Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use
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
Crooks v. Dept. of Natural Res.
In 1962, the United States began constructing various structures in and around the Catahoula Basin pursuant to a congressionally-approved navigation project under the River and Harbor Act of 1960 to promote navigation on the Ouachita and Black Rivers. In conjunction with that project, the State of Louisiana signed an “Act of Assurances,” which obligated the State to provide the federal government with all lands and property interests necessary to the project free of charge, and to indemnify the federal government from any damages resulting from the project. In 2006, plaintiffs Steve Crooks and Era Lea Crooks filed a “Class Action Petition to Fix Boundary, For Damages and For Declaration [sic] Judgment.” The Crookses alleged they represented a class of landowners in the Catahoula Basin whose property was affected by increased water levels from the project. Ultimately, the trial court certified the plaintiffs as one class, but subdivided that class into two groups – the “Lake Plaintiffs” and the “Swamp Plaintiffs” – depending on the location of the properties affected. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to determine whether the plaintiffs’ inverse condemnation claims for compensation against the State were prescribed under La. R.S. 13:5111 and/or 28 U.S.C. 2501. The lower courts relied on the decision in Cooper v. Louisiana Department of Public Works, 870 So. 2d 315 (2004), to conclude the one-year prescriptive period for damage to immovable property found in La. C.C. art. 3493 governed, and the continuing tort doctrine applied to prevent the running of prescription on the plaintiffs’ claims. The Supreme Court found the lower courts erred in relying on Cooper and held that the three-year prescriptive period for actions for compensation for property taken by the state set forth in La. R. S. 13:5111 governed and the plaintiffs’ inverse condemnation claims were prescribed. View "Crooks v. Dept. of Natural Res." 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
Reid v. City of San Diego
Plaintiffs Yvonne Reid and Serena Wong sued defendants the City of San Diego (City) and the San Diego Tourism Marketing District (TMD) in a putative class action complaint, challenging what they allege is "an illegal hotel tax." The trial court sustained Defendants' demurrer without leave to amend on statute of limitations and other grounds. The Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding some of the causes of action were time-barred and the remainder failed to state facts constituting a cause of action. View "Reid v. City of San Diego" 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
Green Valley Landowners Ass’n v. City of Vallejo
The Lakes Water System (LWS), created in the late 1800s-early 1900s, provides Vallejo with potable water. After completing a diversion dam and the Green Line for transmission, the city created two reservoirs, Lake Frey and Lake Madigan, which were soon insufficient to meet demand. The city began storing water in hills above Napa County’s Gordon Valley and constructed the Gordon transmission line. The city acquired easements from some property owners by agreeing to provide “free water.” The city also agreed to provide potable water to other nonresident customers. In the 1950s, the city obtained water rights from the Sacramento River Delta and contracted for water from the Solano Project. In 1992, water quality from Lake Curry ceased to meet standards and the city closed the Gordon Line. In 1992 the city passed an ordinance shifting the entire cost of LWS to 809 nonresident customers, so that their rates increased by 230 percent. The city passed additional rate increases in 1995 and 2009. Plaintiff, representing a purported class of nonresident LWS customers, alleges the city has grossly mismanaged and neglected LWS, placing the burden on the Class to fund a deteriorating, inefficient, and costly system, spread over an “incoherent service area” and plaintiff did not become aware of unfunded liabilities until 2013 The court of appeal affirmed dismissal; plaintiff cannot state any viable claims alleging misconduct by the city. View "Green Valley Landowners Ass'n v. City of Vallejo" on Justia Law
Beazer Homes Holding Corp. v. Dist. Court
Petitioner, a developer, helped construct a planned development (the "community"). The community HOA sued the developers, sellers, and builders of the development, including Petitioner, on behalf of the individual homeowners, alleging construction-defect-based claims for breach of implied and express warranties and negligence. Thereafter, the community HOA filed a motion for the district court to determine that its claims satisfied the class action requirements of Nev. R. Civ. P. 23. The district court concluded that the HOA did not need to satisfy the requirements of Rule 23 and thus allowed the action to proceed without conducting a class action analysis. Petitioner sought a writ of mandamus or prohibition, claiming that the district court acted arbitrarily and capriciously by refusing to undertake a class action analysis. The Supreme Court granted Petitioner's petition to the extent that it directed the district court to analyze the Rule 23 factors in this case. In so doing, the Court clarified the application of D.R. Horton v. District Court when a homeowners' association seeks to litigate construction-defect claims on behalf of its members under Nev. Rev. Stat. 116.3102(1)(d).View "Beazer Homes Holding Corp. v. Dist. Court " on Justia Law
Albano v. Shea Homes Ltd.
In this lawsuit, one of several suits alleging construction defects in homes located in a Shea Homes planned community, plaintiffs Albert Albano and other homeowners appealed to the circuit court from the district court's summary judgment dismissing their construction-defect claims against Shea Homes as barred by Arizona's statute of repose. The plaintiffs were three homeowners not allowed to join a previous putative class action against Shea Homes. On appeal, plaintiffs contended that the district court erred in failing to apply American Pipe v. Utah, which tolls the applicable statute of limitations for non-named class members until class certification is denied, to the period between the filing of the previous putative class action lawsuit and the denial of class certification. The Supreme Court accepted jurisdiction to answer the certified question of whether the American Pipe tolling rule would also apply to a statute of repose. The Court held that the class-action tolling doctrine does not apply to statutes of repose, and more specifically, to the statute of repose for construction defects.