Good Case Study About Property Case Study: Martin’s Property Disputes
A single client Martin has had a recent rash of legal issues which need to be addressed. They all regard the client’s right to maintain ownership and use several properties in North Carolina. He should be advised that each property will constitute a separate case with its own unique legal ramifications, and so should be considered on a case-by-case basis. As his lawyer, and also his friend, it is essential to offer him sound legal counsel that will closely coincide with what his personal spiritual truths.
The Mountain Property
Martin has been co-owner of the mountain property for roughly 31 years, along with three friends. They originally purchased the property and established a contract as joint tenants with right to survivorship. As the last surviving co-owner, that makes Martin the sole owner of the property, however two complications have arisen. First, one of the co-owners, Peter, has bequeathed his share of the mountain property to his son in a will, and while that does not give the son legal right to the property, it certainly given him reason to believe that he has a vestment in the property. Secondly, Martin has not returned to the property in 20 years, and a squatter has taken up permanent residence on the property and intends to stake his claim there.
Where Peter’s son Andrew is concerned, Martin’s rights in this case are clear. Joint Tenancy with Right to Survivorship has made him the sole owner of the Mountain property (“Right to Survivorship,” 2014). Furthermore, the laws of joint tenancy are clear and do not allow for gifting or transfer of ownership, unless all co-owners, or joint tenants, have given their consent (Strauss & Malk, 2013). And since Martin was not aware of Andrew’s claim, he clearly did not give that consent, which negates any claim Andrew might have made against the property.
That said, joint tenancy claims are not favored by the court, and defending his rights under such an agreement may be difficult (“Joint Tenancy,” 2014). Further, I think Martin may, from a Christian perspective, wish to respect his friend’s desire to leave a portion of the property to his son. In that case, the property is subject to creditor exposure by the new co-owner, because the property is subject to sale, seizure and collection based on the joint-debts of all existing owners (Strauss & Malk, 2013). Litigation is, already pending in this case, but I would need to know whether Martin wants to try to fully discredit the son’s claims before I could make an informed decision about how to pursue this case.
Now, in the case of Otis, one must consider the rights of squatters in the state of North Carolina. Time is of the essence in this case, so it is essential that legal action be taken very quickly. There is a law called the Adverse Possession Law which would allow Otis to file a claim for a title of the land, without Martin’s consent, if Otis can prove that he has lived on the land for 20 years with the owner’s objection (Flieishman, R, 2014). It is essential that legal action is taken to remove him from the land before he reaches that 20 year limit, and before he files a claim (Flieishman, R., 2014). Now, should he file for such a title Martin does have a right to challenge his claim, and to try to legally maintain ownership (Flieishman, R., 2014). But, for the challenge request to be granted, or for Martin to maintain legal ownership of the property, should Otis file for legal ownership, Martain must be able to prove that mental incompetence, age, or some other major impediment prevented him from returning to and maintaining the property during the time Otis was occupying it (Flieishman, R., 2014).
The Beach Property
Martin has also owned an Oceanside property in Wilmington N.C. On a recent visit to that property, he found that construction had begun on Tar Heel Family Resort, and that the city had posted right-of-eminent-domain paper work hanging from his front door, with a notice that the property would soon be seized, and destroyed. He was assured by city hall that while there was nothing they could do to protect his rights to maintain use of the property, that they could assure him that he would receive full market value for it. Martin would like to seek legal injunction to prevent him from giving up the property.
Unfortunately for Martin, there is honestly, very little that can be done to prevent property loss in this case. In 2000 a precedence was set by a case called Kelo V. City of New London, which found that “plans for economic development are entitled to our deference (“Kelo Vs. London,” 2000).” What this means in lay terms, is that the city does, in fact have the write, supported by the law, to take property for a private business to build in an area, as long as they can prove that it is necessary to stimulate the local economy, and development of an economic area (“Kelo Vs. London,” 2000). I would advise Martin that his time and resources, in this case, would be better used in fighting for a higher “full market price” for his property, rather than by trying to maintain ownership.
The final asset that Martin is struggling to maintain his rights to, is a car. When taking a lady friend out to dinner, he gave the keys to his classic GTO to a man named Benjamin in the Riverboat Bistro’s valet uniform, in order for him to park the car. The man was an imposter, posing as a valet parking attendant for the Riverboat. He stole the car, and traded it in at a local dealership on a Mustang. The car has been located in possession of a man in Mount Olive North Carolina, who claims to have purchased it for $5,600.00 from the car dealership in Mount Olive, North Carolina. He refuses to return the car to Martin until he is reimbursed the full purchase price.
First and foremost, neither the car salesman, nor the man who currently has possession of the car can be found legally liable for stealing the car, or for damage done to the car while it was in their care. They appear to have had no idea that the car was stolen, and as such assumed that they were rightfully in possession of the car.
That said, it can easily be argued that there was a bailment, or a legal agreement of possession and care, created between Martin and Benjamin. This would mean that the bailee, in this case the young man Benjamin is fully liable for the $5,600 the man who currently possesses the car paid for it, which the man in question is now demanding in restitution (Blackwell, M., 1939). However, I think it would only be legally responsible to inform Martin that, if a judge fails to find a bailment, and only holds that Benjamin had custody of the car, then Benjamin might not be forced to pay the $5,600.
I also think it is worth getting the police involved in the case. Though I have not been explicitly informed, I assume Martin filed a stolen vehicle report at the time of the theft. Based on that report, and his ability to prove he has the title and is the legal and rightful owner of the car, local law enforcement in Mount Olive should be able to impound the car as stolen property, and Martin as the rightful owner should be able to go to that impound lot, pay the impound fees, and retrieve his car (Murray, 2012). This is not a free solution. It will cost Martin both towing and storing fees to get the car out of impound, but that should be no more than about $500 to $1000, and will immediately gain Martin physical possession of his car. Again, when the matter is brought to court, legal council must prove the bailee, in this case Benjamin, was responsible for car at the time of its disappearance. If a judge finds that there was bailment established the impound fees, along with fees for any damage Martin finds was done to the car while it was in his care will be Benjamin’s financial responsibility (“Bailments,” 2015).
“Bailments” (2015). In Legal Definition Files. National Paralegal Education Program. Retrieved from http://nationalparalegal.edu/public_documents/courseware_asp_files/realProperty/PersonalProperty/Bailments.asp
Blackwell, M. (1939). Bailments- Recent Case Decisions. Michigan Law Review. 37(3), 468-470 Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1282316
Fleishman, R. (2014). Squatting in Charlotte. Retrieved from http://www.rflaw.net/squatting-in-charlotte/
“Joint Tenancy” (2014). In the Legal Encyclopedia. Cornell University of Law. Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/joint_tenancy
“KELO V. NEW LONDON (04-108) 545 U.S. 469 (2005) 268 Conn. 1, 843 A. 2d 500, affirmed.” (2005). In the Supreme Court Records. Cornell University of Law. Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/04-108.ZO.html
Murray, R. (2012, July 11). Stolen car on eBay 42 years later. New York Daily. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/texas-finds-stolen-car-ebay-42-years-article-1.1112124
“Right of Survivorship.” (2014). In the Legal Encyclopedia. Cornell University of Law. Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/right_of_survivorship
Rutkow, E. (2005). Kelo V. City of New London. Harvard Environmental Law Review. 30(1), 261-278. Retrieved from http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/elr/vol30_1/rutkow.pdf
Strauss & Malk. (2013). “What is Joint Ownership.” In Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from http://www.straussmalk.com/index.php/faqs/what-is-joint-ownership-of-property/disadvantages-of-joint-tenancy-with-rights-of-survivorship
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