Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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At issue was whether property owners’ state-law damage claims against the railroad bridge owners alleging that the design and operation of the railroad bridges resulted in flood damage to other properties were preempted by the Federal Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA), 49 U.S.C. 10501(b). Plaintiffs, property owners in Cedar Rapids, sued the owners of certain railroad bridges across the Cedar River alleging that their efforts to protect the bridges from washing out exacerbated the effects of the 2008 flooding for other property owners. The district court granted Defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings, concluding that the ICCTA expressly preempted Plaintiffs’ state law claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the ICCTA did indeed preempt Plaintiffs’ action. View "Griffioen v. Cedar Rapids" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court in favor of the Board of Adjustment in this action brought of developers seeking the right to build apartments on adjoining properties they owned in Iowa City and remanded with directions to enter judgment in favor of the developers. After the City denied the developers’ plans, the developers brought actions against the City and its Board of Adjustment. The district court ruled against the developers, thus rejecting the developers’ argument that a 1987 court order allowed them to proceed. The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s ruling in favor of the Board, holding (1) the Board should have permitted the developers to proceed in accordance with the 1987 decree, and the developers were entitled to enforce the decree as “successors and assigns”; (2) the statute of limitations did not bar enforcement of the decree; and (3) the Board’s argument that the decree had expired by its terms because “a use [had] been developed or established” on the properties failed. View "TSB Holdings, LLC v. City of Iowa City, Iowa" on Justia Law

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Practicing massage therapy without a license is not a serious misdemeanor, and therefore, the district court properly dismissed the forfeiture action in this case and ordered the cash returned to the claimants. Responding to complaints by neighbors suspecting prostitution, police raided a spa advertising massage services and seized cash, cell phones, and other property. Thereafter, the State filed a civil in rem forfeiture action alleging that the cash was the proceeds of an unlicensed massage business or prostitution. The district court ruled (1) the State failed to meet its burden to prove prostitution, and (2) practicing massage therapy without a license was not a crime and therefore could not support forfeiture. The district court then dismissed the in rem forfeiture action and ordered the cash returned to the claimants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) practicing massage therapy without a license is not a serious misdemeanor; and (2) the district court did not err in finding that the State failed to meet its burden of proving the seized funds were the proceeds of prostitution. View "In re Property Seized From Bo Li, Na Tian, And Wei Tian" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court enjoining Mark Ogden from continuing his nonconforming use of his property as a mobile home park, holding that the City of Des Moines failed to prove that Ogden had exceeded the property’s legal nonconforming use or that it was necessary to enjoin Ogden from continued operation of the mobile home park for the safety of life or property. In its decision, the district court concluded that the nonconforming use of the property exceeded its authorized nonconforming use and that it was necessary to cease operation of the nonconforming use for the safety of life or property. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the City did not prove that Ogden had lost the vested right he had in the operation of the mobile park as a legal nonconforming use. View "City of Des Moines v. Ogden" on Justia Law

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The City of Albia was statutorily immune from a homeowner’s nuisance claim stemming from reoccurring flooding in the basement of her home due to rainwater discharge from a storm sewer located near the home. The Supreme Court held (1) Iowa Code 670.4(1)(h), which grants immunity to municipalities for tort claims based on claims of negligent design and construction of public improvements and facilities, or failure to upgrade public improvements and facilities, bars those nuisance claims based on conditions created by public improvements and facilities designed and constructed pursuant to generally recognized engineering or safety standards in existence at the time of construction and without evidence that the harmful condition creating the nuisance was inherent in the operation of the improvement or facility itself or evidence of negligent conduct other than the designated conduct immunized under statute; and (2) because the homeowner in this case did not offer any evidence that the City’s storm sewer system was inherently dangerous beyond the dangers associated with failing to upgrade the pipe to accommodate increased water flow, or that the claim was otherwise based on conduct not given immunity, summary judgment on the homeowner’s nuisance claim was properly granted. View "Kellogg v. City of Albia" on Justia Law

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The district court abused its discretion by awarding attorney fees beyond those caused by violations of Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.413 or necessary to deter similar misconduct and by relying on a letter the sanctioned party’s president sent to the Supreme Court after it denied review in in the first appellate decision in this case. In this quiet-title action, the district court awarded attorney fees and expenses of $145,427 as a sanction for frivolous court filings in violation of Rule 1.413. The appellate court affirmed in part the rulings and remanded the case. On remand, the district court made more specific factual findings. On appeal, the court of appeals affirmed the sanction award. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the amount awarded was excessive. The Supreme court vacated the decision of the court of appeals and modified the district court’s sanction award, holding that the appropriate sanction was $30,000. View "First American Bank v. Fobian Farms, Inc." on Justia Law

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The claims brought by the City of Eagle Grove alleging two properties owned by Cahalan Investments, LLC were abandoned and in an advanced state if disrepair and praying for a transfer of ownership from Cahalan to the City under Iowa Code 657A.10A fit within the public-nuisance exception recognized in Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003 (Iowa 1992), and did not result in a taking requiring compensation to Cahalan. The district court dismissed the City’s petitions seeking ownership of the properties at issue in this case, concluding that the transfer of ownership without just compensation to Cahalan would constitute an unconstitutional taking. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that transfer of title to the two properties under section 657A.10A would not constitute a taking under the circumstances presented in this case, and therefore, there was no constitutional requirement of just compensation. View "City of Eagle Grove, Iowa v. Cahalan Investments, LLC" on Justia Law

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The owner of a railroad right-of-way filed a petition for certiorari challenging a district court order finding it in contempt for violating a 1977 judgment imposing an injunction against a previous owner of the right-of-way. Specifically, the district court found the subsequent owner in contempt for failing to reconstruct and maintain a dike. The Supreme Court sustained the writ and vacated the decision of the district court, holding the contempt proceeding was an untimely action brought by the drainage district to enforce the 1977 judgment because the 1977 judgment expired under Iowa Code 614.1(6) before this proceeding to enforce it was commenced. View "Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad v. Iowa District Court for Louisa County" on Justia Law

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The district court granted a request for entry of a charging order against a personal guarantor and judgment debtor’s transferable interest in an LLC. The judgment debtor and intervenor filed a motion to quash alleging that multiple levies and garnishments were improper. The district court granted the motion to quash. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the entry of the charging order was proper; but (2) the district court erred in granting the motion to quash because it is proper to have multiple levies and garnishments at the same time so long as they are under a single execution. Remanded. View "DuTrac Community Credit Union v. Hefel" on Justia Law

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The Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) condemned a parcel of Landowner’s property to complete the construction of a highway. The compensation commission awarded Landowner $11,100 for the taking. Landowner filed a petition on appeal, arguing that, as a result of the taking, it could no longer use the remaining property for its business and, therefore, that IDOT’s taking left an uneconomical remnant. Landowner argued that the fair market value of the entire property before the condemnation - and thus the damage for the taking - was $200,000. The district court granted summary judgment for IDOT, concluding that Landowner’s petition was untimely. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Landowner’s uneconomical remnant challenge was untimely, and therefore, the district court did not have the authority to consider that claim. View "Johnson Propane, Heating & Cooling, Inc. v. Iowa Department of Transportation" on Justia Law