Case Summaries

(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).

(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).