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Schindler v. Wageman

Supreme Court of North Dakota

February 21, 2019

Larry Schindler, Julie Schindler a/k/a Judy Schindler, and Estate of Eugene Weisbeck, Plaintiffs and Appellants
v.
Richard D. Wageman, Defendant and Appellee and all other Persons unknown or claiming an Estate of interest therein, Defendants

          Appeal from the District Court of Morton County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable Gail Hagerty, Judge.

          Garrett D. Ludwig, Mandan, ND, for plaintiffs and appellants.

          Malcolm H. Brown, Bismarck, ND, for defendants and appellees.

          OPINION

          JENSEN, JUSTICE

         [¶ 1] Larry and Julie Schindler and the estate of Eugene Weisbeck ("the Estate") appeal from a judgment dismissing their action to reform warranty deeds and quiet title in themselves to certain Morton County property. Because we cannot determine whether the district court correctly applied the law, we reverse and remand this case for further proceedings.

         I

         [¶ 2] In November 1981, Richard Wageman's parents, Arthur and Doris Wageman, entered into a contract for deed to sell to Julie Schindler's father, Eugene Weisbeck, a portion of a quarter section of Morton County property described in part as "lying North of the service road" and "being eleven (11) acres more or less." The contract for deed listed the purchase price as $70, 000. On the same day, the Schindlers entered into a lease agreement with Weisbeck in which they agreed to rent to own the property that was the subject of the contract for deed. The property described in the lease was identical to the legal description in the contract for deed and the purchase price listed in the lease was also $70, 000. The Schindlers made the payments on the contract for deed between the Wagemans and Weisbeck.

         [¶ 3] In order to obtain a loan to pay off the balance owed on the contract for deed, the Schindlers were required by the lender to have the land surveyed because the land subject to the loan had to be less than 10 acres. The Schindlers had platted a 9.99 acre parcel of the property which was described as "Auditor's Lot 'A'" ("Lot A"). Lot A did not include 5.43 acres, which the parties refer to as "Outlot 'B'" ("Lot B"), that comprises the remainder of the property described in the contract for deed. In August 1993, after the contract for deed had been satisfied, Doris Wageman executed a warranty deed conveying to Weisbeck only Lot A "in fulfillment of Contract for Deed." The deed listed the consideration as $70, 000. On the same day, Weisbeck executed a warranty deed conveying to the Schindlers only Lot A. The deed listed the consideration as $57, 000. In February 2001, Richard Wageman also executed a warranty deed to the Schindlers conveying only Lot A to assist them in refinancing a mortgage.

         [¶ 4] After learning they were not considered the owners of Lot B, the Schindlers and the Estate brought this action to reform the warranty deeds and quiet title to both Lot A and Lot B in conformity with the 1981 contract for deed. Following a trial, the district court found the "Schindlers have not met the burden of proving the parties to the contract for deed and the warranty deed conveying Auditor's Lot 'A' to Eugene Weisbeck did not correctly state the intention of the parties to those documents," and dismissed the action.

         II

         [¶ 5] The Schindlers and the Estate seek to reform the warranty deeds to match the property description in the 1981 contract for deed. They contend, in part, that the district court misapplied the law in determining their cause of action seeking to reform the warranty deeds should be dismissed.

         [¶ 6] Section 32-04-17, N.D.C.C., provides for reformation of written instruments:

When, through fraud or mutual mistake of the parties, or a mistake of one party which the other at the time knew or suspected, a written contract does not truly express the intention of the parties, it may be revised on the application of a party aggrieved so as to express that intention so far as it can be done without prejudice to rights acquired by third persons in good faith and for value.

         [¶ 7] In George v. Veeder, 2012 ND 186, ΒΆ 13, 820 ...


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