Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
State ex rel. Tyler Technologies, Inc. v. Chamberlain
The Supreme Court of Missouri issued an opinion involving a dispute between Tyler Technologies, Inc., and several individual and corporate property owners. The property owners had filed a class-action petition alleging that Tyler Technologies negligently carried out its contractual obligations to assist Jackson County with the 2023 real property assessment. The property owners claimed that Tyler Technologies' failures resulted in some class members not receiving timely notice of increased assessments and others having their property assessments increase by more than 15 percent without a physical inspection.Tyler Technologies filed a motion to dismiss the allegations, arguing that the property owners failed to allege facts showing that Tyler Technologies owed them a duty of care. The circuit court overruled the motion to dismiss, prompting Tyler Technologies to file a petition for a writ of prohibition, which the Supreme Court of Missouri issued as a preliminary writ.After a review, the Supreme Court of Missouri determined that the property owners did not provide sufficient evidence to show that Tyler Technologies owed them a duty of care. The court noted that the duties the property owners described were statutory obligations of the county assessor, not private, third-party contractors like Tyler Technologies. The court also invoked the rule of privity, which generally states that a party to a contract does not owe a duty to a plaintiff who was not a party to the contract. In the court's view, disregarding this rule would expose Tyler Technologies to excessive and unlimited liability and potentially discourage contractors from entering into service contracts due to the fear of obligations and liabilities they would not voluntarily assume.Therefore, the Supreme Court of Missouri held that Tyler Technologies was entitled to dismissal of the disputed counts of the property owners' petition. The court made its preliminary writ of prohibition permanent, barring further action from the circuit court other than dismissing the contested counts with prejudice. View "State ex rel. Tyler Technologies, Inc. v. Chamberlain" on Justia Law
James v. Hegar
Plaintiffs are three Texas residents whose assets escheated to the State under Texas’s Unclaimed Property Act. Plaintiffs brought a class action lawsuit against the Texas Comptroller and a director in the Comptroller’s office, alleging that the State is abusing the Unclaimed Property Act to seize purportedly abandoned property without providing proper notice. The district court dismissed most of Plaintiffs’ claims. Defendants contend that Plaintiffs cannot invoke Ex parte Young because they lack standing to seek prospective relief and have not alleged an ongoing violation of federal law. The Fifth Circuit agreed with Defendants and reversed the district court’s denial of Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity, and remanded with instructions to dismiss Plaintiffs’ remaining claims for prospective relief without prejudice. The court explained that Plaintiffs have failed to allege facts indicating that Texas’s alleged abuse of the UPA is ongoing or will continue in the future. As there is no ongoing violation of federal law sufficiently pleaded in the complaint, Plaintiffs have failed to satisfy the Ex parte Young requirements, and their claims for prospective relief are barred by sovereign immunity. View "James v. Hegar" on Justia Law
Rivera v. Honorable Cataldo
The Supreme Court denied Petitioner's petition for a writ of mandamus challenging the final approval of the settlement in the underlying class action against the State, holding that Petitioner had no right to compensation.In 1920, the federal government pledged land to native Hawaiian beneficiaries, and while Hawai'i held the homestead land in trust it breached its fiduciary duties. In the underlying class action, trust beneficiaries successfully sued the State for breach of its trustee responsibilities, and the State settled. The Supreme Court accepted a petition for a writ of mandamus, an appeal challenging final approval of the case's settlement, and held (1) because Petitioner was born beyond the statutory period to receive a payout from the settlement he had no right to compensation; and (2) because this decision ended Petitioner's appeal, the appeal before the intermediate court of appeals was moot. View "Rivera v. Honorable Cataldo" on Justia Law
Bay, et al. v. Anadarko E&P Onshore, et al.
Marvin and Mildred Bay (“the Bays”) challenged a court order dismissing their trespass claim against Anadarko E&P Onshore LLC and Anadarko Land Corporation (collectively, “Anadarko”). Anadarko, an oil and gas company, owned the mineral rights under the Bays’ farm. The Bays brought a putative class action along with other surface landowners against Anadarko, alleging that Anadarko’s mineral lessees had exceeded the scope of their mineral rights by drilling multiple vertical wells on the surface owners’ land when it was possible to drill fewer wells of the “directional” type. At the conclusion of the Bays’ presentation of evidence, the district court found that the Bays’ evidence failed as a matter of law to demonstrate that Anadarko’s activities amounted to a trespass and dismissed the case. Finding that the district court applied the wrong legal standard, the Tenth Circuit reversed the dismissal in "Bay I," finding that Colorado’s common law of trespass required the Bays to show that Anadarko’s lessees had “materially interfered” with the Bays’ farming operations. The appellate court questioned whether the record demonstrated that the Bays met this standard in their trial, but because Anadarko had not raised this specific issue, the case was remanded to the district court for further proceedings. On remand, the district court again granted judgment as a matter of law to Anadarko on the material interference issue. Specifically, the court first held that it was bound by the Tenth Circuit's interpretation in Bay I of the material interference standard, then found that the Bays showed only that Anadarko’s conduct inconvenienced them—which was insufficient to satisfy the material interference standard. The Bays again appealed, arguing that the Tenth Circuit's discussion of the material interference standard in Bay I was dictum; thus, the district court incorrectly determined that it was bound to apply that standard. They further argued the material interference standard applied by the district court was inconsistent with the Colorado standard for trespass outlined in Gerrity Oil & Gas Corp. v. Magness, 946 P.2d 913 (Colo. 1997), and that the evidence they presented in their trial established a prima facie case of material interference under Gerrity. The Tenth Circuit determined the district court did not err in its second dismissal and affirmed judgment. View "Bay, et al. v. Anadarko E&P Onshore, et al." on Justia Law
Black, et al. v. Occidental Petroleum, et al.
Plaintiffs-landowners alleged Anadarko Petroleum Corporation's intracompany practice of leasing its mineral interests to its affiliated operating company, including its 30% royalty rate, had the intent and effect of reducing the value of Plaintiffs’ mineral interests. Plaintiffs claimed Anadarko thereby maintained and furthered its dominant position in the market for leasing oil and gas mineral interests in violation of the Sherman Act § 2 and Wyoming antitrust laws. Plaintiffs sought treble damages and attorneys’ fees under § 4 of the Clayton Act. The federal district court certified a class action, for liability purposes only, comprised of “[a]ll persons . . . having ownership of Class Minerals during the Class Period.” Anadarko appealed the district court’s class certification pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f). The Tenth Circuit concluded the district court applied the correct legal standard in deciding whether the class satisfied the requirements of Rule 23, and it did not abuse its discretion in certifying the class. The Court therefore affirmed the district court’s class certification. View "Black, et al. v. Occidental Petroleum, et al." on Justia Law
Yanagi v. Bank of America
The Supreme Court answered two questions of law certified by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Hawai'i concerning a putative class action alleging wrongful foreclosure.Specifically, the Court answered (1) an action alleging a wrongful nonjudicial foreclosure of land court property that seeks only damages against the foreclosing lender is not barred by the entry of a transfer certificate of title to a buyer at a foreclosure sale; and (2) the pendency of a putative class action tolls the time during which a class member may commence an individual action, and the time for commencing an individual action is tolled until a clear denial of class certification. View "Yanagi v. Bank of America" on Justia Law
FRED BOWERMAN, ET AL V. FIELD ASSET SERVICES, INC., ET AL
Field Asset Services, Inc. (“FAS”) is in the business of pre-foreclosure property preservation for the residential mortgage industry. Plaintiff was the sole proprietor of BB Home Services, which contracted with FAS as a vendor. Plaintiff alleged that FAS willfully misclassified him and members of the putative class as independent contractors rather than employees, resulting in FAS’s failure to pay overtime compensation and to indemnify them for their business expenses. FAS first argued that the district court abused its discretion by certifying the class, despite the predominance of individualized questions over common ones. The Ninth Circuit filed (1) an order denying a petition for panel rehearing, denying on behalf of the court a petition for rehearing en banc, and amending the opinion filed on July 5, 2022; and (2) an amended opinion reversing the district court’s order certifying a class of 156 individuals who personally performed work for FAS, reversing the partial summary judgment in favor of the class, vacating the interim award of more than five million dollars in attorneys’ fees, and remanding for further proceedings. The panel held that here, the class failed the requirement because complex, individualized inquiries would be needed to establish that class members worked overtime or that claimed expenses were reimbursable. The panel concluded that class certification was improper. The panel noted that FAS’s joint employment argument would likely succeed was an actual employee of a vendor suing FAS, claiming that FAS was an employer. The panel further held that the interim award of attorneys' fees must be vacated because the class certification and summary judgment orders were issued in error. View "FRED BOWERMAN, ET AL V. FIELD ASSET SERVICES, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law
Morgan v. Ygrene Energy Fund, Inc.
In 2008, California enacted a Property Assessed Clean Energy program (PACE) as a method for homeowners to finance energy and water conservation improvements. A PACE debt was created by contract and secured by the improved property. But like a tax, the installment payments were billed and paid as a special assessment on the improved property, resulting in a first-priority tax lien in the event of default. The named plaintiffs in these putative class actions were over 65 years old and entered into PACE contracts. The defendants were private companies who either made PACE loans to plaintiffs, were assigned rights to payment, and/or administered PACE programs for municipalities. The gravamen of the complaint in each case was that PACE financing was actually, and should have been treated as, a secured home improvement loan. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants engaged in unfair and deceptive business practices by violating consumer protection laws, including Civil Code section 1804.1(j), which prohibited taking a security interest in a senior citizen’s residence to secure a home improvement loan. Generally, a taxpayer could not pursue a court action for a refund of property taxes without first applying to the local board of equalization for a reduction and then filing an administrative claim for a refund. Here, defendants demurred to the complaints on the sole ground that plaintiffs failed to allege they first exhausted administrative remedies. The trial court agreed, sustained the demurrers without leave to amend, and entered a judgment of dismissal in each case. On appeal, plaintiffs primarily contend they were not required to pursue administrative remedies because they have sued only private companies and do not challenge “any aspect of the municipal tax process involved.” The Court of Appeal found that despite their assertions to the contrary, plaintiffs did challenge their property tax assessments. And although they did not sue any government entity, the “consumer protection statutes under which plaintiffs brought their action cannot be employed to avoid the limitations and procedures set out by the Revenue and Taxation Code.” Thus, the Court concluded plaintiffs were required to submit their claims through the administrative appeals process in the first instance. "Their failure to do so requires the judgments to be affirmed." View "Morgan v. Ygrene Energy Fund, Inc." on Justia Law
Coles v. City & County of Honolulu
The Supreme Court held that class action tolling applies to Haw. Rev. Stat. 46-72 and that a class action complaint may therefore satisfy the statue's notice requirement and that the availability of class action tolling turns on whether the class action provided the defendant notice of the subject matter and potential size of the litigation at issue.Plaintiff Hakim Ouansafi filed a putative class action lawsuit against the City and County of Honolulu alleging that Honolulu's failure to inspect and maintain its storm and drainage system caused him and other Honolulu residents to be injured by the April 2018 flood. Ouansafi then settled on an individual basis with Honolulu. The district court denied class certification, after which individuals affected by the 2018 flood brought twelve separate actions against Honolulu. At issue was whether the' suits were timely. The Supreme Court held that class action tolling applied to the individual suits because the Ouansafi complaint satisfied tolled the statute of limitations applicable to the individual suits. View "Coles v. City & County of Honolulu" on Justia Law
Haggart v. United States
The Claims Court certified a class of landowners who owned property along a railroad corridor that was converted to a recreational trail under the National Trails System Act. Denise and Gordon Woodley, who jointly owned property along the railroad, were members of the class seeking just compensation under the Fifth Amendment. The Woodleys challenged a proposed settlement and fee award and won a remand that entitled them to access to certain documents used in the calculations of class member compensation and attorneys’ fees.After approval of a settlement agreement that required payment of compensation to the class under the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act, 42 U.S.C. 4654(c), the Woodleys successfully sought attorney’s fees for work performed by counsel they jointly hired. Denise separately sought attorney’s fees for work performed by her attorney-spouse, Gordon, explaining that he was one of her lawyers throughout the proceeding; she also sought to recoup certain expenses. The Claims Court denied the motion, reasoning that pro se litigants cannot recover attorney’s fees and expenses and that Gordon, as a co-plaintiff and joint owner of the property at issue, was pro se and not compensable. The Federal Circuit affirmed in part. Denise is not entitled to attorney’s fees for the legal work performed by her attorney-spouse. The court remanded for a determination of the proper reimbursement, if any, of her claimed expenses. View "Haggart v. United States" on Justia Law