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Jebb v. Lynn C. Nelson

March 2, 2012

JEBB HUSKINSON AND BRANDIE HUSKINSON, A MARRIED COUPLE, PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS,
v.
LYNN C. NELSON, JR., AND JANA NELSON, A MARRIED COUPLE, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the District Court of the Seventh Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Madison County. Hon. Gregory S. Anderson, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Jones, Justice.

2012 Opinion No. 38

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

The judgment of the district court is vacated and the case is remanded.

This is a boundary dispute. Appellants Lynn and Jana Nelson argue that they own a strip of land even though the county records show respondents Jebb and Brandie Huskinson to be the owners of record. The Nelsons contend that the disputed land belongs to them because of a boundary by agreement. The district court granted summary judgment to the Huskinsons. We now vacate the district court's judgment and remand the case.

I.

BACKGROUND

The Nelsons and Huskinsons own adjacent parcels of real property in the SE1/4 of the SE1/4, Section 31, Township 5 North, Range 40 East, Madison County, Idaho. The east side of the Nelsons' parcel joins the west side of the Huskinsons' parcel. Before 1947, Orrin and Adaline Jeppson owned that entire quarter-quarter section, so they owned both the Nelsons' and the Huskinsons' parcels. Since at least 1947, a north-south fence ("the fence") has divided what was the Jeppsons' property. The fence runs parallel to, and west of, the Lenroot Canal, which runs the length of the property. According to Norman Erickson, who was born in 1915 and has lived near the disputed property for much of his life, the Jeppsons farmed the land to the west of the canal and raised cattle on the land east of it. On June 19, 1947, Henry and DeVeda Erickson bought the Jeppsons' entire property. The Ericksons sold the "West 866 feet" of the property, the parcel the Nelsons now own, to George Nelson the following day, June 20, 1947. George Nelson sold the parcel to his son, Chester, in June 1952. Chester, in turn, sold it to appellant Lynn Nelson on November 10, 1988. The Nelsons have owned and farmed the parcel ever since. Like their predecessors in interest, the Nelsons farm up to the fence.

In February 2009, the Huskinsons bought a parcel that the Ericksons had retained from their original purchase from the Jeppsons. That is, the Huskinsons bought a parcel in the same quarter-quarter section as the Nelsons' parcel. The Huskinsons' property is immediately to the east of the Nelsons' parcel. The Huskinsons contend that the fence runs through their property, between 40 and 54 feet from the western boundary. The Huskinsons therefore brought this action in February 2010 to quiet title, for trespass, and for ejectment, arguing that since the Nelsons are farming up to the fence, they have been farming a portion of the Huskinsons' land.

The Nelsons filed a counterclaim, alleging they own the disputed strip of land under a theory of boundary by agreement. According to the Nelsons, the fence was intended to be a boundary between the parcels or has been recognized as a boundary since 1947. Both sides moved for summary judgment. The district court granted summary judgment to the Huskinsons, concluding that the fence was not intended to be a boundary when it was built. The court thus held that there was no boundary by agreement. The Nelsons timely appealed.

II.

ANALYSIS

A. Standard of Review.

This Court employs the same standard in reviewing an order for summary judgment as the district court used when it originally ruled on the motion. Van v. Portneuf Med. Ctr., 147 Idaho 552, 556, 212 P.3d 982, 986 (2009). Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." I.R.C.P. 56(c). When a matter would be tried to the district court, and not to a jury, the court, as trier of fact, "is entitled to arrive at the most probable inferences based upon the undisputed evidence properly before it and grant the summary judgment despite the possibility of conflicting inferences." P.O. Ventures, Inc. v. Loucks Family Irrevocable Trust, 144 Idaho 233, 237, 159 P.3d 870, 874 (2007). So, although conflicting evidence must be viewed in a light favorable to the nonmoving party, conflicting inferences need not be. Banner Life Ins. Co. v. Mark Wallace Dixson Irrevocable Trust, 147 Idaho 117, 124, 206 P.3d 481, 488 (2009); Cox v. Clanton, 137 Idaho 492, ...


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