Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed in substantial part the district court’s judgment dismissing US Bank’s complaint against HLC Escrow, Inc. and First American Title Insurance Company, vacating only its dismissal of US Bank’s claim against First American alleging violation of Maine’s Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act (USCPA), which the First Circuit concluded was timely filed. US Bank, the current holder of a 2007 mortgage that incorrectly identified a parcel of unimproved land rather than the correct parcel of improved land that encompassed the mortgagors’ residence, sued the closing agent and the title insurer in 2016. The complaint included causes of action for negligence and “duty of care” against HLC Escrow, and negligence, unilateral mistake, and violation of USCPA against First American. The district court dismissed the complaint in its entirety, concluding that Maine’s six-year statute of limitations for civil actions barred US Bank’s claims. The First Circuit vacated the dismissal with respect to US Bank’s USCPA claim against First American and otherwise affirmed, holding that the USCPA claim was timely for statute of limitations purposes but that the remainder of US Bank’s claims were untimely filed. View "US Bank, N.A. v. HLC Escrow, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In this appeal from a forfeiture order, the First Circuit held that the district court did not abridge Defendant’s procedural rights and that the district court applied an appropriate yardstick in measuring the proceeds of Defendant’s criminal activity to be forfeited. Defendant, a corrupt politician, was convicted of embezzlement from an organization receiving federal funds. The First Circuit affirmed the conviction and sentence but vacated the district court’s forfeiture order. On remand, the district court ordered Defendant to forfeit the “proceeds” of his criminal activity in the amount of $1,382,214. On appeal, Defendant argued, in part, that he had a right to allocate before the district court upon remand and a right to be present when the district court reentered the forfeiture order. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Defendant’s right to allocate was satisfied at the initial sentencing hearing, and Defendant waived any right to be present that may have existed when the district court re-entered the forfeiture order; and (2) the management fees that formed the basis for the forfeiture award constituted “proceeds” of the offenses of conviction. View "United States v. George" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s order dismissing a suit that challenged the lawfulness of a 2012 foreclosure sale of a Massachusetts home. In their complaint, Plaintiffs, who formerly owned the property at issue, alleged that Defendants - OneWest Bank, Indymac Mortgage Services, Ocwen Servicing, and the Federal National Mortgage Association - had engaged in unfair and predatory mortgage lending and loan servicing practices. The complaint set forth nine claims. The district court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss all of the claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in (1) dismissing three claims for which Plaintiffs sought a judgment declaring that the foreclosure sale was void; (2) dismissing for lack of standing the claim in which Plaintiffs sought to quiet title; (3) dismissing the claim for breach of the duty of good faith and reasonable diligence on the basis that there was no such duty; and (4) dismissing Plaintiffs’ remaining claims. View "Flores v. OneWest Bank, F.S.B." on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit reversed the denial of Plaintiff’s motion to vacate and order dismissing his lawsuit against Defendants in which Plaintiff alleged a variety of state law violations in connection with a foreclosure action against a property he owned in Nantucket, Massachusetts. The district court, sua sponte, dismissed Plaintiff’s suit for failure to prosecute after Plaintiff’s counsel failed to appear at a motion hearing. Plaintiff’s counsel subsequently filed a motion for relief from the district court order dismissing the case, citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) and claiming “mistake, inadvertence, carelessness or excusable neglect.” The district court denied the motion without prejudice. Plaintiff then refiled the motion, but the district court denied it without any further explanation. The First Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of Plaintiff’s motion to vacate the prior order dismissing his case and vacated the order dismissing his case, holding that, where Plaintiff provided the district court with an innocent and undisputed reason for counsel’s absence, dismissal with prejudice was too harsh given the circumstances. View "Keane v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A." on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed the district judge’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s eight-count complaint. Plaintiff filed his complaint in state court against the servicers, holders, and assignees of his mortgage loan. Relevant to this appeal was count one, a claim predicated on the Massachusetts Predatory Home Loan Practices Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 183C. The matter was removed to federal court, which dismissed the complaint in its entirety. The First Circuit held (1) Plaintiff’s chapter 183C was time-barred, and Plaintiff presented no reason to toll the applicable statute of limitations; and (2) the trial justice did not err in denying Plaintiff leave to amend his complaint because the amended complaint would fail to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. View "Rife v. One West Bank, F.S.B." on Justia Law

by
In this action seeking to, among other things, quiet title to certain property, the district court did not err in granting judgment on the pleadings in favor of Defendants. After he was informed that his loan secured by a mortgage on his Massachusetts property was in default, Plaintiff sued Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC and US Bank, N.A. (collectively, Defendants), seeking unclouded title to the property, an injunction against foreclosure, and damages. The district court granted Defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings and dismissed all counts of Plaintiff’s complaint. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Defendants were entitled to judgment on the pleadings because Defendant failed to plead any set of facts that would entitle him to relief. View "Rezende v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit summarily affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims that HSBC could not foreclose on their property under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 244, 14 and that the mortgage encumbering their property was obsolete by operation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, 33. Plaintiffs borrowed money from a lender to purchase property. Plaintiffs executed a promissory note and mortgage identifying Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS) as the mortgagee. MERS later assigned the mortgage to HSBC Bank USA, N.A. After Plaintiffs defaulted on their loan HSBC provided notice of a foreclosure sale. Plaintiffs sued HSBC and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., the mortgage servicer, to enjoin the sale. The district court denied Plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction and granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The First Circuit agreed that Plaintiffs failed to state a claim, substantially for the reasons articulated by the district court. View "Hayden v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A." on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court and remanded this case involving the ownership of the Touro Synagogue building and associated land and rimonim used in the worship in the Touro Synagogue. Congregation Jeshuat Isreal (CJI) brought a declaratory judgment against Congregation Shearith Israel (CSI), and CSI counterclaimed. The district court concluded that CJI was owner of the rimonim and that CSI was owner of the building and real estate subject to a trust for CJI as representing the practitioners of Judaism in Newport, Rhode Island. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the only reasonable conclusions to be drawn from the parties’ own agreements determining property rights by instruments customarily considered by civil courts are that CSI owns both the rimonim and the real property free of any trust or other obligations to CJI except as lessor to CJI as holdover lessee. View "Congregation Jeshuat Israel v. Congregation Shearith Israel" on Justia Law

by
The Penobscot Nation filed suit against the state of Maine and certain state officials (collectively, the State Defendants) claiming rights to a sixty-mile stretch of the Penobscot River, known commonly as the Main Stem. The district court made two rulings on cross-motions for summary judgment, concluding (1) the Penobscot Indiana Reservation includes the islands of the Main Stem but not the waters of the Main Stem, and (2) Penobscot Nation was allowed to take fish for individual sustenance in the entirety of the Main Stem section of the river. The First Circuit affirmed the first ruling and vacated the second ruling on sustenance fishing and ordered dismissal, holding (1) the plain language of the definition of “Penobscot Indian Reservation” in the Maine Implementing Act and the Maine Indiana Claims Settlement Act includes the specified islands in the Main Stem but not the Main Stem itself; and (2) Plaintiffs’ second claim was not ripe, and, under the circumstances, the Nation lacked standing to pursue the claim. View "United States v. Mills" on Justia Law

by
Municipal ordinances banning coal combustion residuals from landfills were preempted by Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board’s approval of the disposal. AES Puerto Rico, a coal-fired power plant owner, claimed that two municipal (Humacao and Peñuelas) ordinances banning the approved handling of "coal combustion residuals" (CCRs) were preempted by federal and Commonwealth law and violated various provisions of the federal and Puerto Rico constitutions. The Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board (EQB) had authorized disposal of coal ash at the El Coquí and Peñuelas Valley landfills within those municipalities. The district court granted summary judgment for the municipalities on AES's federal claims and declined to exercise jurisdiction over the Commonwealth claims. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the local ordinances may not be enforced to the extent they directly conflict with Commonwealth law as promulgated by the EQB. View "AES Puerto Rico, L.P. v. Trujillo-Panisse" on Justia Law