Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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Plaintiffs, homebuyers, filed suit against SSA, a security company, after homes were damaged or destroyed due to arson. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment in SSA's favor. The court affirmed the district court's decision to grant SSA's renewed motion for summary judgment as to plaintiffs' negligence-based claims where, under Maryland law, plaintiffs did not own their homes at the time of the arsons and suffered only emotional injuries. The court certified the following question to the Court of Appeals of Maryland: Does the Maryland Security Guards Act, Md. Code Ann., Bus. Occ. & Prof. ยง 19-501, impose liability beyond common law principles of respondeat superior such that an employer may be responsible for off-duty criminal acts of an employee if the employee planned any part of the off-duty criminal acts while he or she was on duty? View "Antonio v. SSA Security, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Nutter, alleging that Nutter was liable for conspiring with Savings First to violate the Maryland Finder's Fee Act, Md. Code Ann., Com. Law 12-801 to 12-809. Plaintiff borrowed from Savings First in a reverse mortgage transaction and then Nutter purchased the mortgage from Savings First. The court agreed with the district court that Nutter could not be a violator of section 12-804(e) because that statute regulates only mortgage brokers and Nutter was not a "mortgage broker" in the transaction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Nutter. View "Marshall v. James B. Nutter & Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against Prosperity Mortgage, alleging that the fees Prosperity Mortgage charged at closing violated the Maryland Finder's Fee Act, Md. Code Ann., Com. Law 12-801 to 12-809. The court concluded that because Prosperity Mortgage was identified as the lender in the documents executed at closing, it was not a "mortgage broker" as the Act defines that term and therefore was not subject to the Act's provision. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's entry of judgment as a matter of law in favor of defendants. View "Petry v. Prosperity Mortgage Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that he was the owner of certain fractional work interests in four Ritchie County mining partnerships. The court certified the following question to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia: Whether the proponent of his own working interest in a mineral lease may prove his entitlement thereto and enforce his rights thereunder by demonstrating his inclusion within a mining partnership or partnership in mining, without resort to proof that the lease interest has been conveyed to him by deed or will or otherwise in strict conformance with the Statute of Frauds. View "Valentine v. Sugar Rock, Inc." on Justia Law

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In a quiet title action, the parties disputed claims of ownership to the gas rights underlying a plot of land known as Blackshere. On appeal, EPC appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs. The court granted plaintiffs' motion to supplement the record and found no jurisdictional defect with respect to Republic Partners; the court dismissed REV from the suit where, having reviewed the parties' arguments and the record, the court was satisfied that there was no reason to believe that any party would be harmed by REV's absence, or that plaintiffs received an improper tactical advantage by including REV as a party; the court affirmed the district court's decision that the Memorandum unambiguously conveyed to Cobham the gas rights in the Blackshere Lease; the court rejected EPC's argument that because plaintiffs failed to offer the 2004 Confirmatory Assignment into the record the district court lacked a factual basis on which to find that Prima ever received title to the Blackshere Lease; the court affirmed the district court's decision that Prima was a bona fide purchaser for value in 2004 and therefore held superior title to the Blackshere Lease by virtue of its unbroken, recorded chain of title; and the court rejected EPC's challenges to the district court's procedural rulings. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Trans Energy, Inc. v. EQT Production Co." on Justia Law

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After the City initiated a "quick take" proceeding to take the property of Clear Sky Car Wash, Clear Sky filed suit to challenge the City's actions. Clear Sky alleged that the City's conduct violated the mandatory real property acquisition policies set forth in the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970 (URA), 42 U.S.C. 4651, which were applicable to state agencies when, as here, federal funds were involved. The district court granted the City's motion to dismiss. The court affirmed, concluding that section 4651 did not create enforceable rights. Therefore, Clear Sky lacked any basis for a private action to remedy violations under the URA. Further, 42 U.S.C. 1983 did not give Clear Sky enforceable rights to file suit. The court rejected Clear Sky's argument that it had an Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 551 et seq., claim against the USDOT to require it to enforce the policies of section 4651. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Clear Sky Car Wash LLC v. City of Chesapeake, VA" on Justia Law

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After prevailing against the United States on the issue of just compensation in a condemnation proceeding, Granby and Marathon appeal the district court's denial of attorney's fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. 2412. The district court concluded that, although the prelitigation position of the United States was admittedly unreasonable, the United States' overall position was substantially justified under the totality of the circumstances. The court vacated and remanded with instructions regarding how to properly weigh the government's prelitigation position in determining whether its position as a whole was substantially justified, and to consider, if necessary, whether special circumstances existed in the first instance. View "United States v. 515 Granby, LLC" on Justia Law

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Debtor filed a Chapter 13 petition in the bankruptcy court identifying his interest in his primary residence located in Maryland. On appeal, debtor and his spouse argued that the bankruptcy court erred in refusing to strip off a lien on the ground that the spouse's property interest was not part of the bankruptcy estate. The lien was against the property that debtor owned with his non-debtor spouse as tenants by the entireties. The court concluded that the statutory provisions authorizing a strip off, and applicable Maryland property law, did not permit a bankruptcy court to alter a non-debtor's interest in property held in a tenancy by the entirety. The court held that the bankruptcy court correctly determined that it lacked authority to strip off debtor's valueless lien because only debtor's interest in the estate, rather than the complete entireties estate, was before the bankruptcy court. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Alvarez v. HSBC Bank" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against Chesapeake seeking an injunction and damages based on claims arising from the drilling and operation by Chesapeake of three natural gas wells on surface property owned by plaintiffs. Chesapeake owns lease rights to minerals beneath plaintiffs' surface property and the property rights of both parties ultimately flowed from two severance deeds that originally split the surface and mineral estates of the 101 acres of land plaintiffs owned. The only issue on appeal was whether the district court erred when it granted summary judgment for Chesapeake on plaintiffs' claim for common law trespass. The court concluded that the district court was correct to hold that creating drill waste pits was reasonably necessary for recovery of natural gas and did not impose a substantial burden on plaintiffs' surface property, that creation of the pits was consistent with Chesapeake's rights under its lease, was a practice common to natural gas wells in West Virginia, and consistent with requirements of applicable rules and regulations for the protection of the environment. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Whiteman v. Chesapeake Appalachia, LLC" on Justia Law

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This case concerned efforts by the Town of Nags Head, North Carolina, to declare beachfront properties that encroach onto "public trust lands" a nuisance, and regulate them accordingly. In the related appeal of Sansotta v. Town of Nags Head, the district court adjudicated the claims but concluded that it was inappropriate for a "federal court to intervene in such delicate state-law matters," and abstained from decision under Burford v. Sun Oil Co. The court reversed the district court's decision to abstain in this case where resolving the claims in this case was not sufficiently difficult or disruptive of that policy to free the district court from its "unflagging obligation to exercise its jurisdiction." Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Town of Nags Head v. Toloczko" on Justia Law