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Craig E. Peterson and Janice v. Wesley J. Gentillon and Connie Gentillon

February 26, 2013

CRAIG E. PETERSON AND JANICE K. PETERSON, HUSBAND AND WIFE, PLAINTIFFS-COUNTERDEFENDANTS- RESPONDENTS,
v.
WESLEY J. GENTILLON AND CONNIE GENTILLON, HUSBAND AND WIFE; LAMON M. GENTILLON AND LORI FAYE GENTILLON, HUSBAND AND WIFE, DEFENDANTS-COUNTERCLAIMANTS-THIRD PARTY PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS-CROSS RESPONDENTS, AND MARCEL GENTILLON AND DORIS GENTILLON, HUSBAND AND WIFE, THIRD PARTY DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS- CROSS APPELLANTS, AND SCOTT GENTILLON AND DORIS GENTILLON, HUSBAND AND WIFE, THIRD PARTY DEFENDANTS-CROSS APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the District Court of the Seventh Judicial District, State of Idaho, Bingham County. Hon. Jon J. Shindurling, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Burdick, Chief Justice

Idaho Falls, November 2012

2013 Opinion No. 30

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

District court decision on quiet title action, reversed.

Appellants Lamon "Mont" and Lori Gentillon as well as Wes and Connie Gentillon (the Partnership) appeal from the district court's order granting title to all but .34 acres of a disputed parcel of land and a 30-foot easement in favor of Craig and Janice Peterson (the Petersons) in an action to quiet title to certain portions of riparian and agricultural land in Bingham County, Idaho. In 1998, the Partnership entered into a three-party agreement in which they purchased the majority of Scott and Tracy Gentillon's farm and were to exchange three small parcels of land with Marcel and Doris Gentillon (the Gentillons) following a survey of the land. The survey was completed in 1999 and revealed boundary problems that led to further land exchanges between the Gentillons and the Partnership. In 2006, the Gentillons sold their homestead to the Petersons by a warranty deed that did not reflect the Gentillons' land exchanges with the Partnership. The Petersons then brought the action to quiet title to the property they had acquired by deed.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Prior to 1991 the Gentillons owned approximately 80 acres of riparian and agricultural land bordered on the east by the Snake River. This land was made up of several parcels: Lot 1, Section 24 (Lot 1) consisting of approximately 69 acres of farmland; BLM Lot 1, Section 19 (BLM Lot) consisting of approximately eight acres of farmland; and Lot 16 of Section 24 (Lot 16) consisting of 1.84 acres of riparian land. In 1991, the Gentillons transferred the BLM Lot and most of Lot 1 to their son Scott Gentillon. The Gentillons retained Lot 16 and a ten-acre portion of Lot 1 surrounding their home, which the district court referred to as T-10032 at trial. The Partnership then began to lease the farmland and riparian land from Scott Gentillon.

In December 1998, the Partnership contracted with Scott Gentillon to purchase his farm for $200,000. To facilitate the sale of Scott's farm, Scott, the Gentillons, and the Partnership all entered into an "Agreement for Exchange of Property and Option" (1998 Agreement). Under this agreement the Gentillons would exchange Lot 16 and land sufficient for the Partnership to install and operate a center pivot irrigation system for land east of the pivot point that would be least disruptive to the Partnership's farming. Additionally, Scott agreed to transfer his interest in the BLM Lot to the Gentillons and they agreed to transfer a portion of this lot to the Partnership if needed to equalize farmable acreage. Finally, the agreement required the Partnership to pay for the survey to determine what land would be exchanged.

After receiving the $200,000 in payment, Scott executed a deed transferring his interest in Lot 1 to the Partnership. The Gentillons transferred their interest in Lot 16 to Scott, who then passed it on to the Partnership. Finally, Scott deeded his interest in the BLM Lot to the Gentillons. In January 1999 following this exchange of deeds, Darren Leavitt performed a preliminary survey and discovered that T-10032 bisected the Gentillons' house. The Partnership claims that after this boundary issue was discovered, it agreed to exchange the 0.33 acres on which the Getillon's house and garden extended into Lot 1 for an equivalent size piece of land along the southern border of T-10032. Despite the discovery of the boundary problem and the Partnership's claims that it resulted in an oral modification of the 1998 Agreement, none of the parties executed any additional deeds. The Partnership also continued to farm part of the BLM Lot that it had leased from Scott previously after he deeded this property to the Gentillons.

In September 2006, the Gentillons agreed to sell T-10032 and the BLM Lot to the Petersons. The warranty deed the Gentillons executed stated that they held the property in fee simple and without encumbrance. The Gentillons told the Petersons that the Partnership had a limited, undefined right to use the land, but did not tell the Petersons that they had previously agreed to trade some of the land to the Partnership. The district court found that Marcel Gentillon's testimony that he forgot about the previous transaction was not credible, but that the intrusion of the Partnership's circle pivot on T-10032 was or should have been obvious to all of those concerned.

In September 2007, the Petersons filed a complaint against the Partnership, seeking to take possession of the land and quiet title on the property. In October 2007, the Partnership filed a counterclaim and third-party complaint seeking damages from the Gentillons for breach of contract, specific performance, and unjust enrichment.

Following multiple hearings, the district court issued a decision denying the Partnership's motions for summary judgment on March 2, 2009. The court also granted summary judgment against the Partnership's contract claim against the Petersons on the ground that the claim was barred by the statute of limitations. On March 9, 2009, the Petersons filed a motion for summary judgment on the issues of quieting title and ejectment, which the Partnership countered by arguing that the Petersons are not bona fide purchasers of the disputed property. While the district court found that the Petersons were not bona fide purchasers because of their complete failure to investigate the property, the court denied summary judgment on both parties' quiet title claims.

On August 21, 2009, the Gentillons filed a motion for summary judgment against the Partnership's claim for specific performance of the 1998 agreement, arguing that it was a remedy under the Partnership's breach of contract claim, which the court already determined was barred by the statute of limitations. Noting that it had already found the 1998 agreement to be unenforceable because of the statute of limitations, the district court found that no remedies arising solely from the contract itself existed for the Partnership and granted summary judgment in favor of the Gentillons.

The district court held a bench trial on October 20 and 21, 2009, and issued its Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order Following Bench Trial. After the parties filed several motions to amend the judgment, the court partially granted these motions stating, "the parties should be allowed to amend or supplement their pleadings solely for the purpose of framing the issues concerning the status of the residence straddling a property line and not to amend or supplement any issue previously decided by the court." Specifically, the Gentillons and the Petersons took issue with the court's final judgment ruling that title to the garden spot on which the Petersons' home overlapped was quieted in favor of the Partnership. After a supplemental trial on December 23, 2010, the district court issued its Amended Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order. The court's Amended Findings were largely identical to its January 2010 findings except title to the garden spot was quieted in favor of the Petersons rather than the Partnership. The district court filed an Amended Final Judgment on February 22, 2011.

II. ISSUES ON APPEAL

1. Whether the five-year statute of limitations for actions arising from contracts bars the Partnership's claim for specific performance.

2. Whether the district court erred in awarding the southern 50-foot strip of the BLM Lot to the Petersons.

3. Did the district court err in determining that the Petersons' road access easement was 30 feet wide?

4. Whether the district court erred in requiring the Partnership to prevent the pivot from casting water ...


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