Annotations 05/2008

(plaintiff established elements for prescriptive easement, but scope of easement limited by plaintiff’s abandonment of portion of easement).

(defendant insulated from liability for insured’s failure to read policies; but, question remained as to whether insured’s estate stated valid cause of action against defendant concerning whether defendant was a broker or an agent).

(case involves challenge to EPA's CWA storm water discharge rule which exempts from the CWA's permitting requirements discharges of sediment from oil and gas construction activities; petition for review granted, rule vacated and matter remanded to EPA for further proceedings).

(MN Constitution precludes forfeiture of homestead obtained under drug asset forfeiture statute).

(product liability action involving class of persons injured by defendant's defective peanut butter; on defendant's motion to dismiss, court ruled that plaintiffs should be allowed to recover from a common fund if successful on unjust enrichment claim; plaintiffs alleged sufficient injury, causation and redressability to show standing; but to extent plaintiffs seek recovery for economic losses, those claims are dismissed).

(plaintiff properly disclosed all required parties to defendant (Ohio Department of Agriculture) upon application for operational permits for chicken processing facility; undisclosed investor merely passive, and "Option to Purchase" agreement gave investor no more right to control plaintiff than commercial lender would possess and, thus, need not be disclosed under Ohio law; testimony of defendant's expert did not squarely address operative issue in case and plaintiff's expert testimony much more germane and persuasive than testimony of defendant's expert; as such, defendant acted unreasonably (even under high deferential standard) in favoring testimony of defendant's expert at administrative hearing).

(real estate contract rescinded; after purchase, discovery was made that adjacent owner claimed 6.3-acre rectangular tract that plaintiffs had allegedly purchased from contract seller; error caused by scrivenor’s error in deed filed in 1922; trial court, on remand, to consider plaintiffs’ damage claim).

(sand, gravel and rock located on and under plaintiff’s property are “minerals” that are reserved to the U.S. under the Stock-Raising Homestead Act of 1916; subject property homesteaded under patent that excepted and reserved to the U.S. all the coal and other minerals in the property combined with the right to prospect for, mine and remove such minerals). 

(decedent’s holographic will ruled void for vagueness; decedent left “this Land” to certain beneficiaries, but with no explanation of what “this Land” referred to).

(trial court erred in computation of self-employed farmer’s net monthly income by failing to take into account depreciation deductions for dairy cows, farm buildings and farm equipment).

(court upheld IRS’s decision to require depreciation recapture on taxpayer’s vehicle for which taxpayer claimed expense method depreciation; taxpayer failed to meet substantiation requirements of I.R.C. §274(d)).

(11 U.S.C. §541(c)(2) which excludes from the bankruptcy estate a debtor’s beneficial interest in a spendthrift trust held inapplicable to debtor’s one-fourth distributional share of assets in parents’ spendthrift revocable trusts; trusts terminated upon death of surviving parent under Kansas law).

(title to disputed strip of property obtained by adverse possession; adverse possession elements satisfied).

(plaintiff fed cattle at defendant’s feedlot under contract- feeding arrangement, and many came up missing or died; plaintiff then removed remaining cattle; court held that defendant entitled to have plaintiff’s damage award reduced by defendant’s cost of feeding and caring for plaintiff’s remaining cattle before their removal).

(state has constitutional authority to tax interest on municipal bonds sold by other states, while not taxing in-state bonds; no dormant commerce clause violation – issuing debt securities to pay for public projects is a public function).

(plaintiffs alleged facts sufficient to state a claim under state consumer protection statute that grocery stores sold artificially colored farm-raised salmon without disclosure of that fact to consumers; plaintiffs claim that such conduct constitutes unfair competition, violation of state Consumers Legal Remedies Act, false advertising and negligent misrepresentation).

(plaintiff failed to obtain title to disputed tract via adverse possession due to failure to pay taxes reasonably believed in good faith to be due on the disputed tract; prescriptive easement claim fails for failure to raise issue at trial).

(riparian rights of shoreline boundaries where property lines meet shoreline at right angles to be determined by straight extension method rather than right angle method; but trial court’s determination that plaintiff had not acquired titled to a portion of defendant’s lot via adverse possession reversed – trial court failed to determine whether defendant (or predecessors in interest) exerted sufficient control, intent, notice and duration over subject property, and trial court failed to consider whether plaintiff had reasonable belief that it had paid taxes on disputed strip).

(defendant allowed, under state law, to condemn an easement over plaintiff’s farm for installation of electrical-transmission line, removal of “danger trees” outside the easement and access to easement at all points in event of emergency).

(defendant had no property interest in plaintiff's property with respect to pipeline, but court allowed correct party to be added as defendant; easement valid and allows easement holder to enter property to construct and maintain second pipeline).

(real estate foreclosure case involving relative priorities of a lien for unpaid sales tax and later purchase money mortgage given by defaulting taxpayers to acquire the property which is later sold at foreclosure; court held that mortgage given to secure the loan used by taxpayer to buy the property has priority).

(defendant’s herbicide, marketed for use on sweet potatoes beginning in 2005, caused severe damage to plaintiff’s potato crop; plaintiff sued on claims of breach of contract, negligence, negligent misrepresentation, breach of warranty, design defect, and that defendant liable under state Unfair Trade Practices Act and state product liability law; defendant’s summary judgment motion granted as to negligence, negligent misrepresentation and state Unfair Trade Practices Act claim, and denied as to other claims).

(state statute requiring state to use a portion of wheat tax funds for policy and promotion activities and to award contracts to two domestic trade associations did not violated state constitutional provisions prohibiting special laws, gifts and special privileges and immunities). 

(plaintiff sued to condemn defendant’s farm and five years later filed a declaration of taking and deposited an estimate of the farm’s fair market value as of the date suit was filed; farm’s value increased substantially during the five-year period; condemnation allowed, but compensation level set at farm’s value as of date declaration of taking filed).

(claim for prescriptive easement over road used to access farm dismissed because use of road began with permission of a tenant of the defendant’s predecessor in interest and continued only by permission; thus statute never tolled and permissive use could be terminated at any time).

(plaintiff sued U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) after COE granted CWA permit to plaintiff to extract mining materials from wetlands located between Florida Everglades and Miami; trial court granted permit, but decision vacated and case remanded on basis that trial court did not apply proper APA standard of review to COE’s environmental analysis).

(township’s amendment to existing zoning code to prohibit “agribusinesses” by declaring that such enterprises are not “agriculture” and classifying them as a conditional use for which a permit must be obtained from the relevant zoning authority not within scope of authority of township trustees under state law; at issue is 2,100-head dairy operation operating on 100 acres).

(plaintiff sued U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) after COE granted CWA permit to plaintiff to extract mining materials from wetlands located between Florida Everglades and Miami; trial court granted permit, but decision vacated and case remanded on basis that trial court did not apply proper APA standard of review to COE’s environmental analysis).

(suit for specific performance of option to purchase real estate; substantial evidence supported trial court finding that plaintiff timely made final option payment, but evidence did not support trial court’s finding that payment made at same time plaintiff notified defendant of intent to exercise option; thus, plaintiff did not perform according to terms of option contract, but plaintiff may be entitled to equitable grace period; case remanded to trial court for determination whether grace period should be extended and whether specific performance should be ordered).

(case involves action against government concerning indemnification of losses covered by a privately issued, governmentally backed insurance policy; trial court granted summary judgment for farmers but trial court decision vacated and case remanded because (1) policy did not create any contractual obligation for insurers to indemnify the farmers for lost peanuts in 2002 at $.31 quota rate since it was contingent on 2002 farm poundage quota allocations being made to individual farmers, and such allocations were never made; (2) prevention doctrine misapplied insomuch as indemnification of the farmers did not depend on the allocation of quotas by the government; and (3) detrimental reliance not present because government programs are subject to congressional modification and farmers had been notified that there would be revisions to the peanut quota program).

(trial court decision granting summary judgment to defendants (poultry feed supplier and poultry production companies) reversed; plaintiff provided sufficient evidence to satisfy “frequency, regularity and proximity” test concerning plaintiff’s exposure to poultry litter dust containing carcinogenic compounds; but trial court grant of summary judgment denying defendant’s expert witness report upheld; case reversed in part, affirmed in part and remanded).

(beneficiary of decedent’s will may not maintain negligence action against attorney for preparation of deed that results in increased tax liability to the estate; beneficiary lacked privity with attorney and no special circumstances present which would override privity requirement).

(parcel of land not qualified for ag land classification because property intended for development and not used primarily for agriculture (sale of Christmas trees)).

(case involves state inverse condemnation action, federal takings violation and violations of substantive due process and equal protection; plaintiff owns farmland for which he sought to obtain water rights for crop irrigation and facilitation of mineral extraction, but water right and mining applications denied; court dismissed all of plaintiff’s claims).

(distribution of ranch under decedent’s will not subject to no-contest clause under will; pertinent provision of will did not incorporate no-contest clause by reference).

(title insurance does not cover monetary losses incurred by insured arising out of bankruptcy of qualified intermediary used in I.R.C. §1031 exchange absent claims asserting threat to marketability of title; thus, unless bankruptcy trustee’s preference action against insured does not implicate marketability of title or other risks specified in policy, title insurer has no duty to defend under policy).

(farm property bequeathed to plaintiff from parent’s trust zoned as an ag district, but was not suitable for farming or pasturing livestock; plaintiff’s application for zoning amendment to rezone property as a restricted rural residential district allowing a 41 single-home subdivision denied; plaintiff’s challenge to denial as unconstitutional taking failed because existing comprehensive land use plan designed to protect ag land not arbitrary or unreasonable and did not deny all economically viable uses of the land).

(Substantial discounts for gifts of farmland to FLP granted – 33.9 percent for one year and 35.6 percent for another year (saving taxpayer about $2 million); FLP operated like a business and not taxpayer’s personal bank account; non-tax avoidance reasons for establishing the FLP present).

(“Christmas Cottage” on Christmas tree farm used as sales office and warming hut for customers during Christmas season and rented guest house during off-season remains eligible for enrollment in tax abatement program as farm property; property used as “rental property” only during “non-farm” season and still remained actively used in a “farming” operation during the Christmas tree harvesting season).

(warrantless entry onto plaintiff’s property constituted reasonable search; area (dog shed) searched not within curtilage of plaintiff’s home – shed unattractive to private home activities, accessible with minimal effort and openly exposed to neighboring properties).

(asparagus crop loss case; plaintiff awarded $2.435 million in damages, but trial court’s grant of new trial upheld).