Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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Hartung Commercial Properties, Inc. ("Hartung"), appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Buffi's Automotive Equipment and Supply Company, Inc. ("Buffi's Automotive"). Wayne Hartung bought a piece of commercial property that had an auto-body collision, repair, and paint shop ("the body shop") on the premises. Wayne also formed Har-Mar Collisions, Inc. ("Har-Mar") to operate the body shop. Hartung subsequently entered into a lease with Har-Mar pursuant to which Har-Mar leased the body shop. Wayne had a custom-built paint booth installed in the body shop and hired Buffi's Automotive to make the paint booth operational once it was installed. On January 24, 2011, the body shop was completely destroyed by a fire. On July 8, 2011, Hartung sued Har-Mar, Buffi's Automotive, and several fictitiously named defendants in the circuit court asserting claims of negligence and wantonness related to their alleged roles in causing the fire that destroyed the body shop. Buffi's Automotive alleged that, sometime after the fire destroyed the body shop, Hartung ordered what remained of the body shop and all the equipment inside it to be demolished. Buffi's Automotive argued that Hartung allowed the body shop to be demolished even though it believed at that time that Buffi's Automotive had caused the fire; that Buffi's Automotive "was named as a defendant only after the evidence was destroyed"; and that Buffi's Automotive "should have been placed on notice of the claim and allowed to inspect the premises with its own experts prior to destruction of the evidence." The Alabama Supreme Court determined the circuit court could not properly conclude that the sanction of dismissal, as opposed to some lesser sanction, was mandated in the present case. “[B]ased on the record before us at this time, we are simply not convinced that Buffi's Automotive met its burden in this case.” Accordingly, summary judgment was reversed. View "Hartung Commercial Properties, Inc. v. Buffi's Automotive Equipment and Supply Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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Robert Robinson appealed a circuit court's dismissal of his action against Harrigan Timberlands Limited Partnership ("Harrigan"), Scotch Land Management, LLC ("Scotch"), Fulton Logging Company, LLC ("Fulton"), Black Sheep Woodlands, LLC ("Black Sheep"), and Todd Overstreet d/b/a Overstreet Timber Company ("Overstreet") (collectively referred to as "the Harrigan defendants") for the alleged wrongful cutting of timber. The pivotal factor in the trial court's judgment that the eastern boundary line of "Parcel Two" was located in one location suggested by the documentary evidence rather than another location suggested by documentary evidence was the court's on-site inspection of the property, an inspection made during the summary-judgment stage of the proceedings. Ultimately, the trier of fact may reject Robinson's contention that the "Bassetts Creek" referred to in his deeds as marking the eastern boundary of Parcel Two was in a different location than the location suggested by the Harrigan defendants. But, on the record before the Alabama Supreme Court, that was not a judgment that appropriately could be determined by summary judgment. Therefore, the trial court's judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Robinson v. Harrigan Timberlands Limited Partnership" on Justia Law

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Brian Pipkin appealed a circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Sun State Oil, Inc. on Pipkin's claim of conversion, negligence, and/or wantonness, and trespass with regard to Sun State's removal of gasoline pumps from Pipkin's property. IMAS Partnership, LLC ("IMAS"), purchased from William Rivers and Sybil Rivers a parcel of real property located at 15065 Highway 43 North, Bucks, Alabama ("the property"), on which was situated a convenience store and gasoline station. IMAS intended to operate the business as "Bucks Country Store." In anticipation of its acquisition of the property, IMAS entered into a "Petroleum Supply Agreement" with Sun State to procure a supply of gasoline to sell to customers of the store ("the PSA"). The PSA provided that Sun State would lease two gasoline pumps to IMAS for 10 years in exchange for IMAS purchasing a minimum of 6 million gallons of petroleum from Sun State over the 10-year term. At some point in 2012, Sun State stopped doing business with IMAS because it had heard the store was not making money would would go into foreclosure. Sun State did not reclaim the gas pumps immediately, to allow, as it described at trial, the owner to get a new tenant, yet retain the store as a customer. The Riverses executed a vendor's lien deed conveying the property to Pipkin; Pipkin testified that William Rivers made it clear when they negotiated the sale of the property that the gas pumps were included in the purchase price. By the summer of 2014, Sun State became concerned about vandalism at Pipkin's property and decided to retrieve the pumps, offering to reinstall them once Pipkin had a tenant to operate the store. Sun State declined to return the pumps, however. Pipkin subsequently filed suit against Sun State for the pumps. The Alabama Supreme Court found no evidence that Sun State filed an UCC-1 financing statement before Pipkin purchased the property. Sun State's unperfected security interest in the gasoline pumps did not have priority over Pipkin's ownership interest in the property. Accordingly, Pipkin acquired the pumps free and clear of Sun State's interest, and Sun State did not possess an ownership interest in the pumps when it removed them from Pipkin's property. Accordingly, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed summary judgment in favor of Sun State, and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Brian Pipkin v. Sun State Oil, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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GHB Construction and Development Company, Inc. ("GHB"), sued West Alabama Bank and Trust ("WABT") seeking a judgment declaring that its materialman's lien against property owned by Penny Guin was superior to WABT's mortgage lien secured by the same property owned by Guin. Upon motion by WABT, the circuit court dismissed GHB's complaint. In reversing the circuit court, the Alabama Supreme Court found WABT's argument was based on authority that assumed that a mortgage lien was properly created before the creation of a materialman's lien; the issue then became whether future advances issued subsequent to the creation of the materialman's lien related back to the priority date of the mortgage lien.Because WABT's mortgage lien was created after GHB's materialman's lien, WABT's mortgage lien never had priority over GHB's materialman's lien. The earliest date the future advances issued by WABT to Guin could relate back to was October 16, 2015, the date of the first advance to Guin. "Even if WABT is correct in arguing that the advances made to Guin relate back to the date the mortgage lien was created, based on the allegations of the complaint, it is possible for GHB to prove that its materialman's lien was created before WABT's mortgage lien. Accordingly, we need not analyze WABT's argument; the authority relied upon by WABT is distinguishable from the present case." The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "GHB Construction and Development Company, Inc. v. West Alabama Bank and Trust" on Justia Law

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Portersville Bay Oyster Company, LLC ("the Oyster Company"), and its members, filed suit against 4H Construction Corporation, Greystone Industries, LLC, and Christopher Blankenship, in his official capacity as Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and filed an interlocutory appeal challenging the trial court's order dismissing Commissioner Blankenship as a defendant in this action. Tensaw Land & Timber Company, Inc. ("Tensaw"), owned land fronting on Portersville Bay which it leased its statutory right to grow and to harvest oysters on the bottom in Portersville Bay to the Oyster Company. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources ("the Department") grants shellfish aquaculture easements on state-owned submerged lands for the purpose of cultivating and harvesting shellfish, including oysters. The Department conveyed to the Corneliuses a shellfish aquaculture easement allowing them to raise oysters in cages above the area encompassed by one of the Tensaw leases. Subject to certain exceptions, the riparian landowner does not have the right to harvest oysters in elevated cages within 600 yards from the shoreline in front of the waterfront property; the shellfish aquaculture easement enables the oyster farmers to grow oysters in elevated cages in the area of the easement. The oysters grown elsewhere on the Tensaw leases were grown on the bottom. 4H Construction Corporation contracted with the Department to construct a breakwater and marsh for coastal protection in Mobile Bay ("the Marsh Island project"). According to the allegations of the complaint, the sediment and silt deposits have increased over time and are killing the oysters being farmed on those oyster beds. The Oyster Company sued the Commissioner alleging negligence and nuisance relating to the easement. The Commissioner moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim and improper venue; the trial court granted the motion to transfer but not the motion to dismiss. After filing an amended complaint, the trial court dismissed the amended complaint against the Commissioner. The Alabama Supreme Court determined that dismissal was made in error, and reversed the trial court's order. View "Portersville Bay Oyster Company, LLC v. Blankenship" on Justia Law

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Ankor Energy, LLC, and Ankor E&P Holdings Corporation (collectively, "Ankor") appealed a circuit court's grant of a motion for a new trial in favor of Jerry Kelly, Kandace Kelly McDaniel, Kelly Properties, LLP, and K&L Resources, LLP (collectively, "the Kellys"). In 2010, Renaissance Petroleum Company, LLC, drilled two oil wells in Escambia County, Alabama. The Kellys owned property in Escambia County and entered into two leases with Renaissance. The leases included property near the two wells. In December 2010, Ankor acquired an interest in Renaissance's project and leases in Escambia County. In January 2011, Renaissance and Ankor petitioned the Oil and Gas Board ("the Board") to establish production units for the two wells. In February 2011, the Board held a hearing to determine what property to include in the production units. The Kellys were represented by counsel at the hearing and argued that their property should be included in the production units. The Board established the production units for the two wells but did not include the Kellys' property. Renaissance continued to operate the project until May 2011, when Ankor took over operations. In December 2011, Ankor offered to request that the Board include the Kellys' property in the production units. Ankor took the position that it had not drained any oil from the Kellys' property, and Ankor offered to pay royalties to the Kellys but only after the date the Board included the Kellys' property in the production units. The Kellys did not accept the offer, and later sued, listing multiple causes of action and alleging Ankor failed to include their property in the production units presented to the Board, knowing that their property should have been included. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed the trial court's order granting the Kellys' motion for a new trial based on juror misconduct; the matter was remanded for the trial court to reinstate the original judgment entered on the jury's verdict in favor of Ankor. View "Kelly v. Ankor Energy, LLC" on Justia Law

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Philip Richardson filed a complaint against Ben Chambless ("Ben"), Alaspec Residential Inspections, LLC, and Good Cents Home Inspections & Energy Management, LLC, in which he requested a jury trial on multiple claims arising from an allegedly faulty inspection the defendants had performed on a house Richardson was in the process of purchasing. In June 2012, the trial court entered a default judgment against Good Cents for failure to answer and, following a hearing, entered an order awarding Richardson $80,281.28 against Good Cents based on findings that the inspection report failed to disclose material defects in the house and that Richardson would not have purchased the house if the inspection report had disclosed those defects. In March 2013, Richardson amended his complaint to add Rosemarie, who was Ben's wife at the time, as a defendant. Richardson alleged that, in December 2012, Ben had transferred his interest in the Chamblesses' marital residence to Rosemarie ("the transfer") and that Ben had made the transfer because, Richardson said, Ben "knew he was going to incur ... a foreseeable judgment in the lawsuit filed by ... Richardson" and knew that making the transfer "would impair his ability to pay this ... judgment." Rosemarie filed a motion for a summary judgment on Richardson's claims against her. The trial court found no genuine issues of material fact as to Richardson's claims against Rosemarie, therefore she was entitled to a judgment as a matter of law on those claims. Richardson's claims against Ben and Alaspec remained pending, but the trial court, finding that there was no just reason for delay, certified its partial summary judgment as final. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded resolution of Richardson's pending claims against Ben regarding the allegedly faulty inspection could potentially moot the claims adjudicated by the trial court's partial summary judgment; the trial court's Rule 54(b) certification of that judgment was therefore improper. Accordingly, the Court dismissed the appeal on the basis that it arose from a nonfinal judgment. View "Richardson v. Chambless" on Justia Law

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G.R.L.C. Trust, formed under the laws of Texas, appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Garrison Decatur Crossings, LLC ("Garrison Decatur"), in Garrison Decatur's action for a judgment declaring the need for reformation of a recorded memorandum of lease on the ground of a mutual mistake. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the trial court's finding that there had been a mutual mistake in omitting Exhibit A from the lease memorandum was supported by the evidence; therefore, the summary judgment in favor of Garrison Decatur reforming the lease memorandum was affirmed. View "G.R.L.C. Trust v. Garrison Decatur Crossings, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Jimmy Larry Beddingfield ("Larry"), his wife, Rebecca, and their adult son, James Cody Beddingfield ("Cody") appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants Mullins Insurance Company, Mullins & Company Insurance, Rand Mullins, and David Mullins (referred to collectively as "Mullins"), on the Beddingfields' claims stemming from Mullins's alleged failure to properly procure insurance coverage. In 1997, Larry and Rebecca purchased a homeowners' liability-insurance policy from Rand Mullins that protected Larry and Rebecca's primary residence. In 2001, Larry and Rebecca purchased a second liability-insurance policy that provided coverage for a rental house located in Florence; they later constructed another house in Guntersville and, in 2003, purchased an additional liability-insurance policy for that property. In July 2003, Mullins canceled the insurance policy on the Florence house allegedly based on a belief that "the policy was issued in duplicate." Allegedly unbeknownst to Larry and Rebecca, however, the requested cancellation left the Florence house uninsured. One month later, pursuant to a mortgage refinance on the Beddingfields' residence, Larry and Rebecca paid one year's insurance premium on that residence; the check was endorsed and deposited into Mullins's account. In March 2004, the policy on the Beddingfields' residence was canceled because of nonpayment of the premium; neither Larry nor Rebecca, however, was able to recall receiving notice of the cancellation. After those two events, Larry and Rebecca were without insurance on their residence and the Florence house, leaving them with liability insurance only on their Guntersville house. In July 2004, a minor guest at the Beddingfields' Guntersville house, Trace Linam, suffered a serious eye injury in a fireworks-related incident. In 2008, Linam and his father, Linam, sued the Beddingfields, alleging that they, and particularly Cody (who was a minor at the time), were responsible for the injury. Because the underwriter of the Beddingfields' policy had been placed into receivership in Texas in 2006, the Alabama Insurance Guaranty Association ("AIGA") covered the Beddingfields' legal-defense costs in the Linam litigation; however, the maximum amount of liability coverage available was limited to $100,000 –- the amount of the liability- insurance policy Larry and Rebecca had obtained from Mullins to insure that property -- and not $500,000, the amount they say would have been available had the other two policies not been canceled. In February 2011, a judgment was entered on a $600,000 jury verdict against the Beddingfields in the Linam litigation. The Beddingfields appealed that decision. Because, however, AIGA did not post the requisite supersedeas bond, and the Beddingfields were allegedly unable to obtain a bond, execution of the judgment was not stayed during the pendency of the appeal. In July 2011, while their appeal was pending, the Beddingfields sued Mullins, alleging numerous counts of negligence and wantonness with relation to Mullins's handling of the various insurance policies. After review of the trial court record, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment as to the negligence claims, reversed as to the wantonness claims, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Beddingfield et al. v. Mullins Insurance Company et al." on Justia Law

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Joshua Ward petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Shelby Circuit Court to vacate its October 7, 2017, order setting aside a default judgment entered against Johnathan Motors, LLC, and its principal Jacques C. Chahla (hereinafter referred to collectively as "the dealership") and to enter an order reinstating the default judgment. In 2017, Ward filed a 12-count complaint against the dealership and fictitiously named defendants alleging, among other things, that on August 5, 2016, he purchased a vehicle from the dealership and that the dealership unilaterally voided the sale of the vehicle and unlawfully repossessed and converted to its own use the vehicle, the down payment, the monthly installment payment, and the personal property in the vehicle when it was unlawfully repossessed. On August 14, 2017, Ward requested the clerk of the circuit court to enter a default against the dealership pursuant to Rule 55(a), Ala. R. Civ. P., based on the dealership's failure to answer or otherwise to defend in the case; the clerk subsequently made an entry of default in the case. On October 3, 2017, the dealership moved the trial court to set aside the default judgment. On October 7, 2017, the trial court entered an order granting the dealership's motion to set aside the default judgment, but requiring the dealership to file an answer within seven days from the date of that order; the dealership did not file an answer within seven days as ordered. On November 1, 2017, Ward moved the trial court to reconsider its order setting aside the default judgment, the trial court denied Ward's motion to reconsider the order setting aside the default judgment. On November 13, 2017, the dealership filed an answer to the complaint. Ward thereafter petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus. After review, the Supreme Court ordered the trial court to vacate its order setting aside the default judgment, to enter an order reinstating the default judgment against the dealership, and to schedule a hearing on damages. View "Ex parte Joshua Ward." on Justia Law