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Lawsuit Scenarios and Property Law Questions

Jurisdiction in Federal Court

1. In which of the following circumstances can a plaintiff bring a lawsuit against the defendant in federal court?

a. Ned Flanders (a resident of Illinois) sues Homer Simpson (a resident of Illinois) for the value of an unreturned lawn mower (valued at $1695).

b. Carl Carlson (a resident of Illinois) sues his employer, Springfield Nuclear Power, Inc. (a corporation headquartered in Illinois), and the company’s CEO, C. Montgomery Burns (a resident of Illinois) for racially discriminatory actions, which would be a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

c. Homer Simpson (a resident of Illinois) sues Hank Scorpio (a resident of New York) for backpay (values at $72,500).

d. Lisa Simpson (a resident of Illinois) sues KrustyLu Studios, LLC (a limited liability company registered in Delaware) for environmental damage to Mount Springfield as a result of a spill of potentially toxic ink, which would be a violation of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act.

2. Which of the following would be considered real property (or part of real property)?

a. A share in a cooperative corporation

b. A copyright in a photograph

c. A storm window specifically fabricated to match a window of an antique house

d. A 2020 Ford Mustang

3. Under common law, what duty does a property owner owe to an undiscovered trespasser?

a. The duty not to wantonly or willfully injure them.

b. The duty to warn of any non-obvious dangers on the property of which the property owner is aware.

c. The duty to make the property safe and to warn guests of any known dangers.

d. The duty to avoid embarrassing them with old yearbook photos.

4. Nina West executes a deed for the real property that Nina currently owns that says the following: “To Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, but if Michelle Visage ever steps foot on the property, Nina West, or her heirs, reserves the right to reenter and retake.” What type of freehold estate does Vanessa Vanjie Mateo have pursuant to this deed?

a. Life estate

b. Fee simple absolute

c. Fee simple determinable

d. Fee simple subject to condition subsequent

5. Kanye West executes a deed for the house that Kanye currently owns in Calabasas that says the following: “To Kim Kardashian for the life, then to the heirs of North West.” What interest does North West have in this house?

a. Springing executory interest

b. None

c. A right of reentry

Real Property Classification

d. Possibility of reverter

6. Burt and Ernie are a married couple and are co-owners of a tastefully decorated condominium apartment on Park Avenue. Burt has children from a previous marriage. If Burt dies before Ernie, under which type of co-ownership will Burt’s children inherit his ownership interest in the condo?

a. Joint Tenancy

b. Tenancy in Common

c. Tenancy by the Entirety

d. Burt and Ernie are equal partners in the general partnership that owns the condo

7. Mariah Carey owns a condominium apartment and wants to run for the board of directors of the condominium association. To determine whether she is eligible to run, what document should she check?

a. Declaration

b. Condominium Rules

c. By-Laws

d. Individual Unit Deed

8. A lease for a single floor of a building where the Tenant agrees to pay the base rent plus real taxes, insurance, and maintenance costs is called what?

a. Ground Lease

b. Percentage Lease

c. Gross Lease

d. Triple Net Lease

9. Michael is an architect who owns a two family house. He rents the upstairs apartment to Eleanor. Eleanor has fallen behind on the payment of rent. What action is illegal for Michael to take?

a. Change the locks while Eleanor is at Applebee’s

b. Sue Eleanor in a court of law to regain possession of the premises

c. Allow Eleanor to stay until the end of the lease term and sue for back rent

d. Ask Eleanor to pay the back-rent

10. Dennis has a two year lease on a two bedroom apartment in Philadelphia. However, after two months, he has decided that he wants to move with his family to St. Paul, Minnesota. Charlie is happy to take over the lease. Which of the following would create an assignment?

a. Charlie agrees to lease one bedroom for twelve months

b. Charlie agrees to lease the apartment for twenty months

c. Charlie agrees to lease one bedroom for twenty-two months

d. Charlie agrees to lease the apartment for twenty-two months

1. Luke Hobbs has agreed to rent a single family home in Yonkers, New York from Deckard Shaw. Shaw doesn’t want to bother with attorneys, so they make an oral agreement that the rent will be $12,000 per year payable as $1000 per month due on the first of each month, with the lease term commencing on June 1, 2018. On February 9, 2019, there was a break in the sewer line serving the premises, which remained unresolved and resulted in water surfacing from the system. Foul odors filled the home and unhealthy fluids seeped into the basement for long periods of time. Hobbs told Shaw of the leak in an email on February 10, 2019 and followed up on that with several phone calls. Hobbs, sick of the lack of meaningful response from Shaw, called the building inspector for Yonkers as well as the New York State Department of Environmental Protection. Hobbs finally stopped paying rent as of May 1, 2019. On June 17, 2019 (after the building inspector paid a visit to Shaw), the sewer line was finally and completely repaired, and Hobbs even stated that the home was again perfectly fine to live in. On June 10, 2019, prior to the repair, Shaw gave Hobbs notice to quit the property, effective as of June 30, 2019. After Hobbs stopped paying rent, Shaw placed a pad lock on the garage of the house and slid a note under the front door of the house calling Hobbs a “deadbeat.” Hobbs missed a day of work as a stunt driver because he was unable to get his McClaren 720S (a type of fancy sports car) out of the garage and was not paid his day rate of $450 as a result. Hobbs finally vacated the premises on October 31, 2019. Deckard Shaw filed a lawsuit against Luke Hobbs for unpaid rent from the period of May 1 through October 31.

Duties Owed to Undiscovered Trespassers

a. Can Hobbs make one or more counterclaims? If so, what are they and will they be successful?

b. Will the court award Shaw the unpaid rent? If so, how much? 

c. Assuming the repair had been made promptly after Hobbs had informed Shaw, based on the June 10, 2019 notice to vacate, when would the lease have terminated? 

2. For the past year, Jack, a unit owner in a condominium building, has been frequently renting out his apartment for short term Airbnb rentals. Three years ago, the board of directors of the condominium adopted a rule stating that “the minimum rental period for any unit must not be less than three (3) months.” The rule further states that unit owners who fail to comply can be fined $100 per day for each day the unit has been rented. After being given numerous written warnings and an opportunity to cure, the condominium association brings a proceeding to evict Jack from his unit.

a. Will the condominium association succeed in evicting Jack? Why or why not? If not, what other steps could they take to get rid of Jack? 

b. If the declaration says that each unit owner can rent their unit as they see fit, is the rule still valid. Why or why not?

c. If this was a coop, would the coop board succeed in evicting Jack? Why or why not? 

3. Truman G. Witherwax III is the sole owner of his family’s apple orchard in Ulster County, New York, Waxy Apple Farms. The orchard has been in the family for 200 years, and Truman wants to keep it that way. Truman is currently married to his second wife, Dolores, and has three children:a son from a previous marriage, Truman G. Witherwax IV (known as “Quinn”), and two daughtersfrom his current marriage, Mabel Witherwax and Ethel Witherwax. Quinn has never been interested in the farm, and Truman thinks Quinn is too busy trying to become famous on TikTok (or whatever those darn kids are up to these days) to take the family business seriously. Thus,  Truman wants his daughters to get the orchard without any need for lawyers or courts and to own and operate it as equal partners. Truman also wants to make sure that Dolores is protected for the rest of her life. Therefore, Truman creates a will that says, “Upon my death, I, Truman G. Witherwax III, hereby convey Waxy Apple Farms, to Dolores Witherwax for remainder of her life, and then to Mabel Witherwax and Ethel Witherwax, as joint tenants.”

a. Please describe the types of ownership interests, if any, that Dolores, Quinn, Mabel, and Ethel have in Waxy Apple Farms.

b. Just before Truman’s untimely death from a tractor accident, Quinn learns from a former classmate, who is now a geologist, that there is a very strong probability that there are several million barrels worth of oil located under the orchard. Quinn moved to Los Angeles two years before and is currently desperate for money. Regardless of the merit of his claim, can Quinn sue his stepmother and half-sisters for his share of Waxy Apple Farms in federal court? Why or why not? 

c. As a result of Quinn’s lawsuit, Mabel and Ethel learn about the oil. Sadly, Dolores has also passed away from a different tractor accident. Mabel wants to keep operating the family business without the possible environmental impacts from drilling for oil. Ethel wants that oil money. Ethel sells her interest in Waxy Apple Farms to ExxonMobile for $25,000,000. Is Ethel able to sell her interest? Why or why not? If so, what is the ownership relationship between Mabel and ExxonMobile?

d. Quinn still wants that oil. He buys a one acre piece of land right next door to Waxy Apple Farms. He erects an oil well very close to the boundary with the orchard. He starts to pump 1,000 barrels of oil a day, almost all of which comes from under Waxy Apple Farms. Assuming New York has no correlative rights legislation, would ExxonMobile be able to go to court to get an injunction (i.e., a court order to stop) against Quinn? Why or why not?

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