Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
Valentine v. Sugar Rock, Inc.
Plaintiff filed this diversity action alleging that he owned fractional working interests in four Ritchie County mining partnerships, which owned six oil and gas wells, and demanding an accounting of the four partnerships. Defendant counterclaimed for the cumulative operating expenses attributable to Plaintiff’s asserted working interests in the partnerships. The district court awarded summary judgment to Defendant, concluding that Plaintiff’s assertion of interests in the four mining partnerships failed because he could not produce a writing that evidenced his co-ownership of the subject leases or wells in conformance with the Statute of Frauds. The Supreme Court of West Virginia accepted the Fourth Circuit’s certified question of law and answered (1) if a person contends he owns an interest in a common-law mining partnership, the Statute of Frauds requires the person to prove he is a partner of the mining partnership through a written conveyance; and (2) if the partnership is a general partnership and the partnership owns oil and gas leases, the Statute of Frauds does not require a person to produce a written instrument to prove he is a partner in the general partnership. Having adopted the West Virginia Supreme Court’s opinion answering the Court’s certified question of law, the Fourth Circuit vacated the judgment of the district court and remanded. View "Valentine v. Sugar Rock, Inc." on Justia Law
Lord & Taylor, LLC v. White Flint, L.P.
In 2012, the Montgomery County Council in Maryland approved plans to tear down the White Flint Shopping Center (the “Mall”) and redevelop the site into a mixed-use, town-center-style development. Lord & Taylor, LLC, which operated a retail store connected with the Mall, filed this action seeking a declaration that the Mall’s owner, White Flint, L.P., was precluded from going forward with the development and seeking a permanent injunction to enjoin White Flint from carrying out the redevelopment. The district court denied Lord & Taylor’s request for injunctive relief, determining that an injunction would be unworkable given the “advanced stage[ ]” of the project. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Maryland law clearly authorized the district court to go beyond the state-law presumption in favor of injunctive relief to consider feasibility and related equitable concerns; and (2) the district court did not err in finding that injunctive relief would be infeasible. View "Lord & Taylor, LLC v. White Flint, L.P." on Justia Law
Belk, Jr. v. CIR
Petitioners donated a conservation easement to a land trust and claimed a $10,524,000 charitable deduction for the asserted value. The Tax Court held that the easement did not qualify as a charitable contribution and petitioners were not entitled to the deduction. The Tax Code and Treasury Regulations together make clear that 26 U.S.C. 170(h)(2)(C) means that a charitable deduction may be claimed for the donation of a conservation easement only when that easement restricts the use of the donated property in perpetuity. In this case, because the easement fails to meet this requirement, it is ineligible to form the basis of a charitable deduction under section 170(h)(2)(C). The court rejected petitioners' contention that the court should reject this straightforward application of statutory text and affirmed the judgment. View "Belk, Jr. v. CIR" on Justia Law
Susquehanna Bank v. United States/Internal Revenue
The Bank commenced this adversary proceeding in Restivo's Chapter 11 bankruptcy case, seeking a judgment declaring that the security interest it acquired on January 4, 2005, had priority over the IRS's tax lien filed on January 10, 2005, regardless of the fact that it did not record its security interest until after the IRS had filed notice of its tax lien. The district court granted the Bank priority. The court rejected the district court's holding that Md. Code. Ann., Real Prop. 3-201 gives the Bank retroactive priority over the IRS, concluding that 26 U.S.C. 6323(h)(1)(A)'s use of the present perfect tense precludes giving effect to the Maryland statute's relation-back provision. However, the court affirmed the judgment based on the ground that under Maryland common law, the Bank acquired an equitable security interest in the two parcels of real property on January 4, regardless of recordation, because its interest became protected against a subsequent lien arising out of an unsecured obligation on that date and that therefore its security interest had priority over the IRS's tax lien under sections 6323(a) and 6323(h)(1). View "Susquehanna Bank v. United States/Internal Revenue" on Justia Law
Anand v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC
Plaintiffs appealed the dismissal with prejudice of their Maryland quiet title claim. Where, as here, a property is encumbered by a deed of trust and its release is conditioned on a party's performance under a note, determining who holds title to the property necessarily involves determining whether the party has performed under the note. Therefore, the court could not decouple the questions of plaintiffs' personal liability and the security interest in the property. In this case, plaintiffs are not entitled to the benefits of a quiet title action because they are not authorized by statute to resolve clouds on a legal title which they do not own. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint with prejudice. The court also held that the district court acted within its discretion in denying plaintiffs leave to amend the complaint. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.View "Anand v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC" on Justia Law
Anderson v. Architectural Glass Construction
Debtor transferred her interest in real property to AGC, a corporation wholly owned by her husband. Seven months later, debtor declared bankruptcy and the bankruptcy court concluded that the conveyance was constructively fraudulent. The bankruptcy court found AGC did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that it paid for the property or intended to pay for it on the date of the property's purchase. The bankruptcy court also found that, at the time of the purchase, the parties intended that AGC would serve as the property's tenant, not the property's owner. AGC also did not prove that it intended to own the property on the date of acquisition. Therefore, the bankruptcy court found no justification for a resulting trust. The district court found no fault in the bankruptcy court's findings of fact, but nonetheless reversed. The court reversed the district court insofar as it found a resulting trust to sever debtor's legal and equitable interests in the property. Accordingly, the court vacated the judgment of the district court and remanded for further proceedings.View "Anderson v. Architectural Glass Construction" on Justia Law
Antonio v. SSA Security, Inc.
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. § 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
Marshall v. James B. Nutter & Co.
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
Petry v. Prosperity Mortgage Co.
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
Valentine v. Sugar Rock, Inc.
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