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Hageness v. Davis

Supreme Court of North Dakota

June 7, 2017

Shirley Hageness, Patricia Robbins, Bernice Larson, Gregory Moore, Monte Moore, Debbie Wagner, Marrilee Campbell, Amy Jo LaBree, Scott Moore, Kathy Schmidt and Bonnie Strand, Plaintiffs and Appellants
v.
Juanita C. Davis, as Trustee of Juanita C. Davis Revocable Living Trust; Teresa A. Vineyard as Trustee of the Davis Family Trust; Scott P. Davis as Trustee of the Davis Family Trust; Juanita C. Davis, a single person; Christine Meiers; Richard D. Meiers; Gayne L. Meiers; Gladys L. Meiers; Lee Meiers; Defendants and Appellees and all unknown persons claiming any estate or interest in or lien upon the property described in the Complaint, Defendants

         Appeal from the District Court of Mountrail County, North Central Judicial District, the Honorable Stacy Joan Louser, Judge.

          Robert S. Rau, Minot, N.D., for plaintiffs and appellants.

          Nicholas P. Van Deven (argued), St. Louis, Mo., and Bryan L. Van Grinsven (appeared), Minot, N.D., for defendants and appellees Juanita C. Davis, as Trustee of Juanita C. Davis Revocable Living Trust; Teresa A. Vineyard as Trustee of the Davis Family Trust; Scott P. Davis as Trustee of the Davis Family Trust; and Juanita C. Davis, a single person.

          Scott M. Knudsvig (argued) and Matthew H. Olson (on brief), Minot, N.D., for defendants and appellees Christine Meiers, Richard D. Meiers, Gayne L. Meiers, Gladys L. Meiers, and Lee Meiers.

          OPINION

          VandeWalle, Chief Justice.

         [¶ 1] The plaintiffs appealed from an amended judgment entered after the district court granted summary judgment dismissing their claims against the defendants (collectively, "Davises" and "Meiers"), seeking to determine title to real property. We conclude the district court did not err in concluding the plaintiffs' action was time-barred under N.D.C.C. § 28-01-04. We affirm.

         I

         [¶ 2] In October 2015, the plaintiffs commenced this quiet title action to determine the parties' interests in property located in Mountrail County. The plaintiffs generally allege they are descendants or successors in interest of Walter Larson, who died in 1959, and challenge the validity of certain deeds from the 1950s transferring Larson's interest in the property at issue to the defendants' predecessors in interest. The Meiers claimed they were the surface owners of the land under an unbroken chain of title to the surface since 1972. The Davises claimed they were the mineral owners under an unbroken chain of title establishing their ownership of the mineral rights for more than sixty years and asserted they and their predecessors in interest have actively possessed and been seized of the mineral rights since at least 2005 by executing one or more oil and gas leases.

         [¶ 3] On December 8, 2015, the Davises moved to dismiss the action under N.D.R.Civ.P. 12(b), contending the plaintiffs' claims were time-barred under N.D.C.C. § 28-01-04 and did not allege superior title to the property. The Davises alternatively requested the district court order the plaintiffs to provide a more definitive statement under N.D.R.Civ.P. 12(e). On December 17, the Meiers moved to dismiss the action for failure to state a claim under N.D.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), asserting the claims were barred by the statute of limitations. They alternatively requested summary judgment under N.D.R.Civ.P. 56. On December 18, the Meiers also filed an answer dated November 9, 2015, that denied the claims and raised defenses, including statute of limitations.

         [¶ 4] On December 29, 2015, the plaintiffs filed a response brief to the Meiers' motion and a cross-motion for partial summary judgment against them. The plaintiffs' notice of motion requested oral argument on the motion but did not set a time and date, and their supporting brief also stated they "request Oral Argument at a time convenient to the Court and scheduled by the Court." On December 31, 2015, the plaintiffs also moved for partial summary judgment against the Davises, again requesting oral argument be "scheduled by the Court, " but without setting a specific date or time.

         [¶ 5] On December 31, 2015, the Davises moved the district court for a protective order staying discovery pending the court's ruling on their motion to dismiss. On January 13, 2016, Meiers also moved for a similar protective order staying discovery. In January 2015, notices for oral argument on the Davises' and Meiers' pending motions for protective orders and to dismiss were also served and filed, scheduling a hearing for February 11, 2016. The district court held a hearing on February 11, 2016, during which counsel for the parties made arguments on the pending motions.

         [¶ 6] On February 11, 2016, the district court granted the defendants' motions for a stay of discovery pending resolution of the motions to dismiss. On March 29, 2016, the court granted the Meiers' and the Davises' motions, dismissing the plaintiffs' complaint against both sets of defendants. The court held that the plaintiffs' complaint was barred by the twenty-year statute of limitations under N.D.C.C. § 28-01-04 and that the plaintiffs had failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact for trial. The court entered a judgment dismissing the action with prejudice on April 7, 2016.

         [¶ 7] On April 13, 2016, the district court entered an order clarifying that its prior order disposed of all pending matters, including the plaintiffs' cross-motions for summary judgment. An amended judgment was entered on April 15, 2016, dismissing the action with prejudice ...


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