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Wagner v. Reuter

June 8, 2009


Appeal from the District Court of Washakie County, The Honorable Gary P. Hartman, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Golden, Justice


[¶1] Appellant, Larry Wagner, sued Appellees, Allen and Connie Reuter, to recover the value of field work allegedly performed on a farm purchased by the Reuters, asserting claims of breach of contract, promissory estoppel, and unjust enrichment, and to recover damages for the Reuters' alleged conversion of irrigation tubes owned by Wagner. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Reuters on all claims and awarded costs. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.


[¶2] Wagner presents these issues:

A. Whether the District Court erred by granting summary judgment to Appellees in regards to each of Appellant's causes of action for breach of contract, promissory estoppel, unjust enrichment, and conversion.

B. Whether the District Court erred by awarding deposition costs and costs of copies to Appellees.


[¶3] In January 2007, the Reuters purchased agricultural land in Washakie County, Wyoming, known as the Swing Farm. LTK, Inc. of which Rita Wagner, Wagner's wife, held 100% ownership interests, owned the real estate and Wagner, doing business as Larry Wagner Farms, operated the farm. The terms of the sale of the Swing Farm were detailed in the Contract to Buy and Sell Real Estate dated January 11, 2007.*fn1

[¶4] Prior to signing the contract, the real estate agent and the Wagners discussed with the Reuters the issue of compensation for the field preparation work that Mr. Wagner had done on the farm in the fall of 2006. Wagner claimed he had plowed, disked, roller harrowed, and floated certain parcels of the Swing Farm. Mr. Reuter agreed to pay for the field work performed by Wagner but refused to sign a contract which included a set monetary provision because he was unable to inspect the land to ascertain what work had actually been completed. As a result, a provision was inserted into the contract, which stated: "Seller has done field preparation for the 2007 crop year. Compensation to seller for said work shall be settled between buyer and seller outside of this Contract." However, no further discussions occurred between the parties, and no payment was made by the Reuters for the field work.

[¶5] The contract also contained a provision requiring the Wagners to remove their personal property from the Swing Farm by March 10, 2007. Despite the contractual deadline, Wagner left irrigation tubes in a shed on the farm. On May 28, 2007, believing that Wagner no longer wanted the tubes, Mr. Reuter instructed Dave Tolsdorf, who was operating the farm, to use them for irrigation purposes. Tolsdorf subsequently used some of the tubes for a few hours, but most remained bundled in the shed. A day or two later, Wagner entered the Swing Farm property to retrieve his tubes and discovered that some of them had been placed in a field. Wagner immediately complained to Mr. Reuter, who told Wagner to remove the tubes from his property.

[¶6] That same day, Wagner contacted Pete Smet of Smet's Metal to retrieve the tubes from the farm. Wagner never inspected the tubes but assumed they were damaged and sold them to Smet. According to Tolsdorf, Smet and William Bell, who helped Smet retrieve the tubes, none of the tubes were damaged, and a large portion of them were still in their original bundles.

[¶7] On June 13, 2007, Wagner instituted the instant action against the Reuters. In his complaint, Wagner claimed the Reuters owed him $30,487.50 for the field work on the Swing Farm and asserted claims of breach of contract and unjust enrichment. He also alleged the Reuters converted the irrigation tubes to their own use and possession and sought damages in the amount of $6,000.00 for the loss of the tubes. Wagner subsequently filed an amended complaint on November 15, 2007, adding a cause of action for promissory estoppel pertaining to the field work.

[ΒΆ8] The Reuters answered both complaints, denying the allegations and asserting affirmative defenses. On January 25, 2008, the Reuters filed a motion for summary judgment as to all claims asserted by Wagner. The Reuters supported their motion with the transcripts of the depositions of the parties and affidavits of Smet, Bell, and Tolsdorf. Wagner countered with an affidavit of his wife and affidavits of Robert ...

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