Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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The North Dakota Department of Transportation ("the DOT") took Rosie Glow, LLC's property through an eminent domain quick-take action. The DOT deposited $2,296,000.00 for the land and $940,860.00 for severance damages. Rosie Glow and the DOT disputed the value of the property taken. Rosie Glow's appraiser estimated the total compensation owed to Rosie Glow was $4,899,000.00, consisting of $3,788,400.00 for the land and $1,110,600.00 for severance damages. The jury awarded Rosie Glow $2,296,000.00 for property taken and $1,240,860.00 in severance damages, totaling $300,000.00 more than the DOT deposited. Rosie Glow appealed the district court's award of $32,400.00 in attorney fees and expert fees and litigation costs of $11,236.41. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. The Supreme Court determined the district court did not abuse its discretion in reducing the costs awarded for an appraisal because it adequately explained its reasoning. However, the Court found the district court abused its discretion in declining to award any costs for the appraiser's review of the DOT's appraisal because it did not explain its decision. The district court also misapplied the law by not awarding costs for the DOT's deposition of the appraiser. View "N.D. Dep't of Transportation v. Rosie Glow, LLC" on Justia Law

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The North Dakota Department of Transportation ("the DOT") took Rosie Glow, LLC's property through an eminent domain quick-take action. The DOT deposited $2,296,000.00 for the land and $940,860.00 for severance damages. Rosie Glow and the DOT disputed the value of the property taken. Rosie Glow's appraiser estimated the total compensation owed to Rosie Glow was $4,899,000.00, consisting of $3,788,400.00 for the land and $1,110,600.00 for severance damages. The jury awarded Rosie Glow $2,296,000.00 for property taken and $1,240,860.00 in severance damages, totaling $300,000.00 more than the DOT deposited. Rosie Glow appealed the district court's award of $32,400.00 in attorney fees and expert fees and litigation costs of $11,236.41. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. The Supreme Court determined the district court did not abuse its discretion in reducing the costs awarded for an appraisal because it adequately explained its reasoning. However, the Court found the district court abused its discretion in declining to award any costs for the appraiser's review of the DOT's appraisal because it did not explain its decision. The district court also misapplied the law by not awarding costs for the DOT's deposition of the appraiser. View "N.D. Dep't of Transportation v. Rosie Glow, LLC" on Justia Law

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The North Dakota Department of Transportation (the "DOT") took G. John Schmitz's property through an eminent domain quick-take action. The DOT deposited $973,380.00 with the Williams County Clerk of Court for the taking. Schmitz disputed the amount and timely served a notice of appeal. In September and October of 2014, the parties attempted unsuccessfully to reach a settlement. Jury trial was set for September 30, 2015. Schmitz had trouble locating expert witnesses and asked for a continuance. The parties stipulated to the continuance, and the court reset trial for January 24, 2017. Schmitz located three expert witnesses before trial: Scott Bechtle, an architect, provided Schmitz with hypothetical development concepts for the property; Robert Strachota, a Minneapolis-based appraiser, offered opinions of land value and severance damages; and Dan Leirness, a Fargo-based appraiser, offered an opinion of land values. After trial Schmitz requested $263,866.97 in attorney fees, $154,172.12 in expert fees and $17,224.31 in litigation costs for a total of $567,317.36. The DOT contested the fees and costs. The district court awarded $137,347.50 in attorney fees, $35,930.96 in expert fees and $8,027.38 in litigation costs for a total of $181,305.84. Schmitz appealed. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded, finding the district court did not abuse its discretion in reducing Schmitz's attorney or expert fees, but abused its discretion in reducing and eliminating certain litigation costs. The judgment was reversed regarding those litigation costs, and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "N.D. Dep't of Transportation v. Schmitz" on Justia Law

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Stephanie Lee appealed a judgment evicting her, and any other person or persons claiming under her, from her Williston premises and awarding IRET Properties ("IRET") $880.00 for attorney's fees and costs. Lee argued IRET failed to perform all the prerequisites under N.D.C.C. ch. 47­32 in order to bring an eviction action against her, and therefore, she was unlawfully evicted. Lee further argued the district court failed to make sufficient findings on the issue of default and the district court improperly awarded IRET attorney's fees and costs. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded IRET properly brought an eviction action against Lee for failure to pay rent and the district court's findings were sufficient to sustain its conclusions. View "IRET Properties v. Lee" on Justia Law

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Linda Nelson, Jill Mattson, Jeffrey Mattson, and Joan Louise Mattson appealed the district court's judgment quieting title to property in the Steven R. Mattson Living Trust and the Roald F. Mattson Living Trust (the "Trusts"), and awarding damages to Steven R. Mattson, the Steven R. Mattson Living Trust, and the Roald F. Mattson Living Trust (collectively, the "Mattsons"). Because the joint tenancy between Leif, Alf, and Roald Mattson was not severed prior to Leif Mattson's death, the North Dakota Supreme Court found the district court did not clearly err by quieting title to property in the Trusts. Further, the district court did not clearly err by awarding damages to the Trusts for the oil and gas lease payments under a theory of conversion. However, the district court erred by awarding damages to Steven Mattson for the amount he paid to Leif's heirs for the purported interest they owned in the surface of the property because unjust enrichment was unavailable and the voluntary payment doctrine applies. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "Nelson v. Mattson" on Justia Law

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Linda Nelson, Jill Mattson, Jeffrey Mattson, and Joan Louise Mattson appealed the district court's judgment quieting title to property in the Steven R. Mattson Living Trust and the Roald F. Mattson Living Trust (the "Trusts"), and awarding damages to Steven R. Mattson, the Steven R. Mattson Living Trust, and the Roald F. Mattson Living Trust (collectively, the "Mattsons"). Because the joint tenancy between Leif, Alf, and Roald Mattson was not severed prior to Leif Mattson's death, the North Dakota Supreme Court found the district court did not clearly err by quieting title to property in the Trusts. Further, the district court did not clearly err by awarding damages to the Trusts for the oil and gas lease payments under a theory of conversion. However, the district court erred by awarding damages to Steven Mattson for the amount he paid to Leif's heirs for the purported interest they owned in the surface of the property because unjust enrichment was unavailable and the voluntary payment doctrine applies. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "Nelson v. Mattson" on Justia Law

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Cameron and Mary Susan Arnegard appealed a trial court judgment relating to a conditional use permit (CUP) obtained from Arnegard Township in McKenzie County, North Dakota. The Arnegards argued the district court erred in granting the Township's motion in limine to exclude a buy-sell agreement; denying their motion to amend their complaint on a due process claim; granting summary judgment dismissing their breach of contract, actual fraud and equitable estoppel claims; dismissing their negligence and deceit claims by directed verdict; and determining no party prevailed in the action. The Arnegards also argued the district court abused its discretion by denying their motion to amend their complaint at trial. The Township cross-appealed, arguing the district court erred in granting judgment as a matter of law in favor of the Arnegards' due process claim. Zoning ordinances and amendments are valid if a township follows the statutory procedures. A conditional use permit does not by itself create a contract between a township and a landowner. A township has no duty to disclose validly enacted zoning ordinances or amendments beyond the notice and filing procedures provided by statute. A claim of constitutional due process violation first requires a protected property interest created by an independent source of law. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court regarding dismissal of the Arnegards' breach of contract, actual fraud and equitable estoppel claims. The Court affirmed the judgment regarding directed verdicts in favor of the Township on the negligence and deceit claims. However, the Court reversed the judgment regarding the Arnegards' due process claim and the award of nominal damages, and remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "Arnegard v. Arnegard Township" on Justia Law

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Leon Pfingsten appealed a district court order granting Owego Township's motion to dismiss an appeal. In 2015, several Owego Township residents petitioned for alteration of what was known as Bagoon Road. In April 2015 the Township sued Pfingsten to have that portion of Bagoon Road on Pfingsten's property declared a public road by prescriptive easement, to prevent Pfingsten from claiming any adverse interest in the road and to have damages awarded for Pfingsten's intentional injury to the road. The Township also sought access to Pfingsten's property for surveying. Pfingsten counterclaimed for trespass. The district court entered a stipulated order providing that the Township had the right to survey Pfingsten's land before December 31, 2016 and, upon completion of the survey, the Township would proceed with a taking action. The district court stayed the action until December 31, 2016. On September 26, 2016, the Township acted on the March 2015 petition and adopted and filed with the Township Clerk an order to alter highway and a statement of damages. The order to alter highway changed the location of Bagoon Road on Pfingsten's property; the statement of damages valued Pfingsten's two acres at $9,000. Pfingsten did not appeal the Township's award of damages. On December 3, 2016 the Township adopted a confirmation of order to alter highway and confirmation of statement of damages. On December 22, 2016 Pfingsten received a $9,000 check from the Township. He appealed to the district court on January 19, 2017. The Township moved to dismiss the appeal. The district court ruled that Pfingsten's appeal was untimely under N.D.C.C. sections 24-07-22 and 28-34-01 and granted the Township's motion to dismiss the appeal. Pfingsten argued on appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court the district court erred by concluding his appeal was untimely. Finding no error, the Supreme Court affirmed: a township's determination or award of damages must be appealed within thirty days of filing under N.D.C.C. Sections 24-07-22 and 28-34-01. View "Owego Township v. Pfingsten" on Justia Law

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Leon Pfingsten appealed a district court order granting Owego Township's motion to dismiss an appeal. In 2015, several Owego Township residents petitioned for alteration of what was known as Bagoon Road. In April 2015 the Township sued Pfingsten to have that portion of Bagoon Road on Pfingsten's property declared a public road by prescriptive easement, to prevent Pfingsten from claiming any adverse interest in the road and to have damages awarded for Pfingsten's intentional injury to the road. The Township also sought access to Pfingsten's property for surveying. Pfingsten counterclaimed for trespass. The district court entered a stipulated order providing that the Township had the right to survey Pfingsten's land before December 31, 2016 and, upon completion of the survey, the Township would proceed with a taking action. The district court stayed the action until December 31, 2016. On September 26, 2016, the Township acted on the March 2015 petition and adopted and filed with the Township Clerk an order to alter highway and a statement of damages. The order to alter highway changed the location of Bagoon Road on Pfingsten's property; the statement of damages valued Pfingsten's two acres at $9,000. Pfingsten did not appeal the Township's award of damages. On December 3, 2016 the Township adopted a confirmation of order to alter highway and confirmation of statement of damages. On December 22, 2016 Pfingsten received a $9,000 check from the Township. He appealed to the district court on January 19, 2017. The Township moved to dismiss the appeal. The district court ruled that Pfingsten's appeal was untimely under N.D.C.C. sections 24-07-22 and 28-34-01 and granted the Township's motion to dismiss the appeal. Pfingsten argued on appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court the district court erred by concluding his appeal was untimely. Finding no error, the Supreme Court affirmed: a township's determination or award of damages must be appealed within thirty days of filing under N.D.C.C. Sections 24-07-22 and 28-34-01. View "Owego Township v. Pfingsten" on Justia Law

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Steve Forster, Daniel Krebs, and Debra Krebs (collectively "Forster/Krebs") appealed the dismissal of their claims against B&B Hot Oil Service, Inc., and JB's Welding. Forster/Krebs argued the district court erred in construing language in a lease agreement with B&B Hot Oil as a waiver of their claims against B&B Hot Oil for damages to their building and property and to preclude a subrogation claim by their insurer, Acuity, against B&B Hot Oil. Forster/Krebs also argued the district court improperly granted summary judgment dismissing their claims against JB's Welding for concerted action and a joint venture. B&B Hot Oil leased one-half of a building owned by Forster/Krebs and used the leased property to store two hot oil trucks. An explosion in January 2010, destroyed the building and its contents and damaged surrounding property. The alleged cause of the explosion was a propane leak from one of the hot oil trucks, which has been referred to by the parties as a "knock off" truck built through "reverse engineering" by B&B Hot Oil with assistance from JB's Welding. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded a stipulation to dismiss Forster/Krebs' other remaining claims against JB's Welding without prejudice did not make the judgment final for purposes of appellate jurisdiction, the Court dismissed the appeal. View "James Vault & Precast Co. v. B&B Hot Oil Service, Inc." on Justia Law