Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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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

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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

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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

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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

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Here the Supreme Court reaffirmed its statement in 2DP Blanding, LLC v. Palmer, __ P.3d ___ (Utah 2017), that “an appellant who takes no action to preserve his interests in property at issue on appeal has no recourse against a lawful third-party purchaser.”This case involved the same unstayed court order at issue in 2DP Blanding that authorized a foreclosure sale of real property. Here, MAA Prospector purchased property at the foreclosure sale. MAA Prospector had actual notice of Ray Palmer’s appeal of the foreclosure order when it purchased the property. The court of appeals reversed the judgment under which the foreclosure sale was conducted. Palmer then recorded a notice of default and election to sell under his original trust deed. MAA Prospector brought this suit against Palmer seeking to enjoin Palmer from foreclosing on the property and quieting its title to the property. The district court ruled in favor of MAA Prospector. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that MAA Prospector’s actual notice of Palmer’s appeal did not mean that MAA Prospector took the property subject to the outcome of the appeal. View "MAA Prospector Motor Lodge, LLC v. Palmer" 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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Appellees, class representatives of property owners located in a subdivision, sought declaratory judgment that certain “tie-in rights” were unenforceable. During the suit, Appellant filed an interlocutory appeal of the circuit court’s denial of its motion to compel arbitration with the unnamed class members. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded case number CV 14-618 to rule on whether there was a valid agreement to arbitrate between Appellant and the unnamed class members. The mandate issued pursuant to an opinion that ordered Appellees to pay Appellant $5,091 for costs in the appeal. Appellees subsequently filed a motion regarding costs and a motion to recall and amend the mandate. Both motions were denied. The Supreme Court recalled the mandate in case number CV-14-618 and directed the clerk to amend the mandate to reflect that each party is to bear its own costs, holding that the circuit court was without jurisdiction to award judgment for costs. View "Dye v. Diamante, a Private Membership Golf Club, LLC" on Justia Law

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Appellants in this case were class representatives of a group of property owners located in Hot Springs Village. Appellants filed suit against a private golf club associated with the development seeking a declaratory judgment that the provisions contained in supplemental declarations were unenforceable. The circuit court declared that the supplemental provisions were valid and enforceable and that there had been no breach of the declarations. The court also denied the disgorgement of any dues paid during the suit. Appellants raised eight points of appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error in the circuit court’s decision. View "Dye v. Diamante, a Private Membership Golf Club, LLC" on Justia Law

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Richard and Gwen Dutcher and their co-plaintiffs (collectively, “plaintiffs”) brought suit in Utah state court on behalf of a putative plaintiff class against ReconTrust, a national bank that served as the substitute trustee for class members’ deeds of trust over properties located in Utah. The suit alleged that ReconTrust illegally non-judicially foreclosed on the plaintiffs’ properties because depository institutions like ReconTrust did not have the power of sale over properties secured by trust deed. The plaintiffs also sued B.A.C. Home Loans Servicing (“BAC”) and Bank of America, N.A. (“BOA”), as the former trustees who transferred trusteeship to ReconTrust, as well as Stuart Matheson and his law firm, as the agents who conducted the foreclosure sale on behalf of ReconTrust. ReconTrust and the other defendants removed the case to federal court. They maintained that ReconTrust’s acts were lawful. The district court denied a motion by plaintiffs to remand the case to state court and agreed with ReconTrust on the merits, which led the court to grant the defendants’ pending motion to dismiss. On appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, plaintiffs sought reversal of the court’s order denying remand to Utah state court, and reversal of the order granting dismissal of the case. The Tenth Circuit concluded, however, that the district court properly decided that it had jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”); accordingly, it correctly denied the plaintiffs’ motion for remand. On the merits, the Court concluded that ReconTrust was authorized to conduct the challenged foreclosures under federal law, and the plaintiffs had relatedly failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted. The Court therefore affirmed the district court’s judgment as to both issues. View "Dutcher v. Matheson" on Justia Law

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The Fangmans sought to represent a class of approximately 4,000 to 5,000 individuals who, from 2009 to 2014, retained Genuine Title for settlement and title services and utilized various lenders for the purchase and/or refinancing of their residences, allegedly as a result of referrals from the lenders. All of the lenders are servicers of federally related mortgage loans. The complaint alleges an illegal kickback scheme and that “sham companies” that were created by Genuine Title to conceal the kickbacks, which were not disclosed on the HUD-1 form. After dismissing most of the federal claims, the federal court certified to the Maryland Court of Appeals the question of law: Does Md. Code , Real Prop. [(1974, 2015 Repl. Vol.) 14-127 imply a private right of action?” The statute prohibits certain consideration in real estate transactions. That court responded “no” and held that RP 14-127 does not contain an express or implied private right of action, as neither its plain language, legislative history, nor legislative purpose demonstrates any intent on the General Assembly’s part to create a private right of action. View "Fangman v. Genuine Title, LLC" on Justia Law