Thursday, November 10, 2011

Summary 2011 WY 155

Summary of Decision November 10, 2011

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

Case Name: Platt v. Platt

Citation: 2011 WY 155

Docket Number: S-11-0049


Appeal from the District Court of Carbon County, Honorable Steven R. Cranfill, Judge

Representing Appellant (Plaintiffs): Elisa M. Butler and William L. Hiser, Brown & Hiser, Laramie, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee (Defendants): Karen Budd Falen and Brandon L. Jensen, Budd-Falen Law Offices, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Date of Decision: November 10, 2011

Facts: Appellants challenge an order from the district court modifying a partition of land made by court-appointed commissioners. Appellants contend that the district court did not have authority to modify the partition.

Issues: Whether a district court is authorized, as a matter of law, to unilaterally – without review or approval of the commissioners – modify the partition made by commissioners appointed pursuant to Wyo. Stat. 1-32-104, rather than simply accepting or rejecting the commissioners’ partition as a whole.

Holdings: In providing that “The writ of partition . . . shall . . . setoff and divide to the plaintiff or each party in interest such part and proportion of the estate as the court shall order,” Wyo. Stat. 1-32-105 indicates that a partition is subject to the ultimate approval of the district court, despite the fact that the commissioners have the initial responsibility to “make the partition.” Indeed, Appellants concede that the district court has the ability to reject a partition made by commissioners. However, they fail to explain any functional distinction between the power to reject a partition and the power to modify a partition. If the court has the ability to reject the commissioners’ report, then the court is already empowered to shape the partition, provided that the court’s judgment is a sound exercise of discretion. The district court’s ability to modify a partition better serves the objective of the partition statutes, which is to simplify, facilitate, and cheapen procedure. Accordingly, the district court had authority to modify the commissioners’ partition in order to obviate the parties’ objections to the report. Further, under the circumstances of this case, where both parties requested modifications concerning an easement and where the commissioners acknowledged that the decision to create the easement had “probably created a lot of problems,” there is no abuse of discretion in the district court’s amendment to the partition.

Finally, at the hearing on the parties’ objections to the partition, Appellants repeatedly asked the district court to modify the commissioners’ report. Appellants opened the hearing with a request that the Court “make a modification to the proposed division . . .” and concluded their arguments with a plea that the Court “uphold the commissioners’ report, to confirm the division made by the commissioners with the reasonable modification that the commissioners said, in light of the controversy.” In light of Appellants’ arguments below, there would be justification in concluding that Appellants complain of an error which they “induced or provoked the court” to commit. The doctrine of invited error dictates that if a party requests or moves the court to make a ruling which is actually erroneous and the court does so, that party cannot take advantage of the error on appeal or review.


J. Burke delivered the opinion for the court.

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