Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Summary 2013 WY 51

Summary of Decision April 30, 2013

Justice Davis delivered the opinion for the Court. Affirmed in Part. Reversed in part. Remanded.

Case Name: JAMES E. KOCH v. J&J RANCH, LLC, a Wyoming Limited Liability Company.

Docket Number: S-12-0179

URL: http://www.courts.state.wy.us/Opinions.aspx

Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County, Honorable Thomas T.C. Campbell, Judge.

Representing Appellant: Daniel B. Frank of Frank Law Office, P.C., Cheyenne, Wyoming

Representing Appellee: James R. Salisbury of Riske & Salisbury, P.C., Cheyenne, Wyoming

Date of Decision: April 30, 2013

Facts: The parties are two rural landowners who own easements crossing a parcel of ranchland in Laramie County, Wyoming. When Appellant James Koch improved the common roadway and asked his neighbor to contribute to the cost of those improvements, Appellee J&J Ranch, LLC brought suit against Koch in the District Court for the First Judicial District. J&J sought a declaratory judgment as to the parties’ respective rights and duties relating to maintenance and repair of the road, as well as injunctive relief and damages for Koch’s alleged interference with J&J’s use of the easement.

Koch responded with similar counterclaims, but also claimed the right to equitable contribution from J&J for the costs he incurred in improving the road.

Issues: We restate the questions raised by this appeal as follows:

1. Was the district court’s denial of Koch’s equitable contribution claim consistent with the principles set out in Rageth v. Sidon Irrigation District, 2001 WY 121, 258 P.3d 712 (Wyo. 2011), and otherwise not clearly erroneous or an abuse of discretion?

2. Did the court err as a matter of law when it declared that:

a. Appellant had no right to repair or maintain the easement?
b. Appellant had no right to recover a portion of the costs of repair or maintenance from Appellee?
c. Appellant’s use of the easement could not exceed the boundaries of his grant?

Holdings: The district court made findings which were not erroneous in light of the record before it, and it likewise reasonably exercised its discretion in denying Koch’s claim for an equitable contribution for the cost of rebuilding the parties’ common private road. Consequently, the Court affirmed that portion of the district court’s decision.

Because the provisions of the court’s declaratory relief order finding that Koch cannot maintain the easement or recover a share of the cost of doing so if he does cannot be sustained as a matter of law, the Court reversed and remanded for entry of an order granting declaratory relief consistent with this decision. The Court also reversed the district court’s determination that Koch may not use any portion of the easement outside the boundaries of the Fogg/Palen grant because the owner of the servient estate was not a party to this case. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

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

[SPECIAL NOTE: This opinion uses the "Universal Citation." It was given an "official" citation when it was issued. You should use this citation whenever you cite the opinion, with a P.3d parallel citation. You will also note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you need to provide a pinpoint citation to a quote the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number. The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion will need to have the reporter page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation from this, or any future opinion using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library and we will provide any needed assistance]

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