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Ulrich v. Bach

Supreme Court of Idaho, Idaho Falls

August 28, 2013

Thomas H. ULRICH and Mary M. Ulrich, husband and wife, Plaintiffs-Respondents,
v.
John N. BACH and all parties claiming to hold title to the hereinafter described property, and all unknown claimants, heirs and devisees of the following property: A portion of the South 1/2 South 1/2 Section 6, Township 5 North, Range 46 East, Boise Meridian, Teton County, Idaho, being further described as: From the SW corner of said Section 6, South 89° 50'12

Page 1233

Costs are awarded to Respondents.

John N. Bach, pro se, for Appellant.

Charles A. Homer, Idaho Falls, attorney for Respondents. Charles A. Homer argued.

W. JONES, Justice.

I. NATURE OF THE CASE

One year ago, we issued an opinion resolving a controversy concerning the ownership of forty acres of land known as the " Peacock Parcel" in Teton County, Idaho. See McLean v. Cheyovich Family Trust, 153 Idaho 425, 283 P.3d 742 (2012); see also Dawson v. Cheyovich Family Trust, 149 Idaho 375, 234 P.3d 699 (2010). In this case, Thomas H. Ulrich and Mary M. Ulrich (collectively " the Ulrichs" ) seek to quiet title to an easement over the Peacock Parcel, which is adjacent to land that they own (the " Ulrich Parcel" ). The Peacock Parcel is owned by four parties. The Ulrichs brought suit against " all parties claiming to hold title" to the Peacock Parcel, but served only one of the owners, John N. Bach. The district court quieted title to the easement in the Ulrichs, declared the Ulrichs' easement to be superior to any right claimed by Bach, and enjoined Bach from interfering with their use of the easement. Bach timely appealed to this Court.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In 1994, the Teton West Corporation sold two adjacent parcels of land in Teton County, Idaho. The Ulrich Parcel lies to the north. The Ulrichs purchased their parcel from an intermediary over the course of two separate transactions, the details of which do not affect the resolution of this case. The Peacock Parcel lies to the south. It was purchased by four parties who each obtained undivided one-fourth interests: Jack Lee McLean as trustee of the Jack Lee McLean Family Trust; Milan and Diana Cheyovich as trustees of the Cheyovich Family Trust; Wayne Dawson as trustee of the Dawson Family Trust; and Targhee Powder Emporium, an unregistered business entity that Bach used to conduct land transactions between 1992 and 2000. Bach is the only party who physically occupies the Peacock Parcel.

All of the relevant deeds state that there is a sixty-foot-wide road and utility easement appurtenant to the Ulrich Parcel (the dominant estate) over the western edge of the Peacock Parcel (the servient estate). Likewise, a plat that Bach submitted in support of his post-judgment motions in this case clearly shows a " 60' Road and Utility Easement" running along the western edge of the Peacock Parcel.

Page 1234

In 2001, Wayne Dawson and Jack Lee McLean filed suit (hereinafter " the 2001 Case" ) against the Cheyovich Family Trust and the Vasa N. Bach Family Trust to quiet title to the Peacock Parcel. 153 Idaho at 427, 283 P.3d at 744. Bach intervened in the 2001 Case, requesting a declaratory judgment that he was entitled to at least a one-fourth interest in the Peacock Parcel. Id. at 428, 283 P.3d at 745. In 2002, Bach initiated a parallel suit against Dawson and McLean (hereinafter " the 2002 Case" ), seeking the same relief. Id.

In 2003, McLean died. Id. In 2004, a default judgment was rendered in the 2002 Case; it established that both Bach and Dawson had one-fourth interests in the Peacock Parcel. Id. In 2007, the district court also dismissed McLean's estate from the 2001 Case for lack of diligent prosecution, dismissed Dawson and McLean's Complaint with prejudice, and granted summary judgment in Bach's favor. Id. Oddly, the district court's judgment in the 2001 Case— which was authored by Bach— quieted title to three-fourths of the Peacock Parcel in Bach and one-fourth in the Cheyovich Family Trust. Id. In 2008, Dawson sought relief from the judgment in the 2001 Case on the grounds that it was contrary to the previously entered judgment in the 2002 Case. Id. That litigation eventually resulted in a judgment quieting title to four undivided one-fourth interests in the Peacock Parcel in Bach, Dawson, the Cheyovich Family Trust, and McLean by and through his personal representative. Id.

In the meantime, the Ulrichs decided to improve their easement. When they informed Bach of their plan in April of 2010, he denied them access. In August of 2010, the Ulrichs filed their Complaint in the district court against " JOHN N. BACH and all parties claiming to hold title to the [Peacock Parcel]." At that time, ownership of the Peacock Parcel was uncertain due to the conflicting judgments in the 2001 and 2002 Cases. This likely explains why the Ulrichs did not specifically name the other parties as defendants. The Ulrichs sought to quiet title to the easement and to enjoin Bach and the other defendants from interfering with their use of the easement. In November, Bach filed his Verified Answer and Counterclaims. This document alleged that the action should have been stayed until the other owners were joined as parties.

In March of 2011, the Ulrichs filed their Motion for Summary Judgment, which requested an order quieting title to their easement; a declaratory judgment stating that their easement was superior to any " interest held by Defendant John Bach" ; an injunction " against Defendant John Bach's interference" with their use of the easement; and an order dismissing all of Bach's counterclaims. In his briefing in opposition to the Motion for Summary Judgment, Bach argued the compulsory-joinder issue with citations to authority and a modicum of clarity. The district court ...


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