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Plaintiff built a home on leased property owned by the Town of Vernon. The property is part of glebe land1 first leased by the Town in the early nineteenth century. The instant claim is premised upon an alleged covenant of quiet enjoyment in an 1838 deed in which the Town leased the land for the lessee “to farm occupy” and “to hold said granted premises with all the privileges and appurtenances.” Plaintiff obtained his interest in the leased land through a quitclaim deed from his wife in 2013. Plaintiff and his wife had received their interest in the property from a company controlled by plaintiff and a friend. A superior court granted the Town's motion for summary judgment with respect to a claim Plaintiff made that the Town breached a covenant of quiet enjoyment implied in the lease by not providing him access to the property. The superior court found that the pertinent section of "Stebbins Road" had never been officially laid out as a public road and that, therefore, plaintiff never obtained an abutting right of access over the road that would have survived the Town’s later discontinuance of the road. The Vermont Supreme Court determined that the Town had not been joined to earlier litigation in this matter, making resolution of this case by summary judgment improper; the earlier litigation also alleged the Town had not laid out Stebbins Road properly. "Joinder [was] required 'if the action might detrimentally affect a party's or the absentee's ability to protect his property or to prosecute or defend any subsequent litigation in which the absentee might become involved.'" View "Daiello v. Town of Vernon" on Justia Law

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Applicant Chris Khamnei appealed a superior court decision affirming the Burlington Public Works Commission’s denial of his request for permits to complete plumbing work in a building he owned because he failed to identify the name of a licensed professional plumber who would perform the work. On appeal, applicant argued the applicable statute and accompanying regulations allowed property owners to perform this type of work without a plumbing license. Finding no reversible error in the Commission's decision, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Khamnei v. Burlington Public Works Commission" on Justia Law

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Defendant Daniel Larkin appealed his conviction of second-degree aggravated domestic assault. Defendant argued the trial court’s exclusion of evidence of complainant’s previous conviction for providing false information to a police officer (FIPO), offered by defendant to impeach complainant, deprived defendant of a fair trial. The Vermont Supreme Court agreed the trial court erred in excluding the evidence, and that the error was not harmless. "Here, the jury was faced with the competing narratives of complainant and defendant. The outcome of the case hinged on the credibility of these two individuals, and thus we must take extra caution when analyzing the effect of the exclusion of defendant’s impeachment evidence - complainant’s FIPO conviction. . . . The jury could reasonably find that, because complainant had lied to police previously, her statements to testifying witnesses were less credible than they would have been otherwise." View "Vermont v. Larkin" on Justia Law

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This case was the second arising from the near-fatal assault of Michael Kuligoski by Evan Rapoza, who had previously been diagnosed with schizophreniform disorder. Here, members of the Kuligoski family(plaintiffs) brought suit against Evan’s grandparents, claiming that they were liable for Evan’s assault of Mr. Kuligoski while Mr. Kuligoski was repairing the furnace at their rental property. Plaintiffs claimed, among other things, that the grandparents were vicariously liable for Evan’s father’s negligent hiring or supervision of Evan, who was there to help his father repaint an apartment. On appeal, plaintiffs sought to reverse the grant of summary judgment in favor of the grandparents. Plaintiffs argued the trial court erred by determining that grandparents could not be held vicariously liable for the attack because it was not reasonably foreseeable. In granting the grandparents' motion, the trial court concluded: (1) to the extent plaintiffs were alleging direct liability on the part of grandparents based on a claim of negligent supervision, that claim failed as a matter of law because it was undisputed that on the day of the assault grandparents were unaware of Evan’s mental-health issues; and (2) notwithstanding the ambiguity as to whether father was grandparents’ employee, grandparents owed no duty to Mr. Kuligoski because Evan’s parents did not undertake to render services by monitoring Evan’s treatment after his release from the Brattleboro Retreat and because, even assuming that father was grandparents’ employee, Evan’s assault against Mr. Kuligoski was not foreseeable. Given the Vermont Supreme Court's determination that, as a matter of law, no employer-employee relationship existed between grandparents and father that would subject grandparents to vicarious liability for any negligence on father’s part in bringing Evan to the workplace on the day he assaulted Mr. Kuligsoki, plaintiffs’ remaining claim in this lawsuit was unsustainable. The Court therefore affirmed, but on grounds different than those used by the trial court. View "Kuligoski v. Rapoza" on Justia Law

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Neighbors appealed the Environmental Division’s order dismissing as untimely their appeal to that court from a decision of the Town of Jericho Development Review Board (DRB) granting a conditional use permit to applicant Kevin Mahar. In late April 2015, applicant sought a conditional use permit for a detached accessory structure and apartment at his single-family home in Jericho. On appeal, neighbors argued the appeal was timely because they did not receive proper notice of either the hearing before the DRB or the resulting DRB decision. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded that at least some neighbors adequately raised a sufficient basis to reopen the appeal period and timely filed an appeal. Therefore, the Court reversed the dismissal and remanded to the Environmental Division for resolution of the motion to reopen the appeal period and, if grounds are found, an adjudication on the merits of neighbors’ appeal. View "In re Mahar Conditional Use Permit" on Justia Law

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This case involved a long-standing dispute between a condominium unit owner, Roy H.A. Watson III, and the organization that managed his condominium, the Village at Northshore I Association (Association). The legal issues centered around the application of two laws, the Condominium Ownership Act (COA) and the Common Interest Ownership Act (CIOA), to the Association’s governing documents. The central disagreement between the parties involved a Declaration (governing document) and how it allocated ownership interest in the physical structures that made up Northshore, including privately owned areas and commonly owned areas, and the Declaration’s amendment process. The trial court ruled in favor of the Association and granted it declaratory judgment on all thirteen issues that were before the Vermont Supreme Court on appeal. As to nine of the thirteen issues, the Supreme Court affirm the trial court’s judgment in favor of the Association. As to two issues, the Court reversed and enter declaratory judgment in favor of Watson. As to one issue, we affirm the trial court’s decision in favor of the Association in part and reverse and enter declaratory judgment in Watson's favor in part. As to the remaining issue, the case was remanded to the trial court for additional factfinding. View "Watson v. Village at Northshore I Association, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant Shawn Bellanger appealed after a jury found him guilty of aggravated sexual assault of a child under 13 and lewd or lascivious conduct with a child under 13. On appeal, defendant raised arguments related to the jury instructions, the sufficiency of the State’s evidence, and the prosecutor’s closing argument. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Vermont v. Bellanger" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Vermont Supreme Court's review concerned whether a trial court could modify parental rights and responsibilities when one parent was relocating if that issue was not expressly raised by motion and the sole motion before the court was the relocating parent’s motion to modify parent-child contact. Katie Churchill (mother) appealed a trial court decision that transferred the right to choose the children’s residence and school from her to Landon Bonk (father) and that reconfigured the parties’ existing contact schedule, reducing her time with her children from approximately 65% to 20%. The Supreme Court held the mother’s motion to modify parent-child contact and father’s motion to dismiss in response did not raise the issue of the parties’ parental rights and responsibilities. Therefore, the trial court abused its discretion by issuing an order modifying parental rights and responsibilities. Furthermore, the Court held that the trial court proceedings supported finding a sufficient change of circumstances to grant mother’s motion to modify parent-child contact. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for the trial court to set a new parent-child contact schedule. View "Bonk v. Bonk" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The issue this case presented for the Vermont Supreme Court’s review centered on whether a party who participates extensively and without objection in an arbitration proceeding for nearly seven months prior to the actual arbitration hearing waives an objection to the validity of the arbitration agreement. Lesley Adams, William Adams, and Adams Construction VT, LLC (collectively Adams Construction) appealed the trial court’s denial of their application to vacate an arbitration award in favor of Russell Barr and the Barr Law Group (collectively Barr Law Group) and against Adams Construction. The Supreme Court concluded, based on this premise, Adams Construction indeed waived its challenge to the validity of the arbitration agreement. The Court, therefore, affirmed the trial court. View "Adams v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Edwin Towne, Jr. appealed the dismissal of his tenth and eleventh petitions for post-conviction relief (PCR). In 1989, petitioner was convicted of first-degree murder. In his ninth petition, petitioner argued the 1986 traffic stop that precipitated his arrest for murder, he had ineffective assistance of counsel during both his trial and direct appeal. In the tenth and eleventh petitions, petitioner raised arguments similar to those previously raised in petitions one through nine. In March 2013, the PCR court granted the State’s motion to dismiss. With respect to petitioner’s claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel, the court concluded on the basis of the reasoning in Martinez v. Ryan, 556 U.S. 1 (2012) and Maples v. Thomas, 565 U.S. 266 (2012), that ineffectiveness of petitioner’s lawyer in his first PCR proceeding could overcome the procedural bars of successiveness and abuse of the writ to enable the court to consider the merits of petitioner’s PCR claims on the basis of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. However, the court concluded that petitioner had failed to establish that the first PCR court had erred in determining that his ineffective-assistance-of-trial-counsel claim was without merit. In September 2015, the court dismissed the eleventh petition on the basis that his claims had either already been raised and addressed on the merits in previous petitions, or they could have been raised in previous petitions. Furthermore, the court noted that “there is nothing to suggest that if trial counsel had done what [petitioner] now thinks he should have done, the result at his trial or sentencing would have been different.” The Vermont Supreme Court found that petitioner’s claims that were not addressed on the merits in earlier petitions were an abuse of the writ under any standard of review. “For that reason, our resolution of this case does not turn on whether we review the trial court’s ruling as to newly raised claims for abuse of discretion or without deference. We accordingly decline to decide at this juncture which standard governs our review of the trial court’s dismissal of claims raised in a second or subsequent PCR petition on account of abuse of the writ.” Because his various claims are either successive, an abuse of the writ, or outside the scope of the PCR statute, the Supreme Court affirmed their dismissal. View "In re Edwin A. Towne, Jr." on Justia Law