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Klein v. Sletto

Supreme Court of North Dakota

February 16, 2017

Kevin Klein and Lynn Klein, Plaintiffs and Appellants
v.
Glen Sletto, Norine Sletto, and Gregory Sletto, Their Heirs, Defendants and Appellees and Donald Schmidt, and Any Person in Possession of the Real Property Described in the Complaint, and Any Person in Possession of Any Portion of the Real Property Described in the Complaint and All Other Persons Unknown Claiming Any Estate or Interest in or Lien or Encumbrance upon the Real Property Described in the Complaint and All Other Persons Discovered During the Litigation Herein Claiming Any Estate or Interest in or Lien or Encumbrance upon the Real Property Described in the Complaint, Defendants

         Appeal from the District Court of McHenry County, Northeast Judicial District, the Honorable John C. McClintock, Jr., Judge.

          Erin M. Conroy, for plaintiffs and appellants; submitted on brief.

          Richard P. Olson, Ryan G. Quarne, and Wanda L. Fischer, for defendants and appellees; submitted on brief.

          OPINION

          McEVERS, JUSTICE.

         [¶ 1] Kevin and Lynn Klein appeal from a judgment dismissing their claims and quieting title to certain real property in Gregory Sletto. We affirm, concluding the district court did not err in granting summary judgment because the Kleins failed to present any evidence supporting their claims about the existence of a valid contract.

         I

         [¶ 2] In 1990, Kevin Klein purchased property located in McHenry County. In March 1993, he transferred the property to Glen and Norine Sletto by warranty deed, and the warranty deed was recorded in the county recorder's office on March 10, 1993. After the 1993 transfer to Glen and Norine Sletto, a portion of the property was transferred to Kip Farms. In 2001, the remaining property was transferred to Glen and Norine Sletto's son, Gregory Sletto, and he sold a portion of the property to Donald Schmidt in 2002.

         [¶ 3] In January 2014, the Kleins sued Glen and Norine Sletto, and Gregory Sletto, requesting the court quiet title to the disputed property in their names and seeking damages for claims of breach of contract and fraud. The Kleins alleged the Slettos breached an oral agreement Glen Sletto made with Kevin Klein entitling Kevin Klein to buy back all of the property he transferred to the Slettos in 1993, except the portion sold to Kip Farms, for approximately $50, 000 after he leased the property from the Slettos for ten years. The Kleins claimed the Slettos refused to accept the $50, 000 payment for the property and refused to deed the property back to Kevin Klein as agreed.

         [¶ 4] The Kleins moved to compel depositions of Glen and Norine Sletto. The Slettos responded to the motion and argued the depositions would be an undue burden on Glen and Norine Sletto because they both have significant medical problems. The Slettos moved for a protective order to prevent the depositions.

         [¶ 5] In August 2015, the Slettos moved for summary judgment. The Slettos argued they were entitled to judgment as a matter of law because the statutes of limitations for the Kleins' claims had expired and the statute of frauds required the agreement be in writing. They filed exhibits in support of the motion. The Kleins opposed the motion, arguing the statutes of limitations did not preclude their claims and the facts of the case created an exception to the statute of frauds. The Kleins filed exhibits in support of their arguments opposing the motion. Neither party requested oral argument. Glen Sletto died in October 2015, while the case was pending.

         [¶ 6] In November 2015, the district court granted the Slettos' motion for summary judgment. The court ruled the Kleins did not present any evidence to support the proposition that an agreement satisfying the statute of frauds existed between them and the Slettos, a twenty-year statute of limitations applied to the Kleins' claim to recover the property, and the claims result from a transfer of property that occurred on March 10, 1993. The court found there was no admissible evidence in the record to support the Kleins' claim about the existence of an oral agreement for the Slettos to sell the property back to Kevin Klein after ten years. The court also concluded the statutes of limitations for the fraud and breach of contract claims expired. The court dismissed the Kleins' claims with prejudice and ordered the property Gregory Sletto owns is quieted in his favor.

         II

         [¶ 7] In Hamilton v. Woll, 2012 ND 238, ¶ 9, 823 N.W.2d 754 (quoting Wenco v. EOG Res., Inc., 2012 ND 219, ¶ 8, 822 N.W.2d 701), we explained the well-established standard for reviewing summary judgments:

Summary judgment is a procedural device for the prompt resolution of a controversy on the merits without a trial if there are no genuine issues of material fact or inferences that can reasonably be drawn from undisputed facts, or if the only issues to be resolved are questions of law. A party moving for summary judgment has the burden of showing there are no ...

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