from the District Court of Cass County, East Central Judicial
District, the Honorable John C. Irby, Judge.
M. Mesteth, Fargo, ND, for plaintiff and appellant.
C. Hendricks, Minneapolis, MN, for defendants and appellees
Benjamin B. Hendricks and Stephanie L. Hendricks.
1] Winnie Development, LLLP appeals from a district court
judgment holding it has no interest in a parcel of land in
the City of Horace. Winnie argues it has a legal interest
allowing access to its property adjacent to the disputed
parcel. We reverse and remand to the district court for entry
of judgment, providing that Winnie holds fee title to the
disputed parcel subject to the City's access rights.
2] Carroll and Mary Lou Orth owned certain real property in
Cass County and in 1979 platted the Orth-Golberg Second
Addition to the City of Horace. The Horace City Council
approved the plat on June 4, 1979 and recorded it on July 2,
1979. Block 1, Lot 14 ("Parcel 1") of the
subdivision is labeled on the plat as "City Dike
Access." Parcel 1 is a 20-foot wide lot extending from a
road on its east side to the west edge of the subdivision.
The Dedication of the plat does not mention Parcel 1. By
comparison, a park identified on the plat as Block 2, Lot 14
includes a specific dedication for "the use of the
public." Parcel 1 was not on Cass County property tax
rolls until Winnie sought and obtained a quitclaim deed from
Mary Lou Orth in 2014.
3] This litigation arose after Winnie sought access over
Parcel 1 to reach an adjacent 1.6-acre piece of land
("Parcel 2"). Parcel 2 is not in the Orth-Golberg
Second Addition. It lies between the Sheyenne River and
several other privately owned lots in the subdivision. Parcel
2 can be accessed only via Parcel 1, crossing the Sheyenne
River or crossing privately owned property in the
subdivision. Winnie brought this action to quiet title in
Winnie to both Parcel 1 and Parcel 2, to declare an easement
by necessity in Winnie's favor over Parcel 1, or to
reform the plat and declare Parcel 1 dedicated to the public
subject to access rights not inconsistent with the plat's
"City Dike Access."
4] Some defendants owning land in the vicinity of Parcel 1
made no answer to Winnie's complaint. One defendant
answered but did not otherwise litigate the issues. The
district court ultimately entered judgment barring these
defendants from further claiming any interest in Parcel 1.
Stephanie and Benjamin Hendricks own the property immediately
south of Parcel 1. The Hendricks counterclaimed against
Winnie, arguing they owned all or part of Parcel 1 and Winnie
was trespassing on their property by using Parcel 1 to access
Parcel 2. The district court rejected both of the
Hendricks's counterclaims. None of the parties contests
Winnie's claim to Parcel 2, and the district court
quieted title in Winnie to that property.
5] The City of Horace also answered and counterclaimed,
alleging it had an interest in Parcel 1 to access City dikes.
The district court subsequently granted the City's motion
for summary judgment, holding the City has a right to use
Parcel 1 to access the City's dikes regardless of
ultimate disposition of the property. The district court
"The property rights of the plaintiff and/or the other
defendants in and to [Parcel 1] are subject to the right of
the City of Horace to cross [Parcel 1] for the purpose of
accessing City dikes.
"The interest of the City of Horace, in and to [Parcel
1], shall be recognized in the final judgment in the
above-entitled quiet title action, brought before the Court
by Winnie Development LLLP."
6] The district court conducted a bench trial in November
2016. The court found the designation of Parcel 1 as
"City Dike Access" divested Mary Lou Orth of any
title, and thus the quitclaim deed Winnie obtained from her
in 2014 conveyed no interest. The district court also found
Winnie failed to meet its burden of proof establishing an
easement by necessity, and found Winnie incorrectly claimed
an easement over the land of a third party. Judgment was
entered in March of 2017 and Winnie timely appealed.
7] Winnie argues the district court erred by finding the City
of Horace is the only party with any interest in Parcel 1, by
finding Winnie had no right in Parcel 1 to access Parcel 2,
and by finding Winnie did not prove an easement by necessity.
The Hendricks are the only other party participating in the
appeal and argue the district court did not err finding ...