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Compart v. Wolfstellar

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

January 16, 2018

James A. Compart, et al., Appellants,
v.
Justin J. Wolfstellar, et al., Respondents, Bank of West, Defendant.

         Sherburne County District Court File No. 71-CV-16-513

          Matthew C. Berger, Dean M. Zimmerli, Gislason & Hunter, LLP, New Ulm, Minnesota (for appellants).

          Jeffrey A. Scott, Brian W.Varland, Heley, Duncan & Melander, PLLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondents).

          Considered and decided by Larkin, Presiding Judge; Hooten, Judge; and Smith, T., Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         I. An adverse claimant's acceptance of a conveyance of real property from the record title holder, before the statutory period has run, only interrupts his adverse possession if the adverse claimant acknowledges the grantor's superior title in the conveyed interest.

         II. A purchaser who obtains title at a mortgage foreclosure sale takes title subject to a prior adverse possession unless, within the applicable statutory period, either the adverse claimant abandons its possession or one with a superior right to possess the real property ejects the adverse claimant.

          OPINION

          HOOTEN, Judge.

         Appellants contend that the district court erred by granting summary judgment in favor of respondents on appellants' adverse possession claim and on respondents' quiet title counterclaim. Appellants argue that their possession of the disputed real property was hostile for the required 15 years, and that their interest is superior to respondents' interest. We reverse and remand.

         FACTS

         This case focuses on real property in Sherburne County, Minnesota, which is divided into four parcels: A, B, C, and D.

         (Image Omitted)

         Parcels A and B are each square-shaped and approximately 5 acres, with Parcel A immediately north of Parcel B. Parcel C is approximately 12 acres and is immediately east of Parcels A and B, with the same northern boundary as Parcel A and the same southern boundary as Parcel B. Parcel D is the disputed parcel. It is an approximately 3-acre L-shaped parcel running along the western boundary of Parcels A and B and along the southern boundary of Parcels B and C. Parcels A and B are separate tax parcels, but Parcels C and D together form one tax parcel.

         Appellants James Compart and Diana Compart own Parcels A and B, and respondents Justin Wolfsteller[1] and Janeen Wolfsteller own Parcel C.[2] Both the Comparts and the Wolfstellers claim an ownership interest in Parcel D.

         For the purpose of this summary judgment appeal, the following facts are not disputed. In 1992, Philip and Donna Larson acquired an interest in Parcels A, B, C, and D by entering into a contract for deed for the purchase of the parcels with Berlinson Associates, the title owners of the parcels. Five years later, the Comparts entered into a purchase agreement to buy "13.03acres" from the Larsons for $71, 775. On September 15, 1997, the Larsons delivered a quitclaim deed, and Berlinson Associates delivered a warranty deed, to James Compart for Parcels A and B, which included the grant of "an easement for ingress and egress and utility purposes" over Parcel D. The Comparts argue the deeds were in error because their purchase from the Larsons also included Parcel D and the deeds should have conveyed title to the Comparts for Parcel D, with an easement granted in favor of the Larsons. Before September 15, 1997, the Comparts leased Parcels A, B, and D for farming purposes, and they farmed these parcels since the 1997 purchase.

         The Larsons fully paid their contract for deed for Parcels C and D, and Berlinson Associates conveyed a warranty deed to the Larsons for those parcels on August 16, 2000. In 2008, the Larsons granted a mortgage encumbering Parcels C and D. Then, on March 5, 2012, the Comparts granted the Larsons an easement over Parcels B and D in a Road Agreement and Easement.[3] The agreement, signed by the Comparts and the Larsons, recognized the Comparts as owners of Parcel D, and the Larsons as owners of only Parcel C. Nine days later, on March 14, the Larsons conveyed Parcel D by quitclaim deed to the Comparts. The deed states it was "given to correct an error in the legal description set forth in" the August 16, 2000 warranty deed.

         The Wolfstellers claim ownership of Parcels C and D through a chain of title going back to the Larsons' 2008 mortgage. In 2012, that mortgage was foreclosed, Parcels C and D were sold at a sheriff's sale, and, after a conveyance between financial institutions, the Wolfstellers purchased Parcels C and D from Wells Fargo.

         The Comparts brought this lawsuit in 2016, alleging adverse possession of Parcel D and two boundary-line claims. In their answer, the Wolfstellers filed a quiet title counterclaim. The Wolfstellers moved for summary judgment on all claims, and the district court granted the motion in favor of the Wolfstellers on all three of the Comparts' claims, but set the Wolfstellers' quiet title counterclaim for trial. Both parties filed motions for reconsideration. The district court denied the Comparts' reconsideration motion, granted the Wolfstellers' reconsideration motion, declared that the Comparts "have no right, title, or interest in Parcel D, " and granted summary judgment to the Wolfstellers on their quiet title counterclaim. The Comparts appeal the summary judgment decisions on their adverse possession claim and the Wolfstellers' quiet title counterclaim.

         ISSUES

         I. Did the district court err in determining that the Comparts' possession of Parcel D was not hostile for the 15-year statutory period and, on that basis, granting summary judgment to the Wolfstellers on the Comparts' adverse possession claim?

         II. Did the district court err in granting summary judgment to the Wolfstellers on their quiet title counterclaim?

         ANALYSIS

         I. Adverse Possession

         The Comparts contend that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to the Wolfstellers because their possession of Parcel D was hostile for the required 15-year period. "On appeal from summary judgment, [appellate courts review] de novo whether there are any genuine issues of material fact and whether the district court erred in its application of the law to the facts." Harmon v. Comm'r of Revenue, 894 N.W.2d 155, 159 (Minn. 2017) (quotation omitted). In doing so, appellate courts "view the evidence in the light most favorable to the party against whom summary judgment was granted, " Lubbers v. Anderson, 539 N.W.2d 398, 401 (Minn. 1995), and resolve all doubts and factual inferences against the moving party, Rochester City Lines, Co. v. City of Rochester, 868 ...


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