Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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A commercial tenant breached its lease and owed unpaid rent. The landlord sued and obtained a writ of attachment against any funds owed the tenant from Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). DHSS replied to the writ by stating it owed nothing to the tenant because a recent audit showed the tenant owed DHSS $1.4 million. Without responding to DHSS’s reply the landlord moved for a writ of execution against DHSS, which the superior court denied after finding there were no funds to attach. The court denied the landlord’s motion for reconsideration, as well as its request for a hearing to examine DHSS. The landlord appealed the denial of its motion for reconsideration and sought a remand for a hearing to examine DHSS. In affirming the superior court, the Alaska Supreme Court concluded the superior court was correct in denying reconsideration of its order regarding the writ of execution. View "Arcticorp v. C Care Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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Landowners sued their neighbors over use of a well and an access easement, and the neighbors counterclaimed for damages caused by interference with their water rights and loss of access to their cabin. The superior court ruled in favor of the neighbors following trial and awarded them compensatory loss-of-use damages, as well as full attorney’s fees based in part on a finding that the landowners had engaged in vexatious and bad faith conduct. The landowners appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the superior court did not clearly err in the findings underlying its damages award, and it did not abuse its discretion in its award of full attorney’s fees to the neighbors. View "Keenan v. Meyer" on Justia Law

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Property Owners appealed special assessments that the Anchorage Municipal Assembly levied on their lots to pay for recently constructed road, water, and sewer improvement projects benefiting the lots. The Property Owners claimed the special assessments improperly included nearly $1 million in costs from another municipal utility project unrelated to the improvements built for the benefit of their lots. They also claimed the special assessments exceeded limits set by ordinance and that the assessed costs were disproportionate to the benefits provided by the improvements, violating municipal ordinance, charter, and state law. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court concluded the Assembly’s allocation of costs among these projects was supported by substantial evidence and that the ordinance limit the Property Owners relied on did not apply to these assessments. Furthermore, the Court concluded the Property Owners did not rebut the presumption of correctness that attached to the Assembly’s proportionality decisions. Therefore, the Court affirmed the superior court’s decision affirming the Assembly’s special assessment determinations. View "Fink v. Municipality of Anchorage" on Justia Law

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In 2009 Calvin Miller purchased from June Fowler by warranty deed an eight-unit, three-story apartment building located in Anchorage. Miller filed suit to bar the seller’s attempt to foreclose on the property after he stopped making payments. Miller also alleged that the seller had misrepresented the condition of the building’s sewer lines at the time of sale. The superior court granted summary judgment in the seller’s favor on all of the misrepresentation claims on the basis that they were barred by the statute of limitations. During the trial, the superior court denied the purchaser leave to amend his complaint. After a bench trial on the remaining claims, the superior court concluded that the seller did not wrongfully foreclose on the building because the purchaser was in default. Miller appealed these three decisions. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court reversed the grant of summary judgment because the seller failed to establish an absence of material fact issues regarding when the purchaser’s causes of action accrued. The Court vacated the order denying the wrongful foreclosure claim because the superior court erred when it found the purchaser in default. The Court affirmed the denial of the purchaser’s motion to amend. View "Miller v. Fowler" on Justia Law

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The City of Juneau kept a campground open through the winter to accommodate the local homeless population. A campground resident was shot and severely injured. He sued the municipality for damages, arguing primarily that the municipality did not do enough to prevent alcohol-related violence at the campground. He also argued that the campground’s caretaker performed his duties negligently, that this negligence precipitated the shooting, and that the municipality was vicariously liable for the caretaker’s actions. The superior court granted summary judgment for the municipality on all claims, concluding the municipality could not, under the doctrine of discretionary function immunity, be liable for any decision requiring “deliberation” and “judgment.” It also concluded that the municipality was not vicariously liable for the caretaker’s alleged negligence because his challenged actions were outside the scope of his employment. The shooting victim appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the application of discretionary function immunity to bar some of his claims was error, as they related to “operational” rather than “planning” decisions. Furthermore, the Court found genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment on the shooting victim’s claims for negligent supervision and vicarious liability. Therefore, the Court affirmed the superior court’s judgment in part, reversed it in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Lane v. City & Borough of Juneau" on Justia Law

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The City of Juneau kept a campground open through the winter to accommodate the local homeless population. A campground resident was shot and severely injured. He sued the municipality for damages, arguing primarily that the municipality did not do enough to prevent alcohol-related violence at the campground. He also argued that the campground’s caretaker performed his duties negligently, that this negligence precipitated the shooting, and that the municipality was vicariously liable for the caretaker’s actions. The superior court granted summary judgment for the municipality on all claims, concluding the municipality could not, under the doctrine of discretionary function immunity, be liable for any decision requiring “deliberation” and “judgment.” It also concluded that the municipality was not vicariously liable for the caretaker’s alleged negligence because his challenged actions were outside the scope of his employment. The shooting victim appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the application of discretionary function immunity to bar some of his claims was error, as they related to “operational” rather than “planning” decisions. Furthermore, the Court found genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment on the shooting victim’s claims for negligent supervision and vicarious liability. Therefore, the Court affirmed the superior court’s judgment in part, reversed it in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Lane v. City & Borough of Juneau" on Justia Law

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This appeal presented a question of whether odors emanating from a farmer’s storage of septage on his farmland created a nuisance to adjacent landowners when the trial court found the farmer was not engaged in commercial agricultural operations but was actually using the farm’s septage lagoons to store septage from his separate septic pumping and storing business. The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s finding that the storage of septage created a nuisance and its conclusion that the storage of septage was not protected by the Right to Farm Act. View "Riddle v. Lanser" on Justia Law

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After a Montana state court issued a series of judgments against Donald Tangwall and his family, the family members transferred two pieces of property to the “Toni 1 Trust,” a trust allegedly created under Alaska law. A Montana state court and an Alaska bankruptcy court found that the transfers were made to avoid the judgments and were therefore fraudulent. Tangwall, the trustee of the Trust, then filed this suit, arguing that Alaska state courts have exclusive jurisdiction over such fraudulent transfer actions under AS 34.40.110(k). The Alaska Supreme Court concluded this statute could not unilaterally deprive other state and federal courts of jurisdiction, therefore it affirmed dismissal of Tangwall’s complaint. View "Toni 1 Trust v. Wacker" on Justia Law

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Rand Hooks, Jr. defaulted on a loan, leading to a non-judicial foreclosure of a deed of trust on his property. He filed suit against the property’s new owner and the credit union that initiated the foreclosure, arguing the foreclosure and the transactions preceding it were fraudulent and invalid. The superior court granted summary judgment for the defendants. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s conclusion that the borrower failed to demonstrate an issue of material fact concerning the loan origination and the foreclosure. Furthermore, the Supreme Court rejected the borrower’s claims that the superior court judge was biased and that the borrower’s right to due process was violated. View "Hooks v. Alaska USA Federal Credit Union" on Justia Law

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Kenneth Kessler purchased a condominium in the summer of 1999, shortly before he and Dianna Kessler began dating. Kenneth and Dianna lived in that condominium for nearly all of their 15-year relationship. In its property division order following the couple’s divorce, the superior court found that the condominium was originally Kenneth’s separate property but that it had transmuted into the couple’s marital property. Kenneth appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court reversed and remanded. The Court found the condominium only became marital property if Kenneth intended to donate it to the marital estate, and agreed with Kenneth that the evidence at trial did not demonstrate he possessed any such intent. By this opinion, the Court clarified Alaska law on transmutation by implied interspousal gift. View "Kessler v. Kessler" on Justia Law