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Poppe v. Stockert

Supreme Court of North Dakota

October 13, 2015

Kara and Kent Poppe, Plaintiffs and Appellants
v.
Theresa Stockert, d/b/a Community Blessings and Pamela Hillis, Defendants and Appellees

Page 188

Appeal from the District Court of Morton County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable Bruce A. Romanick, Judge.

Daniel H. Oster, Bismarck, ND, for plaintiffs and appellants.

Daniel M. Traynor, Devils Lake, ND, for defendant and appellee, Pamela Hillis.

Theresa Stockert (appeared), d/b/a Community Blessings, self-represented, Bismarck, ND, defendant and appellee.

Daniel J. Crothers, Lisa Fair McEvers, Carol Ronning Kapsner, Dale V. Sandstrom. Opinion of the Court by Crothers, Justice. I concur in the result. Gerald W. VandeWalle, C.J.

OPINION

Page 189

Daniel J. Crothers, Justice.

[¶1] Kara and Kent Poppe appeal a district court summary judgment dismissing

Page 190

their conversion claim. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

I

[¶2] Undisputed evidence shows the Poppes rented a house from Hillis for five years, until February 4, 2013 when Hillis served them with an eviction notice for unpaid rent. The district court ordered the Poppes to vacate the property by February 20 at 12:00 p.m. and entered a money judgment against them for $1,544 for past due rent. The Poppes requested and received permission from Hillis to remain on the property an additional five hours to remove their belongings with the assistance of a Welcome House moving truck. The Poppes vacated on February 20 but left personal property in the house. Hillis arranged for Community Blessings, owned by Stockert, to pack, remove and store the remaining property. When the Poppes requested to retrieve their remaining property, Hillis referred them to Stockert. Stockert demanded the Poppes pay $4,600 for packing, moving and storage expenses before the property would be returned. The Poppes did not pay Stockert $4,600 and did not retrieve their property from Community Blessings. The Poppes' washer and dryer remained in the home until sold by Hillis to new renters on May 20, 2013.

[¶3] The Poppes sued Stockert for conversion and the parties stipulated the Poppes could retrieve undisputed property from Community Blessings. The Poppes were unable to retrieve all of their property from Community Blessings and litigation continued. The Poppes ultimately joined Hillis as a party to the proceedings and moved to amend the complaint to include an exemplary damages claim alleging Hillis' and Stockert's conduct was oppressive or malicious. Hillis filed a cross-motion for summary judgment alleging a statutory right to dispose of the property, which Stockert joined. The district court entered an order denying the Poppes' motion to amend the complaint and granting summary judgment in favor of Hillis and Stockert. The Poppes appeal.

II

[¶4] The Poppes argue the district court erred in granting summary judgment because it misinterpreted Hillis' right to remove their personal property from the rental property. Hillis argues she had a right to remove the property under N.D.C.C. § 47-16-30.1 ...


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