JOHN F. THORNTON, Plaintiff-Counterdefendant-Appellant,
MARY E. PANDREA, a single woman individually and as Trustee of the Kari A. Clark and Mary E. Pandrea Revocable Trust u/a April 9, 2002, Defendant-Respondent, and VAL THORNTON, Intervenor-Appellant, and KENNETH J. BARRETT and DEANNA L. BARRETT, husband and wife, Defendants-Counterclaimants-Respondents.
Opinion No. 103
from the District Court of the First Judicial District of the
State of Idaho, Bonner County. Hon. John T. Mitchell,
judgment of the district court is affirmed.
Thornton Law Office, Sandpoint, for appellant. Valerie P.
& Annis, PS, Coeur d'Alene, for respondent. Michael
G. Schmidt argued.
JONES, Chief Justice.
John Thornton ("Mr. Thornton"), represented by his
wife Val Thornton ("Ms. Thornton"), sued sisters
Mary Pandrea and Kari Clark to quiet title to an easement
reserved in their names on real property he owns that is
adjacent to real property that was jointly owned by the
sisters. Clark counterclaimed against Mr. Thornton, seeking
declaratory relief establishing her rights in the easement
and damages for interference with her easement rights. While
this case was pending, the real property jointly owned by
Pandrea and Clark was judicially partitioned in a separate
proceeding; now Pandrea is the sole owner of the property
adjacent to the easement in question and Clark owns nearby
district court granted Clark's motion for summary
judgment on all of Mr. Thornton's claims against her and
on all her counterclaims except her claim for damages. The
court denied Mr. Thornton's motion for summary judgment
and subsequent motion for reconsideration. By stipulation,
the court dismissed Mr. Thornton's claims against Pandrea
and Clark's damages claim against Mr. Thornton. After all
claims were adjudicated, the district court awarded attorney
fees to Clark against Mr. Thornton under Idaho Code section
12-121 and against both Mr. Thornton and Ms. Thornton jointly
and severally as Rule 11 sanctions. Mr. Thornton appeals
several decisions of the district court. Ms. Thornton, as
intervenor, appeals the district court's imposition of
sanctions. After entry of judgment, Kenneth Barrett and
Deanna Barrett ("the Barretts") purchased
Clark's property and substituted in the stead of Clark in
the underlying action and in this appeal. Mr. Thornton moved
for a stay of execution and waiver of supersedeas bond, which
the district court denied. The court granted the
Barretts' motion for sanctions against Mr. Thornton and
Ms. Thornton based on the motion for stay.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
primary decision appealed from is the district court's
grant of summary judgment to Clark. Accordingly, this factual
background focuses on those facts that are relevant to this
appeal and were in evidence before the district court at the
time of the summary judgment hearing.
real property at issue in this case is located in Bonner
County. Prior to the events relevant to this appeal, Pandrea
and Clark jointly owned lands referred to herein as Parcels
A, B, and C. In 1992, Pandrea and Clark quitclaim deeded
Parcel A-real property lying southeast of Tavern Creek-to
Pandrea and her then-husband Robert Lee Wiltse, Sr. This
deed, recorded as Instrument No. 416381, has been referred to
as the "1992 Quitclaim Deed." The face of the deed
expressly reserved an easement: "Subject to and
reserving a 30.0 foot easement for a road right of way and
utilities." The easement was described in the deed by
metes and bounds, and burdened a portion of Parcel A. Mr.
Thornton admits that Pandrea and Clark owned this land, as
well as the adjoining Parcel B and Parcel C to the northwest,
as tenants in common at the time of the 1992 conveyance.
Thornton rented Parcel A from Pandrea and Wiltse from 1993 to
1998. In 1998, Wiltse conveyed Parcel A to Mr. Thornton by a
warranty deed recorded as Bonner County Instrument No.
525386. This has been referred to as the
"1998 Warranty Deed." The deed included the
EASEMENT AND CONDITIONS THEREOF RESERVED BY INSTRUMENT:
IN FAVOR OF: MARY E. PANDREA WILTSE, A MARRIED WOMAN
DEALING IN HER SOLE AND SEPARATE PROPERTY; AND KARI A.
CLARK, A SINGLE WOMAN
FOR: A 30.0 FOOT EASEMENT FOR A ROAD RIGHT OF WAY AND
INSTRUMENT NO.: 416381
the easement documented in the deed to Mr. Thornton describes
by reference the same easement reserved by Pandrea and Clark
in the 1992 Quitclaim Deed to Pandrea and Wiltse. Mr.
Thornton refers to the part of Parcel A on which the easement
sits as the "Shoreline Piece."
the easement was reserved in 1992, Pandrea and Clark jointly
owned two other relevant pieces of property: an approximately
five-acre parcel adjoining the Shoreline Piece (Parcel B),
and an approximately fifteen-acre parcel north of the
five-acre parcel that did not adjoin the Shoreline Piece
(Parcel C). Mr. Thornton alleges, apparently without
dispute, that before Pandrea and Clark became tenants in
common as to each parcel, Parcel B was Pandrea's sole and
separate property and Parcel C was Clark's sole and
and Clark no longer own Parcels B and C jointly as tenants in
common. In a separate matter litigated in 2014, Parcels B and
C were judicially partitioned between Pandrea and Clark. A
survey conducted in conjunction with that matter had
determined that the land at issue comprised over twenty-three
acres rather than twenty acres. The judgment awarded Pandrea
12.739 acres in the southeast portion of the whole
("Pandrea's New Parcel") and Clark 10.423 acres
in the northwest portion ("Clark's New
Parcel"). Pandrea's New Parcel includes all of the
original Parcel B and part of the original Parcel C.
Clark's New Parcel includes the remaining portion of the
original Parcel C, and does not adjoin the Shoreline Piece.
The outer borders of Pandrea's New Parcel plus
Clark's New Parcel are coextensive with the outer borders
of the original Parcel B plus the original Parcel C. The
judgment partitioning the parcels described an easement
appurtenant benefiting Clark's New Parcel over
Pandrea's New Parcel. This easement apparently has its
point of beginning where Mr. Thornton's Shoreline Piece
meets the boundary of Parcel B, the original five-acre
parcel. A copy of the partition judgment was in evidence
before the district court in this case.
claims that Mr. Thornton wrongfully interfered with her
easement rights by erecting a locked gate across the road.
She also claims that he posted a sign stating "NOTICE
KARI CLARK is prohibited from entering upon this property for
any reason under penalty of criminal trespass. I.C. 18-7011.
John F. Thornton, 4685 Upper Pack River Road, Sandpoint,
Idaho 83864, Owner." According to Clark, in July 2013
she and her family attempted to access her parcel through the
easement road on Mr. Thornton's property in order to
scatter the ashes of her deceased son following a memorial
service. She asserts that Mr. Thornton stopped them and
refused to let anyone pass the gate unless they agreed to
sign a document purporting to grant Clark limited access to
use the easement. Mr. Thornton argued that he "has a
right to question those who claim to have the right to cross
his property, and it is not unreasonable to ask for
identification and verification of such claims."
August of 2013, Mr. Thornton sued Pandrea and Clark to quiet
title and for damages with respect to the Shoreline Piece and
the "Well Piece, " a small piece of land between
Tavern Creek and the northwest boundary of Parcel A. Notably,
Mr. Thornton's complaint included as exhibits re-typed
"property descriptions" describing the metes and
bounds of Parcel A, including the Shoreline Piece-but these
exhibits were not certified documents and did not acknowledge
the easement referenced in the deed from which the property
descriptions must have been copied. Title to the Well Piece
is not at issue in this appeal and it will not be further
discussed except as relevant to this appeal. Both defendants
filed answers. Clark also counterclaimed, seeking to quiet
title to the easement over the Shoreline Piece and to recover
damages for Mr. Thornton's alleged interference with her
January 30, 2014, Clark moved for summary judgment, seeking
dismissal of Mr. Thornton's complaint against her and
seeking entry of judgment on her counterclaims against Mr.
Thornton. Clark's motion was accompanied by a supporting
memorandum and by sworn affidavits from Clark's counsel,
Joel P. Hazel, and Clark's niece, Terri Boyd-Davis.
Hazel's affidavit included three relevant exhibits.
Exhibit A is a certified copy of the 1992 Quitclaim Deed.
Exhibit B is a certified copy of the 1998 Warranty Deed.
Exhibit C is a copy of the Revised Judgment and Decree of
Partition that divided Parcel B and Parcel C between Pandrea
and Clark into Pandrea's New Parcel and Clark's New
Thornton objected to Clark's motion for summary judgment.
With his objection he also filed an affidavit he had sworn,
as well as a memorandum of law. In addition, Mr. Thornton
moved to dismiss or to continue the hearing on Clark's
motion for summary judgment and sought sanctions. He alleged
that Clark's motion and supporting filings pled matters
outside of the scope of her answer and counterclaim and
alleged facts omitted from her response to discovery. He
further alleged that the affidavits of Boyd-Davis and Hazel
were submitted in bad faith.
district court held oral argument on Clark's motion for
summary judgment on March 14, 2014. The court granted
Clark's motion at the conclusion of the hearing, while
also indicating it would issue a written decision. The court
issued that decision on April 9, 2014. In addition to ruling
on the motion for summary judgment, the court's order
documented a concern it had raised at the hearing that Mr.
Thornton's wife and attorney Ms. Thornton would violate
the Idaho Rules of Professional Conduct by acting as an
advocate at trial where she was likely to be a witness. The
court noted it had sent Ms. Thornton a letter after the
hearing indicating that the court would report her to the
Idaho State Bar unless there were a timely substitution of
counsel. Ms. Thornton did not withdraw, but instead stated to
the court that bar counsel had indicated that she could
continue representing Mr. Thornton during the pre-trial
ruling on summary judgment, the court made two legal
conclusions relevant to this appeal. First, the court
concluded that there is no genuine issue of material fact
that Clark had a right to use the easement on the Shoreline
Piece. Second, the court concluded that Mr. Thornton had
interfered with Clark's right to use the easement.
district court rejected the argument made by both Pandrea and
Mr. Thornton that the easement at issue benefits only Parcel
B, which they referred to as Tax Lot 40. The court noted that
no admissible evidence depicted Tax Lot 40 or described it by
a metes and bounds description. The district court concluded
that by its plain language, the easement was created to
benefit the lands of Pandrea and Clark, which at the time of
creation included both Parcels B and C. The district court
further concluded that no language in the easement limited it
to Parcel B or to "Tax Lot 40." Therefore, the
present ownership of Parcel B is irrelevant because the
easement was intended to benefit both Parcel B and Parcel C.
The court also rejected Mr. Thornton's argument that a
property benefited by an easement appurtenant must be
adjacent to the property burdened. The court noted that Mr.
Thornton offered no legal authority to support that
proposition, and indeed that no such authority exists. After
rejecting these arguments, the district court concluded that
the 1992 Quitclaim Deed reserved an easement appurtenant on
the Shoreline Piece for the benefit of Parcels B and C, and
therefore, Clark had a right to use the easement because she
was an owner of part of the dominant estate at all relevant
the court considered Clark's counterclaim that Mr.
Thornton wrongfully interfered with her easement rights by
erecting a locked gate across the road. First, the court
rejected Mr. Thornton's claim he was unaware of
Clark's easement rights, charging Mr. Thornton with
record notice of the easement based on Wiltse's deed to
Mr. Thornton that expressly named Clark as an easement
holder. Further, the court concluded that the recorded 1992
deed reserving the easement also put Mr. Thornton on
constructive notice of Clark's easement rights. The
district court found that "Thornton erected a locked
gate across the easement road and posted a sign dated July 5,
2013, next to the gates, which read . . . 'NOTICE KARI
CLARK IS PROHIBITED FROM ENTERING UPON THIS
PROPERTY.'" Further, the court criticized Mr.
Thornton for failing to present a certified copy of either of
the deeds acknowledging the easement, and it disagreed with
Ms. Thornton's contention that locking the gate and
opposing Clark's counterclaims were not frivolous.
the district court concluded that Clark met her burden on
summary judgment by showing that she had a right to use the
easement over the Shoreline Piece and that Mr. Thornton
impermissibly interfered with that right. The court also
concluded that Mr. Thornton failed to state a lawful basis
for preventing Clark from exercising her rights under the
easement. In its order, the court granted summary judgment in
favor of Clark as to Mr. Thornton's claims and granted
partial summary judgment in favor of Clark as to Clark's
counterclaims, except for the issue of damages, which was to
be litigated at trial. However, based on a stipulation by
Clark and Mr. Thornton, the district court dismissed the
damages claim, leaving nothing to be tried.
1, 2014, the court entered judgment consistent with its
summary judgment order. Mr. Thornton moved for
reconsideration, which the court denied. In its order, the
court addressed several arguments Mr. Thornton made. First,
the court rejected Mr. Thornton's challenge to the
court's reliance on an affidavit filed by Joel P. Hazel,
Clark's counsel. Although Mr. Thornton had challenged
Hazel's personal knowledge and the truthfulness of his
sworn statements, the court noted that in its summary
judgment order it relied on certified documents attached to
Hazel's affidavit rather than Hazel's testimony
within the affidavit.
the court addressed Mr. Thornton's contention that the
court had erred by relying on Clark's pleadings and
affidavits for the proposition that the two parcels comprise
one big twenty-acre parcel of land. The court noted that
"Thornton's argument completely ignores the fact
that District Judge John P. Luster . . . found that Clark and
Pandrea owned twenty acres of land as tenants in
common." Mr. Thornton appeared to believe, mistakenly,
that whether the dominant estate was comprised of one parcel
or two parcels was relevant.
court also rejected as irrelevant Mr. Thornton's argument
that Clark had adequate access to her land via a road other
than the easement. The court observed that access via another
means is entirely irrelevant to the question of whether Clark
has an express easement over Mr. Thornton's land.
the court again rejected Mr. Thornton's assertion that a
dominant estate benefited by an easement appurtenant must be
adjacent to the servient estate. The court reiterated that
Clark's easement depends on the fact that her name is on
a recorded easement that burdens Thornton's land.
the court rejected Mr. Thornton's argument that Clark no
longer owns the dominant estate as lacking a factual basis.
The court regarded the dominant estate as "the property
held as tenants in common (until earlier this year) by
Pandrea and Clark" at the time the easement was created.
The court perceived that the partition action that divvied up
the jointly- held land into separate parcels had no impact on
the easement over Mr. Thornton's property because
"Pandrea and Clark still own the dominant estate."
district court addressed additional matters in its order on
reconsideration. Clark had objected to Mr. Thornton's
affidavit, requesting that the court strike it. The court
While Thornton's affidavit provides no relevant evidence
to rebut the express easement of record Clark has across
Thornton's land, Thornton's affidavit is relevant to
show the absurd lengths he is willing to travel to try and
trump Clark's easement. Drawing twelve maps with colored
pencils in an attempt to show what happened at various times
in history, does nothing to change the fact that Clark has a
written express easement across Thornton's land.
. . . . Throughout summary judgment, Thornton refused to
discuss that easement[;] instead he chose to make irrelevant
arguments to the Court. Now, Thornton supplies the Court with
additional documents that do nothing to dispute the language
of [the deeds]. The hand-illustrated maps made by John
Thornton alleging to depict the properties and easements
involved in this case are of no relevance. Clark shifted the
burden to Thornton to show that there is a genuine issue of
material fact and Thornton has failed to meet his burden via
admissible and relevant evidence.
timely moved for attorney fees and costs and Mr. Thornton
timely objected. The district court granted Clark's
request for attorney fees and costs in the amount of $41,
530.17. The award was granted against Mr. Thornton based on a
conclusion that the case was brought frivolously under Idaho
Code section 12-121, and it was granted jointly and severally
against Mr. Thornton and Ms. Thornton as a Rule 11 sanction.
The Rule 11 sanction was based on the failure to produce a
copy of the deed earlier in the litigation. The court
reasoned that Mr. Thornton and Ms. Thornton were not candid
with the court and that had they produced the deed, instead
of waiting on Clark to produce it, the case would have been
resolved much sooner.
Thornton timely appealed. While the appeal was pending, the
Barretts filed a Notice of Substitution with the Court,
indicating that Clark had transferred to the Barretts both
the title to her real property that is the subject of this
appeal and her interest in the instant cause of action. Clark
also filed a motion before the Supreme Court to temporarily
remand the case to the district court to rule on the motion
to substitute parties. Mr. Thornton objected and moved to
strike and disallow the substitution. The substitution was
approved both by the district court and by this Court.
Ms. Thornton petitioned to intervene in the appeal for the
purpose of challenging the Rule 11 sanctions imposed against
her. Over the Barretts' opposition, the Court granted the
petition. Pandrea also filed a pro se brief as a respondent
Mr. Thornton moved the district court for a stay pending
appeal and waiver of supersedeas bond, relying on Idaho
Appellate Rule 13(b)(14). The Barretts opposed the motion and
sought Rule 11 sanctions against Mr. Thornton and Ms.
Thornton on the grounds that I.A.R. 13(b)(14) does not allow
a stay on a money judgment such as the award of attorney fees
at summary judgment. The district court denied Mr.
Thornton's motion and granted the Barretts' motion
ISSUES PRESENTED ON APPEAL
Mr. Thornton's Issues on Appeal
1. Whether the district court abused its discretion by
determining factual issues on summary judgment where the
matter was set for jury trial.
2. Whether the district court erred by interpreting the 1998
Warranty Deed as giving notice of an easement in favor of
Clark, as a matter of law, regardless of whether she still
owned the dominant estate.
3. Whether the district court abused its discretion by
refusing to hear Mr. Thornton's motion for sanctions and
continue the hearing on summary judgment.
4. Whether the district court erred in refusing to determine
the dimensions of the easement or the burden on the servient
5. Whether it was clearly erroneous for the district court to
find that Mr. Thornton knowingly and intentionally interfered
with Clark's easement.
6. Whether the district court abused its discretion by
awarding attorney fees to Clark under Idaho Code section
7. Whether the district court abused its discretion by
imposing Rule 11 sanctions against Mr. Thornton prior to the
8. Whether the district court erred in substituting the
Barretts for Clark as parties in interest.
9. Whether the district court abused its discretion in
imposing Rule 11 sanctions against Mr. Thornton for his
motion for a stay pending appeal ...