from the District Court of Divide County, Northwest Judicial
District, the Honorable Paul W. Jacobson, Judge.
Geltel, Williston, ND, for plaintiff and appellant.
D. Cook (argued), and Michel W. Stefonowicz (on brief), West
Fargo, ND, for defendants and appellees.
VandeWalle, Chief Justice.
1] Western Energy Corporation appealed from a district court
judgment finding its quiet title action to be barred by
applicable statutes of limitation and laches and awarding the
mineral interests at issue to the Stauffers. We affirm the
2] On May 25, 1959, L.M. and C.S. Eckmann agreed to convey
property to William and Ethel Stauffer through a contract for
deed. The contract for deed included a reservation of the
oil, gas, and other mineral rights in the property and
described a five-year payment plan. After the payment plan
concluded in 1964, the Eckmanns were to convey the property
to the Stauffers by warranty deed. On June 29, 1959, just
over a month after the contract for deed was signed, the
Eckmanns conveyed the property to the Stauffers through a
warranty deed. The warranty deed did not contain a mineral
reservation, but stated that it was given "in
fulfillment of a contract for deed issued on the 25 th of
3] Numerous conveyances, oil and gas leases, and similar
transactions were completed by both the Eckmanns and
Stauffers, as well as their successors in interest, between
the execution of the warranty deed in 1959 and the filing of
this quiet title action in 2016. The Stauffers executed an
oil and gas lease covering the property and minerals in 1974,
conveyed the property and minerals to themselves as tenants
in common in 1983, and through transfers occurring between
2010 and 2013 the property and minerals came to be owned by
Cynthia Stauffer individually and the Estate of Robert
Stauffer. The Eckmanns entered into similar agreements
conveying the minerals beginning in 1978. Western Energy
Corporation ("Western") obtained its interests in
the subject minerals through mineral deeds executed in 1989
and 1990. The original parties to the warranty deed are all
now deceased. Western filed this action to quiet title in
4] Western and the Stauffers submitted stipulated facts to
the district court. Although brought as a quiet title action,
the relief requested was actually reformation of the warranty
deed. The district court found reformation barred by the
statutes of limitation under N.D.C.C. §§
28-01-15(2) and 28-01-42 as well as by the doctrine of
laches. Further, the district court concluded the discrepancy
between the contract for deed and the warranty deed is not
enough to establish mutual mistake. Because it found that
Western had not met its burden of proof to establish mutual
mistake at the time of conveyance, the district court entered
judgment quieting title of the minerals to the Stauffers.
5] In an appeal from a bench trial, the district court's
findings of fact are reviewed under the clearly erroneous
standard of review and its conclusions of law are fully
reviewable. Sauter v. Miller, 2018 ND 57, ¶ 8,
907 N.W.2d 370. A finding of fact is clearly erroneous if it
is induced by an erroneous view of the law, if there is no
evidence to support it, or if after reviewing all of the
evidence, this Court is convinced a mistake has been made.
Id. Findings of the trial court are presumptively
correct. Brash v. Gulleson, 2013 ND 156, ¶ 10,
835 N.W.2d 798.
6] Statutes of limitation are designed to prevent plaintiffs
from sleeping on their legal rights and bringing stale claims
to the detriment of defendants. Tarnavsky v. McKenzie
County Grazing Ass'n, 2003 ND 117, ¶ 9, 665
N.W.2d 18. Statutes of limitation are a legal bar to a cause
of action and begin to run when the underlying cause of
action accrues. Id. A cause of action accrues when
the right to commence the action comes into existence and can
be brought in a court of law without being dismissed for
failure to state a claim. Id. Determining when a
plaintiff's cause of action has accrued is generally a
question of fact. Abel v. Allen, 2002 ND 147, ¶
11, 651 N.W.2d 635. However, when there is no dispute of
material fact, the district court faces only a question of
law on whether the statute of limitations bars a claim.
Id.; see also Wells v. First Am. Bank West,
1999 ND 170, ¶ 7, 598 N.W.2d 834.
7] The district court found that because Western or its
predecessors in interest failed to commence an action within
10 years after the 1959 warranty deed was executed, or when
the mistake should have reasonably been discovered, N.D.C.C.
§ 28-01-15(2) bars the current claim. While Western
concedes that N.D.C.C. § 28-01-15(2) is the appropriate
statute of limitations to apply to its claim, Western argues
the district court erred in finding the claim for relief was
barred by ...