Annotations 06/2008

(oral farm partnership formed between family members; family dispute occurs and partnership dissolved and accounting sought).

(defendants installation of gate on right-of- way located on defendant's property but used by plaintiff to access plaintiff's land permanently enjoined; gate not necessary for defendant's safe use and enjoyment of defendant's property and plaintiff had prescriptive easement).

(arrest of defendant not within curtilage of home and, therefore, not within home’s umbrella of Fourth Amendment protection; while arrest occurred within close proximity of home, area not enclosed by fence or any form of enclosure and defendant did not engage in activities in front of home in which he engaged in private areas of home; area in which arrest occurred observable from highway).

(evidence indicated that defendant had prescriptive easement over driveway at issue in case). 

(estate had right of indemnification from defendant for value of property owned by decedent that was foreclosed upon and sold, and the proceeds applied against a debt for which defendant was obligated).  

(I.R.C. does not impose dollar limitation on de minimis fringe benefits excludible from gross income for those fringes listed in Treas. Reg. §1.132-6(e)(1)). 

(bankruptcy of qualified intermediary used to facilitate I.R.C. §1031 exchange disqualifies taxpayer from achieving tax-deferred exchange status for transaction).

(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does not have an enforceable duty promptly to withdraw a threatened species from Endangered Species Act protection after a five-year agency review required by ESA determined that the species does not fit into one of several types of population categories protected under the ESA). 

(Court refused to decide whether fisherman who sued over the Exxon Valdez oil spill are entitled to collect interest on the punitive damages award of $507.5 million; case remanded to Ninth Circuit).

(application of passive loss limitations to partnership losses do not violate partner’s due process rights; application of the passive loss rules not impermissibly retroactive).

(tribal member mortgaged tribal fee land to bank which was subsequently deeded to bank in lieu of foreclosure; bank leased property to defendant with option to buy, but defendant could not exercise option; bank then sold land to non-tribal members; tribal members sued in tribal court and tribal court found that bank had discriminated against tribe by selling land to non-members on more favorable terms with tribe awarded damages and option to buy portion of land; Eighth Circuit affirmed and U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari; U.S. Supreme Court reversed – tribal court lacked authority to adjudicate discrimination claim; bank had standing to raise jurisdictional challenge; case not within Montana exceptions to general rule that Indian tribe lacks authority to regulate activities of non-members; and tribe’s limited authority to regulate non-member activities on reservation did not permit tribe to regulate sale of non-Indian fee land).  

(quiet title action; description of disputed parcel in 1816 deed was sufficient to convey title, and plaintiff had acquired title by adverse possession even if it was not the record owner of the parcel). 

(water pollution case against dairy operation; plaintiff not entitled to bring enforcement action under state law against dairy without first establishing that dairy was significant contributor of pollution; mere fact that dairy was a Concentrated Dairy Animal Feeding Operation insufficient, by itself, to support finding that dairy was significant contributor of pollution; however, other factors supported finding that dairy was significant contributor of pollution; penalty upheld as reasonable and plaintiff’s decision as to penalty amount not arbitrary and capricious).

(defendant's conviction and sentence for taking migratory birds by aid of bait in violation of 16 U.S.C. Sec. 703 upheld; USFWS testimony that milo field at issue had not been harvested was credible and testimony of farm employee to the contrary was not credible and court would not disturb trial court's witness testimony credibility determination; testimony that use of stripper header to harvest milo did not establish that such practice was a normal agricultural practice; defendant's testimony that he could not reasonably be expected to know field was baited because he was not a farmer was not credible - defendant failed to inspect field and unharvested milo clearly present near defendant's duck blind and decoys). 

(land qualified for agricultural status and Green Acres tax benefits because land primarily devoted to agricultural use; land used for purpose of growing trees as well as weeding, mowing, spraying and overall maintenance for agricultural use).

(evidence sufficient to support elements of adverse possession; title to disputed strip quieted in plaintiffs).

(quitclaim deed of remainder interest in farm from mother to son with life estate reserved by mother; son predeceased mother and son’s interest in farm belonged to son’s estate (thereby subject to state intestacy statute) and did not revert to mother upon son’s death because deed did not contain clear and unambiguous language that remainder interest ended upon son’s death). 

(decedent’s heirs entered into voluntary cleanup agreement with State to clean up site contaminated by lead bullets and other contaminants to be deposited in soil at firing range on the property, and sued estate to recover costs; decedent’s personal liability insurance policy motioned for summary judgment on basis that it had no duty to indemnify estate because any judgment against estate not indemnifiable because not a product of a “suit” nor an “award of damages”; motion granted – plaintiffs voluntarily assumed response costs and contamination tied to business pursuits of the insured which is excluded under the policy).

(county constructed outdoor shooting range for firearms training purposes for local law enforcement prohibited by local zoning and anti-noise ordinances; shooting range only ancillary to law enforcement building and building’s normal use was for firearms training and support; thus, outdoor shooting ranges not indispensible for building’s indoor training and support because indoor training could be conducted without the outdoor shooting ranges being located next to the building). 

(cooperative patron may not count qualified payment received from cooperative in patron’s I.R.C. §199 computation whether or not cooperative keeps or passes through I.R.C. §199 deduction; the only way a patron can claim an I.R.C. §199 deduction for a qualified payment from a cooperative is for the cooperative to pass-through the I.R.C. §199 amount in accordance with the provisions of I.R.C. §199(d)(3); but, net proceeds distributed on patronage basis qualify as per-unit retain allocations because they were distributed with respect to products that the cooperative markets for its patrons and patrons receive payments based on quantity of product delivered to the cooperative and are not based on cooperative’s net earnings).

(grant of special exception from zoning ordinance allowing construction of horse stable and accessory facilities affirmed; neighbor’s testimony about odors, well water contamination and flies merely speculative).

(trial court judgment for parents against son (the farm tenant) upheld; son signed one-year lease for 2004 stating that the parties would not pursue any legal action against the parties or related family members for anything related to the farm, farm equipment, or the farm's operation; no partnership created; and son's claim that he signed lease under duress raised for first time on appeal).

(dissenters' rights statute invoked upon sale of seven-generation, closely-held, family farming corporation located on Potomac River; trial court properly determined fair market value of dissenting shareholders' shares of stock; 6 percent simple interest to be applied).

(defendant violated state environmental policy by approving marine biotechnology firm’s request to import GMO algae to facility on state land; no adequate environmental assessment provided, and environmental studies provided were outdated and did not discuss impact of large-scale algae production).

(proposed operation or rock mining quarry for production of gravel held to be a public nuisance because local roads inadequate to safely handle required truck traffic; case remanded to trial court to “balance the equities” in determining how to abate the anticipated nuisance).

(subdivision lot owners sued for declaratory and injunctive relief against successors in interest to subdivision developer for enforcement of rights they claimed they were entitled pursuant to subdivision’s restrictive covenants and plat; court held that covenants did not grant lot owners right to connect to water system developed by successor-in-interest or to central livestock facilities located in common area – covenants neither expressly or impliedly create those rights).

(class action lawsuit brought against Southern Marketing Agency (formed by Dairy Farmers of America, Inc.) for alleged conspiracy to suppress prices paid for raw milk while simultaneously raising prices to the region's retailers in violation of the Sherman Act; defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to state claim on basis that Capper Volstead Act provides immunity denied because such defense cannot be resolved through a motion to dismiss).

(no constructive trust imposed against plaintiff's daughter over farm and farmhome; plaintiff deeded farm to daughter and claimed that she would be allowed to live on the farm "until her death"; evidence showed that deed of farm intended as gift to daughter; no mistaken belief present relating to effect of execution of warranty deed).  

(trial court’s award of specific performance of option contract for sale of land upheld; option contract not ambiguous and no issues of fact existed as to whether consideration given for option contract). 

(plaintiffs' action for injunctive relief against defendant for nuisance per se, private nuisance, violation of state environmental law and claim that state right-to- farm law does not protect commercial composting dismissed for lack of standing; defendant had not yet engaged in any on-farm composting and no evidence presented that defendant proposed on-farm composting would violate state law).

(public use of road as shown by plaintiff insufficient to constitute implied acceptance of defendant’s statutory offer to dedicate it for public use; accordingly, plaintiff’s cutting down of trees and other vegetation on defendant’s adjacent property improper and plaintiff liable for $4,296 in damages).    

(defendant cut down plaintiff’s landscape-grade trees without authorization and plaintiff sued for reckless destruction of trees under state statute authorizing treble damages; trial court’s judgment for plaintiff and denial of defendant’s motion for new trial upheld).

(defendant's impoundment of plaintiff's cattle and cancellation of federal grazing permit not a taking; but, plaintiff had vested right in surface waters flowing from federal land that could have been put to beneficial agricultural use if not for defendant's interference (construction of fences and disallowance of plaintiff to clear obstructions upstream in 1866 Act irrigation ditches); plaintiff entitled to $4,220,431.20 plus interest from date of taking (beginning in 1983) plus attorney's fees and costs).  

(plaintiffs’ claim that Dupont defrauded EPA by convincing EPA to drop language from Oust warning label prohibiting its use in arid areas near cropland which resulted in Bureau of Land Management to buy and apply Oust in manner that damaged plaintiff’s crops; complaint defective because it doesn’t asset fraud against the plaintiffs; but, plaintiffs motion to amend complaint granted to add allegations of fraud and misrepresentation by Dupont to plaintiffs).

(defendant breached option agreement which allowed plaintiff to purchase defendants’ 50 percent interest in Colorado LLC containing 5,000 acres as sole asset; plaintiff entitled to $1.5 million in damages based on plaintiff’s testimony of ranchland value).

(right-of-first-refusal (ROFR) held by Land Trust in subject farm was condition precedent to purchase agreement in farm entered into between plaintiff and defendant; Land Trust’s exercise of ROFR and subsequent assignment of its interest to neighboring farmer resulted in sale contract never being formed between plaintiff and defendant).

(negotiations for sale of farm involving letters, notes, memoranda, draft agreements and conversations did not satisfy statute of frauds - no mutual agreement to essential contract terms; no equitable estoppel nor part performance).

(joint federal/state effort to address conflicts and provide solutions to competing interests for water  in California’s largest water distributions systems complied with state law; reversal of state appellate court).

(joint federal/state effort to address conflicts and provide solutions to competing interests for water in California’s largest water distributions systems complied with state law; reversal of state appellate court).

(partners of plaintiff general partnership bought land and general partnership obtained title insurance from defendant; land conveyed to limited partnership owned by same partners, but new title insurance not obtained; title defect discovered ten years later and suit brought under policy; partners held to not have insurable interest because insured (general partnership) no longer held title to land - policy lapsed when property voluntarily conveyed to separate and distinct limited partnership and limited partnership did not have standing to sue under policy).

(joint federal/state effort to address conflicts and provide solutions to competing interests for water  in California’s largest water distributions systems complied with state law; reversal of state appellate court).

(quiet title action brought by state of Utah against private landowner; state claims title to lakebed of Utah lake, a navigable body of freshwater, under equal footing doctrine upon admission to Union on Jan. 4, 1896; landowner traces title to 63-acre slough to patent issued by defendant in 1881; state officials failed to approve decision to agree to quiet title in private landowner).

(plaintiff's Tennessee Walking Horse died at defendant's stable; plaintiff claimed horse died due to defendant's negligence, but such claim barred by exculpatory provision in contract between the parties and plaintiff failed to make out prima facie claim of gross negligence).

(cattle rancher sued defendant on public nuisance theory for contamination of cattle ranch arising from oil spills; trial court ruling for defendant upheld - plaintiff did not meet burden of proof that defendant caused the contamination).

(judgment for plaintiff against defendant on charge of animal cruelty or neglect upheld; animal cruelty statute applicable and not unconstitutionally vague).

(divorce case involving farm assets; trial court did not err in awarding 138 acres to ex-wife; acreage not an integral part of ex-husband’s farming and ranching operation; ex-wife not entitled to “Grace” award to even-out property division because substantial marital estate existed which was divided evenly).

(“short-sale” of residence held for investment purposes resulted in cancellation of indebtedness income (CODI); taxpayer failed to prove that any exception from the general rule of recognition applied; accuracy-related penalty upheld).

(plaintiffs’ use of particular route established a prescriptive easement, but did not establish the element of adverse use with regard to the claimed easement for cattle driving – use was permissive).