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David and Virginia Ceynar v. Tesoro Logistics LP

Supreme Court of North Dakota

April 28, 2017

David and Virginia Ceynar, Plaintiffs and Appellants
v.
Tesoro Logistics LP and McKenzie County, North Dakota, a Public Corporation, State of North Dakota, Defendants and Appellees

         Appeal from the District Court of McKenzie County, Northwest Judicial District, the Honorable Robin A. Schmidt, Judge.

          Joshua A. Swanson,, for plaintiffs and appellants.

          Paul J. Forster (argued), Benjamin J. Sand (appeared) and Brian R. Bjella (on brief), for defendant and appellee Tesoro Logistics LP.

          Scott K. Porsborg (argued) and Preston J. Wise (on brief), for defendant and appellee McKenzie County.

          Crothers, Justice.

         [¶ 1] David and Virginia Ceynar appeal from a summary judgment in favor of Tesoro Logistics LP and McKenzie County. The Ceynars argue the district court erred in holding that the lane was a "public highway" within the scope of the easement and that Tesoro Logistics and McKenzie County did not need permission to build a lane on their property. We affirm the district court's judgment in favor of Tesoro and McKenzie County.

         I

         [¶ 2] The Ceynars own property along a section line highway in McKenzie County. In 1982 the Ceynars' predecessor in interest granted an easement to McKenzie County. The easement provides: "It is understood that the said land is hereby granted and conveyed for highway purposes to the use of said McKenzie County so long as the above described premises are used for a public highway." The easement expands the statutory easement from 33 feet to 75 feet from the centerline. Tesoro operates the Blue Buttes Station oil-truck offloading facility along the highway near the Ceynars' property. According to Tesoro employee, James Sanford, the County approached Tesoro regarding a safety issue caused by trucks backed up on the highway waiting to deliver crude oil to Blue Buttes Station.

         [¶ 3] According to Virginia Ceynar, Tesoro approached them about obtaining a right-of-way on their property to construct a lane to Blue Buttes Station. She said Tesoro asked if they were interested in selling property to Tesoro for the lane. Virginia Ceynar alleged Tesoro offered to buy their property but they refused because the price was too low. Tesoro denies offering to buy the Ceynars' property. Following the alleged offer the Ceynars had no other communications with Tesoro.

         [¶ 4] According to Sanford the County found a solution to the perceived safety issue when it discovered it owned an easement over the Ceynars' property large enough to expand the road. Tesoro and the County agreed to "[c]onstruct a truck parking lane" on the Ceynars' property. The agreement provided that Tesoro would make a one-time payment of $67, 851.70 to the County for construction of the lane. Tesoro further agreed to not use the "parking lane as a permanent parking or storage area but solely for purposes of temporary truck parking during times of delayed access to the Blue Butte Station for loading and unloading operations." According to Virginia Ceynar, she discovered the lane was being constructed on their property when she was out checking on their crops.

         [¶ 5] McKenzie County Road Superintendent, Michael Dollinger, contends that the lane is public property and Tesoro does not have an exclusive right to use it. Tesoro employee, Michael Blanco, explained that Tesoro does not use the lane for long-term or overnight parking but uses the lane as an exit from the highway to Blue Buttes Station and occasionally for temporary parking if there is a wait to access the station. According to Blanco, drivers who temporarily park on the lane are required to stay in their vehicle with the engine idling.

         [¶ 6] After the construction and use of the lane, the Ceynars sued Tesoro and the County alleging trespass and nuisance and requesting declaratory relief. The Ceynars moved for summary judgment, arguing Tesoro and the County's use of the lane exceeds the scope of the 1982 easement. Tesoro and the County filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Tesoro and the County and dismissed the Ceynars' claims with prejudice. The Ceynars appeal.

         II

         [¶ 7] This Court's review of summary judgment ...


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