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Watkins v. Patch

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

July 15, 2013

Donald R. Watkins, et al., Appellants,
v.
Lois Y. Patch, et al., Respondents.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Stearns County District Court File No. 73-CV-12-1133

Cally R. Kjellberg, Michael C. Rajkowski, John H. Wenker, Quinlivan & Hughes, P.A., St. Cloud, Minnesota (for appellants)

Gerald Von Korff, Keri A. Phillips, David J. Meyers, Rinke Noonan, St. Cloud, Minnesota (for respondents)

Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Rodenberg, Judge; and Klaphake, Judge.

KLAPHAKE, Judge. [*]

This case arises out of a boundary-line dispute between appellants Donald and Janet Watkins and respondents Lois and Richard Patch, owners of adjacent lots in Stearns County's Peanut Hill Addition. Appellants acquired lots 9-11 in 1972, along with an easement over the western edge of lot 7. Respondents acquired lot 7 the following year through a foreclosure sale, which they claim extinguished appellants' easement. A gravel road generally divides the property appellants were using from respondents' property to the east. In 2001, a survey revealed that the boundary line between the lots is not located on the gravel road but actually lies westerly of the road and runs at a northwest angle through the property appellants were using, resulting in a portion of appellants' garage, driveway, and yard being on lot 7.

Appellants sued respondents, claiming title to the land between the real boundary line and the gravel road by adverse possession or boundary by practical location or, in the alternative, an easement over the disputed land. The district court granted summary judgment to respondents. On appeal, appellants challenge the district court's determination that (1) their easement was extinguished by the 1973 foreclosure; (2) their boundary-by-practical-location claims failed as a matter of law; and (3) their claims of adverse possession and prescriptive easement failed because they had permission to use the disputed land. Because there are genuine issues of material fact as to "hostility" in appellants' use of the disputed land, we reverse the district court's dismissal of appellants' adverse-possession and prescriptive-easement claims and remand for further proceedings. We affirm the remainder of the district court's decision.

DECISION

We review a district court's summary-judgment decision de novo to determine whether there are any genuine issues of material fact and whether the district court erred in applying the law. Riverview Muir Doran, LLC v. JADT Dev. Grp., LLC, 790 N.W.2d 167, 170 (Minn. 2010). We view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Frieler v. Carlson Mktg. Grp., Inc., 751 N.W.2d 558, 564 (Minn. 2008). "No genuine issue of material fact exists when the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party." Id. (quotation omitted). Summary judgment "is inappropriate when reasonable persons might draw different conclusions from the evidence presented." Osborne v. Twin Town Bowl, Inc., 749 N.W.2d 367, 371 (Minn. 2008) (quotation omitted).

Easement-reformation claim

Appellants first challenge the district court's dismissal of their easement- reformation claim, arguing that their easement over lot 7 survived the 1973 foreclosure due to a defect in notice and should now be reformed to reflect the conduct of the parties.

Reformation is the amendment of a written agreement to reflect the parties' true intent at the time of its creation. See Jablonski v. Mut. Serv. Cas. Ins. Co., 408 N.W.2d 854, 857 (Minn. 1987).

To reform a deed, a claimant must show (1) that a valid agreement existed between the parties that expressed their real intentions, (2) that the written instrument failed to express the parties' real intentions, and (3) that this failure resulted from the parties' mutual mistake, or a ...

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