Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Summary 2007 WY 87

Summary of Decision issued May 23, 2007

[SPECIAL NOTE: This opinion uses "Universal Citation" and was given an "official" citation when issued. You should use this citation whenever you cite the opinion, with a P.3d parallel citation. You will note that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you need to provide a pinpoint citation, the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number. The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion should include the reporter page number. If you need assistance, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library.]

Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Case Name: Ecosystem Resources, LC v. Broadbent Land & Resources, LLC

Citation: 2007 WY 87

Docket Number: 05-277

Appeal from the District Court of Uinta County, the Honorable Dennis L. Sanderson, Judge

Representing Appellant (Defendant): Phillip William Lear of Lear & Lear, LLP, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff): Clayton B. Thomas, Evanston, Wyoming; M. David Eckersley of Prince, Yeates & Geldzahler, Salt Lake City, Utah. Argument by Mr. Eckersley.

Issues: Whether the trial court erred as a matter of law in holding that a reservation of “all timber” created an estate in timber limited to a reasonable time rather than an estate in perpetuity. Assuming Wyoming law requires words of duration to create a perpetual timber easement; whether the trial court erred in holding that the reservation did not contain such language.

Facts/Discussion: In the early 1900’s Union Pacific Railroad Company (UP) conveyed real property located in Uinta County to Broadbent Land & Resources, LLC’s (Broadbent) predecessors in interest, but reserved and excepted “all timber” on said lands. Nearly one hundred years later, Ecosystem Resources, LC (Ecosystem) acquired the timber rights and proceeded to harvest the timber. As surface owner, Broadbent asked the district court to quiet title to the timber in it.
Standard of Review:
The Court reviews a district court’s decision granting a judgment on the pleadings pursuant to W.R.C.P. 12(c) de novo by applying the same standards used by the district court in ruling on the motion.
This is a matter of first impression for the Court, the duration of an interest in timber created in a deed when no time limit is set out in the language of the deed. The Court’s deed interpretation rules focus on deriving the intentions of the parties. The Court begins by reviewing the language of the deed giving it its plain and ordinary meaning and then if it is clear and unambiguous, the Court looks to the “four corners” of the deed to ascertain the parties’ intent. Even if the contract is unambiguous, the Court can examine the evidence of the circumstances surrounding the execution of the deed.
The plain language of the deeds did not limit the duration of the timber interests to a “reasonable time.” The district court resolved the case by applying the “reasonable time” rule found in cases from other jurisdictions but declined to consider Ecosystem’s proffered evidence regarding the facts and circumstances surrounding the execution of the UP Deeds. After reviewing many cases, the Court was not convinced the rule was “universal” or a clear majority rule in the United States in 1908 or 1909. Current treatises indicate there is no universal rule. The Court noted the policy expressed by courts when adopting the “reasonable time” rule may or may not be applicable in Wyoming because simultaneous use of different interests in the same real property is common in Wyoming.
If the Court were interpreting a simple contract or bill of sale for removal of standing timber, they would have had no difficulty in accepting the district court’s decision that, when no time is specified for completion of the contract, it must be performed in a reasonable time. The Court was being asked to interpret deeds purporting to reserve “all timber” to the grantor and they were reluctant to do so unless they were convinced that was the general intent of the parties when they entered into the UP deeds at issue.

Holding: After reviewing numerous cases, the Court concluded it would be imprudent as well as inconsistent with their jurisprudence to recite a general rule as to how long a timber interest should continue when there was no expression of duration in the conveying document. The Court stated the district court should have considered all of the facts and circumstances surrounding execution of the Union Pacific deed to determine the parties’ general intent.

Reversed and remanded.

J. Kite delivered the decision.

Link: .

No comments:

Check out our tags in a cloud (from Wordle)!