Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
Berger, et al. v. Sellers, et al.
Darren and Tamara Berger (“Bergers”) appealed a judgment dismissing their claims of violation of a planned unit development (PUD), breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, private nuisance, and negligence against their neighbors Jason and Krysta Sellers (“Sellers”), Sellers’ homebuilder Jordan Anderson and Big River Builders, Inc. (together, “Builder”), and the Misty Waters Owners’ Association (“Association”). Sellers and Builder cross-appealed the judgment dismissing their claims of defamation, interference with contract and business, and negligence against Bergers and neighbor Jeff Carlson. The central issue in this case was whether the PUD minimum setback from the bay could be changed by obtaining a new Letter of Map Revision (LOMR) from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) without an amendment to the PUD. To this, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the PUD unambiguously set the minimum setback from the bay as the contour line in the 2005 LOMR-F and therefore Sellers’ home violated the PUD. The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment on Bergers’ claims against Sellers for violation of the PUD, breach of restrictive covenants, negligence (drainage), and private nuisance (setbacks). The Court remanded with instructions to grant Bergers partial summary judgment on their claims against Sellers for violation of the PUD and breach of restrictive covenants and for declaratory relief (against Sellers) as requested in their motion for partial summary judgment. The Court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment on Bergers’ claims against the Association for breach of fiduciary duty and negligence. The Court affirmed the court’s grant of summary judgment on all of Bergers’ claims against Builder, namely the PUD violation, breach of restrictive covenants, and negligence. The Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment on Bergers’ claims against the Association for breach of restrictive covenants and private nuisance. The Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment on all of Sellers’ and Builder’s claims. View "Berger, et al. v. Sellers, et al." on Justia Law
Hagen v. N.D. Insurance Reserve Fund
Lance Hagen filed a public records request related to a condemnation case he was a party to involving the City of Lincoln and North Dakota Insurance Reserve Fund (“NDIRF”). Hagen sought to determine how the City of Lincoln and NDIRF spent approximately $1.1 million dollars on litigation costs defending the action. NDIRF did not produce all requested records, and the parties sought relief from the district court. Hagen appealed the district court’s judgment that concluded certain documents belonging to NDIRF were exempt from release under the potential liability exception outlined in N.D.C.C. § 44-04-19.1(8). Hagen argued the court abused its discretion by finding NDIRF itself faced potential liability because its members could face potential liability, and because the court discussed the fiscal effect of a disclosure on NDIRF, which Hagen argued exceeded the scope of the North Dakota Supreme Court’s remand order in Hagen v. North Dakota Insurance Reserve Fund, 971 N.W.2d 833. Because the Supreme Court concluded the potential liability exception under N.D.C.C. § 44-04-19.1(8) did not apply to any of the documents determined by the district court to be exempt, the Court reversed. View "Hagen v. N.D. Insurance Reserve Fund" on Justia Law
Senske Rentals, et al. v. City of Grand Forks
Senske Rentals, LLC, appeals a district court’s order affirming the City of Grand Forks Special Assessment Commission’s decision to specially assess property for street improvements. Senske argues the Special Assessment Commission acted in an arbitrary, capricious, and legally unreasonable manner by failing to comply with the requirements of N.D.C.C. § 40-23-07 to determine the assessment to its properties. Finding Senske has not met its burden to show the assessments were invalid or that the Commission failed to comply with the statutory requirements under N.D.C.C. § 40-23-07, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Senske Rentals, et al. v. City of Grand Forks" on Justia Law
Northwest Landowners Association v. State, et al.
Northwest Landowners Association filed suit to challenge the constitutionality of North Dakota Senate Bill 2344, which related to subsurface pore space. The district court granted the Association’s cross-motion for summary judgment, concluding S.B. 2344 was unconstitutional under the state and federal takings clauses. The State and Continental Resources appealed the district court’s summary judgment order and amended judgment. On appeal, the State argued S.B. 2344 did not violate the takings clauses and did not constitute an unconstitutional gift, and that the district court misapplied N.D.R. Civ.P. 56 by failing to consider evidence submitted by the State. Continental Resources argued the court erred in analyzing the Association’s facial challenge, in determining pore space had value as a matter of law, and in denying Rule 56(f) discovery. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in invalidating the entirety of S.B. 2344. The trial court’s judgment was affirmed to the extent that it declared certain portions unconstitutional, but reversed to the extent it declared the remainder of the bill inseparable and invalid. View "Northwest Landowners Association v. State, et al." on Justia Law
Lovro v. City of Finley
Elton Lovro appealed a judgment dismissing his complaint with prejudice after the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the City of Finley (“City”). Lovro owned a house and property in Finley, Steele County, North Dakota. In March 2020, the City’s water line connected to the curb stop leading to Lovro’s home broke. Water flowed onto the property, damaging Lovro’s driveway and basement. Lovro sued the City for negligence and gross negligence, alleging the damages were caused by the City’s failure to properly operate, maintain, repair, and inspect their water system. Lovro also sued the City for breach of contract based on the City’s failure to properly and safely deliver water to his home. The City responded by denying the allegations that it was negligent, grossly negligent or that its acts or omissions caused the damages. The City denied the existence of any contractual relationship between Lovro and the City. The City affirmatively alleged that it was immune from suit under chapter 32-12.1 of the North Dakota Century Code. Lovro argues the district court erred in granting summary judgment dismissing his claims because the ruling was premature and discovery was still ongoing. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Lovro v. City of Finley" on Justia Law
City of West Fargo v. McAllister
Mark McAllister appealed an amended judgment of condemnation that ultimately allowed the City of West Fargo to use its eminent domain power to acquire a right of way across his property. After review of the district court record, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in holding West Fargo was authorized to use quick-take eminent domain procedures for its sewage improvement project. Furthermore, the Court concluded the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting West Fargo’s motion in limine to exclude testimony from trial that the taking impacted McAllister’s property’s conformance with the city’s setback requirements. View "City of West Fargo v. McAllister" on Justia Law
Sauvageau, et al. v. Bailey, et al.
Brenda and Gene Sauvageau petitioned the North Dakota Supreme Court to exercise its original jurisdiction and issue a writ of supervision directing the district court to stop the Cass County Joint Water Resource District from using quick take eminent domain to acquire their property. The Sauvageaus claimed the District was prohibited from using quick take eminent domain to acquire a permanent right of way easement over their entire property. The Supreme Court concluded the quick take process was not available because the District is taking more than a right of way in the Sauvageaus’ property. The Court granted the Sauvageaus’ petition, directed the district court to vacate its order denying the Sauvageaus’ motion to dismiss the District’s complaint and remanded for further proceedings. View "Sauvageau, et al. v. Bailey, et al." on Justia Law
Divide County v. Stateline Service, et al.
Divide County, North Dakota appealed judgments dismissing its complaints against Stateline Services, Inc., Power Energy Logistics, LLC, and five individuals (collectively, “Defendants”), which alleged they operated overweight vehicles on restricted roads. In 2019, Divide County imposed certain weight restrictions on county and township roads due to wet conditions. Truck drivers for Stateline Services and Power Energy Logistics were pulled over on township roads and cited for operating overweight vehicles. The County filed this civil action against the Defendants for statutory damages under N.D.C.C. 39-12- 17. After a bench trial, the district court dismissed the complaints, concluding the County failed to provide sufficient public notice of the weight restrictions through a uniform county permit system, and failed to erect and maintain signs at each end of the highway. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Divide County v. Stateline Service, et al." on Justia Law
Armstrong v. Helms
Phillip Armstrong appealed a judgment dismissing his amended complaint. The district court granted dismissal of the amended complaint after finding Armstrong had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. In 1996, Armstrong filed a surety bond with the North Dakota Industrial Commission when he became the operator of several oil wells on private land. In 2001, Armstrong also began operating wells on federal lands. Armstrong was engaged with federal authorities in formulating a reclamation plan for the federal lands. The wells were not producing oil, and Armstrong requested a release of his surety bond filed with the Commission. The Commission conditioned the release of the bond on Armstrong performing a geoprobe assessment of the wells, which Armstrong refused. Armstrong thereafter filed a complaint in the district court seeking release of his bond. The court ultimately concluded Armstrong's claims were barred by his failure to exhaust his administrative remedies, rejected Armstrong’s argument state law did not apply because of federal preemption, and entered a judgment dismissing the action. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded federal regulations did not preempt the application of N.D.C.C. ch. 38-08, Armstrong failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, and the court properly dismissed the action. View "Armstrong v. Helms" on Justia Law
City of West Fargo v. McAllister, et al.
In August 2017, the City of West Fargo passed a resolution determining it was necessary to construct a sewer improvement project. The project consisted of the design and installation of two sewer pipes between West Fargo and Fargo. To complete the project, West Fargo had to acquire a right of way across certain private property, including Mark McAllister’s. McAllister appealed a judgment allowing the City of West Fargo to use its quick-take eminent domain power to acquire a right of way across his property. Because the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court inappropriately granted the N.D.R.Civ.P. 54(b) order certifying the judgment as final, it dismissed the appeal. View "City of West Fargo v. McAllister, et al." on Justia Law