Justia West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

by
In this condemnation proceeding, the Supreme Court granted the writ of prohibition sought by the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways (DOH), holding that the circuit court exceeded its legitimate authority and committed clear error by hindering the DOH’s exercise of its legislatively-granted discretion with respect to planning and engineering a road expansion project. The DOH filed petitions to condemn private property for use in expansion of a highly-trafficked road and moved for immediate right of entry and transfer of defeasible title. The circuit court held the motion in abeyance in lieu of denial and directed the DOH to return to its engineers for additional consideration of traffic safety issues and alternative plans to minimize the impact on local businesses. The Supreme Court granted the DOH’s petition for a writ of prohibition, holding that because the project was indisputably for a public use, the circuit court exceeded its legitimate authority by effectively denying for failing to rule on the only issue properly before it - that is, whether the project was for a public use. View "State ex rel. W.Va. Department of Transportation, Division of Highways v. Honorable Susan B. Tucker" on Justia Law

by
In this dispute over the property division in a will, the Supreme Court granted the writ of prohibition sought by Petitioner seeking relief from the circuit court’s grant of Respondents’ motion to sell certain property, holding that the implication of possible sale relating to a separate piece of real property is insufficient evidence of an intent to sell all other real property such that it bypasses the findings required by W. Va. Code 44-8-1 and 37-4-3 to sell a specific devise subject to a partition suit. The Testator’s will devised a family farm and other property to her three children, Petitioner and Respondents. Petitioner sought to have the family farm partitioned in kind and argued that it was a specific devise. Co-executors of the estate sought a court order to sell the family farm. The circuit court ruled in favor of the co-executors, concluding that the Testator showed approval of the sale of the family farm even though it had been separately and specifically devised. The Supreme Court granted this writ of prohibition, holding that the circuit court erred in permitting sale of the family farm without first determining whether the property was amenable to partition in kind consistent with the directives of sections 44-8-1 and 37-4-3. View "Presnell v. Presnell" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court in this dispute between the Assessor of Monongalia County, Mark Musick, and University Park at Evansdale, LLC (UPE) regarding an assessment valuing UPE’s leasehold interest in a student housing facility, holding that Musick contravened the requirements of both West Virginia Code of State Rules 110-1P-3 and applicable case law in assessing UPE’s leasehold interest. In 2013, West Virginia University (WVU) leased property to UPE for the development of University Park, the student housing facility. UPE subleased the student housing back to WVU for purposes of offering git to students for housing. This disagreement related to a 2015 assessment valuing UPE’s leasehold interest in University Park at more than $9 million. The circuit court decided that, based on the evidence presented at the Board of Equalization and Review (BER), the assessment of UPE’s leasehold interest for tax year 2015 was $0. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order correcting the assessment, holding that UPE showed by clear and convincing evidence that the 2015 valuation of the leasehold interest should be corrected to $0. View "Musick v. University Park at Evansdale, LLC" on Justia Law

by
In this property dispute, the Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court setting aside the jury’s verdict in favor of Defendants for insufficient evidence and granting Plaintiff a new trial, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in this case. Plaintiff proved at trial that she had a written easement to cross Defendants’ land. Defendants, however, introduced evidence that Plaintiff had abandoned the written easement through decades of nonuse. During trial, Plaintiff never objected or filed a motion that challenged the sufficiency of Defendants’ evidence. After the jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendants and on appeal, Plaintiff filed a motion seeking a new trial, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support Defendants’ abandonment theory. The circuit court granted the motion and set aside the jury’s verdict for insufficient evidence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because Plaintiff did not file a motion challenging the sufficiency of evidence at trial, before the jury returned a verdict, and because the jury’s verdict had support in the record, the circuit court abused its discretion in setting aside the jury’s verdict and in granting a new trial. View "McInarnay v. Hall" on Justia Law

by
In this property dispute, the Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court setting aside the jury’s verdict in favor of Defendants for insufficient evidence and granting Plaintiff a new trial, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in this case. Plaintiff proved at trial that she had a written easement to cross Defendants’ land. Defendants, however, introduced evidence that Plaintiff had abandoned the written easement through decades of nonuse. During trial, Plaintiff never objected or filed a motion that challenged the sufficiency of Defendants’ evidence. After the jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendants and on appeal, Plaintiff filed a motion seeking a new trial, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support Defendants’ abandonment theory. The circuit court granted the motion and set aside the jury’s verdict for insufficient evidence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because Plaintiff did not file a motion challenging the sufficiency of evidence at trial, before the jury returned a verdict, and because the jury’s verdict had support in the record, the circuit court abused its discretion in setting aside the jury’s verdict and in granting a new trial. View "McInarnay v. Hall" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment to Mike Ross, Inc. (MRI) on the grounds that Petitioners’ claims were barred by the three-year statute of limitation set forth in W. Va. Code 11A-4-4. Through its omnibus order, the circuit court declared MRI to be the owner of eighty percent of the oil and gas interests in two adjacent tracts of land pursuant to a tax deed issued to MRI after it purchased the property at a delinquent tax sale. Petitioners appealed, contending that the circuit court erred by not finding that they collectively own, respectively, a 16.44 percent and twenty percent undivided interest in the oil and gas in the properties. The circuit court granted summary judgment to MRI, concluding that Petitioners’ claims were time-barred. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the mineral interests were never delinquent, and therefore, the sale of the subject mineral interests for delinquent taxes was void as a matter of law; and (2) Petitioners’ claims were not barred by section 11A-4-4. View "L&D Investments, Inc. v. Mike Ross, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment to Plaintiff and vesting title to Defendant’s home to Plaintiff, holding that because there was no dispute that Plaintiff failed to have notice to redeem mailed to Defendant’s address, as required by W. Va. Code 11A-3-22(d), the circuit court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff. As a result of Defendant’s property taxes not having been paid, the county sheriff held an action to sell the tax lien on Defendant’s home. Plaintiff purchased the tax lien on the property at the auction. Plaintiff unsuccessfully attempted to have Defendant notified by mail and newspaper publications of her right to redeem the property. A deed to the property was subsequently conveyed to Plaintiff. Plaintiff then filed this proceeding to quiet title to the property. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Plaintiff. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the matter to the circuit court with instructions to grant summary judgment in favor of Defendant, set aside Defendant’s tax deed to her home, and determine the amount to be paid by defendant to redeem the property, holding that summary judgment was improperly granted. View "Archuleta v. US Liens, LLC" on Justia Law

by
In this action alleging claims under the West Virginia Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Act, W. Va. Code 22-31 to 22-3-38, the Supreme Court answered several questions of law certified to it by the federal court. The Court answered, inter alia, that (1) a 1902 deed provision transferring the right to mine coal “without leaving any support for the overlying strata and without liability for any injury which may result to the surface from the breaking of said strata” prohibits a surface owner from pursuing a common law claim for loss of support arising from subsidence caused by the extraction of the coal from below the surface; (2) assuming the surface lands and residence of a landowner have been materially damaged from subsidence that is a natural result of underground mining, the surface owner is limited to the remedies provided for in the West Virginia Code of State Rules 38-2-16.2.c to 38-2-16.2.c.2; and (3) if a surface owner proves that his or her person or property was injured through a coal operator’s violation of a rule, order, or permit, the surface owner can receive monetary compensation for such injury pursuant to W. Va. Code 22-3-25(f). View "McElroy Coal Co. v. Schoene" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order granting summary judgment against Plaintiffs, lot owners in the Sleepy Creek Forest Subdivision, on their complaint against the Subdivision’s Association alleging that delinquent assessments represented increases in annual assessments that were never properly voted on by the Association. Specifically, Plaintiffs alleged that the increases were ultra vires with respect to the subdivision’s covenants and restrictions and that the Association’s attempts to collect the delinquent assessments violated the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act. The Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court properly granted summary judgment for the Association because the assessment increases were valid; and (2) the circuit court correctly awarded attorney’s fees to the Association. View "Conkey v. Sleepy Creek Forest Owners Association" on Justia Law

by
The first of these two consolidated cases involved a lawsuit filed by multiple individual plaintiffs against defendant coal companies alleging that Defendants’ mining activities had contaminated Plaintiffs’ well water with lead and arsenic. The jury returned verdicts for Defendants. During the course of the underlying litigation, Plaintiffs invoked the water replacement provisions of the West Virginia Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Act, W. Va. Code 22-3-1 et seq. The circuit court issued a preliminary injunction requiring Defendants to provide replacement water until liability for the well water contamination had been established. After the jury rendered its verdicts, Defendants requested that the circuit court dissolve the injunction. The circuit court refused to dissolve the injunction while the matter was pending on appeal. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the circuit court’s ruling refusing Plaintiffs’ motion to set aside the jury verdicts and for a new trial, holding that there was no error requiring reversal; and (2) reversed the circuit court’s ruling refusing to dissolve the preliminary injunction, holding that the injunction should have been dissolved. However, because during the pendency of the instant appeal Defendants failed to comply with the injunction, this case must be remanded for the parties to address that issue. View "Belcher v. Dynamic Energy, Inc." on Justia Law