Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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Jeff Trosen appealed a judgment and amended judgment awarding damages for a breach of contract claim to the Estate of Shirley Trosen and the Trosen Family Trust and dismissing Jeff’s counterclaim and third-party complaint. A dispute arose over Jeff’s lease of farmland from Shirley. The lease covered the farming seasons of 2017 through 2022. Partial payments were made in 2020 and 2021, leaving balances owed for those years. Shirley and the Trust sued Jeff for breach of contract and to cancel the lease. Jeff argued the district court erred in granting summary judgment on the breach of contract claim and by dismissing his counterclaim and third-party complaint. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the judgments. View "Trosen, et al. v. Trosen, et al." on Justia Law

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Milton Turner died on July 25, 2018. On September 20, 2018, Mildred Williamson petitioned for letters of administration of Turner's estate in the probate court. In her petition, Williamson asserted that Turner had died intestate and that Williamson was Turner's only surviving heir. In 2019, Williamson, individually and in her capacity as the personal representative of Turner's estate, entered into a contract agreeing to sell to Matthew Drinkard and Jefferson Dolbare ("the purchasers") real property belonging to the estate for $880,650. The real-estate sales contract specified that the closing of the sale was to occur on or before May 31, 2019. On February 7, 2019, Williamson, individually and in her capacity as personal representative of Turner's estate, executed a deed conveying other real property that was part of Turner's estate to Marcus Hester. On February 13, 2019, Callway Sargent, alleging to be an heir of Turner's, filed a claim of heirship in Turner's estate. Sargent also moved for injunctive relief in which he acknowledged the February 7, 2019, deed, but asserted that Williamson had agreed to sell and had conveyed real property belonging to Turner's estate without the approval of the probate court, and requested that the probate court enjoin "Williamson from engaging in any further administration of [Turner's] estate until so ordered by [the probate court]." Williamson petitioned to have the case removed fro probate to the circuit court. From February 28, 2019, to March 18, 2019, a number of individuals came forward, all claiming to be Turner's heirs. Williamson moved to have the circuit court approve the pending property sales. Williamson and the purchasers did not close on the sale of the property that was the subject of their real-estate sales contract by May 31, 2019, as required by the contract. Some of the purported heirs petitioned the circuit court to stay or vacate the order approving the purchasers contact until matters regarding the heirs was resolved. Drinkard and Dolbare filed a motion to intervene in the proceedings regarding the administration of Turner's estate, but the circuit court denied the motion. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's denial of the purchasers' motion to intervene in the administration of Turner's estate. View "Drinkard, et al. v. Perry, et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the business and consumer docket entered in favor of Plaintiffs vacating the Bureau of Parks and Lands' lease of public reserved land to NECEC Transmission LLC and Central Maine Power Co. (CMP) for construction of a high-capacity transmission line, holding that the Bureau acted within its constitutional and statutory authority in granting the lease.CMP appealed and Plaintiffs cross-appealed the trial court's decision not to address the substantive question of whether the Bureau had the constitutional authority to lease to the public reserved land. Plaintiffs later moved to dismiss the appeals on the ground that a citizen's initiative rendered the appeals moot. The Supreme Judicial Court denied the motion to dismiss and vacated the judgment below, holding (1) retroactive application of section 1 of the Initiative did not violate the Contract Clause of the United States Constitution, and therefore, the lease was not voided by the initiative; and (2) the record established that the Bureau acted within its constitutional and statutory authority in granting the lease. View "Black v. Bureau of Parks & Lands" on Justia Law

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The 1985 “Manning Lease” granted the lessee rights to oil and gas on an approximately 100-acre tract of land in Bowling Green that is adjacent to a quarry. There is a long-expired one-year term, followed by a second term that conditions the maintenance of the leasehold interest on the production of oil or gas by the lessee. Bluegrass now owns the property. Believing that lessees were producing an insufficient quantity of oil to justify maintaining the lease, Bluegrass purported to terminate the lease and sought a declaration that the lease had terminated by its own terms while asserting several other related claims.The district court found that Bluegrass’s termination of the lease was improper and granted the lessees summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded. There is a factual dispute regarding whether the lease terminated by its own terms. The trier of fact must determine if the lessee has produced oil in paying quantities after considering all the evidence. There is a material factual dispute about whether the lessee ceased producing oil for a period of time, and, if so, whether that period of time was unreasonable. View "Bluegrass Materials Co., LLC v. Freeman" on Justia Law

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In this action concerning a disputed agreement between between Kenneth and Rebecca Goens and Lynn VanSloten for the sale of an empty lot, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction under S.D. Codified Laws 15-26A-3, holding that the underlying interlocutory judgment was not a final judgment under S.D. Codified Laws 15-6-54(b) and was therefore not appealable.Kenneth delivered the purchase agreement at issue and VanSloten's earnest money check to FDT, LLC with the intention that FDT act as the closing agent for the property sale. When a dispute arose regarding the earnest money check and purchase agreement the Goenses filed a complaint against FDT and VanSloten. VanSloten asserted a counterclaim against the Goenses. The circuit court granted FDT's motion for summary judgment against the Goenses, but the order did not resolve the remaining claims or contain any certification under S.D. Codified Laws 15-6-54(b). The Goenses appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that because active claims remained in this action at the time of appeal and no Rule 54(b) certification was made, this Court lacked appellate jurisdiction under S.D. Codified Laws 15-26A-3. View "Goens v. FDT, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Allstate Vehicle and Property Insurance Company's decision to rescind an insurance policy purchased for a derelict house Homeowner intended to remodel, holding that questions of material fact existed precluding summary judgment.After a fire occurred, damaging the house and some of its contents, Allstate announced that it was rescinding the homeowners' insurance policy issued to Homeowner, asserting that Homeowner digitally signed an application in which he falsely answered a request as to whether he would occupy the house within thirty days. Plaintiffs, including Homeowner, sued Allstate for breach of contract and unfair trade practices. The circuit court granted Allstate's motion to rescind the policy, concluding that there was no factual dispute that Homeowner had made false statements on his insurance application. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that questions of material fact existed regarding whether Plaintiff's answer to Allstate's thirty-day-occupancy question was false and whether the question was material to Allstate's issuance of the policy. View "McDowell v. Allstate Vehicle & Property Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the circuit court determining that an auctioneer had verbally modified its advertised terms prior to the start of the auction and ordering the conveyance of a fee simple interest in a parcel of real property by special warranty deed to Plaintiff, holding that the circuit court erred.Plaintiff attended an auction advertised by Plaintiff for the sale of the property at issue. Plaintiff's bid was the high bid, but Defendants refused to sell the property for that amount. Plaintiff brought this complaint seeking specific performance, alleging that, in the pre-auction announcement, Defendants used language stating that the auction was going to be an absolute auction. The trial court ruled that Plaintiff was entitled to specific performance and ordered the conveyance of the property by special warranty deed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the trial court erred in ruling that the auction was an absolute auction rather than an auction with reserve; and (2) therefore, no contract was formed between the parties. View "Williams v. Janson" on Justia Law

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This appeal and cross-appeal involved a residential lease agreement with an option to purchase executed by Tony Hiett, Sr., and his wife Kelly Hiett ("the tenants") and Beverlye Brady ("the landlord"). According to the tenants, they accepted the first option to purchase the property presented in the landlord's email and began making monthly holdover rental payments of $2,500. And, in April 2017, they informed the landlord that they had obtained financing and were ready to close on the property by April 30, 2017. The landlord, however, refused to convey title to the property because, she claimed, the tenants had never responded to her email; thus, according to the landlord, the option to purchase had expired. The tenants thereafter stopped paying rent under the lease agreement, but continued to occupy the property, and sued the landlord, seeking specific performance of the option to purchase. The landlord counterclaimed, asserting a claim for ejectment and a claim of breach of contract, based on unpaid rent and late fees owed under the lease agreement. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the judgment entered on the jury's verdict in favor of the tenants on their specific-performance claim and against the landlord on her ejectment claim. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment entered on the jury's verdict in favor of the landlord on her breach-of-contract claim based on the inadequacy of damages awarded, and the Court remanded the case with directions to the trial court to grant a new trial as to only that claim, unless the tenants consented to an additur. View "Hiett v. Brady" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment, decree of foreclosure, and order of sale by the district court, and the orders and actions contained within these documents, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion.Thermal Design, Inc. filed a complaint to foreclose its construction lien against Mark and Pam Duffy and Central Copters, Inc. The complaint also asserted claims against TNT Building Systems. A jury found that TNT, acting as an agent of Central Copters, entered into a contract with Thermal Design for the insulation system, and both TNT and Central Copters were jointly and severally liable for breaching the contract with Thermal Design. As to a crossclaim between TNT and Central Copters, the jury found that both parties breached their agreement but that only TNT incurred damages. The district court entered a final order restating that, as a matter of law, Thermal Design had a valid construction lien attaching to both the Duffys’ real property and Central Copters’ building that should be foreclosed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion in the proceedings below. View "Thermal Design, Inc. v. Thorson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that public policy prohibits an agreement between a builder-vendor and a homebuyer to disclaim and waive the warranty of workmanship and habitability implied in every contract entered into between the buyer-vendor and homebuyer and to replace it with an express warranty.Plaintiff entered into a preprinted purchase agreement with M & RC II, LLC to buy a home that M & RC II's affiliate, Scott Homes Development Company, would build. Plaintiff later sued M & RC II and Scott Homes (together, Defendants) for breach of the implied warranty of workmanship and habitability. Defendant moved for summary judgment on the ground that Plaintiff had waived the implied warranty per the purchase agreement. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the public policy underlying the implied warranty of workmanship and habitability clearly outweighed enforcement of the waiver of that warranty in the purchase agreement. View "Zambrano v. M & RC II LLC" on Justia Law