Articles Posted in Real Estate Law

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Meadow Brook owned land that it developed into lots with covenants, conditions, and restrictions. Meadow Brook then decided to develop an undeveloped tract as an independent subdivision. The existing homeowners, however, argued that the covenants granted them exclusive use of three roads that future homeowners would need to use to access the subdivision. A court concluded that the covenants did not reserve an easement over the three roads for use by future lot owners. First American Title Insurance Company and First American Title Company of Montana (collectively, First American), which had issued Meadow Brook a title insurance policy, subsequently denied Meadow Brook’s claim for coverage and refused to further defend against the homeowners’ counterclaims. Meadow Brook settled with the homeowners in the easement litigation and then sued First American for, inter alia, breach of contract and negligence. The district court granted summary judgment to Meadow Brook as to the breach of contract claim, concluding First American had insured under the policy that the three roads would be open to public access. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in granting Meadow Brook’s motion for partial summary judgment on the breach of contract claim. View "Meadow Brook, LLP v. First Am. Title Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Greg LeMond had an oral contract to purchase a five-acre lot (Lot 11) at the Yellowstone Mountain Club from the lot's owner, Yellowstone Development. Yellowstone Development allegedly breached its contract with LeMond by combining twenty-three acres of additional property with Lot 11 to create what became the Overlook Lots, comprising a total of twenty-eight acres. LeMond sued, claiming that Yellowstone Development breached its contract to convey Lot 11 and was under an equitable duty to convey the entirety of Overlook Lots to LeMond. In its final determination, the district court quieted title to the Overlook Lots in favor of LeMond. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the district court did not provide adequate insight into the equitable considerations involved in granting LeMond title to the Overlook Lots, as Yellowstone Development was obligated to transfer Lot 11 to LeMond and was unjustly enriched by failing to do so, but LeMond was entitled to enforce a constructive trust worth only the equitable value of the parties’ bargain. View "LeMond v. Yellowstone Dev., LLC" on Justia Law

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Abraham and Betty Jean Morrow filed a request for a modification of their home loan, serviced by Bank of America, through the federal Home Affordable Modification Program. Bank of America denied the modification and scheduled a trustee’s sale of the property. The Morrows subsequently filed a complaint against Bank of America based on the bank’s alleged breach of an oral contract for modification of their loan. The district court granted summary judgment to Bank of America, concluding (1) the Morrows’ claims for breach of contract, fraud, and violation of the Montana Consumer Protection Act (MCPA) were barred by the Statute of Frauds; and (2) the Morrows could not succeed on their claims of negligence, negligent misrepresentation, and tortious breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing because Bank of America owed no duty to the Morrows. The Supreme Court reversed as to the negligence, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and violations of MCPA claims, holding that Bank of America owed a duty to the Morrows, genuine issues of material fact existed as to some claims, and the Statute of Frauds did not preclude the remainder of the Morrows’ claims. View "Morrow v. Bank of Am., N.A." on Justia Law

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This case arose from a dispute between property owners in a subdivision developed by Christopher and Jeffrey Houden. In 2007, twenty-three lot owners (“Defendants”) voted to record an amendment (“second amendment”) to the original covenants for the subdivision that prohibited division of the Houdens’ lot. The Houdens filed a complaint against Defendants seeking injunctive relief to declare the second amendment invalid. During the ensuing litigation, the lot owners passed another amendment (“third amendment”) purporting to revoke the second amendment. In 2010, the Houdens and all Defendants except Wayne Todd entered into a settlement agreement which set forth restated covenants expressly prohibiting amendment to prevent subdivision of the Houdens’ lot. The district court subsequently entered partial summary judgment in favor of the Houdens and against Todd, declaring the second and third amendments null and void and ordering that the Houdens were entitled to attorneys’ fees pursuant to a provision in the original covenants. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the judgment in the Houdens’ favor, as the restated covenants mooted the underlying merits of the case; and (2) affirmed the district court’s determination that the Houdens’ were entitled to attorney’s fees.View "Houden v. Todd" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff owned rural property, including a tract referred to as Section 27, that Defendants, who owned adjacent property, used to cross with their cattle and to conduct other ranching operations. Plaintiff filed an action seeking to exclude Defendants from crossing Section 27 and claiming damages for trespass. Defendants counterclaimed, seeking a declaration that the road across Section 27 was a public road or, alternatively, for a declaration that they had a prescriptive easement to use the road. After a trial, the district court concluded that Defendants established a prescriptive right to cross Section 27 for their ranching and other uses of their adjacent land. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in determining that Defendants established a prescriptive easement across Plaintiffs’ property and properly determined the scope of the easement based upon the evidence in the record. View "Lyndes v. Green" on Justia Law

Posted in: Real Estate Law

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In 2010, Lewis and Clark County filed a complaint for declaratory judgment, asking the district court to declare that the entirety of Eagle Ridge Road was a sixty-foot public or county road or a sixty-foot public access easement from its intersection with Birdseye Road. After discussing the Supreme Court’s prior holding concerning Eagle Ridge Road in Schroeder v. Lewis & Clark County (Schroeder I), the district court determined that a portion of Eagle Ridge Road was not a public road and that no public prescriptive right existed over that portion of the road. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Court may not revisit its ruling in Schroeder I; and (2) the district court did not misapply the law or misapprehend the evidence of prescriptive use when it determined that public prescriptive right exists over a portion of Eagle Ridge Road.View "Lewis Clark County v. Schroeder" on Justia Law

Posted in: Real Estate Law