The Trust objected to the Estate’s proof of claim. The Iowa state court ruled that the dragnet clauses in the mortgage documents secured the loans made to Frank in excess of the face amount of the promissory notes.The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Iowa, however, held that the dragnet clauses were not enforceable, thereby concluding that the Trust no longer owed a debt to the Estate. Following this, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa gave preclusive effect to the judgment of the Iowa Court of Appeals concerning the enforceability of the clauses and the amounts owed thereunder.The Trust and the Estate both appealed the district court’s order. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit dismissed the appeal and cross-appeal due to lack of jurisdiction, as the district court's order was not final and required further proceedings in the bankruptcy court. View "The Security National Bank of Sioux City, IA v. Vera T. Welte Testamentary Trust" on Justia Law

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In the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, One Love Housing, LLC, a company that operates a residential sober living home in Anoka, Minnesota, sued the City of Anoka for refusing to grant a waiver from the city's zoning regulations. The regulations permit only a single family or a group of not more than four unrelated persons to reside together in the area where the sober home is located. One Love wanted to accommodate seven unrelated recovering addicts in the home. One Love and two residents of the home alleged that the city violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act by refusing to grant this waiver.The district court granted One Love summary judgment on its claim that the city failed to reasonably accommodate the sober home's request. The court ordered the city to grant the waiver for One Love to house seven unrelated individuals recovering from substance abuse. The city appealed this decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. The appellate court held that the district court erred by considering evidence that was not presented to the city council when it denied One Love's request for a waiver. The appellate court also found that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to One Love because there was a genuine dispute over whether the requested accommodation was reasonable and necessary. The court stated that the financial viability of One Love's sober home is relevant only if One Love can prove that the service it offers provides a therapeutic benefit that is necessary for people recovering from alcohol or drug abuse to successfully live in a residential neighborhood without relapsing. The court concluded that there are genuine issues of disputed fact on these issues. The court also declined to rule on One Love's disparate treatment and disparate impact claims, leaving those for the district court to address on remand. View "One Love Housing, LLC v. City of Anoka, MN" on Justia Law

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Show Me State Premium Homes wants its purchase of a foreclosed property to be free and clear of all other interests, including those belonging to the United States. Getting what it wants would require a “judicial sale.” After removing the case the United States filed a motion to dismiss. Its position was that there could be no foreclosure without a judicial sale. The district court agreed, declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over what remained, and remanded to state court.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court but modified the dismissal of the ejectment and damages claims to be without prejudice. The court explained that a buyer’s interest is only “inchoate” before it gets a valid deed, not after. And here, title vested once the bond company “exercised its right to have the legal title transferred.” No “judicial sale” ever took place, and it is too late to hold one now, meaning that the interests held by the United States have never been foreclosed. View "Show Me State Premium Homes, LLC v. George McDonnell" on Justia Law

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Defendant is a landlord, who allegedly terminated a lease based on Tenants' family status. The United States brought a claim against Defendant under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). A jury awarded Tenants $14,400 in compensatory damages and $60,000 in punitive damages. Defendant landlord filed post-trial motions, which were denied.Defendant appealed, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed, finding that there was sufficient evidence that Defendant landlord acted with at least reckless indifference and the district court did not err in submitting the punitive damages issue to the jury. The Eighth Circuit also held that the award was not unconstitutionally excessive View "United States v. Louis Rupp, II" on Justia Law