Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
Leszanczuk v. Carrington Mortgage Services, LLC
In 2010, Leszanczuk executed a mortgage contract, securing a loan on her Illinois residence. The mortgage was insured by the FHA. After Carrington acquired the mortgage, Leszanczuk contacted Carrington by phone in December 2016 to make her December payment. Leszanczuk asserts that Carrington told her that her account was not yet set up in their system and that her account was in a “grace period.” In early 2017 Carrington found Leszanczuk to be in default and conducted a visual drive-by inspection of Leszanczuk’s property. Carrington charged Leszanczuk $20.00 for the inspection and disclosed the fee in her March 2017 statement. Leszanczuk claims Carrington knew or should have known that she occupied her property because of the phone conversation and Carrington mailed monthly mortgage statements to the property’s address.Leszanczuk sued Carrington for breach of the mortgage contract and for violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, on behalf of putative nationwide and Illinois classes. She alleged that a HUD regulation limits the fees Carrington may charge under the contract and that the inspection fee was an unfair practice. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. The mortgage contract expressly permits the disputed fee. Leszanczuk has failed to adequately allege that the inspection fee offended public policy, was oppressive, or caused substantial injury. View "Leszanczuk v. Carrington Mortgage Services, LLC" on Justia Law
RCC Wesley Chapel Crossing, LLC et al. v. Allen, et al.
In February 2018, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit on behalf of himself and a putative class of similarly situated persons against Defendants RCC Wesley Chapel Crossing, LLC, Little Giant Farmers Market Corporation, Dollar Tree Stores, Inc., River City Capital, LLC, and River City Capital Property Management, LLC for negligence, premises liability, false imprisonment, conversion, and violation of the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”). Plaintiff claimed that Defendants “hired, authorized, or otherwise provided material support to” third parties that immobilized vehicles located on Defendants’ property with boots or similar devices, and required the owners or operators of the vehicles to pay a fee in order to have the immobilizing devices removed. Plaintiff moved to certify the action on behalf of a proposed class of similarly situated persons, claiming that between February 2013 and 2018, at least 250 persons “have been booted and have paid a fine for removal of said device” at the Wesley Chapel Lot. Following briefing and oral argument, the trial court granted Plaintiff’s motion, certifying the class. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to decide whether there was a common-law right that permits private property owners to immobilize vehicles that were not authorized to be on their property. The Court concluded that the common-law rights the defendants alluded to in the courts below – namely, the right to remove trespassing vehicles and an alleged right to impound trespassing vehicles – did not apply to the defendants’ vehicle immobilization practice. However, because the Supreme Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that “the trial court did not err in finding no common law right to immobilize a vehicle absent an enabling statute or ordinance,” and any reliance on that conclusion in affirming the trial court’s order granting Plaintiff Forrest Allen’s motion for class certification, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case with direction to remand to the trial court for reconsideration of the proposed class. View "RCC Wesley Chapel Crossing, LLC et al. v. Allen, et al." on Justia Law
C.J. Mahan Construction Co. v. Betzner
The Supreme Court affirmed the order the circuit court certifying a class action against Defendants, holding that the circuit court did not err or abuse its discretion.Plaintiffs filed a class action complaint against Defendants, alleging, on their own behalf and on behalf of others similarly situated, that their water systems were contaminated with sewage due to Defendants' negligence. Plaintiffs moved for class certification. The circuit court certified the class as to their negligence and breach of contract claims. On appeal, Defendants argued that the circuit court erred in finding that class was ascertainable and that common issues predominated and erred in certifying the breach of contract claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in certifying the class. View "C.J. Mahan Construction Co. v. Betzner" on Justia Law
Baptiste v. Bethlehem Landfill Co.
The Baptistes filed suit on behalf of a class of homeowner-occupants and renters (about 8,400 households) claiming interference with the use and enjoyment of their homes and loss in property value caused by noxious odors and other air contaminants emanating from the 224-acre Bethlehem Landfill. The Third Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit. While everyone in the community—including visitors, commuters, and residents—may suffer from having to breathe polluted air in public spaces, the Baptistes have identified cumulative harms that are unique to residents, such as the inability to use and enjoy their outdoor spaces. These injuries are above and beyond any injury to the public; the Baptistes sufficiently alleged a “particular damage” to sustain a private claim for public nuisance. They also stated a claim for private nuisance. Pennsylvania law does not reject a private nuisance claim on the ground that the property affected was too far from the source of the alleged nuisance. Nor does Pennsylvania law condition an individual’s right to recover private property damages on a nuisance theory on the size of the nuisance or the number of persons harmed, as opposed to the nature of the rights affected or the degree of the harm suffered. The question remains whether the Baptistes have sufficiently pleaded a cognizable injury to state an independent negligence claim. View "Baptiste v. Bethlehem Landfill Co." on Justia Law
Bonin v. Sabine River Authority of Louisiana
The Sabine River meanders between Texas and Louisiana. Two state agencies jointly regulate its waterways and operate a hydroelectric plant--the Toledo Bend Reservoir and Toledo Bend Dam. In March 2016, heavy rains led to heavy water inflow into the reservoir and flooding of the River. The plaintiffs, about 300 Texas and Louisiana property owners, alleged that the flooding of their property was caused or exacerbated by the reservoir’s water level becoming too high and the spillway gates at the reservoir being intentionally opened. The defendants removed the case to federal court, which remanded back to Texas state court. The cases were removed again. The Texas federal district court denied a motion to remand but later dismissed all claims against private power companies and remanded the claims against the state authorities to state court.The Fifth Circuit affirmed. Federal jurisdiction obtained at the time of removal because the suit then qualified as a “mass action” under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(11)(A); an exception for a local single event does not apply. CAFA mass actions “may be removed by any defendant without the consent of all defendants.” The court upheld the dismissals of the power companies based on findings that the plaintiffs did not adequately allege any violations of the FERC license; that under Texas law, only state authorities may be found liable for floodwater damage; and that the plaintiffs failed to show that the operation of the generators was a proximate cause of plaintiffs’ losses. View "Bonin v. Sabine River Authority of Louisiana" on Justia Law
Haggart v. United States
The Landowners filed a “rails-to-trails” class action against the United States, claiming that the government, through the National Trails System Act, effected a Fifth Amendment taking of Landowners’ reversionary rights to property underlying railroad easements owned by the BNSF Railway. On remand, the Claims Court rejected the government’s argument that a negotiated settlement had been abandoned; approved that settlement agreement as procedurally and substantively fair; entered a partial final judgment pursuant to Rule 54(b) “in the total amount of $159,636,521.65, consisting of $110,000,000 in principal and $49,636,521.65 in interest,” and deferred determination on the amount of attorney fees and costs to award class counsel under the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970 (URA). The Federal Circuit affirmed, upholding finding that the government failed to meet “its burden of demonstrating that the parties unequivocally intended to abandon the Settlement Agreement.” The court declined to address the government’s argument that the Claims Court erred by not limiting class counsel to the agreed amount of URA fees and costs, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction over the issue. View "Haggart v. United States" on Justia Law
Maddicks v Big City Properties, LLC
The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division modifying Supreme Court's dismissal of Plaintiffs' amended class action complaint by denying the part of the motion seeking dismissal of the class action claims against Defendants except to the extent those allegations addressed the cause of action for violation of N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law 349, holding that the claims for class relief should not have been dismissed without a judicial determination as to whether the prerequisites of N.Y. C.P.L.R. 902 had been satisfied.Plaintiffs, current and former tenants in buildings within multiple apartment buildings, alleged that individual corporate defendants that owned various buildings at issue were owned or controlled by a single holding company and that Defendants, in an effort to extract additional value from the properties, engaged in improper and illegal conduct" by, among other things, inflating rents above the amounts Defendant were legally permitted to charge. Before an answer was filed, Supreme Court dismissed the complaint, concluding that there was no basis for class relief. The Appellate Division modified Supreme Court's order, concluding that dismissal at this stage was premature. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that dismissal of class claims based on allegations of a methodical attempt to illegally inflate rents was premature. View "Maddicks v Big City Properties, LLC" on Justia Law
Zehentbauer Family Land, LP v. Chesapeake Exploration, L.L.C.
The defendants, exploration and production companies, contracted with landowners (plaintiffs) to drill for oil and gas on leased properties in Ohio’s Utica Shale Formation between 2010-2012. The agreements provide for royalty payments to the plaintiffs based on the gross proceeds received by the defendants from the sale of each well’s oil and gas production. The defendants sell the oil and gas extracted from the leased properties to “midstream” companies affiliated with the defendants. To calculate the price that an unaffiliated entity would have presumptively paid for the oil and gas, the defendants use the “netback method.” The plaintiffs claim the defendants underpaid their royalties because the netback method does not accurately approximate an arm’s-length transaction price, and improperly deducts post-production costs from the price. The district court granted class certification under FRCP 23(b)(3). The Sixth Circuit affirmed. While the plaintiffs have not met their burden of showing that common issues predominate with respect to a theory that the defendants sold oil and gas to midstream affiliates at below-market prices, the plaintiffs no longer pursued that theory at the class-certification stage. The plaintiffs satisfy the requirements of Rule 23(b)(3) with their liability theory based on the defendants’ deductions of post-production costs. View "Zehentbauer Family Land, LP v. Chesapeake Exploration, L.L.C." on Justia Law
Stephens Production Co. v. Mainer
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting Plaintiffs' motion for class certification in this action alleging that Defendant, which leased with Plaintiffs to drill and sell hydrocarbons from the leased property, improperly suspended royalty payments, holding that the requirements of numerosity and superiority were met.The complaint alleged that the royalty payments were suspended in an effort by Defendant to recoup improper deductions. Plaintiffs moved for class certification, which the trial court granted. Defendant appealed, arguing that Plaintiffs failed to satisfy the numerosity and superiority requirements. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the numerosity and superiority requirements were satisfied in this case. View "Stephens Production Co. v. Mainer" on Justia Law
Southwest Montana Building Industry Ass’n v. City of Bozeman
The Supreme Court affirmed three orders of the district court that directed Southwest Montana Building Industry Association (SWMBIA) to transfer funds from the impact fee payer class refund account (refund account) to the City of Bozeman, to submit an accounting of the refund account, and for contempt of court. The Court held (1) the district court did not exceed its authority when it ordered SWMBIA to transfer the funds remaining in the refund account to Bozeman; (2) the district court’s order regarding the transfer of the remaining refund account funds was enforceable; (3) the district court did not err when it did not dispose of the remaining refund account funds in accordance with Mont. R. Civ. P. 23(i)(3); (4) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it ordered SWMBIA to provide an accounting of the refund account; and (5) SWMBIA cannot obtain relief from the district court’s contempt order. View "Southwest Montana Building Industry Ass’n v. City of Bozeman" on Justia Law