Linda D. Nelson, Jill E. Mattson, Jeffery C. Mattson and Joan Louise Mattson, Plaintiffs and Appellants
Steven R. Mattson; Joyleen A. Mattson; Steven R. Mattson and Joyleen A. Mattson as Trustees of the Steven R. Mattson Living Trust, dated April 12, 2012; Roald Mattson; Marilyn Mattson; Roald F. Mattson and Marilyn Mattson, Trustees of the Roald F. Mattson Living Trust, dated February 5, 2007; Defendants and Appellees and Crescent Point Energy U.S. Corp.; and all other persons unknown claiming any estate or interest in, or lien or encumbrance upon, the property described in the complaint, Defendants
from the District Court of Williams County, Northwest
Judicial District, the Honorable Joshua B. Rustad, Judge.
R. Larson, Chandler, Arizona, for plaintiffs and appellants.
Richard P. Olson (argued) and Wanda L. Fischer (on brief),
Minot, North Dakota, for defendants and appellees.
1] Linda Nelson, Jill Mattson, Jeffrey Mattson, and Joan
Louise Mattson appeal from the district court's judgment
quieting title to property in the Steven R. Mattson Living
Trust and the Roald F. Mattson Living Trust (the
"Trusts"), and awarding damages to Steven R.
Mattson, the Steven R. Mattson Living Trust, and the Roald F.
Mattson Living Trust (collectively, the
"Mattsons"). Because the joint tenancy between
Leif, Alf, and Roald Mattson was not severed prior to Leif
Mattson's death, the district court did not clearly err
by quieting title to property in the Trusts. Further, the
district court did not clearly err by awarding damages to the
Trusts for the oil and gas lease payments under a theory of
conversion. However, the district court erred by awarding
damages to Steven Mattson for the amount he paid to
Leif's heirs for the purported interest they owned in the
surface of the property because unjust enrichment was
unavailable and the voluntary payment doctrine applies. We
affirm in part and reverse in part.
2] In 1973, Julia Alvstad deeded real estate in Williams
County (the "Property") to her sons Leif, Alf, and
Roald Mattson (the "Mattson Brothers") as joint
tenants with the right of survivorship. The Mattson Brothers
farmed and leased the Property together, equally sharing
income and expenses. The business, RAL Farm, filed
partnership tax returns.
3] Leif Mattson died in 2001, leaving his estate to his
children--Linda Nelson, Jill Mattson, Jeffrey Mattson,
Douglas Mattson, and Kevin Mattson. Kevin Mattson died in
2008, leaving his estate to his spouse, Joan Louise Mattson.
Leif's children received rental payments for a one-third
interest in the Property.
4] The district court found that in 2003, Alf Mattson deeded
his one-third interest in the Property to his nephew, Steven
Mattson. In 2010, Leif's heirs and successors sold to
Steven Mattson by quitclaim deed a one-third interest,
reserving mineral rights. Leif's children continued to
receive one-third of the payments under certain oil and gas
leases of the Property.
5] In 2012, Steven and Joyleen Mattson transferred
Steven's purported two-thirds ownership interest in the
Property to the Steven R. Mattson Living Trust. In 2013,
Roald and Marilyn Mattson transferred to the Roald F. Mattson
Living Trust Roald's purported one-third ownership
interest in the Property. After having a law firm review the
chain of title in the Property, Steven Mattson advised
Leif's children in 2013 that they had sold him land he
already owned and that they were wrongfully receiving payment
for minerals they did not own. Douglas Mattson entered into a
release of all claims with Steven Mattson.
6] Following a bench trial, the district court concluded that
"at the death of Leif Mattson, his 1/3 ownership in the
subject property automatically transferred to Alf and Roald
Mattson as surviving joint tenants, each with a 1/2 interest
in the subject real property, " and that "the sale
of Alf Mattson's 1/3 interest to Steve Mattson severed
the joint tenancy, with Steve and Roald Mattson each then
owning a 1/2 interest as tenants in common." The court
quieted title to the Property in Steve and Roald's
successors-in-interest, the Trusts. Further, the district
court awarded Steven Mattson damages for the amount that he
paid to Leif's heirs for their purported one-third
interest in the surface of the Property under unjust
enrichment, and awarded the Trusts damages for the oil and
gas lease payments made on the Property under the theories of
unjust enrichment and conversion.
7] The Appellants argue that the Mattson Brothers formed a
partnership, RAL Farm. The district court found that the
Mattson Brothers had formed a joint venture. Whether the
Mattson Brothers' relationship is categorized as a
partnership or as a joint venture for this dispute does not
affect the outcome here. See SPW Associates, LLP v.
Anderson, 2006 ND 159, ¶ 8, 718 N.W.2d 580
(stating, "A joint venture is generally considered akin
to a partnership, although more limited in scope and
duration, and principles of partnership law apply to the
joint venture relationship."). In SPW
Associates, we sustained the district court's
determination that a supplier and builder were involved in a
joint venture to build airplanes, and concluded that the
supplied parts became joint venture property. Id. at
¶ 17. Thus, property can be owned by a joint venture,
much as property can be owned by a partnership. See
id.; see also Kelly v. Lang, 62 N.W.2d 770, 774
(N.D. 1953); Gehl ...