Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants and concluding that Plaintiffs did not have an easement to access a nearby airstrip located on Defendants’ property. Plaintiffs filed a complaint for declaratory, quiet title, injunctive and other relief against Defendants, arguing that they were entitled to access and use the airstrip from their property pursuant to the terms of a 1981 easement grant. The district court concluded that Plaintiffs’ property was not benefitted by an easement that would give Plaintiffs access to the airstrip. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly determined that Plaintiffs were not entitled to access an easement on Defendants’ property. View "Hudson v. Irwin" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Atlantic Richfield Company (“ARCO”) petitioned the Montana Supreme Court seeking reversal of five district court orders. Relevant here, the underlying action concerned a claim for restoration damages brought by property owners in and around the town of Opportunity, Montana. As part of ARCO’s cleanup responsibility relating to the Anaconda Smelter, EPA required ARCO to remediate residential yards within the Smelter Site harboring levels of arsenic exceeding 250 parts per million in soil, and to remediate all wells used for drinking water with levels of arsenic in excess of ten parts per billion. The Property Owners, a group of ninety-eight landowners located within the bounds of the Smelter Site, sought the opinion of outside experts to determine what actions would be necessary to fully restore their properties to pre-contamination levels. The experts recommended the Property Owners remove the top two feet of soil from affected properties and install permeable walls to remove arsenic from the groundwater. Both remedies required restoration work in excess of what the EPA required of ARCO in its selected remedy. The Property Owners sued, seeking restoration damages. ARCO conceded that the Property Owners could move forward on their first four claims, but contended that the claim for restoration damages was preempted by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (“CERCLA”). The Supreme Court agreed with the district court that the Property Owners’ claims for restoration damages was barred by CERCLA. View "Atlantic Richfield v. 2nd Jud. Dist" on Justia Law

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In this case brought in connection with the sale of Plaintiffs’ home at a foreclosure sale, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiffs’ asserted negligence, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and Montana Consumer Protection Act (MCPA) claims against Bank of America, N.A. and ReconTrust Company, N.A. pursuant to Mont. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to sufficiently state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The court held (1) the district court correctly held that Plaintiffs’ amended complaint failed to state sufficient facts entitling them to relief on all essential elements of their asserted negligence, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and MCPA claims; and (2) the district court did not err by not sua sponte converting ReconTrusts’s Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Mont. R. Civ. P. 12(d) upon the filing of an affidavit in support of Plaintiffs’ brief in opposition. View "Anderson v. ReconTrust Co., N.A." on Justia Law

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The district court correctly concluded that Plaintiff owned certain disputed land bordering her property between the high- and low-water marks of Parker Lake, a small lake located in Flathead County, Montana. After Defendants pounded metal fence posts along the high-water mark bordering Plaintiff’s property Plaintiff filed this lawsuit asserting claims for declaratory judgment and in tort based on alleged trespass and nuisance. Plaintiff later filed an amended complaint adding counts of intentional interference with her contractual relationship with her realtors and slander of title. The district court granted summary judgment that Plaintiff owned the land between the high- and low-water marks of Parker Lake bordering Plaintiff’s property. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court properly granted summary judgment declaring that Plaintiff owned the disputed land between the high- and low-water marks. View "Ash v. Merlette" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the determination of the district court to quiet title in certain property to Zinvest, LLC, holding that the Department of Revenue’s defective property tax assessment voided the tax lien sale that resulted in Zinvest acquiring the Gallatin County’s interest. Gunnersfield Enterprises Inc. purchased five condominium units and an adjoining vacant lot in 2008. The deed was properly recorded, and a realty transfer certificate was submitted to the Department of Revenue, but the Department did not correctly update its ownership records for the vacant lot. While Gunnersfield paid the tax assessments for the condominium units yearly, the County Treasurer continued to send the tax bills for the vacant lot to the previous owner. The Treasurer eventually sold the lot for delinquent taxes and assigned its tax lien interest in the property to Zinvest. After Zinvest acquired a tax deed on the property Gunnersfield objected. The district court granted summary judgment for Zinvest and issued a final judgment quieting title to Zinvest. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for entry of judgment quieting title in Gunnersfield, holding that the tax assessment on the vacant lot was void, and therefore, the subsequent tax lien sale and issuance of a tax deed were also void. View "Zinvest v. Gunnersfield" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the water court that largely adopted the water master’s report dividing the four water rights for irrigation from Nevada Creek between James and Linda Quigley and Richard Beck based on a ratio of the irrigated acres owned by each party. The court held (1) the water court did not err in its interpretation of the 1909 Geary v. Raymond decree as decreeing water rights for irrigation to all of Finn Ranch, which was since divided into adjoining ranches owned by the Quigley and Beck; and (2) the water court did not err in applying the clear error standard to the water master’s findings of fact. View "Quigley v. Beck" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of the portion of Plaintiffs’ motion motion for partial summary judgment seeking an order compelling Defendants to immediately remove trespassing encroachments on Plaintiffs’ property an to restore the property to its prior condition subject to Plaintiffs’ right to do so at Defendants’ expense if they failed to timely act. The court further affirmed the district court’s underlying grant of summary judgment declaring Defendants’ shop building and underground septic system to be trespassing encroachments on Plaintiffs’ property. Specifically, the court held that, at this stage in the proceedings, the district court’s interlocutory denial of preliminary or final mandatory injunctive relief was neither irreconcilable with its summary judgment declaring a trespass nor a manifest abuse of discretion. View "Davis v. Westphal" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Water Compact, holding that Mont. Const. art. II, section 18 did not require the Montana Legislature to approve the Compact or its administrative provisions. The Compact, negotiated between the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, provided a unified system for the administration of water rights and the resolution of disputes on the reservation. The Compact was approved by the Montana Legislature in 2015. The Flathead Board of Joint Control brought suit against the State seeking to invalidate the Compact. The district court ruled (1) the challenged section of the Compact did not contravene Article II, Section 18 because it did not enact any new immunities from suit; but (2) the challenged section of the administrative provision provided new immunity to the State and, therefore, was covered by Article II, Section 18, and because the provision did not pass by a two-thirds majority of each house, it is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) none of the Compact’s provisions grant any state governmental agency new immunities from a potential lawsuit; and (2) the Legislature’s majority vote to approve and adopt the contract was consistent with subject provisions of the Montana Constitution. View "Flathead Joint Board of Control v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order granting HSBC Bank USA’s two motions for summary judgment and motion to exclude Richard Anderson’s expert in this judicial foreclosure action against Anderson and Limegrove Overseas, Ltd. Specifically, the court held that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion in excluding Anderson’s expert witness; (2) did not err when it concluded that Montana law governs HSBC’s underlying foreclosure and that New York law governs any defenses and counterclaims; (3) did not err in granting HSBC summary judgment to foreclose; and (4) did not err in granting HSBC summary judgment on Anderson’s counterclaims. View "HSBC Bank USA, N.A. v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the Water Court’s order regarding Danreuther Ranches Water Right Claims. Specifically, the court held (1) the Water Court did not err in its orders regarding Danreuther Claim Nos. 41O 156802-00, a right to water stock directly from the Teton River; 41O 156804-00, which represents a claim to the right to divert water from the Teton River for irrigation; and 41O 156805-00, a right to irrigate on certain property north of the Teton River; but (2) the Water Court erred in its orders regarding Danreuther Claim No. 41O 156804-00, the right to irrigate from the Teton River based on certain appropriations. View "Danreuther Ranches v. Farmers Cooperative Canal Co." on Justia Law