Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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The federal criminal forfeiture statute, 21 U.S.C. 853, does not authorize the pretrial restraint of a defendant's innocently-obtained property. Section 853(e) permits the government to obtain a pretrial restraining order over only those assets that are directly subject to forfeiture as property traceable to a charged offense. Consequently, the Fourth Circuit overruled its precedents to the contrary, United States v. McKinney (In re Billman), 915 F.2d 916 (4th Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 500 U.S. 952 (1991), and United States v. Bollin, 264 F.3d 391, 421–22 (4th Cir. 2001), and vacated the district court's order relying on those authorities. View "United States v. Chamberlain" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Wells Fargo, alleging that the foreclosure sale of his house was invalid under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), 50 U.S.C. 3953(a), 3953(c), which requires a lender to obtain a court order before foreclosing on or selling property owned by a current or recent servicemember where the mortgage obligation "originated before the period of the servicemember's military service." The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Wells Fargo, holding that plaintiff's mortgage obligation originated when he was in the Navy, it was not a protected obligation under section 3953(a), and his later enlistment in the Army did not change that status to afford protection retroactively. View "Sibert v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a landowner, filed suit challenging a comprehensive plan to extend sewer service to South Kent Island and a so-called Grandfather/Merger Provision designed to limit overdevelopment of the area. The Fourth Circuit rejected plaintiff's Fifth Amendment Takings Clause claim, holding that he failed to show that either the extension of sewer service or the Grandfather/Merger Provision goes too far in interfering with his property so as to require compensation. The court also held that there was no substantive due process violation as to the sewer service because plaintiff never had an entitlement to receive sewer service; there was no substantive due process violation as to the Grandfather/Merger Provision because it is a patently legitimate government action; and there was no violation of the Equal Protection Clause where plaintiff failed to show that any difference in treatment plaintiff suffered was rationally related to a legitimate state interest. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment in all respects. View "Quinn v. Board of County Commissioners" on Justia Law

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North Carolina filed suit against Alcoa, seeking a declaratory judgment that North Carolina owns a 45-mile segment of the riverbed of the Yadkin River in North Carolina. The district court ruled as a matter of law that Alcoa successfully proved its title to 99% of the relevant segment under North Carolina's Marketable Title Act, N.C. Gen. Stat. 146-79, and to the remaining 1% under the doctrine of adverse possession. The court concluded that the district court did not clearly err in its factual finding that the Yadkin River was not navigable at statehood and did not err in concluding, as a matter of law, that Alcoa has good title to the riverbed. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "North Carolina v. Alcoa Power Generating, Inc." on Justia Law

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The United States filed an application for prejudgment remedies under the Federal Debt Collection Procedures Act (FDCPA), 28 U.S.C. 3001 et seq., seeking writs of attachment against personal and real property owned by defendants and writs of garnishment against bank accounts totaling approximately $16.7 million. The government argued that, because defendants violated the Anti-Kickback Statute, 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7b, and the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729 et seq., defendants owed the United States at least $298 million. On appeal, defendants challenged the district court's denial of their motions to quash the writs of attachment against real and personal property and writs of garnishment against two bank accounts. The court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because the denial was an unreviewable interlocutory order. View "Bluewave Healthcare v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit 15 years after Consolidation Coal began its dewatering operation into Beatrice Mine, alleging that Consolidation Coal damaged plaintiffs' property interests in the exhausted Beatrice Mine and unjustly enriched itself. The district court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment. The court concluded that, because Consolidation Coal's water transfer was permitted by a state agency that had been delegated authority by federal law, it amounted to a federally permitted transfer and could not serve as a basis for a cause of action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9601-9675; even if plaintiffs were to have the benefit of section 9658's discovery rule, they still could not satisfy the applicable statutes of limitations; the level of public notice and publicity that occurred with respect to Consolidation Coal's dewatering activities should reasonably have informed plaintiffs of those activities more than five years before plaintiffs commenced their lawsuits; and the court declined to toll the statutes of limitations under Virginia law in light of the record in this case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Blankenship v. Consolidation Coal" on Justia Law

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Lord & Taylor filed suit against White Flint, alleging breach of contract. Lord & Taylor operated a retail department store at the White Flint Shopping Center until White Flint closed the Mall and began demolition for a mixed use development. Lord & Taylor objected to the redevelopment, arguing that the clear terms of the parties' agreement required White Flint to maintain the Mall, and that the proposed mixed-use alternative would negatively affect its business. A jury found White Flint in breach of contract and awarded Lord & Taylor $31 million in damages. Both parties appealed. The court rejected White Flint's challenge to the damages award, concluding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by instructing the jury not to consider the potentially positive economic effects of the planned redevelopment in assessing damages for lost profits. Furthermore, the district court properly admitted a store executive's construction cost estimate as lay testimony. Finally, the court concluded that the district court committed no legal error or other abuse of discretion in applying long-established Maryland law to reject Lord & Taylor's claim to separate damages for the taking of property rights. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Lord & Taylor v. White Flint, L.P." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs challenged the dismissal of their pro se complaint that, inter alia, sought a declaration that Chase and U.S. Bank could not foreclose on their home. The district court dismissed certain counts based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA), 12 U.S.C. 1821, and other counts for failure to state a claim. The court affirmed, concluding that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over most of the counts (Counts 1, 2, 5-9, and 16-19) that plaintiffs appeal because they failed to exhaust their claims with the FDIC. The court further concluded that the other relevant counts for constructive fraud (Count 14) and negligence (Count 15) failed to state a claim. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion by not providing a reason for denying plaintiffs' requests to amend their complaint. View "Willner v. Dimon" on Justia Law

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Claimants appeal the district court's entry of default judgment for the government in a civil forfeiture action against funds deposited in claimants’ names in banks in New Zealand and Hong Kong. Default judgment was entered after the government successfully moved to disentitle claimants from defending their claims to the defendant property under the federal fugitive disentitlement statute, 28 U.S.C. 2466. Claimants’ alleged copyright infringement scheme, dubbed the “Mega Conspiracy,” used public websites to facilitate the illegal reproduction and distribution of copyrighted movies, software, television programs, and music. The court rejected claimants' challenge to the district court's in rem jurisdiction over assets in foreign countries; the court affirmed the district court's adoption of the reasoning in Collazos v. United States, a Second Circuit case, holding that claimants had waived the due process rights they claim were violated by operation of section 2466; as section 2466 predicates disentitlement on an allowable presumption that a criminal fugitive lacks a meritorious defense to a related civil forfeiture, the court concluded that it does not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and affirmed the district court’s decision; and the court adopted a specific intent standard for section 2466 and affirmed the district court's finding of intent with respect to each defendant. The court rejected claimants' remaining arguments and affirmed the judgment in its entirety. View "United States v. Batato" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Wells Fargo, alleging that his mortgage agreement, providing him with a loan far in excess of his home’s actual value, was an “unconscionable contract” under the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act, W. Va. Code 46A–1–101 et seq. The court agreed with the district court that the amount of a mortgage loan, by itself, cannot show substantive unconscionability under West Virginia law, and that plaintiff has not otherwise made that showing. The court concluded, however, that the Act allows for claims of “unconscionable inducement” even when the substantive terms of a contract are not themselves unfair. Accordingly, the court remanded so that the district court may consider this issue in the first instance. View "McFarland v. Wells Fargo Bank" on Justia Law