Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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Appellant Wild Meadows MHC, LLC challenged the Superior Court’s dismissal of its petition for a writ of prohibition. The Wild Meadows manufactured home community (the “Community”) owned by Appellant, was located in Dover, Delaware. The Community was governed by the Manufactured Home Owners and Community Owners Act and its subsection commonly known as the Rent Justification Act (the “Act”). Appellee Intervenor/Respondent Wild Meadows Homeowners’ Association (the “HOA”) represented these homeowners. Multiple homeowners rejected Wild Meadows’ rent increase and, through the HOA, filed a petition with the Delaware Manufactured Home Relocation Authority (the “Authority”). The Authority appointed Appellee David J. Weidman, Esquire as the arbitrator under the Act. Before the scheduled arbitration, the HOA requested financial information from Wild Meadows relating to the Community’s recent revenue and costs. Wild Meadows refused to provide this information. The HOA moved to compel discovery and a motion for summary judgment with Weidman. In his initial decision, Weidman granted discovery of any financial documents that Wild Meadows intended to rely upon at arbitration, but he denied the HOA’s motion to compel the production of additional financial documents from Wild Meadows. Determining he could compel discover, Weidman ordered Wild Meadows to submit a proposed confidentiality agreement, and ordered the HOA to submit any comments on the draft. After taking both parties' comments into consideration, Weidman issued a final confidentiality agreement, rejecting many of the changes the HOA proposed. Wild Meadows refused to sign the confidentiality agreement and filed the underlying application for a writ of prohibition in the Superior Court. Wild Meadows argued to the Delaware Supreme Court that the Superior Court erroneously held that the arbitrator appointed under Delaware’s Rent Justification Act had authority to compel discovery and impose a confidentiality agreement upon parties concerning discovery material. Finding no reversible error in the Superior Court's judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Wild Meadows MHC, LLC v. Weidman" on Justia Law

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Daniel and Indiana Cabatit entered into a solar power lease agreement (the agreement) with Sunnova Energy Corporation. After a solar power system was installed on the Cabatits’ residence, the Cabatits sued Sunnova, alleging damage to their roof. Sunnova moved to compel arbitration based on an arbitration clause in the agreement, but the trial court found the arbitration clause unconscionable and denied the motion. On appeal, Sunnova contended: (1) the arbitration clause required the Cabatits to submit to an arbitrator the question whether the clause was enforceable; (2) the trial court erred in finding the arbitration clause unconscionable, and (3) despite the trial court’s conclusion to the contrary, the rule announced in McGill v. Citibank, N.A. 2 Cal.5th 945 (2017), did not apply to the circumstances of this case. The Court of Appeal determined: (1) Sunnova did not raise at trial the issue of whether the arbitration clause was itself had to be decided by an arbitration, thus not addressed on appeal; (2) the arbitration clause was procedurally and substantively unconscionable and therefore unenforceable, and (3) the Court did not consider whether the McGill rule applied here because general considerations of unconscionability, independent of the McGill rule, supported the trial court’s determination. Thus, the Court affirmed the trial court's denial of Sunnova's motion to compel arbitration. View "Cabatit v. Sunnova Energy Corporation" on Justia Law

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In 2005, U.S. Home Corporation entered into a contract to purchase two contiguous tracts of land, one of which was owned by West Pleasant-CPGT, Inc. Under the contract, West Pleasant and the other landowner were to gain certain approvals permitting development of the properties. Pursuant to the contract, U.S. Home paid advances to the landowners totaling over $1.5 million. As security for the advances, West Pleasant executed a mortgage and note on its property; the other landowner did not. When a contract dispute arose in 2006, U.S. Home sought to terminate the contract and get a return of its total advance. U.S. Home prevailed in arbitration and was awarded a judgment in the full amount of the advance, plus interest. The Appellate Division affirmed the judgment in 2009. When the judgment was not satisfied, U.S. Home commenced foreclosure actions against the properties. The foreclosure proceedings were stayed when West Pleasant and the other property owner filed for bankruptcy. In West Pleasant’s bankruptcy action, U.S. Home moved to dismiss and for relief from the automatic stay. West Pleasant and U.S. Home executed a Consent Order, in which West Pleasant dismissed its bankruptcy proceeding, waived a fair market valuation and its right to object to a sheriff’s sale of its property, and released U.S. Home from any claims in law or equity. U.S. Home never proceeded with any deficiency action against either landowner. Nonetheless, the landowners commenced the affirmative litigation that gave rise to this appeal, seeking a declaration that the arbitration award was fully satisfied, as well as compensation “in the amount of the excess fair market value of the properties obtained by defendant[] U.S. Home over the amount of its outstanding judgment.” The second property owner then assigned its rights to West Pleasant. After trial, the court valued the second property as worth almost $2.4 million and West Pleasant’s property as worth almost $2 million. The court ordered U.S. Home to pay the fair market value of the West Pleasant property, plus interest, and extinguished the arbitration award on the second property. On appeal, the Appellate Division determined that West Pleasant had waived its right to a fair market valuation on its property but that it was owed a fair market value credit for the second property. The Appellate Division remanded the matter to the trial court for recalculation of damages. The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed, finding use of fair market value credit by this debtor to obtain a money judgment against a creditor, in the absence of a deficiency claim threatened or pursued or any objection being raised at the time of the sheriff’s sales, was "inconsistent with sound foreclosure processes and, moreover, inequitable in the circumstances presented." The judgment of the Appellate Division was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "West Pleasant-CPGT, Inc. v. U.S. Home Corporation" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the judgment of the circuit court granting Defendants' motion to compel arbitration of Plaintiff's complaint against a partnership and a partner after concluding that Plaintiff's claims arose out of the agreement founding the partnership, signed by Plaintiff, that contained an arbitration clause, holding that the claims in Plaintiff's complaint were not subject to the arbitration clause in the partnership agreement.Plaintiff, a founding partner of the partnership, brought claims alleging conversion, fraudulent conversion, and punitive damages. The lower courts concluded that Plaintiff's claims arose out of the partnership agreement, and therefore the arbitration clause applied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because Defendants failed to initiate arbitration pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. 658A-9 before filing a motion to compel arbitration and because the arbitration clause did not encompass Plaintiff's claims for conversion, the ICA erred in affirming the circuit court's order granting Defendants' motion to compel arbitration. View "Yamamoto v. Chee" on Justia Law

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After the condominium association sued the developer alleging construction defects, the association began arbitration without obtaining a vote of its members. However, the association's governing documents required arbitration of such disputes and a vote of at least 51 percent of the association's membership prior to beginning arbitration. The members later overwhelmingly voted to pursue the arbitration, but the arbitrator dismissed the arbitration for lack of a membership vote prior to its commencement.The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's confirmation of the award and entry of judgment for the developer. The court disagreed with Branches Neighborhood Corp. v. CalAtlantic Group, Inc. (2018) 26 Cal.App.5th 743, which held that unless the association has obtained approval by a vote of at least 51 percent of its members prior to beginning arbitration, it has forever forfeited its right to pursue its claims in any forum in spite of an overwhelming ratifying vote. The court stated that this interpretation directly violates the public policy expressed in Code of Civil Procedure section 1286.2, subdivision (a)(4).In this case, the court held that the language of section 7.01B of the covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&R's) violates explicit legislative expressions of public policy. Furthermore, the Legislature has also determined that provisions such as section 7.01B are unconscionable. The court stated that Senate Bill No. 326 bars the use of provisions such as section 7.01B as a defense for developers against claims of condominium associations. View "Dos Vientos v. CalAtlantic Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the circuit court refusing to enforce an arbitration agreement, holding that individuals may agree to arbitrate a dispute regarding a cloud on the title to real estate.Plaintiff and Defendant entered into a contract whereby Plaintiff would convey almost 1,000 acres of mineral interests to Defendant. The contract contained an arbitration clause requiring the parties to refer any dispute about the parties' performance of the contract to arbitration. Later, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant seeking, inter alia, a declaratory judgment to determine whether a cloud on the title to the mineral interests existed. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss and to compel the parties to arbitrate. The circuit court refused the motion, finding that Plaintiff's claims fell outside the scope of the arbitration clause because, as a matter of public policy, property rights are not subject to arbitration. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) parties may agree to submit to arbitration questions concerning clouds on the title to any estate, right, or interest in real property despite W. Va. Code 51-2-2(d) vesting circuit courts with jurisdiction to resolve those questions; and (2) there was an, enforceable agreement to arbitrate here, and the parties' controversy fell within the scope of that arbitration agreement. View "Golden Eagle Resources,II, LLC v. Willow Run Energy, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this lawsuit filed by the purchasers of a home against the sellers the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court vacating an arbitration award entered in favor of Sellers and remanded with directions to confirm the arbitration award, holding that the district court erred by finding that arbitration provision in the purchase agreement was unenforceable, vacating the award, and failing to confirm the award.In this action, Purchasers alleged that several defects in the home they purchased had been concealed by Sellers. An arbitrator issued an award in favor of Sellers, finding that no credible evidence supported any of Purchasers' claims. Purchasers filed an application to vacate the arbitration award, and Sellers filed a motion seeking judicial confirmation of the award. The district court entered an order finding the arbitration void and vacating the award, holding that the arbitration provision in the purchase agreement was unenforceable under Nebraska's Uniform Arbitration Act. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court should have confirmed the arbitration award pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-2612. View "Garlock v. 3DS Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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A condominium association, Dakota Station II Condominium, filed two claims with its insurer, Owners Insurance Company, for weather damage. The parties couldn’t agree on the money owed, so Dakota invoked the appraisal provision of its insurance policy. The parties each selected an appraiser, putting the rest of the provision’s terms into motion. Ultimately, the appraisers submitted conflicting value estimates to an umpire, and the umpire issued a final award, accepting some estimates from each appraiser. Dakota’s appraiser signed onto the award, and Owners paid Dakota. Owners later moved to vacate the award, arguing that Dakota’s appraiser was not “impartial” as required by the insurance policy’s appraisal provision and that she failed to disclose material facts. The trial court disagreed and “dismissed” the motion to vacate. A division of the court of appeals affirmed. In its review, the Colorado Supreme Court interpreted the policy’s impartiality requirement and determined whether a contingent-cap fee agreement between Dakota and its appraiser rendered the appraiser partial as a matter of law. The Court concluded the plain language of the policy required appraisers to be unbiased, disinterested, and unswayed by personal interest, and the contingent-cap fee agreement didn’t render Dakota’s appraiser partial as a matter of law. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals with respect to the contingent-cap fee agreement, reversed with respect to the impartiality requirement, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Owners Ins. v. Dakota Station II Condo. Ass'n" on Justia Law

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Real Estate of the Pacific, Inc., doing business as Pacific Sotheby's International Realty (Sotheby's), David Schroedl, and David Schroedl & Associates (DSA) (collectively, Defendants) successfully moved for summary judgment against Daniel Ryan and Patricia Ryan, individually and as trustees of the Ryan Family Trust Dated August 25, 2006 (the Ryans). This matter arose over the sale of the Ryans' house in La Jolla. During an open house hosted by Schroedl, the Ryans' next door neighbor, Hany Girgis, informed Schroedl that he intended to remodel his home, which would permanently obstruct the Property's westerly ocean view. Ney and Luciana Marinho (the Marinhos) purchased the Property for $3.86 million. Defendants received $96,5000 at the close of escrow as their commission for the sale. At no time prior or during escrow, in the real estate disclosures, or in conversation, did Defendants disclose Girgis's extensive remodeling plans or their impact on the westerly ocean view and privacy of the Property. After learning this information, the Marinhos immediately attempted to rescind the real estate sales contract for several reasons, including the magnitude and scope of the Girgis remodel, the proximity of the new structure to the property line, the loss of privacy, the elimination of any possibility of a westerly ocean view, and a potential two-year construction project. The Ryans, based in part on Defendants' advice, refused to rescind the purchase real estate sales contract. The Marinhos then demanded arbitration per the terms of the real estate sales contract and sought rescission of the contract or, in the alternative, damages. The Marinhos alleged Defendants knew about Girgis's construction plans and failed to disclose this information. The Ryans sued Defendants for negligence. The crux of Defendants' argument was that the Ryans could not establish the existence of any cause of action without an expert witness. Because the Ryans did not designate an expert witness, Defendants argued summary judgment was warranted. The superior court agreed, granting Defendants' motion. The Ryans appealed the judgment following Defendants' successful motion, contending they did not need an expert witness to establish the elements of their causes of action against Defendants. The Court of Appeal agreed and reversed the judgment. View "Ryan v. Real Estate of the Pacific" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Grand Summit Hotel Condominium Unit Owners’ Association (Association), filed claims against defendant L.B.O. Holding, Inc. d/b/a Attitash Mountain Resort (Attitash), arising from Attitash’s alleged failure to maintain a cooling tower at the Grand Summit Hotel and Conference Center (Condominium) in Bartlett. Attitash moved to dismiss the Association’s claims, arguing that they were barred by a provision, which required arbitration of certain disputes, in a management agreement between the parties. The trial court denied Attitash’s motion to dismiss, ruling that the Association’s claims fell outside of the scope of the provision. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "Grand Summit Hotel Condominium Unit Owners' Association v. L.B.O. Holding, Inc.. d/b/a Attitash Mountain Resort" on Justia Law