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Pandrea v. Barrett

Supreme Court of Idaho

March 25, 2016

MARY E. PANDREA, a single person, individually and as Trustee of the Kari A. Clark and Mary E. Pandrea Revocable Trust u/a dated April 9, 2002, Plaintiff-Counterdefendant-Appellant,
KENNETH J. BARRETT and DEANNA L. BARRETT, husband and wife, Defendants-Counterclaimants-Respondents

          2016 Opinion No. 39

          Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Bonner County. Hon. John P. Luster, District Judge.

          The judgment of the District Court is affirmed. Costs on appeal are awarded to respondents.

         Mary E. Pandrea, Sandpoint, appellant Pro se.

         Kenneth Barrett and Deanna Barrett, Birmingham, MI, respondents Pro se.

         W. JONES, Justice. Chief Justice J. JONES, Justices EISMANN, BURDICK and HORTON CONCUR.


         W. JONES, Justice

         I. Nature of the Case

         Mary E. Pandrea appeals a district court decision out of Bonner County regarding the partition of approximately twenty-three acres of real property owned jointly by Pandrea and her sister. Pandrea asserts that the partition greatly prejudiced her and thus that the district court improperly partitioned the property in kind rather than by sale. She appeals several district court decisions denying motions she made for reconsideration and to amend her complaint. The orders and judgment of the district court are affirmed.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         Harry and Edith Clark owned approximately 250 to 300 acres of land in Bonner County. The parties in this case were two of their eight children, who grew up on the land in the 1940s. Before Harry Clark died, he and Edith set up a trust and placed the land in it. After Harry Clark's death, the land in the trust was subdivided so the parcels could be sold to support Edith. In 1981, Mary Pandrea, the appellant in this matter (" Pandrea" ), purchased one parcel comprising approximately five acres and including a shop, cabin, and other improvements (" Parcel 1" ). She then gave her sister, Kari Clark (" Clark" ), a one-half undivided interest in that parcel as a tenant in common with her. Id. About ten years later, Clark purchased an adjoining parcel, comprising approximately fifteen acres (" Parcel 2" ); and Clark then purchased another parcel contiguous to Parcel 2 comprising a little over five acres (the " Clark Parcel" ). Clark then gave Pandrea a one-half undivided interest in Parcel 2 as a tenant in common with Clark. In 2002, Clark and Pandrea placed Parcels 1 and 2 into the Kari A. Clark and Mary E. Pandrea Revocable Trust (the " Trust" ), naming themselves as co-trustees. Clark also placed the Clark Parcel into the Trust. The sisters' relationship then deteriorated.

         On June 21, 2010, Clark executed quitclaim deeds on behalf of the trust which conveyed Parcel 1 from the trust to Clark and Pandrea (each obtaining a one-half undivided interest as tenants in common), conveyed Parcel 2 solely to Clark, and conveyed the Clark parcel solely to Clark. Approximately one month later, the Trust was dissolved.

         On May 11, 2011, Pandrea filed a complaint seeking a partition of and accounting for the property. After Pandrea filed her complaint, Clark executed another deed which corrected the transfer of Parcel 2 to give Clark and Pandrea each a one-half undivided interest in it as tenants in common.[1] So by the time of trial in July of 2011, both Parcels 1 and 2 were owned jointly by Clark and Pandrea, each possessing a one-half undivided interest as tenants in common with regard to each parcel.

         Before trial, Pandrea amended her complaint, and the amended complaint sought partition of the land by sale, claiming that physical partition would result in prejudice; and the complaint further sought that Clark account for the proceeds of the Trust, having unilaterally controlled Trust property. Clark filed a counterclaim against Pandrea, also seeking an accounting, but asking for partition in kind rather than by sale. At some point during the litigation, Pandrea changed her position and joined Clark in requesting partition in kind and opposing sale of the Parcels. Neither party disputed that Pandrea had expended funds to maintain and improve the Parcels, so the only monetary issues addressed at trial were the amount of reimbursement to which Pandrea was entitled and value of the improvements she made.

         The district court found that the Parcels' combined value was between $100,000 and $130,000. It further found that Pandrea expended $14,749.12 in improving and maintaining Parcels 1 and 2 during the course of her co-tenancy. However, the court denied more than $400,000 of Pandrea's other alleged expenses because either there was insufficient evidence to find that they were made to maintain or improve the Parcels or for the Trust's benefit, or they were incurred for the purpose of the instant litigation and thus deemed costs defined by Rule 54(d). There was also a dispute regarding Pandrea's remodel of a log cabin on Parcel 2. The district court resolved it by finding that $18,380.63 expended by Pandrea to remodel the cabin did in fact improve it. Finally, the court determined that Clark expended $312.66 toward the benefit of the Parcels.

         With the above facts, the district court went on to partition the property. It followed Idaho Code section 6-501, noting that it " allows for the partition of property, and provides that a forced sale of the property is only appropriate if another partition cannot be made without great prejudice to the owners." It concluded that both parties sought to avoid a forced sale of the properties because both wanted to retain their family property. The court ultimately found that the most equitable way to partition the property was into two parcels, one comprising nine acres and adjacent to land already owned by Clark and the other comprising eleven acres including the cabin. Clark would receive the former, and Pandrea the latter. Clark was also to receive an easement benefitting her parcel and burdening Pandrea's parcel. The court found that its partition " account[ed] for all the expenditures made by Pandrea and Clark" and that therefore " no additional monies must be paid." The partition had been proposed by Pandrea and ran generally north-south. The court formalized its order in a written decision titled Decision Re: Court Trial (" Partition Order" ).

         The court then ordered Pandrea to present for its approval a legal description of the new parcels consistent with its order, noting that " access to the nine acres and the Clark parcel shall be by easement." Pandrea then presented a description, but Clark objected, claiming that, contrary to the court's order, Pandrea had described the new parcels such that, rather than a dividing line running north to south, " she has allocated to herself all of the bottom-land and all hundreds of feet of waterfront associated with the historical Parcels[.]" Clark claimed that all of the valuable, useful, or desirable areas of land were allocated to Pandrea, leaving Clark with only the steep terrain and cliffs. Clark requested a hearing for the court to settle the matter. At the hearing, the court noted that no party was asking it to reconsider its decision, but rather to draw the partition line consistently with its judgment. It found that the " proposed record of survey submitted for judgment by Pandrea varied significantly from the proposal adopted by the [c]ourt." The variations were that Pandrea's presented legal description did not include an access easement, but rather suggested access by a logging road coming from a county road, and also that the proposed description included no river frontage when that adopted by the court included a reasonable amount of such frontage. Accordingly, the court ordered that Clark now prepare a new survey and legal description more consistent with its order and submit it for the court's approval.

         Clark's surveyor discovered discrepancies between what the court and parties believed the parties owned. He found that a corner of the land that was to be allocated to Clark was not owned by either party, and that Pandrea and Clark owned more land than previously thought. Clark prepared a new legal description of the land division reflecting the new survey but still using the court's 11:9 ratio to divide it.

         In April of 2013, Pandrea filed a motion asking the court to reconsider its Partition Order.[2] In it, Pandrea raised issues regarding quieting title to both parcels in her name, certain breaches of fiduciary duty by Clark, and slander of title. The court first considered whether the motion to reconsider was properly brought. It found that the Partition Order was not in fact a final judgment and as such a motion to reconsider the interlocutory order was proper. However, the court also found that while a motion to reconsider can be based on new evidence, the new issues described above " were not the issues that were litigated or set forth in the original complaint and those are not issues that can properly be considered by this Court on a motion for reconsideration." The court also considered and rejected claims by Pandrea that the easement burdening her parcel was improper and that the proposed partition may violate county zoning laws. The court ordered that Clark prepare another survey consistent with its order but reflecting the new understanding of the property size.

         On August 30, 2013, Pandrea moved to amend her complaint to add new defendants. Around the same time, a previously uninvolved neighbor, John Thornton (Thornton), moved to intervene in the matter. He alleged that the easement the court awarded to Clark could not be accessed without also crossing his property, which he did not authorize, and thus that the easement was improper. Thornton's motion was denied, but Pandrea adopted his argument regarding the easement. The court noted that the motion to file an amended complaint amounted to an attempt to " broaden the scope of the existing lawsuit to add claims, revise original claims, and to add additional defendants." Part of these new claims was that Clark had improperly granted a lien on the jointly held property to Kenneth and Deanna Barrett--the respondents in this matter (" Respondents" ). The court denied Pandrea's motion to amend her complaint, noting that I.R.C.P. 15 allows amendments to which the other party objects only with leave of the court when justice so requires. The court recognized that whether or not to grant the motion to amend was within its discretion, but suggested potential bad faith or dilatory conduct on Pandrea's part, and further noted the significant prejudice to Clark should the motion be granted.

         Clark then had a survey of the Parcels conducted and prepared legal descriptions of the Parcels and the easement in accordance with the court's order in its decision on Pandrea's motion to reconsider. At a hearing dated January 17, 2014, the district court accepted these legal descriptions as consistent with its judgment. During that hearing, the court again considered and rejected Pandrea's arguments that the easement was improper. On January 24, 2014, the court issued its Revised Judgment and Decree of Partition (the " 1/24/14 Judgment" ). The 1/24/14 Judgment granted Pandrea and Clark respectively full undivided ownership in one each of the new parcels: Pandrea was granted 12.739 acres of property on generally the South portion of the land (" Parcel A" ); and Clark was granted 10.423 acres of property on generally the North portion of the land (" Parcel B" ), along with an easement " for ingress and egress" benefitting Parcel B and burdening Parcel A.

         On February 7, 2014, Pandrea filed a motion requesting the court reconsider the 1/24/14 Judgment. In the related supporting affidavit, she again noted her objection to the easement granted to Clark. She claimed the easement negatively impacted the value of her Parcel, which caused her significant prejudice. According to Pandrea, this meant that the partition implemented by the court is in violation of Idaho Code section 6-512, which requires partition by sale in the face of great prejudice. The court considered this motion a return to Pandrea's position at the very outset of the case, before she agreed to the partition in kind:

Initially Pandrea sought a court-ordered sale of the jointly owned property. At trial she agreed with Clark that the property should be split and provided a proposed partition that the Court largely adopted. She refused to prepare the decree as directed by the Court. A series of legal challenges to the Court's decision ensued, primarily focused on her objection to the easement. The Court rejected an earlier post-trial effort to amend her complaint and pursue claims that were not included in her initial complaint. Now, Pandrea wants to return to her original stance that a partition of the property cannot be made without great prejudice to the owners. There comes a time for finality in a trial court's ruling and for an aggrieved party to pursue an appeal if they so desire.

         The court denied her motion substantively, but also recognized that ...

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