Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court

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Allen Lenertz appealed the dismissal of his claim for inverse condemnation against the City of Minot and awarding the City costs and disbursements. Between 2013 and 2014 the City installed a paved street and upgraded the storm water system adjacent to Lenertz's commercial property in southwest Minot. Lenertz's property subsequently suffered three flooding events. In 2016 Lenertz sued the City for inverse condemnation, alleging the City's actions in constructing the street and storm sewer system caused past and future flooding of his property and resulted in a total taking of his property. The City denied a taking occurred and raised affirmative defenses. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court: (1) did not err in ruling Lenertz established only a partial taking of his property; (2) did not abuse its discretion in denying his proposed expert witness's testimony; and (3) did not err in granting the City judgment under N.D.R.Civ.P. 50. The court did abuse its discretion, however, in awarding the City costs and disbursements. View "Lenertz v. City of Minot N.D." on Justia Law

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Larry and Julie Schindler and the estate of Eugene Weisbeck appealed a judgment dismissing their action to reform warranty deeds and quiet title in themselves to certain Morton County, North Dakota property. Because the North Dakota Supreme Court could not determine whether the district court correctly applied the law, it reversed and remanded for further development of the record. View "Schindler v. Wageman" on Justia Law

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Julian Bearrunner appealed after being convicted of class A misdemeanor criminal trespass and class A misdemeanor engaging in a riot, charges stemming from protests near the Dakota Access Pipeline. On appeal, Bearrunner argued the district court misinterpreted the criminal trespass statute by finding that the pasture was "so enclosed as manifestly to exclude intruders" as required to convict him of the trespassing charge. Bearrunner also argued the district court erred in finding that his conduct was "tumultuous and violent" as required to convict him of the engaging in a riot charge. Upon reviewing the record, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded Bearrunner's conviction of class A criminal trespass under N.D.C.C. 12.1-22-03(2)(b) was supported by substantial evidence. However, there was not substantial evidence that Bearrunner engaged in violent conduct sufficient to support a conviction for the class A misdemeanor of engaging in a riot. Whether a fence is so enclosed as manifestly to exclude intruders is a finding of fact. Appellant's conduct did not rise to the level of "tumultuous and violent" as required under N.D.C.C. 12.1-25-01. View "North Dakota v. Bearrunner" on Justia Law

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Western Energy Corporation appealed a district court judgment finding its quiet title action to be barred by applicable statutes of limitation and laches and awarding the mineral interests at issue to the Stauffers. In 1959, L.M. and C.S. Eckmann agreed to convey property to William and Ethel Stauffer through a contract for deed. The contract for deed included a reservation of the oil, gas, and other mineral rights in the property and described a five-year payment plan. After the payment plan concluded in 1964, the Eckmanns were to convey the property to the Stauffers by warranty deed. The warranty deed did not contain a mineral reservation, but stated that it was given "in fulfillment of a contract for deed issued on the 25th of May, 1959." Numerous conveyances, oil and gas leases, and similar transactions were completed by both the Eckmanns and Stauffers, as well as their successors in interest, between the execution of the warranty deed in 1959 and the filing of this quiet title action in 2016. Western Energy Corporation ("Western") obtained its interests in the subject minerals through mineral deeds executed in 1989 and 1990. The original parties to the warranty deed are all now deceased. Western filed this action to quiet title in 2016. Western and the Stauffers submitted stipulated facts to the district court. Although brought as a quiet title action, the relief requested was actually reformation of the warranty deed. The district court found reformation barred by the statutes of limitation as well as by the doctrine of laches. Further, the district court concluded the discrepancy between the contract for deed and the warranty deed was not enough to establish mutual mistake. Because it found that Western had not met its burden of proof to establish mutual mistake at the time of conveyance, the district court entered judgment quieting title of the minerals to the Stauffers. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Western Energy Corporation v. Stauffer" on Justia Law

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George Seccombe and other heirs of Olaf Nasset ("Nasset heirs") and the intervener plaintiffs, Slawson Exploration Company, Inc., and Alameda Energy, Inc., appealed a judgment deciding ownership of certain minerals in Mountrail County, North Dakota. Olaf Nasset died in November 1961, and Lakeside State Bank, as executor of his estate, petitioned the county court for authority to sell real property belonging to the estate. On August 6, 1962, the county court ordered the final discharge of the executor. A few days later, the executor petitioned to re-open the estate because reserved mineral interests were inadvertently left out of the final decree and it was necessary that the estate be reopened for the sole purpose of correcting the error by entering an amended final decree of distribution including the 1/2 mineral interest. The county court granted the petition. On August 10, 1962, an amended final decree of distribution was entered, stating each of the five named heirs received a 1/10 mineral interest. In 2012, the Nasset heirs sued the heirs of Gilbert Rohde and other parties claiming an interest in the minerals through the Rohde heirs. The Nasset heirs sought to quiet title and determine ownership of the minerals, revision of the executor's deed, and damages for a slander of title claim. They alleged the original heirs of Olaf Nasset intended to reserve a one-half mineral interest and they are entitled to receive legal title to one-half of the minerals as provided in the published notice of sale of the real property and the amended executor's deed. The Nasset heirs also sued Lakeside for breach of fiduciary duty, alleging Lakeside had fiduciary obligations to the estate, it was aware or should have been aware of the heirs' intention to retain a one-half mineral interest, and it breached its fiduciary duty by executing the executor's deed to Gilbert Rohde without properly reserving the mineral interests.The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Rohde heirs and against the Nasset heirs, quieted title in favor of the Rohde heirs, and dismissed the Nasset heirs' claim for slander of title. The district court concluded the Rohde heirs own the minerals because the original executor's deed approved by the court was final, a legal action was required to undo the executor's deed, neither the heirs nor the executor commenced an action to correct or vacate the deed, and therefore the subsequent orders and the amended deed had no effect. The court also concluded the Nasset heirs' claims were barred by the statute of limitations. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Seccombe v. Rohde" on Justia Law

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Marby and Susan Hogen appealed the grant of summary judgment in their quiet title action in favor of the Curtiss A. Hogen Trust B and the Estate of Arline Hogen for an interest in 737 acres of farmland in Barnes and Cass Counties, North Dakota. Marby and Susan Hogen argued the district court erred in not quieting title to the land in them. After review of the trial court record, which included the various conveyances over the course of 50 years, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the Hogens held no interest in the land, and as such, the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of the Trust and Estate. View "Hogen v. Hogen" on Justia Law

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John Benson appealed a district court judgment quieting title action to Desert Partners IV, L.P. and Family Tree Corporation, Inc. for 32 net mineral acres in McKenzie County, North Dakota. Benson argued the district court abused its discretion in denying his request for a continuance of the trial and erred in its conclusion that Desert Partners and Family Tree were good-faith purchasers of the minerals. After careful consideration of the trial court record, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in its judgment, and affirmed. View "Desert Partners IV, L.P. v. Benson" on Justia Law

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William and Maria Berlin (formerly Maria Weaver) appealed an amended judgment awarding attorney fees following resolution of litigation between the parties over a contract for deed. Irene Avila and the Berlins were involved in a dispute regarding a contract for deed. The district court ruled in favor of Avila, entered a judgment in the amount of $6,650, plus costs in the amount of $660.64, against the Berlins. The judgment provided that neither Avila nor the Berlins were awarded a recovery of their attorney fees. The underlying litigation over the contract for deed was not appealed by either party. Following the entry of the judgment, Avila filed a motion requesting a recovery of $13,450 of attorney fees and to amend the judgment in order to reflect the correct description of the property. The district court granted Avila's request for attorney fees, but reduced the amount to be recovered to $12,450. A notice of the order granting the attorney fee award was served upon the Berlins' counsel. An amended judgment and a monetary award judgment were entered January 30, 2018. The Berlins' notice of appeal contesting the attorney fee award was filed March 19, 2018. Avila challenges the timeliness of the Berlins' appeal. Avila contends the timeliness of the appeal should have been measured from November 30, 2017, the date the notice of entry of the order awarding attorney fees was served to the Berlins' attorney. Measuring the timeliness of the appeal from the date that notice of the order was served would result in the 60-day window for appeal closing on January 29, 2018, making the Berlins' appeal untimely. The Berlins argued the district court's initial denial of an award of attorney fees to either party precludes a subsequent motion for the recovery of attorney fees under N.D.R.Civ.P. 54. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the amended judgment. View "Avila v. Weaver" on Justia Law

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Larry Alber appealed a January 2018 order amending a 2013 order which found Alber in contempt for failure to abate a nuisance on his property in compliance with a October 2003 judgment. He argued the judgment was satisfied when he filed reports of compliance with the district court and thus the property no longer contained a nuisance subject to abatement. The City of Marion ("City") argued the district court properly amended the 2013 order. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in amending its order to clarify that the nuisance on the property remained subject to abatement after Alber's conveyance of the property. The Court therefore affirmed the district court's amended order. View "North Dakota ex rel. City of Marion v. Alber" on Justia Law

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Curtis and Karen Erickson appealed and the Cass County Joint Water Resource District cross-appealed after the district court ordered condemnation of the Ericksons' properties, determined the amount of just compensation, and awarded the Ericksons' attorney fees and costs. After a bench trial, each Each party presented evidence about the value of the properties, including testimony from appraisers. The district court found the Ericksons were entitled to just compensation for the properties in the amount of $48,200. The Ericksons moved for attorney fees and costs under N.D.C.C. 32-15-32. The District opposed the request, arguing the requested amount of attorney fees and costs was unreasonable. The court granted the Ericksons' motion and ordered the District to pay the Ericksons $114,346.47 in fees and costs. The Ericksons argued the district court erred in determining the amount of just compensation, contending the court failed to properly compensate them for the properties' "highest and best use." The District argued the district court misapplied the law by awarding the Ericksons the full amount they requested for attorney fees and costs. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not misinterpret or misapply the law and the court did not act in an arbitrary, unreasonable, or unconscionable manner when it decided to award attorney fees and costs. Therefore, the Court concluded the trial court did not abuse its discretion by awarding fees and costs. View "Cass County Joint Water Resource District v. Erickson" on Justia Law