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Thompson v. Molde

Supreme Court of North Dakota

November 13, 2018

Daniel Louis Thompson and Jann Elizabeth Thompson, Plaintiffs and Appellants
v.
Walsh County Auditor Kris Molde, Walsh County Attorney, County of Walsh, Walsh County Commissioners, and State of North Dakota, Defendants and Appellees

          Appeal from the District Court of Walsh County, Northeast Judicial District, the Honorable Donovan J. Foughty, Judge.

          Daniel L. Thompson, Adams, ND, plaintiff and appellant.

          Cody C. Cummings (argued) and Daniel L. Gaustad (on brief), Grand Forks, ND, for defendants and appellees.

          OPINION

          Crothers, Justice

         [¶ 1] Daniel and Jann Thompson appeal a district court judgment dismissing their complaint against Walsh County, the Walsh County Auditor, the Walsh County State's Attorney, the Walsh County Board of Commissioners and the state of North Dakota. We affirm, concluding the court did not err by dismissing the Thompsons' claims.

         I

         [¶ 2] In May 2016 Walsh County notified Jann Thompson [1] she failed to pay her 2013 property taxes. The notice stated the County would foreclose on the property unless Thompson paid the taxes by October 1, 2016. Thompson previously attempted to pay the taxes with promissory notes and other instruments; however, they were not accepted by the County. On October 6, 2016, the County recorded a tax deed for the property due to Thompson's failure to pay the 2013 taxes. The County informed Thompson she had the right to repurchase the property before the tax sale by paying all outstanding taxes and costs against the property. On November 2, 2016, Thompson paid the 2013, 2014 and 2015 taxes and redeemed the property.

         [¶ 3] Before paying the outstanding property taxes the Thompsons sued the Defendants, claiming the State has no authority to tax their property, and county officials improperly refused payment by not accepting the Thompsons' promissory notes. The Thompsons also alleged fraud, inverse condemnation and slander of title. The Thompsons subsequently filed a number of other documents and motions relating to their complaint. The Defendants denied the Thompsons' allegations, and requested dismissal of the complaint and denial of the additional civil filings and motions.

         [¶ 4] The Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing the Thompsons failed to exhaust their administrative remedies by not bringing their claims related to property taxes to the Walsh County Board of Commissioners before suing. The district court agreed and dismissed the Thompsons' claims.

         [¶ 5] Following dismissal, the Thompsons filed a motion requesting a transfer and assignment of their property tax obligations to the Defendants' attorney. The court denied the motion, concluding it was frivolous because "[n]o reasonable person could think a court would rule in Plaintiffs' favor and assign all future real estate tax obligations to Defendants' themselves, much less their attorney individually." The court awarded the Defendants $400 in attorney's fees.

         II

         [¶ 6] Summary judgment is a procedural device under N.D.R.Civ.P. 56(c) for the prompt resolution of a controversy on the merits without a trial if there are no disputed issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Horob v. Farm Credit Services of N.D., 2010 ND 6, ¶ 11, 777 N.W.2d 611. On appeal we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, and the opposing party is given the benefit of all favorable inferences that can reasonably be drawn from the record. Palmer v. 999 Quebec, Inc., 2016 ND 17, ¶ 6, 874 N.W.2d 303. "Whether a district court properly granted summary judgment is a question of law this Court reviews de novo on the entire record." Id.

         [¶ 7] The Thompsons argue the district court erred in dismissing their claims against the Defendants. The Defendants assert the court properly dismissed the claims because Thompsons failed to submit their property tax claims to the Walsh ...


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