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Lumley v. Kapusta

Supreme Court of North Dakota

April 12, 2016

Jerry Lumley and Linda Lumley, Plaintiffs and Appellants
v.
Elaine Kapusta, Defendant and Appellee

          Appeal from the District Court of Mountrail County, North Central Judicial District, the Honorable Richard L. Hagar, Judge.

         Erin M. Conroy, Bottineau, N.D., for plaintiffs and appellants.

         William E. Bergman, Minot, N.D., for defendant and appellee.

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

          OPINION

Page 66

          Gerald W. VandeWalle, Chief Justice.

          [¶1] Jerry and Linda Lumley appealed from a judgment dismissing their action against Elaine Kapusta for specific performance of an oral contract to convey real property located in Mountrail County. Because the district court's finding that there was no enforceable oral contract between the parties is not clearly erroneous, we affirm the judgment.

         I

          [¶2] The Lumleys were long-time tenant farmers of Kapusta's property in Mountrail County. Kapusta resided in Virginia and wanted to sell her North Dakota property. Linda Lumley and Kapusta had telephone conversations in 2012 about the Lumleys purchasing some of the property. Linda Lumley told Kapusta she would obtain an appraisal of the property. Dacotah Bank conducted an " Agricultural Real Estate In-House Evaluation," which specifically warned " [t]his evaluation is not an appraisal," and valued the property at $525,827. Butch Haugland, who is not a licensed appraiser, also conducted an evaluation and valued the property $60,000 higher than the bank's valuation.

          [¶3] Based on the bank's valuation, the Lumleys sent Kapusta a cashier's check for $525,827, deeds to be executed by Kapusta, and a note instructing her that " [t]he purchase of all the property is contingent upon all documents being signed, notarized, and returned the same day as signed." Kapusta endorsed and deposited the check in a bank and signed the deeds, but did not return the executed deeds to the Lumleys. According to Kapusta and her daughter, they telephoned Linda Lumley and told her they did not understand why there had been no appraisal of the property and they wanted one performed. Shortly afterward, Kapusta returned the money to the Lumleys.

          [¶4] The Lumleys sued Kapusta for specific performance of their alleged oral contract to convey the property. Following a bench trial, the district court found there was no enforceable oral contract between the parties, but only an offer by the Lumleys to purchase the property, which

Page 67

was rejected by Kapusta. The court dismissed ...


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