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Hahn v. Hagar

Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division
60 N.Y.s.3d 49 (2017)


Facts

When Edna Hahn died, she owned a farm that had been in her family for several hundred years. Edna’s will conferred a qualified life estate in the property to her son, Thomas Hahn, Jr. The will stated that if Thomas ceased farming on the property, rights to the property would then be shared equally between Thomas and his three siblings. Several years after Edna’s death, Thomas and two of his siblings (plaintiffs) became interested in permanently preserving the property as farmland and restricting its future development by selling the property’s development rights. The fourth sibling, Johanne Hagar (defendant), was unwilling to sell her share of the development rights. Hagar proposed carving out a piece of the property for her so the other siblings could use the land as they saw fit, but the siblings rejected this offer. Hagar’s siblings brought suit, claiming that under state law, they were entitled to sell their interest in real property, including the farm’s development rights. Hagar testified that she believed her siblings’ request for her to authorize a sale of the development rights was contrary to their mother’s will. The parties agreed that a sale of development rights meant that the owners of the rights agreed to place restrictions on the property limiting the density of development. The lower court ruled that development rights did not constitute real property or a part of real property. Thus, according to the court, Thomas and the two siblings did not have the authority to sell the farm’s development rights. Thomas and the two siblings appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Connolly, J.)

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