Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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This case involved a cancelled contract between Richard Feeney and Alaskan Wind Industries (AWI), a renewable energy contractor, for the sale and installation of a wind turbine on Feeney’s property in Homer. Feeney cancelled a contract to install a wind turbine on his property and sued AWI to recover his down payment. The contractor filed a counterclaim for breach of contract. The superior court concluded that the contractor was required to be licensed by the State and had misrepresented its licensing status. It also concluded that the contractor could not maintain the counterclaim because the contractor was unregistered. The court ordered the contract rescinded and the contractor to return the down payment less a setoff covering costs incurred in the transaction. The contractor failed to pay and the court amended the judgment to include the contractor’s individual owners and a successor company. The contractor’s individual owners appealed the licensing determination and the amended judgment. The property owner cross-appeals the setoff calculation. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded that the court erred only in its setoff calculation. View "Daggett v. Feeney" on Justia Law

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A surveyor discovered a discrepancy between the location of a longstanding fence and the boundary between two lots. The property owners sued to quiet title to the fenced-off section of their lot. But the owners of the encroaching fence claimed adverse possession of the fenced-off section, and the superior court entered summary judgment in their favor. The property owners who brought the quiet title action appealed, arguing that the court erred in its application of procedural rules and substantive law. Finding no reversible error, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s decision. View "Yuk v. Robertson" on Justia Law

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Tok Hwang owned a lessee interest in, and related improvements on, a commercial lot (the leasehold) near the Denali National Park entrance. Hwang leased the lot from a third party for $20,000 annually. Hwang subleased the leasehold to Alaska Fur Gallery, Inc. in April 2012. The sublease (the lease) provided that Alaska Fur would pay $55,000 annual rent for a three-summer term. The disputed provision stated, in full: “Lease includes an option to purchase premises with lease amount to be applied to negotiated purchase price.” When the sublessee attempted to exercise the option the lessee declined to sell, claiming the option was unenforceable. The sublessee sued, seeking, among other things, to enforce the option provision. The superior court held that the provision was too uncertain to enforce either as an option or as an agreement to negotiate. The sublessee appealed; but finding no reversible error in the superior court’s decision, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Alaska Fur Gallery, Inc. v. Hwang" on Justia Law

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A driver lost control of his truck and crashed into a cabin, causing property damage and personal injuries to the cabin owner. The cabin owner brought suit against both the driver and the driver’s insurance company, alleging in part that the insurance company subsequently took charge of and negligently handled the fuel spill cleanup on the cabin owner’s property. The superior court granted the insurer summary judgment, concluding as a matter of law that the insurer could not owe the cabin owner an actionable duty. The cabin owner appealed, arguing that Alaska case law did not preclude a duty in this context. The Supreme Court agreed with the cabin owner and therefore reversed the superior court’s grant of summary judgment. View "Burnett v. Government Employee Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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In September 2003, Bachner Company Inc. entered into a contract with the Alaska Department of Administration, to lease portions of the Denali Building in Fairbanks. After a ten-year lease term and a one-year renewal, Bachner alleged that the State was in default on its rent payments, and it filed suit in superior court to recover. The State moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the claim was governed by the Alaska State Procurement Code and that Bachner had failed to exhaust its remedies under the code before filing suit. The superior court agreed and granted the State’s motion to dismiss. Bachner appealed. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the procurement code covered a rent dispute over an ongoing lease, that the Bachner's claim fell under the procurement code, and Bachner had to exhaust its administrative remedies before filing suit in superior court. View "Bachner Company Incorporated v. State, Dept. of Administration" on Justia Law

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The State of Alaska and the owner of a car wash reached an agreement for the State to acquire the car wash site as part of a highway improvement project. After the State acquired the site, the owner elected not to relocate the car wash. The owner then brought an inverse condemnation suit against the State, claiming business damages resulting from the State’s acquisition. At the close of a jury trial the superior court denied the State’s motion for a directed verdict; awarded the owner $1.79 million in damages and the court awarded attorney’s fees and costs. The State appealed, arguing that the owner’s claimed damages were not compensable because it was feasible for the owner to relocate the car wash after the State acquired the original site. After review, the Supreme Court agreed with the State that feasibility was the correct standard for analyzing the owner’s decision not to relocate when deciding whether he was entitled to business damages. Accordingly, the Court reversed the superior court’s denial of the State’s motion for directed verdict, vacated the attorney’s fee and costs awards, and remanded for reconsideration of prevailing party status, attorney’s fees, and costs. View "Dept. of Trans. & Public Facilities v. Alaska Laser Wash, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the validity of an easement that Thomas Carnahan claimed extended over property owned by Keven and Marlene Windel. In addition, there were issues surrounding damage allegedly caused by improvements within that easement. Carnahan won at trial in "Windel I," but the Supreme Court remanded the case for reconsideration of attorney fee issues. On remand, the superior court awarded Carnahan feed, finding that he was the prevailing party. The Windels appealed again, arguing the superior court erred in its analysis of Rule 68 when awarding Carnahan attorney fees. Finding no reversible error in the resolution of the fee dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Windel v. Carnahan" on Justia Law

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A narrow strip of land in the Turnagain area of Anchorage, immediately west of Lynn Ary Park and bordering Knik Arm, is at the center of the parties' dispute in this matter. The land is in the shape of a parallelogram; its long sides run in a northeasterly direction up Knik Arm and its short sides run north-south. The property was initially subdivided in May 1952. As initially platted the northern subdivision boundary stopped just south of a 50-70 foot bluff. The bluff itself was just south of the mean high-tide line of Knik Arm; the land between the northern boundary of the lots and the mean high-tide line was not developable land. During the Good Friday Earthquake of 1964, the bluff face flattened out and slid northward into Knik Arm. This caused the existing land between the pre-earthquake bluff face and the pre-earthquake mean high-tide line to become developable and created new land between the pre-earthquake mean high-tide line and the post-earthquake mean high-tide line. Despite the plats of the subdivision apparently indicating that their lots’ northern boundary is at the top of the pre-earthquake bluff face, appellants and lot owners Matthew Fink and Diane Wilke alleged that their property actually extended north to the pre-earthquake mean high-tide line. The parties did not dispute that the Municipality of Anchorage owned the new land between the pre-earthquake mean high-tide line and the post-earthquake mean high-tide line. The Municipality argued that the lot owners did not have a substantial interest in the disputed property and that the statute of limitations barred the lot owners’ claim. The superior court concluded that the lot owners failed to show a substantial interest in the disputed parcel and that, even if the lot owners did have a substantial interest, the statute of limitations barred their claim. Finding no reversible error in the superior court's judgment, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed. View "Fink v. Municipality of Anchorage" on Justia Law

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Williams Alaska Petroleum owned the North Pole refinery until 2004. Williams knew that the then-unregulated chemical sulfolane was present in refinery property groundwater, but it did not know that the sulfolane had migrated off the refinery property via underground water flow. Flint Hills Resources Alaska bought the North Pole refinery from Williams in 2004 pursuant to a contract that contained detailed terms regarding environmental liabilities, indemnification, and damages caps. Almost immediately the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation informed Flint Hills that sulfolane was to be a regulated chemical and that Flint Hills needed to find the source of the sulfolane in the groundwater. The Department contacted Flint Hills again in 2006. Flint Hills’s environmental contractor repeatedly warned Flint Hills that sulfolane could be leaving the refinery property and that more work was necessary to ascertain the extent of the problem. In 2008, Flint Hills drilled perimeter wells and discovered the sulfolane was migrating beyond its property and had contaminated drinking water in North Pole. A North Pole resident sued Flint Hills and Williams, and Flint Hills cross-claimed against Williams for indemnification. After extensive motion practice the superior court dismissed all of Flint Hills’s claims against Williams as time-barred. Flint Hills appealed. After review, the Supreme Court held that the superior court correctly applied the contract’s damages cap provision, but concluded that the court erred in finding Flint Hills’s contractual indemnification claims and part of its statutory claims were time-barred. The Court also affirmed the court’s dismissal of Flint Hills’s equitable claims. View "Flint Hills Resources Alaska, LLC v. Williams Alaska Petroleum, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellant James Bingman, Sr. sought to redeem his foreclosed property by offering the City of Dillingham a promissory note for the amount due, without interest, that would mature 20 years later. The taxpayer asserted that his offer would be deemed accepted unless the City satisfied certain requirements to “terminate its power of acceptance.” The City explicitly rejected the offer by letter and, at the close of the statutory redemption period, filed for a tax deed in superior court. The taxpayer intervened, arguing that he had redeemed the property, but the superior court ruled there was no contract between him and the city. The taxpayer appealed; but finding no error, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed. View "Bingman v. City of Dillingham" on Justia Law