Justia U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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This appeal grew out of a battle over Winter, a horse that belonged to Summer Colby. Colby and her mother grew estranged and argued over who owned Winter. The mother allegedly complained to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, which responded by sending someone from the Brand Inspection Division to investigate. After investigating, the inspector seized the horse, prompting Colby and her mother to take the matter to court over ownership. After almost three years, Colby prevailed and got her horse back. When the horse was returned to Colby, she and her husband sued the Division and two of its officers, but the district court dismissed the action. The Colbys appealed, raising issues involving the Eleventh Amendment and the statute of limitations. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that the district court properly dismissed all of the claims. View "Colby v. Herrick" on Justia Law

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The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes jointly inhabited the Wind River Reservation. The State of Wyoming and the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation challenged a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency granting the Tribes’ application for joint authority to administer certain non-regulatory programs under the Clean Air Act on the Reservation. As part of their application, the Tribes were required to show they possessed jurisdiction over the relevant land. The Tribes described the boundaries of the Wind River Reservation and asserted that most of the land within the original 1868 boundaries fell within their jurisdiction. Wyoming and others submitted comments to the EPA arguing the Reservation had been diminished in 1905 by act of Congress, and that some land described in the application was no longer within tribal jurisdiction. After review, the EPA determined the Reservation had not been diminished in 1905 and the Tribes retained jurisdiction over the land at issue. Because the EPA decided the Tribes otherwise satisfied Clean Air Act program requirements, it granted their application. The issue this case presented for the Tenth Circuit's review was whether Congress diminished the boundaries of the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming in 1905. the Court found that it did. The Court therefore granted Wyoming's petition for review, vacated the EPA's order and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "State of Wyoming v. Environ. Protect. Ag'y" on Justia Law

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Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company (“Philadelphia”) and Lexington Insurance Company (“Lexington”) insured the same school building that suffered fire damage. In a declaratory judgment action, they disputed their relative responsibilities to pay for the loss. The district court ordered Philadelphia to pay 54 percent and Lexington to pay 46 percent of the approximately $6 million loss. Lexington appealed, arguing it should have no obligation to pay. Philadelphia cross-appealed, arguing Lexington should have paid more. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's allocation between the insurers. View "Philadelphia Indemnity v. Lexington Insurance" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose out of a property damage claim filed by the Hayes Family Trust with its insurer, State Farm Fire & Casualty. When the parties could not agree on the amount of loss, Hayes invoked an appraisal process provided by the policy to calculate the loss incurred. After Hayes sought the district court's assistance with the appointment of an umpire, the parties participated in the appraisal process, which resulted in a unanimous award. State Farm paid the balance of that award, and Hayes accepted payment. But despite State Farm's payment, at Hayes's request, the district court confirmed the award and entered judgment in favor of Hayes. Hayes promptly moved for an award of prejudgment interest, attorney's fees, and costs under a prevailing party statute. In response, State Farm moved to vacate or amend the judgment. Finding that the parties settled any dispute over the amount of loss, the court agreed with State Farm and vacated its order confirming the appraisal award and the judgment. Hayes appealed the order vacating judgment in an attempt to recover prejudgment interest, fees, and costs. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "In re: Hayes Family Trust" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a group of entities and individuals that owned businesses or real property located on Central Avenue in Albuquerque, New Mexico, filed suit seeking to enjoin the City of Albuquerque from proceeding with construction of a rapid transit bus system along Central Avenue. Plaintiffs claimed, in pertinent part, that the City and the Federal Transit Administration (from whom the City sought federal funding for the project), violated the National Environmental Policy Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act, in the course of planning the project. The district court denied plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction. Plaintiffs filed an interlocutory appeal challenging that ruling. Finding no reversible error, however, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Coalition of Concerned Citizen v. Federal Transit" on Justia Law

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Two years ago, Entek GRB, LLC appealed a district court decision holding that it could not cross Stull Ranches' surface estate to access minerals lying under other estates in the same unitized area. Stull defended the district court’s decision on two grounds: (1) the doctrine of issue preclusion mandated the result; and (2) the district court’s judgment was decided on the merits because nothing in the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA) permitted Entek the access it sought. In reviewing Entek's appeal, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected both arguments and returned the matter to the district court. Eventually, the district court entered judgment in favor of Entek, and on the second appeal, Stull asked the Tenth Circuit to reconsider essentially the same issues raised in the first appeal. The Tenth Circuit remained unmoved and affirmed judgment in favor of Entek: "[U]nder this circuit’s law of the case doctrine, '[a] legal decision made at one stage of litigation, unchallenged in a subsequent appeal when the opportunity to do so existed, [generally] becomes the law of the case.'" View "Entek GRB v. Stull Ranches" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Hardscrabble Ranch, L.L.C. appeals from the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the government. Hardscrabble sued the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act in connection with the Forest Service’s response to the Sand Gulch Fire, which damaged Hardscrabble’s land. On April 26, 2011, lightning ignited a wildfire in the Wet Mountains of Colorado, in a remote area of the San Carlos Ranger District in the Pike and San Isabel National Forests, and the Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands. When the United States Forest Service (USFS) responded, the fire was still small and could have been extinguished then and there. The USFS instead instituted a partial suppression strategy, with the twin goals of allowing the fire to continue burning on Forest Service land while at the same time containing the fire from spreading onto private property, which bordered about half a mile to the east. High winds in advance of a snow storm caused the fire to jump the containment lines the USFS had created, and the fire grew from covering 25–30 acres to a size of more than 200 acres. The USFS changed to a full suppression strategy. That evening the predicted snow came and partially smothered the fire. By the time the fire was declared fully contained several days later, it had burned 496 acres, 154 of which were owned by Hardscrabble Ranch. Hardscrabble contends that the USFS failed to follow numerous policies, regulations, and protocols in its handling of the fire, and that as a result the government was responsible for the harm caused to the Ranch. The district court held that the discretionary function exception to the FTCA barred jurisdiction. Finding no error with that judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Hardscrabble Ranch v. United States" on Justia Law

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Richard and Gwen Dutcher and their co-plaintiffs (collectively, “plaintiffs”) brought suit in Utah state court on behalf of a putative plaintiff class against ReconTrust, a national bank that served as the substitute trustee for class members’ deeds of trust over properties located in Utah. The suit alleged that ReconTrust illegally non-judicially foreclosed on the plaintiffs’ properties because depository institutions like ReconTrust did not have the power of sale over properties secured by trust deed. The plaintiffs also sued B.A.C. Home Loans Servicing (“BAC”) and Bank of America, N.A. (“BOA”), as the former trustees who transferred trusteeship to ReconTrust, as well as Stuart Matheson and his law firm, as the agents who conducted the foreclosure sale on behalf of ReconTrust. ReconTrust and the other defendants removed the case to federal court. They maintained that ReconTrust’s acts were lawful. The district court denied a motion by plaintiffs to remand the case to state court and agreed with ReconTrust on the merits, which led the court to grant the defendants’ pending motion to dismiss. On appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, plaintiffs sought reversal of the court’s order denying remand to Utah state court, and reversal of the order granting dismissal of the case. The Tenth Circuit concluded, however, that the district court properly decided that it had jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”); accordingly, it correctly denied the plaintiffs’ motion for remand. On the merits, the Court concluded that ReconTrust was authorized to conduct the challenged foreclosures under federal law, and the plaintiffs had relatedly failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted. The Court therefore affirmed the district court’s judgment as to both issues. View "Dutcher v. Matheson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court’s denial of their request for a preliminary injunction to prevent the drilling of certain oil and gas wells in the Mancos Shale formation of the San Juan Basin in New Mexico. The district court concluded that Plaintiffs had failed to satisfy three of the four elements required to obtain a preliminary injunction: (1) Plaintiffs had not demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their claims; (2) the balance of harms weighed against Plaintiffs; and (3) Plaintiffs failed to show that the public interest favored an injunction. Finding no reversible error in the district court's denial, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Dine Citizens v. Jewell" on Justia Law

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The Court consolidated two cases in this opinion. Plaintiffs in both cases complained they were denied due process when the Board of County Commissioners of Elbert County (the Board) required them to rezone their properties before they could subdivide them. They argued that after the Board lost the documents reflecting the prior comprehensive zoning ordinance, it created new documents without following proper procedures for enacting an ordinance and covered up their misconduct. "Perhaps these allegations state a claim under Colorado law." After review, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals found that were not deprived of their right to due process under the United States Constitution. View "Onyx Properties v. Elbert Board of County Commissioners" on Justia Law