Case Summaries

(boundary dispute case; evidence established that boundary properly determined by survey references to descriptive elements (e.g., area, quantity and frontage) rather than by reference to natural and artificial monuments).

(boundary dispute case; defendant found to have retained an easement by necessity and title reformed due to defendants’ adversely possessing the disputed property for over 30 years).

(EPA’s 2002 regulatory definition of “navigable waters” (40 C.F.R. §112) under the Clean Water Act found to be arbitrary and capricious and in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act; EPA failed to consider impact of 2001 U.S. Supreme Court opinion in SWANCC and regulation was, therefore, not a product of reasoned decision-making and must be set aside).

(state agriculture officials impounded 46 of plaintiff’s horses and 3 of her donkeys based on claim that plaintiff was not providing them adequate food and shelter; plaintiff brought claims against state officials for violation of her Constitutional rights; Due Process requirement satisfied by availability of both administrative and state court review, no Equal Protection violation, and areas where animals located not part of curtilage of home so no Fourth Amendment violation).

(EPA’s 2002 regulatory definition of “navigable waters” (40 C.F.R. §112) under the Clean Water Act found to be arbitrary and capricious and in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act; EPA failed to consider impact of 2001 U.S. Supreme Court opinion in SWANCC and regulation was, therefore, not a product of reasoned decisionmaking and must be set aside).

(bankruptcy debtor may only deduct the actual amounts necessary to repay 401(k) loans when calculating disposable income, and once the loans are repaid, the debtor must redirect the funds used to repay the loans to unsecured creditors; bankruptcy court erred in allowing debtor to keep the funds).

(boundary-line dispute involving claim of adverse possession; claim failed).

(Medicaid eligibility case; married couple established revocable trust in 2003 and deeded marital home to trust; in 2004, wife entered nursing home and trust later deeded home back to wife in her individual capacity; weeks later, wife filed application for Medicaid benefits; couple claimed that state Medicaid agency failed to include value of home in initial resource assessment (so as to increase the husband’s spousal share of couple’s resources); claim fails – home not treated as an available resource).

(state law allowing collection of filing fees and surcharges for estate claims held unconstitutional; “pick-up” tax amounted to an unconstitutional estate or inheritance tax masquerading as a graduated probate court user or filing fee; in CA, legislature, acting alone, cannot impose an inheritance or estate tax; in this case, calling a $74,762 filing fee a “court user fee” disingenuous).

(buyers of homes purchased from estate heirs liable for unpaid estate tax pursuant to IRS 10-year estate tax lien, and buyers could not challenge additional estate tax assessment because they were not the “taxpayer”; buyers’ liability covered by title insurance policies).

(patent infringement action also involving state law claims for conversion, unjust enrichment and breach of contract for defendant’s alleged unauthorized use of plaintiff’s seed technology; plaintiff seeks expedited discovery to minimize risk of loss to seed and crop in order to protect evidence; court adopts “good cause” standard for determining whether expedited discovery warranted; plaintiff met standard and entitled to expedited discovery).

(right of first refusal to buy real estate, after seller has determined both to sell the entire remaining property and to accept terms and conditions specified by potential buyer, ripens into an option; because options are assignable, provision in option holder’s acceptance reserving right to assign does not constitute material deviation).

(defendant not liable to plaintiff for injuries sustained from dog bite because defendant not owner or “keeper” of dog under state statute imposing strict liability; no evidence that defendant exercised control over employee’s dog and ownership of premises where dog kept, by itself, insufficient to impose strict liability; case remanded for trial on issue of whether defendant liable on ordinary negligence principles). 

(state’s confined aquifer rules upheld; rules based on finding that San Luis Valley’s confined aquifer is overappropriated and any new groundwater withdrawals must be matched in equal measure to amount withdrawn; trial court’s holding that rules do not violate either CO statutes or CO Constitution upheld; confined aquifer does not contain any unappropriated water, thus restrictions on withdrawals from the aquifer do not violate the constitutional right to appropriate).

(lease agreement gave petitioners irrevocable option to buy leased property upon respondent presenting bona fide purchase offer from third party; respondent breached lease by failing to honor the option; because real estate is unique, and because petitioners timely exercised their option to purchase the property, specific performance is proper remedy).

(primary reason for selling home that taxpayer owned and lived in for fewer than two out of five years before selling the home qualifies as an unforeseen circumstance that makes taxpayer eligible to exclude a reduced amount of gain under I.R.C. §121(c); taxpayer got married, and home not large enough for blended family; also, under local government school enrollment policies, son of spouse of taxpayer would have to move to a new school).  

(dairy farm that produces all the milk that it processes from its own herd meets definition of "handler" and is not exempt from participating in state mandated pricing pool; thus, administrative fees and assessments apply to farm's processed milk).

(undivided fractional interest in rental properties that are co-owned by unrelated business entities does not constitute an interest in a business entity under Treas. Reg. §301.7701-2(a) and, therefore, does not qualify the undivided fractional interest as eligible replacement property under I.R.C. §1031(a)). 

(quiet title action involving farm property). 

(reinsurer sought unpaid premium for reinsurance of crop loss insurance issued by subsidiary of bankrupt debtor, and debtor sought return of premium amounts previously paid; court determined that it was clear that parties intended and understood the contract to provide reinsurance coverage and be supported by consideration; although subsidiary did not sign reinsurance contract, contract defined reinsurance to include both debtor and its subsidiary and debtor signed contract on subsidiary’s behalf; reinsurer entitled to full premium amount). 

(probate court properly determined that decedent's will met statutory formalities for will execution; evidence present that will witnessed at decedent's request and in his presence, through decedent's attorney and witnesses signing of will occurred within sight of decedent).

(criminal law case involving search of rural property where marijuana was grown; involves concepts of curtilage and open fields doctrine).

(CWA wetland case involving “adjacency” issue; case primarily procedural in nature, but also involves proposed constitutional takings claim).

(plaintiff notified that a livestock waste control facility required and plaintiff hired defendant to provide environmental consulting services and submit permit application to state for construction and operation of livestock waste control facility; defendant submitted incomplete application and missed deadline for resubmitted application; EPA issued compliance order to plaintiff and notice of violation of CWA; plaintiff sued for breach of contract, negligence and breach of warranty; trial court granted summary judgment for plaintiff on negligence claim which was affirmed on appeal, but issue of material fact remained as to causation of plaintiff’s damages so summary judgment for plaintiff on that issue reversed). 

(easement case; when easement expressly created, but never used, use of easement area not adverse and did not trigger statutorily-mandated period of time for adverse possession until easement holder need to use the easement, demanded to use it, and was denied the right to use it; result was that burdened property owners had not terminated the easement holder’s right to use the easement as a surface right-of-way). 

(state (California) estate tax may only be assessed in an amount equal to the maximum allowable amount of the credit for state death taxes permitted under the I.R.C., and if the tax does not result in a total state and federal death tax liability in excess of the liability owed to the U.S.).

(farm lease case; no breach by tenant in planting beet crop; landowner’s repudiation constituted anticipatory breach). 

(spendthrift trust containing farm property invalid under Iowa law; debtor retained enough control over trust corpus such that trust property included in bankruptcy estate). 

(USDA’s interpretive rule excluding chickens, turkeys and other poultry species from the Humane Methods Slaughter Act ("HMSA") of 1958 (7 U.S.C. §§1901 et seq.) upheld). 

(worker’s compensation case; employee not an agricultural employee at time injury sustained and, thus, entitled to worker’s compensation benefits; plaintiff owned and operated 685-acre farm and defendant repaired and maintained farm machinery and equipment, operated ground-planting and harvesting equipment, sorted and loaded hogs and supervised farming operations in plaintiff’s absence; plaintiff injured while assisting a welder on the farm; court noted that employees can be employed in a dual capacity, but plaintiff not working as farm employee at time of injury as defined by Ind. Code §22-3-2-9(a)).   

(debtor’s motion for permission to sell calves and milo and use proceeds plus additional proceeds from earlier milo sales to pay crop insurance premium, with balance used in farm operation granted; bank adequately protected and debtor could not obtain crop insurance for 2008 crop unless premium paid for 2007 crop year).

(RICO claim against defendant, who was responsible for providing financial data to FSA, fails). 

(plaintiff, a Michigan winery who wanted to ship directly to AZ consumers but was barred by AZ law, brought constitutional challenge based on “dormant” commerce clause; AZ law upheld). 

(FSA farm program administrative appeal case involving prevented planting question; issue was whether land was environmentally contaminated to such a degree that crops couldn’t be planted).

(personal injury action for raccoon bite; premises liability case involving issue of status of entrant and resulting duty owed plaintiff; assumption of risk and proximate causation issues also involved). 

(tractor fire case where plaintiff sued for damages based on negligence in design and manufacturing and breach of warranty; fire destroyed the tractor and other implements; defendant asserted that negligence claim barred by economic loss doctrine because property damage was only to property involved in the lawsuit; court held that tractor implements were separate property and negligent design claim not barred by economic loss doctrine). 

(portion of farmer’s debts held not non-dischargeable under 11 U.S.C. §§523(a)(2)(A) or 523(a)(4); evidence unclear as to whether debtor made misrepresentations).  

(FCC must follow appropriate procedures under NEPA, ESA and MBTA to ensure that migratory birds are not killed by FCC towers). 

(USDA databases subject to FOIA request; public interest in disclosure outweighed private interests involved).

(dairy farm not subject to animal cruelty claim by plaintiff; state law did not provide for a private right of action).

(state recreational use statute held applicable to immunize landowner from liability for death of hunter on property who was shot by another hunter; statute did not require landowners to open property to general public, and statute clear that if landowner doesn’t charge for recreational activities, landowner assumes no responsibility for damage or injury to any other person caused by recreational entrant’s act or omission). 

(exchange of property between partnerships controlled by related persons qualifies for like-kind treatment).