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Spirit Property Management v. Vondell

Supreme Court of North Dakota

June 29, 2017

Spirit Property Management, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Luetta Vondell, Barbara Vondell and all others unnamed in possession of any portion of the property, Defendants Barbara Vondell, Appellant

         Appeal from the District Court of Williams County, Northwest Judicial District, the Honorable Joshua B. Rustad, Judge.

          Ryan C. McCamy (argued) and Thaddeus E. Swanson (appeared), Minot, ND, for plaintiff and appellee.

          Breezy A. Schmidt, Legal Services of ND, Minot, ND, for appellant.

          OPINION

          Crothers, Justice.

         [¶ 1] Barbara Vondell appeals from a judgment entered for Spirit Property Management, evicting her from possession of real property and awarding a money judgment against her. We conclude the district court had both subject matter jurisdiction over the eviction and personal jurisdiction over Vondell. We affirm.

         I

         [¶ 2] For over twenty-five years Luetta Vondell owned a mobile home on a rented lot in Williams County. Sometime after Luetta Vondell was diagnosed with dementia her daughter Barbara Vondell moved in with her, becoming her full-time care giver and agent under a durable power of attorney. In July 2014 Barbara Vondell and Luetta Vondell, through Barbara Vondell under the power of attorney, signed a one-year lease for the mobile home lot. The lease commenced on July 1, 2014, continuing on a month-to-month basis after the lease term. Luetta Vondell died in September 2015.

         [¶ 3] In March 2016 Spirit Property commenced this action for eviction and possession of real property for nonpayment of rent. Vondell answered the suit, denying Spirit Property's claims and asserting various defenses. At a May 2016 eviction hearing the district court found Barbara Vondell moved out of the home in November 2015. The mobile home continued occupying Spirit Property's lot. The court found that while lot rent was partially paid for September 2015, no rent was paid in October and November 2015. The court entered an order and judgment against Vondell granting Spirit Property possession of the property and awarding $2, 440 for unpaid rent and costs.

         II

         [¶ 4] Eviction actions under N.D.C.C. ch. 47-32 are designed as summary proceedings. Gasic v. Bosworth, 2014 ND 85, ¶ 7, 845 N.W.2d 306. We have explained this expedited procedure:

"Section 47-32-02, N.D.C.C., provides for an expedited procedure, with the defendant allowed between three and fifteen days to appear and defend in the action. If the court finds for the plaintiff, the court must enter judgment granting immediate restitution of the premises to the plaintiff, but the court may delay execution in case of hardship for a reasonable period not exceeding five days. N.D.C.C. § 47-32-04. The statute strictly limits the parties' ability to combine the eviction with other claims and precludes the defendant from interposing a counterclaim, except as a setoff to the plaintiff's claim for damages, rent, or profits. N.D.C.C. § 47-32-04. The proceeding is limited to a speedy determination of the right to possession of the property, without bringing in extraneous matters. The purpose of the statute is to provide an inexpensive, expeditious, and simple means to determine possession."

Cheetah Props. 1, LLC v. Panther Pressure Testers, Inc., 2016 ND 102, ¶ 20, 879 N.W.2d 423 (quoting Gasic, at ¶ 7). While "the defendant may show the character of the possessory rights claimed by the parties[, ]... the right to the possession of the real estate is the only fact that can be rightfully litigated unless damages or rent is claimed." Gasic, at ¶ 8 (quoting Anderson v. Heinze, 2002 ND 60, ¶ 11, 643 N.W.2d 24). Therefore, "a party seeking damages in a summary eviction proceeding under N.D.C.C. § 47-32-01(4) is limited to those specified under N.D.C.C. § 47-32-04." Cheetah Props., at ¶ 20. "Specifically, a party may seek damages resulting from 'rents and profits accrued or for damages arising by reason of the defendant's possession. '" Id. (quoting N.D.C.C. § 47-32-04).

         III

         [¶ 5] Vondell challenges the district court's subject matter jurisdiction of the eviction action and personal jurisdiction over her. The court must have both subject matter and personal jurisdiction to enter a valid order or judgment. State v. Winegar, 2017 ND 106, ΒΆ 6, 893 N.W.2d ...


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