Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

by
Plaintiffs A.A. Nettles, Sr. Properties Limited, and Eula Lambert Boyles sought to quiet title a right-of-way that had been conveyed by the Alabama Railroad Company to the Monroe County Commission for use as a recreational trail in accordance with the National Trails System Act ("the Trails Act"), 16 U.S.C. 1247. The trial court quieted title in favor of plaintiffs. The Commission appealed, contending the evidence submitted was insufficient for the trial court to determine the railroad intended to abandon its interest in the right-of-way. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the trial court did not err in concluding the easement reserved to the railroad by a right-of-way was provided in a quitclaim deed lapsed by nonuse, and was thus extinguished by operation of law, leaving nothing for the railroad to convey to the Commission. View "Monroe County Commission v. Nettles, et al." on Justia Law

by
Ralph Eustace, Linda Eustace, and Daryl Eustace sued James Ray ("Ray") Wilbourn and his wife Karen, alleging a trespass to land and conversion of timber. The Wilbourns filed a counterclaim, seeking to establish title to the subject land and to recover in tort for intentional interference with a contractual relationship. The trial court entered a judgment in favor of the Eustaces on the trespass and conversion-of-timber claims and determined that the Eustaces were entitled to recover compensatory damages on those claims. The trial court also entered a judgment in favor of the Wilbourns on the claim asserting an intentional interference with a contractual relationship and determined that the Wilbourns were entitled to an award of compensatory damages on that claim. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court, without an opinion. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the Court of Civil Appeals lacked jurisdiction over the case because the appeal was taken from a nonfinal judgment. Therefore, the appellate court's judgment was reversed and the matter remanded with instructions to dismiss the appeal. View "Ex parte Ralph Eustace et al." on Justia Law

by
This case contested the validity of a property deed that was executed by Gayron Brooks in the weeks before her death from lung cancer. The deed conveyed her house in Boaz to her husband of 18 years, David. Following Gayron's death, her adult children, Teresa Elizabeth Mitchell and Steve E. Allen, as personal representatives of Gayron's estate, sued David alleging, among other things, that David held a dominant position over Gayron and that he had unduly influenced her to sign the deed. After a four-day nonjury trial, the trial court entered a judgment in favor of David. This appeal followed. Finding no reversible error in the circuit court's judgment, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Mitchell v. Brooks" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Tim Seriana sought mandamus relief to order the circuit court reverse its grant of a motion for change of venue filed by Joe Stevens, LLC. In 2015, Seriana and his wife, Karen, sued Joe Todd Stevens (and his LLC) and various fictitiously named defendants, alleging Stevens was a contractor who did business in northeast Alabama who negligently failed to barricade, cordon off, or otherwise warn pedestrians of a big ditch then excavated by Stephens. Seriana fell into the ditch, and sustained an injury. In his petition, Seriana argued the trial court erroneously transferred this case to Talladega County because, he contended, Stevens waived any objection it might have had to venue in Calhoun County when it answered the amended complaint without raising the defense of improper venue. The Alabama Supreme Court agreed, granted the writ of mandamus, and directed the trial court to vacate its motion for change of venue and transfer this case to Talladega County. View "Ex parte Tim Seriana." on Justia Law

by
SE Property Holdings, LLC ("SEPH") appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of Bank of Franklin ("BOF") on BOF's claim demanding specific performance of a contractual provision. In March 2005, Vision Bank, a Florida company, loaned Bama Bayou, LLC, formally known as Riverwalk, LLC ("the borrower"), $6,000,000. Multiple individuals allegedly personally guaranteed repayment of the loan ("the guarantors"). In June 2008, pursuant to a "participation agreement," Vision Bank conveyed to BOF a 25 percent interest in the loan. Vision Bank conveyed additional participation interests in the loan to other banks. The borrower and the guarantors allegedly defaulted on their obligations with respect to the loan, and in January 2009 Vision Bank filed suit against them. The borrower and the guarantors asserted counterclaims against Vision Bank and brought BOF into the action as an additional counterclaim defendant. In April 2009, Vision Bank foreclosed on a mortgage securing the loan. Vision Bank was the highest bidder at the foreclosure sale and thereafter executed foreclosure deeds in favor of BOF and the other participating banks. In 2012, Vision Bank sold its operating assets to Centennial Bank and relinquished its Florida bank charter. Vision Bank and SEPH entered into an "agreement and plan of merger," whereby Vision Bank merged "with and into" SEPH. In October 2016, the trial court entered an order setting aside the foreclosure sale and declaring the foreclosure deeds void. Among other things, BOF asserted in its cross-claim that SEPH had an obligation to repurchase BOF's participation interest in the loan. In support, BOF pointed to the participation agreement between BOF and SEPH's predecessor, Vision Bank. The court granted BOF's motion for summary judgment on its claim for specific performance based on the participation agreement. SEPH argued on appeal that the trial court erred in determining that a "proceeding" involving Vision Bank's termination of existence was "commenced," so as to invoke the contractual provision; it asserted Vision Bank's voluntary merger with SEPH was not a "proceeding." The participation agreement in this case stated that BOF's participation interest was conveyed without recourse, but the contract provision provided BOF at least some security in the form of a right to force the repurchase of its participation interest in the event of the financial deterioration of the originating bank, i.e., Vision Bank. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the voluntary merger like the one entered into by Vision Bank and SEPH is not a "proceeding" as that term is used in the participation agreement, and reversed the trial court's judgment ordering SEPH to purchase BOF's participation interest. View "SE Property Holdings, LLC, f/k/a Vision Bank v. Bank of Franklin" on Justia Law

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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