Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against several financial entities for foreclosing on a mortgage loan. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants. At issue were plaintiffs' claims under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA), Mo. Rev. Stat. 407.020. The court affirmed and held that the foreclosure was justified because defendants had a right to foreclose on the house and thus the MMPA claim failed as a matter of law because the loss was not caused by any misconduct on behalf of defendants. Likewise, plaintiffs' tortious interference claim failed because the foreclosure was legal. View "Wheatley v. JP Morgan Chase Bank" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against CitiMortgage in state court, seeking an order setting aside the deed from a foreclosure sale and enforcing a modified loan. Freddie Mac intervened. The district court held that plaintiff's claims were all time-barred by the applicable five-year statute of limitations and subsequently entered summary judgment to CitiMortgage. The Eighth Circuit reversed and held that the statute of limitations on plaintiff's claims only started running when a reasonable person would have been put on notice that an injury and substantial damages may have occurred and would have undertaken to ascertain the extent of the damages. In this case, by all indications, until plaintiff tried to sell the house, everything seemed to be in order with the title underlying his mortgage. View "White v. CitiMortgage, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit under the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), 15 U.S.C. 1601-1667f, seeking to rescind their 2006 mortgage. Plaintiffs alleged that they did not receive sufficient copies of disclosures required by TILA at the December 2006 closing. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the bank, holding that plaintiffs have not demonstrated a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether they received only one notice. The court explained that a borrower's own conclusory denial of receipt of TILA disclosures, unaccompanied by details or other evidence supporting the denial, was insufficient to rebut the presumption of delivery created by section 1635(c). Therefore, plaintiffs' three-day rescission window of section 1635(a) barred their request for rescission. The court also held that plaintiffs did not raise any specific objections to the accuracy of the disclosure statement during the first summary judgment proceedings. Therefore, the district court's finding was the law of the case and plaintiffs' allegations were waived. Even if the argument were not waived, plaintiffs cannot prevail because the alleged error was not a violation of TILA. View "Keiran v. Home Capital" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that SWE's fracking waste migrated onto their property. The district court granted summary judgment for SWE. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court properly imposed initial limits on discovery; the district court abused its discretion in excluding plaintiff's expert report because, although the expert's equation and report imperfectly described where the fracking waste spread, the methodology was scientifically valid, could properly be applied to the facts of this case, and thus was reliable to assist the trier of fact; and, even without the expert's opinion, plaintiffs presented evidence that could support a reasonable inference that the fracking waste migrated across their property line. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Stroud v. Southwestern Energy" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a class action against the Pegasus Pipeline's current owners and operators, Exxon, alleging that the company's operation of the pipeline was unreasonable and unsafe. The Eighth Circuit agreed with the district court's decision to decertify the class based on a lack of commonality of issues. In this case, the contract claims would require examination of how Exxon's operation of the pipeline affects plaintiffs, which varies depending on where individual class members' property was located, as well as many other factors. The Eighth Circuit also concluded that the evidence here was insufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether there was unreasonable interference. The court explained that the question of unreasonable use of an easement was generally one of fact, dependent on the nature of the easement, the terms of the grant, and other relevant circumstances. Finally, the district court did not clearly abuse its discretion by denying plaintiffs' motion to alter or amend the judgment where the additional evidence at issue would not have produced a different result. Accordingly, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the judgment. View "Webb v. Exxon Mobil" on Justia Law

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Jeannie K. May filed suit seeking to recover damages under state and federal law arising from the debt-collection practices of Nationstar. After a jury found in favor of May on her invasion-of-privacy claim and her claim that Nationstar negligently violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. 1681, the jury awarded May compensatory damages on both claims and punitive damages on her invasion-of-privacy claim. The court concluded that there was ample evidence to support the jury's award of punitive damages and Nationstar's renewed assertions that it acted in good faith provided no legal basis to vacate the jury's verdict. In this case, the record reflected that May contacted Nationstar repeatedly in order to resolve the issue with her account; rather than suspend its efforts based on its erroneous assessment of her debt, Nationstar aggressively pursued collection, posted May's home for foreclosure and conducted inspections of her residence; Nationstar employees spoke to May in a mocking and sarcastic manner; and May suffered physical ailments from the stress caused by Nationstar's conduct. The court concluded that the $400,000 punitive damages award was not unconstitutionally excessive because of the reprehensible nature of Nationstar's conduct; the 8-to-1 ratio of the award was not unconstitutionally excessive; and the award did not violate due process. The court also concluded that the district court did not err by excluding the testimony of another borrower; and the jury instruction regarding the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), 26 U.S.C. 2601, was not plainly erroneous. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "May v. Nationstar Mortgage, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a class of landowners subject to Sho-Me's easements, filed suit against Sho-Me and Tech for trespass and unjust enrichment after the companies used fiber-optic cable for commercial telecommunications. The district court certified the class and granted it summary judgment on liability. A jury trial was held on the issue of damages and the jury awarded plaintiffs over $79 million. The court concluded that Sho-Me and Tech's use exceeded the scope of the easements. The court explained that, under Missouri law, the companies exceeded their rights by using the fiber-optic cable for unauthorized purposes and thus their use became a trespass. The court also concluded that plaintiffs failed to identify any Missouri cases recognizing unjust enrichment as a remedy for unauthorized land use. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment on the unjust enrichment claim. The court noted that, on remand, plaintiffs may choose to pursue damages on their trespass claim. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in certifying the class. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Biffle v. Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and others filed suit alleging federal and state law claims arising from a nuisance abatement carried out on his land. The district court dismissed the claims based on the doctrine of claim preclusion. The court held that plaintiff's federal action challenging the nuisance abatement was precluded by the summary judgment granted in the Ramsey County District Court and affirmed by the Minnesota Court of Appeals. In this case, the actions involved the same set of factual circumstances, same parties or privies, there was a final judgment on the merits in the prior litigation, and plaintiff had a full and fair opportunity to litigate this matter in the prior action. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Anderson v. City of St. Paul, Minnesota" on Justia Law

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In 2013, the IRS seized $32,820.56 from Carole Hinders’s business bank account based on allegations that Hinders had unlawfully “structured” deposits to avoid federal currency reporting requirements. The government then filed a civil forfeiture complaint against the seized currency, and Hinders filed claims to the seized property. The district court eventually dismissed the action without prejudice. The district court then denied Hinder's motion for fees under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act (CAFRA), 28 U.S.C. 2465(b)(1), and declined to reconsider its prior dismissal without prejudice. The court concluded, however, that Hinders has not “substantially prevailed” in this action where the district court’s dismissal without prejudice did not materially alter the legal relationship of the parties. Therefore, Hinders is not eligible for an award of attorney fees, costs, or interest under CAFRA. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the case without prejudice rather than with prejudice. In this case, the district court considered each of the relevant factors in deciding to grant the government’s motion and Hinders had not shown that she would be prejudiced by a dismissal without prejudice. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Hinders" on Justia Law

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The Government filed suit to determine whether its 2004 tax lien on a foreclosed property had priority over several other competing interests in the property. The district court granted summary judgment for the Government. US Bank held an interest via a 2006 deed of trust, and appealed the district court's judgment. In chronological order, the 2004 deed of trust was recorded (March 29, 2004), the date the Government’s tax lien for unpaid 2004 taxes was assessed (November 21, 2005), and the date the 2006 deed of trust was recorded (July 11, 2006). The court concluded that the release-first sequencing combines with the lengthy gap in recording to prevent the court from considering the release of the 2004 deed of trust and recordation of the 2006 deed of trust to have occurred sufficiently contemporaneously to be part of the same transaction. Allowing U.S. Bank to stretch the notion of “same transaction” to include a more-than-two-month gap between release of an old deed of trust and recordation of a new one would undermine the integrity of the recording statute. The court concluded that the district court did not err by granting summary judgment to the Government because no genuine issue of material fact remains as to whether the 2006 deed of trust retained the priority of the released 2004 deed of trust. View "United States v. US Bank Nat'l Ass'n" on Justia Law