Equine Activity Liability Releases: The Arizona Court of Appeals Finds “Release” of Trail Ride Operator Doesn’t Block Negligence Claim for Participant Riding Injury

By: Amanda Z. Weaver

For the first time in nearly twenty years, the Arizona Court of Appeals last week weighed in on Arizona’s equine activity liability statute, finding that a form signed by participants before a trail ride did not qualify as a “release” under the statute, and concluding that participants’ claims of negligence against the trail ride operators remained in the case.

In Gruver v. Wild Western Horseback Adventures, LLC, No. 1 CA-CV 20-0566 (Ariz. App. Aug. 17, 2021), two individuals participated in a trail ride after signing a “Visitor’s Acknowledgment of Risk,” which provided:

I assume full responsibility for personal injury to myself and/or to members of my family, or for loss or damage to my personal property and expenses thereof as a result of my negligence or the negligence of my family participating in said activity except to the extent such damage or injury may be due to the negligence of Red Rock Horseback Adv[.]… Read More »

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The Show Must Go On: Shuttered Venues Operators Grant Provides Lifeline for Live Music and Theater Venues

By: David Rao

Although it’s been a tough twelve months for many live music venues, movie theaters, and performing arts organizations, help may finally be around the corner. On December 27, 2020, the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act was signed into law, creating a $15 billion fund for grants to shuttered venues to be administered by the Small Business Administration’s (“SBA”) Office of Disaster Assistance. The law states that Shuttered Venues Operator Grants (“SVOGs”) will be made available to the following entities and individuals:

  1. Live venue operators or promoters;
  2. Theatrical producers;
  3. Live performing arts organization operators;
  4. Relevant museum operators, zoos, and aquariums which meet specific criteria;
  5. Movie theater operators;
  6. Talent representatives; and
  7. Each business entity owned by an eligible entity that also meets the eligibility requirements.
Read More »
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Woodbridge II and the Nuanced Meaning of “Adverse Use” in Hostile Property Rights Cases in Colorado

Earlier this year, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued an opinion addressing at length “whether the requirement that the use be ‘adverse’ in the adverse possession context is coextensive with adverse use in the prescriptive easement context.”  See Woodbridge Condo. Ass’n, Inc. v. Lo Viento Blanco, LLC, 2020 COA 34 (Woodbridge II), ¶ 2, cert. granted, No. 20SC292, 2020 WL 5405376 (Colo. Sept. 8, 2020).  As detailed below, the Woodbridge II court concluded that the meanings of “adverse” in these two contexts are not coextensive—while “hostility” in the adverse possession context requires a claim of exclusive ownership of the property, a party claiming a prescriptive easement is only required to “show a nonpermissive or otherwise unauthorized use of property that interfered with the owner’s property interests.” … Read More »

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A Landlord’s Guide to the Center for Disease Control’s Eviction Moratorium

By Colton Addy

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (the “CDC”) and the Department of Health and Human Services (the “HHS”) has issued an order to temporarily halt a landlord’s right to evict certain residential tenants to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 (the “CDC Order”). The CDC Order is effective through December 31, 2020.

Applicability of the CDC Order. The CDC Order does not apply in jurisdictions that have a moratorium on residential evictions in effect that provides the same or greater level of protection than the CDC Order, and the CDC Order permits local jurisdictions to continue to pass more restrictive eviction moratoriums.… Read More »

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Arizona, Meet RON!

By: Lauren Podgorski

Arizona passed Senate Bill 1030, which authorizes Arizona notaries to perform remote online notarizations, known as “RON.” RON becomes effective as of June 30, 2020.

 What is Remote Online Notarization (RON)?

Currently, a person must “personally appear before or be in the presence of” a notary public in order to have her signature or document notarized. RON provides that an Arizona notary public who is physically located in Arizona may notarize remotely, using communication technology for individuals located anywhere in the United States, and even outside of the United States subject to certain additional requirements. Now, with RON, communication technology satisfies the requirement to “personally appear before or be in the presence of” a notary public.… Read More »

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Vacation Rentals: Liability of the Owner for Injury Suffered by the Renter

By:  Kevin J. Parker

With the explosion of the “private” rental business wherein residential property owners rent their house or condo on a short-term basis to third-parties, certain legal issues have arisen with regard to the duties owed by the property owner to the renter.

 A recent Virginia Supreme Court case, Haynes-Garrett v. Dunn, 818 S.E.2d 798 (Va. 2018), addressed that issue. In that case, the property owners owned a rental house in Virginia Beach. The property was not the owners’ main residence, but rather a vacation home that was sometimes used by the owners, but mostly used as a rental.… Read More »

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“Bee” Careful: Unique Considerations When Negotiating a Bee Storage Lease Agreement

By: Colton Addy

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As demand for commercial bees used to pollinate crops (such as almond trees) has grown, so has the demand for facilities to store bees.  Entering a lease agreement for the storage of live bees presents some unique issues the parties need to consider when negotiating the lease agreement.

Don’t Bee Short-Sighted:  Bees are often transported to different areas depending on the time of year, which means bees are not stored in the same facility all year.  The lease agreement will often only provide for the storage of bees during the season when the bees are used for pollination in that particular area, but that does not mean the parties must limit the term of the lease agreement to a single season.  … Read More »

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Court Addresses HOA Attempt to Restrict Short Term Rentals

By:  Kevin J. Parker

In a recent case, the Texas Supreme Court addressed an attempt by a homeowners’ association (“HOA”) to restrict short-term rentals based upon recorded Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (“CC&Rs”) applicable to a residential subdivision. The property was a single-family home. The homeowner rented the home through websites such as VRBO. The HOA issued notices of violation; the homeowner kept renting; the HOA assessed fines against the property. The property owner then sought a declaration from the court that the CC&Rs did not impose a minimum duration on occupancy or leasing. The trial court agreed with the HOA.… Read More »

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Condemnation Actions: How Valuable Is Your Evidence of Property Value?

By: Erica Stutman


When a government condemns (takes) private property for a public use, the property owner is entitled to receive “just compensation” equal to the property’s market value. Value is typically determined by appraisals, but if the parties cannot agree, a judge or jury will determine the amount in a condemnation lawsuit. The parties may seek to present various forms of evidence of value, though it will be admissible only if the evidence is relevant and its value is not substantially outweighed by the risk of causing unfair prejudice, confusion, undue delay or waste of time, does not mislead the jury, and is not needlessly cumulative.… Read More »

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Arizona Court Determines Statute of Limitations Applicable to a Claim for Reformation of a Deed of Trust (and a Related Claim for Declaratory Judgment)

By:  Kevin J. Parker

In a recent Arizona Court of Appeals case, Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. v. Pheasant Grove LLC, 798 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 15 (August 23, 2018), the Court of Appeals addressed the question of what statute of limitations was applicable to a declaratory judgment claim.  In that case, a bank’s deed of trust inadvertently omitted one of the lots that was supposed to secure that bank’s loan.  The deed of trust should have covered lots 8 and 9, but by its terms covered only lot 8.  A different bank subsequently recorded a deed of trust that encumbered lot 9. … Read More »

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Cybersecurity on Your Project: Why Not Follow National Security Strategy?

By Rick Erickson

In its recent Cybersecurity Strategy, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defined “cyberspace” as “the independent network of information technology infrastructure, including the Internet, telecommunications networks, computers, information and communications systems, and embedded processors and controllers.”  To DHS, protecting cyberspace includes threats against “federal and nonfederal information systems.”  In other words, both private and public interests are at risk.  In his 2018 National Defense Strategy, U.S. Department of Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, essentially concurred in declaring cyberspace a “warfighting domain” and promising to “invest in cyber defense, resilience, and the continued integration of cyber capabilities into the full spectrum of military operations.”… Read More »

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Not so Fast! How Does Revoking Acceleration of a Note Impact the Statute of Limitations?

By: Ben Reeves


Lenders routinely accelerate notes after a default occurs, calling the entire loan due immediately. Less regularly, a lender may change its mind and unilaterally revoke the acceleration.  Rarely, however, does a lender fail to foreclose on its real property collateral before the statute of limitations expires.  In Andra R. Miller Designs, LLC v. U.S. Bank, N.A., 244 Ariz. 265, 418 P.3d 1038 (Ct. App. 2018), a unique set of facts involving these issues led the Arizona Court of Appeals to hold that proper revocation of acceleration resets the statute of limitations.

The Facts

In Miller, a lender made a $1,940,000 loan evidenced by a promissory note and secured by a deed of trust against a home in Paradise Valley, Arizona. … Read More »

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Developers Celebrate Arizona’s Opportunity Zones

By: Patrick J. Paul

President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by Congress in December included a new community development program designed to promote investment in low income urban and rural communities.  These “Opportunity Zones” provide that every Governor may nominate up to 25% of qualifying low-income Census tracts for consideration in the program which provides substantial reductions on capital gains taxes with the greatest benefits to those holding their investments for a period of at least 10 years.

States were required by March 21st to submit nominations or request a 30 day extension to subsequently submit.  The Treasury Department in turn has 30 days from the date of submission to designate the nominated zones. … Read More »

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Specific Performance of an Option Contract to Purchase Real Property is Barred Absent Agreement on All Material Terms

By:  Richard H. Herold

On November 14, 2017, the Court of Appeals (Division 1), in Offerman v. Granada, LLC, 2017 WL 5352664, reversed a trial court order directing specific performance of an alleged option to purchase real property, holding that the alleged option was too indefinite to be specifically performed because the parties did not agree to all of the material terms of the option.

Tenant-Purchaser Offerman executed a two-year lease with Landlord-Seller Granada, which granted Offerman “the option to purchase [the] property…for a sales price to be determined at that time by an independent appraiser acceptable to both Tenant and Landlord.… Read More »

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The Contributors to This Blog Are Pleased to Announce That….

Snell & Wilmer’s Real Estate Litigation Group, which provides the content for The Real Estate Litigation Blog, is pleased to announce that it has been recognized in both the national and metropolitan rankings by U.S. News Media Group and Best Lawyers for the 2018 edition of “Best Law Firms.”  We achieved the following rankings:

 •            National Tier 1: Litigation – Real Estate

•             Phoenix (AZ) Tier 1: Litigation – Real Estate

•             Utah Tier 1: Litigation – Real Estate

•             Colorado Tier 1: Litigation – Real Estate

•             Reno (NV) Tier 1: Litigation – Real Estate

•             Tucson (AZ) Tier 1: Litigation – Real Estate

The rankings are determined through an evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process.  Read More »

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Who says you can’t choose between liquidated damages or actual damages?

In Colorado, courts enforce liquidated damages provisions if three elements are satisfied: (1) the parties intended to liquidate damages; (2) the amount of liquidated damages was a reasonable estimate of the presumed actual damages caused by a breach; and (3) at the time of contracting, it was difficult to ascertain the amount of actual damages that would result from a breach. But what happens when a contract gives a party a right to choose between liquidated damages or actual damages? This seems troublesome because it allows a party to set the floor for their damages without limitation if actual damages exceed the contractual amount.… Read More »

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Arizona Court of Appeals Awards Attorneys’ Fees in Quiet-Title Action

In Arizona, a party successfully quieting title to property may recover its attorneys’ fees if it satisfies three requirements: (1) the party requests a quitclaim deed from the party adversely claiming title twenty days before bringing the quiet-title action; (2) the party tenders five dollars for the execution and delivery of the deed; and (3) the adverse party fails to comply. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 12-1103(B). Recently, in McCleary v. Tripodi, No. 2 CA-CV 2016-0145, 2017 WL 3723472 (Ariz. Ct. App. Aug. 29, 2017), the Arizona Court of Appeals awarded attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party under this statute.

In McCleary v.Read More »

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Pacing in Construction Scheduling Disputes

On a high level, construction delay litigation involves sorting out the impacts to the critical project path and determining which party is responsible for those impacts. One of the more difficult elements of this process is determining whether a delay would have occurred regardless of one party’s critical path impact due to a separate, independent impact to the critical path by the other party.  For example, a contractor cannot collect delay damages for delays caused by the owner if the contractor itself was causing independent impacts that would have pushed off the completion date anyway.

However, the concept of “pacing” provides a potential defense for a party who is not on pace with the as-planned schedule for noncritical activities, even where those activities are still ongoing after the planned completion date.… Read More »

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Nevada Supreme Court Clarifies the Litigation Waiver of the One-Action Rule

By Bob L. Olson 

Nevada has a one-action rule which, with limited exceptions, requires a creditor seeking to recover a debt secured by real property to proceed against the security first prior to seeking recovery from the debtor personally. In the event that a law suit is filed in violation of the one-action rule, final judgment may be entered in favor of the creditor but that judgment “releases and discharges the mortgage or other lien.”  NRS 40.455(3).  Nevada law further provides that, with the exception of certain guaranties, any provision in an agreement relating to the sale of real property which contains a waiver of Nevada’s anti-deficiency laws may not be enforced by a court because doing so violates Nevada’s public policy. … Read More »

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RICO Madness: The Nuisance of Owning and Operating a Marijuana Facility

By:  Bob Henry

On June 7, 2017, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Safe Streets Alliance, et al. v. Hickenlooper, et al., (No. 16-1048), an opinion that could open the doors to property use litigation involving marijuana facilities.   One of the issues in Safe Streets was whether a property owner can use the federal RICO statutory scheme to obtain relief arising out of a neighboring property owner using property for the cultivation of marijuana in a manner that causes an impact to the value, use, and enjoyment of one’s property.  

The pertinent factual allegations in Safe Streets (on the federal RICO issue) were straightforward.     Read More »

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Orchestrating Bias: Arbitrator’s Undisclosed Membership in Philharmonic Group with Pauly Shore’s Attorney Not Grounds to Reverse Award in Real Estate Dispute

By:  Lyndsey Torp

The California court of appeal recently issued an unpublished decision in Knispel v. Shore, 2017 WL 2492535, affirming a judgment confirming an arbitration award in a real estate dispute involving Pauly Shore.  The court of appeal held that the arbitrator’s failure to disclose her membership in the Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic Group with the attorney representing Pauly was not grounds to overturn the judgment.

The underlying arbitration involved a dispute between Michael Scott Shore, on the one hand, and his brother, Pauly, among others, on the other hand, regarding certain residential property located on Sunset Boulevard near The Comedy Store in West Hollywood (owned and operated by their mother, Mitzi Shore).… Read More »

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Colorado House Bill 1279 stalls over 120-day unit owner election period

With the session more than halfway through, the Colorado Legislature’s 2017 attempts at meaningful construction defect reform may fail again.  This year, the Legislature did not attempt a single-bill construction defect overhaul like those that have failed over the last half-decade.  Rather, it has sought to enact reforms on a piecemeal basis, with several smaller bills addressing specific issues that have been affecting condominium construction along Colorado’s booming Front Range. 

This new approach appears to be headed towards much the same outcome as the failed efforts of the past.  House Bill 1169 would have given developers a statutory right to repair before being sued by homeowners, and Senate Bill 156 would mandate arbitration or mediation. Read More »

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Utah Becomes First State to Enact the Uniform Commercial Real Estate Receivership Act

By:  David Leta

On March 25, Utah became the first state to enact the Uniform Commercial Real Estate Receivership Act (“UCRERA”) which was drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (the “Conference”) and adopted by the Conference at its annual meeting in July 2015. The Utah Uniform Commercial Real Estate Receivership Act, (the “Utah Act”) mirrors UCRERA and applies to all commercial real property receiverships that are filed in the Utah District Courts on and after May 9, 2017.

The Utah Act provides both substantive and procedural guidance in an area of law that historically has been marked by inconsistency and uncertainty.… Read More »

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California Supreme Court Upholds Precondemnation Procedures

By Patrick J. Paul

On July 21, 2016, the California Supreme Court in Property Reserve v. Superior Court upheld the state’s precondemnation entry and testing statutes provided they were reformed to allow impacted property owners the ability to have a jury trial to determine damages associated with such entry and testing.

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) sought to construct water conveyance facilities that would require significant property condemnation. As part of this process, DWR further sought to investigate the environmental and geological suitability of more than 150 private properties considered for the conveyance route.

DWR proposed two sets of precondemnation diligence – – environmental and geological activities.… Read More »

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Hold that paintbrush! A glimpse into design-control in planned communities


By: Erica Stutman

You are choosing a new paint color for the outside of your house, and you think, “Since all the other houses are beige, I’ll do mine purple.” Not so fast – you better check your community’s governing documents before brushing on that first coat of paint.

If you live in a planned community, you’ve probably seen a Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (or similarly-titled document) (CC&Rs), which established the community and a homeowners’ association to govern it. Among other things, CC&Rs often allow for the creation of a design-review or architectural committee to act on behalf of the association, giving the committee members broad discretion to review and approve homeowners’ plans to modify their properties.… Read More »

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Special Rules for Eviction Actions

By:  Kevin Parker

In a recent case, the Arizona Court of Appeals addressed the special rules of procedure for eviction actions. The eviction rules became effective January 1, 2009.  In Sotomayor v. Sotomayor-Munoz, 735 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 28 (March 28, 2016), the court addressed the question of whether the evicted tenant had timely appealed.  The trial court had entered a formal judgment of eviction; and the tenant had filed various post-judgment motions which the tenant apparently believed extended the tenant’s deadline for filing a notice of appeal.  The Court of Appeals determined that the appeal was untimely because, according to the court, the particular motions filed by the tenant did not extend the appeal deadline. … Read More »

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Nevada Supreme Court Holds that Foreclosure Of HOA Lien Extinguishes Equal Priority HOA Lien.

By: Bob L. Olson

In Nevada’s master-planned communities it is common for one home to be in multiple homeowners’ associations.  In such cases there is generally a master association for the master-planned community and then sub-associations for specific developments within the master-planned community.  The liens of the master association and the sub-association have equal priority unless their declarations provide otherwise. See NRS 116.3116(8) (formerly NRS 116.3116(4)).  Earlier this year in Southern Highlands Community Association v. San Florentine Avenue Trust, 132 Nev. Adv. Op. 3 (Jan. 14, 2016), the Nevada Supreme Court (the “Court”) had the opportunity to discuss the effect of the foreclosure by one association on the other association’s lien of equal priority.… Read More »

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School district’s condemnation of a private road passes the test

By: Erica Stutman

The power of eminent domain allows a government or quasi-governmental entity to condemn (take) private property for a public use upon a showing of necessity.  In exchange, the property owner must receive “just compensation” equal to the property’s fair market value, and may be entitled to additional damages, such as severance damages, relocation expenses, costs, or interest.  The eminent domain powers of school districts and other political subdivisions is set forth in A.R.S. § 12-1111.

In Catalina Foothills Unified School District No. 16 v. La Paloma Property Owners Association, the Arizona Court of Appeals confirmed that a school district may condemn a private road for vehicles to enter a school campus. … Read More »

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Are Short-Term Vacation Rentals Legal?

By: Ben Reeves

The recent explosion in popularity of short-term vacation rentals through services such as Airbnb.com and VRBO.com not only provides terrifying horror stories about problem renters (google it if you’re interested), but also raises serious questions about the legality of the practice.

Many cities are currently struggling with this very issue. Opponents to short-term rentals argue that transient renters disrupt otherwise peaceful neighborhoods and negatively impact local business like traditional hotels. Proponents of the practice contend that they have a constitutionally protected property right to use their private property without governmental interference. In Jerome, Arizona, the City recently grappled with this very issue, and ultimately decided to inform a few of its citizens that they could no longer rent their homes on a short-term basis—much to the chagrin of the affected property owners.… Read More »

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The FDIC Reigns “Supreme” in Nevada

By: Nathan Kanute

For several years, Nevada Courts have considered a myriad of issues related to how Nevada law applies to loans made by banks that are later take over by the FDIC. In the past eight months, the Nevada Supreme Court has addressed two of those issues. See Munoz v. Branch Banking and Trust Company, Inc., 131 Nev., Adv. Op. 23 (Apr. 30, 2015) and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. v. Rhodes, 130 Nev., Adv. Op. 88 (Oct. 30, 2014). In both cases, the Court held that the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution precluded application of the applicable Nevada statutes.… Read More »

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Successful Laches Defense Becoming Commonplace in Colorado

By: Neal McConomy

Boiler plate language in responsive pleadings often includes “Plaintiff’s claims are barred by the doctrine of laches” (or “The doctrine of laches bars Plaintiff’s claims” if you prefer the active voice).  However, litigation of a laches defense is fairly rare, and a defendant successfully arguing a laches defense is something of a legal Haley’s Comet, only less reliable. Often, courts refuse to consider a laches defense if a statute of limitations applies. See e.g., Ivani Contracting Corp. v. City of New York, 103 F.3d 257 (2d Cir. 1997); and Lyons P’ship v. Morris Costumes, Inc., 243 F.3d 789 (4th Cir.… Read More »

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Injunctive Relief for Building Encroachment. Do I Have to Move the House?

By Kevin Parker

When a land owner mistakenly builds a house or other building or structure that encroaches on a neighbor’s property, what is the remedy?  Does the offending land owner have to physically remove the structure from the neighbor’s property?   Is the harmed neighbor entitled to a mandatory injunction against continuing trespass?  Can the offending land owner invoke equitable “balancing of hardships” and simply pay damages?  In a recent case, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island distinguished the encroachment situation from traditional injunctive relief analysis.  (A court order requiring the offending land owner to remove the offending structure would be a mandatory injunction order.) … Read More »

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Inverse Condemnation: When is Your Claim Precluded by the Arizona Statute of Limitations?

By:  Richard Herold

An inverse condemnation of a landowner’s property can occur when a governmental entity: (1) physically takes the property without compensation; or (2) passes a new law that has a serious impact on the value and/or utility of the property.  At times, the taking may be obvious, for example, if the governmental entity deprives the owner of access to the property by putting up a fence.  While regulatory takings are at times less obvious and/or pressing, in both cases, the property owner may adopt the view that he or she will simply address the problem later.

Believe it or not, the property owner needs to move quickly and file suit within one year of the taking.… Read More »

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Beneath the Surface: Entek GRB, LLC v. Stull Ranches, LLC and the Continuing Battle Between Surface Owners and Subsurface Owners

By: Neal McConomy

On August 14, 2014, the Tenth Circuit vacated and remanded the lower court’s decision regarding a dispute between a surface owner’s and a subsurface owner’s respective rights to access and enjoy land and property rights.  Entek GRB, LLC v. Stull Ranches, LLC, 763 F.3d 1252 (10th Cir. 2014).  The decision reached in Entek GRB, LLC v. Stull Ranches, LLC addresses a debate occurring throughout Colorado and the United States: what controls do surface owners have regarding subsurface owners’ claims for access to and occupation of surface areas in their pursuit to exercise their rights to the oil, gas, and other minerals beneath the surface owner’s land. … Read More »

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Landlords Need Not Deny Puppy Love

By: Erica Stutman

Dog-lovers will be happy to know they may rent property to a tenant and the tenant’s dog without necessarily being subject to strict liability if man’s best friend turns out to be not-so-friendly after all.  In Spirlong v. Browne, the Arizona Court of Appeals decided that the strict liability for injuries or damages caused by a dog that is imposed upon a person “keeping” a dog requires that the person exercises care, custody, or control of the dog, and that merely allowing a dog to live in your property does not alone subject a person to liability.  … Read More »

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Arizona Chamber of Commerce Forms Policy Group for Real Estate and Community Development Issues

By:  Bob Henry

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry has formed a new policy committee for “Real Estate and Community Development Issues.”  The Arizona Chamber’s policy committees—now 16 different committees that cover policy areas ranging from “Budget & Government Reform” to “Workplace, Workers Compensation and Insurance”—are actively involved in supporting and opposing legislation on issues that are of particular importance to the Arizona business community.  The Arizona Chamber’s formation of a new policy committee focusing specifically on real estate and community development issues should thus be welcome news to those who do business in the real estate industry in Arizona. … Read More »

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Social Media Concerns Potentially Affecting Arizona’s Real Estate Industry

By:  Jefferson R. Hayden  http://www.swlaw.com/attorneys/jefferson_hayden

A growing number of governmental authorities are cracking down on the use of social media with regard to commercial transactions.  In Arizona, for example, legislation was proposed restricting an employer’s right to access social media account information of its employees.  Though SB 1411 was not passed in 2013, the Arizona real estate industry should pay close attention to its own social media practices since it is covered by the Fair Housing Act.  If the legislative progression of other states is any indicator, the Arizona real estate industry may also encounter future issues in both the landlord/tenant and lending realms.… Read More »

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Arizona Supreme Court to Contractor: Sorry But Equitable Subrogation of a Bank’s Later Deed of Trust Trumps Earlier Mechanics’ Lien Rights

By Rick Erickson


The smoke has finally cleared in a hard and long-fought battle between a bank and contractor both claiming priority to foreclose millions of dollars on a Phoenix condominium project. The project, well-known as Summit at Copper Square in central Phoenix (“Summit”), went broke in 2007. The foreclosure case began in 2008, and the construction and real estate industries have been keeping a close eye on the outcome. In the end, the Arizona Supreme Court weighed in for its “first opportunity to address the interplay between equitable subrogation and the priority granted to mechanics’ liens by [Arizona Revised Statutes] § 33-992(A).”… Read More »

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Full Credit Bid Rule Bars Recovery for Wrongfully Enjoined Lender

By:  Michelle Keogh

On June 30, 2014, Judge James A. Teilborg, a Senior District Judge in Arizona, ruled that Tri City National Bank (“TCNB”) was not entitled to bond money posted by the plaintiffs after TCNB was wrongfully enjoined from executing a trustee sale.  Grady v. Bank of Elmwood, 2014 WL 2930510 (D. Ariz. June 30, 2014).

In Grady, the plaintiffs initially sought injunctive relief against Bank of Elmwood (“BOE”).  Plaintiffs signed a promissory note and a deed of trust with BOE for their home loan of just over $1.8M.  Less than a year later, the plaintiffs filed suit in Maricopa County Superior Court seeking to have the note voided for fraud. … Read More »

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Legal Pot Leads to Possible Nuisance Suits, but Viability is Unlikely

By: Neal McConomy

Almost four months into Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana for adults aged twenty-one and over, the weather is warming, windows are opening, and outdoor spaces are getting more use.  All the while, a segment of the Colorado population, especially in the City and County of Denver (“Denver”), is exercising its new-found legal right to use marijuana.[1]  A pungent plant known for its skunk-like aroma, marijuana, accompanied by its distinct scent, is poised to waft onto properties across Colorado that may find the odor less than euphoric.[2]  The issue becomes whether these Denver residents have a legal avenue to control the once contraband odors from invading their living spaces, be it an adjacent apartment, backyard, or living room.… Read More »

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Brandt Revocable Trust v. U.S. – the United States’ theory of land ownership derailed

By: Erica Stutman

In Brandt Revocable Trust v. U.S., the United States Supreme Court held that abandoned railway rights-of-way that had been granted to railroad companies under the General Railroad Right-of-Way Act of 1875 left underlying landowners with property free of the rights-of-way, and the United States government has no interest in the abandoned land.

Pursuant to the Act, the government granted railroad companies the right to build railroads through public lands.  In large part, the government later conveyed the public land underlying the rights-of-way to private landowners by a land patent, which stated that the land was conveyed subject to a right-of-way for railroad purposes.… Read More »

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Lender’s Title Insurance: When Should Courts Measure the Fair Market Value of Property Affected by a Title Defect?*

By:  Andy Stone

Title insurance is designed to pay for damages caused by any defects to title that the title company should have discovered but did not.  Lender’s title insurance protects lenders who lose money due to a title defect, which is distinguished from an owner’s policy that protects the property owners.  How to calculate a lender’s damages under a title insurance policy is an issue that courts have struggled to address in a consistent manner.  Generally, courts are in agreement about when a lender suffers damages, which occurs after the borrower defaults and the security for the mortgage proves inadequate. … Read More »

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Bona Fide Tenancies for a Term Remain Protected

By:  Julie E. Maurer

A recent California Court of Appeals decision determined that the federal Protecting Tenants Against Foreclosure Act (“PTFA”) impliedly overrides state laws that provide less protection to tenants, but expressly allows states to retain the authority to enact greater protection.  The PTFA was enacted by Congress in May 2009 (Pub.L. 111-22, Div. A, Title VII, §§ 702-704, May 20, 2009, 123 Stat. 1660) and, in 2010, the Congress amended it (Pub.L. 111-203), Title XIV, § 1484, July 21, 2010, 124 Stat. 2204).  The PTFA provides protections for bona fide tenants of residential real property at foreclosure until the PTFA is scheduled to sunset at the end of 2014.… Read More »

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Frustration of Purpose: A Frustrating Doctrine

By: Erica Stutman

Next Gen Capital, LLC v. Consumer Lending Associates, LLC illustrates the difficulty a tenant faces when trying to avoid liability for breaching a lease based on the “frustration of purpose” defense. No. 1 CA-CV 12-0624 (Ariz. Ct. App. Dec. 19, 2013).  In 2007, Consumer Lending Associates (“CLA”) signed a five-year lease, which limited CLA’s primary use of the premises to operating its “payday loan” business.  CLA was operating pursuant to an Arizona statute, which, by its terms, expired on July 1, 2010.  When the authorizing statute expired, CLA vacated the premises and refused to pay rent due through the end of the term, claiming that the lease terminated “by operation of Arizona law.” … Read More »

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A Non-Purchase Money Second Deed of Trust is Not Protected by Arizona’s Anti-deficiency Statute

By:  Ben Reeves & Julie Maurer

Arizona anti-deficiency laws do not prohibit a non-purchase money lender from suing on its note after foreclosure by a senior lender.  In Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Brewer, No. 1CA-CV 12-0383 (Ariz. Ct. App. May 21, 2013 unpublished), the Arizona Court of Appeals held that Arizona’s anti-deficiency statute, A.R.S. § 33-814, did not prevent Wells Fargo from suing on its note after a senior lender foreclosed on the borrowers’ multi-million dollar home.

In 2007, Wells Fargo agreed to lend the Brewers up to $1,000,000 and secured the loan with a second position deed of trust recorded against the Brewers’ home. … Read More »

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Understanding zoning nonconforming uses is no walk in the park, but a mobile-home park may be treated as a unified use.

By:  Erica Stutman

When Arizona municipalities adopt new zoning ordinances and regulations, existing property owners have the right to continue using their property for the use in place when the new ordinance or regulation becomes effective, including the right to make reasonable repairs and alterations.  See A.R.S. § 9-462.02(A).   This right to continue the “legal nonconforming use,” which is premised on due process concerns, may be lost if the owner makes major changes to the property after the new zoning law takes effect.  When property is divided into smaller units, questions may arise as to what constitutes the prior use and what changes destroy the protected status. … Read More »

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Owners of Multifamily Housing Beware

By:  Julie Maurer

Owners and developers of multifamily housing beware—you may be held responsible for your architect’s oversight. A growing number of state and federal courts are in universal agreement that owners and developers cannot sue their architects for designs that fail to meet accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While Arizona has yet to address this issue, recent decisions illustrate the importance for owners to proactively engage architects and consultants regarding accessibility issues.

In a recent decision, Miami Valley Fair Hous. Ctr., Inc. v. Campus Vill. Wright State, LLC, 2012 WL 4473236 (S.D.… Read More »

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Moving From Quiet Title to Wrongful Recordation

By: Adam Lang

Pretend you own real property in Arizona that you want to sell.  You have a buyer.  You enter into a purchase contract.  But when the buyer runs a title report, she learns that someone else has wrongfully recorded a claim on your property.  The buyer cancels. 

You want to hold the individual who wrongfully recorded the interest on your property accountable.  Not only do you need to consider the possible claims you should bring, but you may want to consider the order in which you decide to prosecute those claims. 

Two claims come to mind:  quiet title and wrongful recordation. … Read More »

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Introducing the Snell & Wilmer Real Estate Litigation Blog

The Snell & Wilmer Real Estate Litigation Group is proud to announce the launch of its new blog.  After decades of handling commercial disputes and trials involving real estate, the Group was officially formed in 2008.  The firm’s real estate litigation and trial attorneys formed the Group to maximize expertise, efficiency and results for the benefit of the firm’s clients.

Through the launch of its blog, the Group is excited about the opportunity to share its collective insight on timely issues affecting real estate litigation.   Each blog post will be written by one or more of the attorneys of the Group, with the aim of providing a forum for the timely discussion and analysis of issues impacting real estate litigation.… Read More »

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