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William R. Fix v. South Wilderness Ranch Homeowners Association

July 12, 2012

WILLIAM R. FIX, APPELLANT (DEFENDANT/COUNTER-PLAINTIFF AND THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF),
v.
SOUTH WILDERNESS RANCH HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, A WYOMING UNINCORPORATED NON-PROFIT ASSOCIATION,
APPELLEE (PLAINTIFF/COUNTER-DEFENDANT), AND FRANK FORELLE, APPELLEE (THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT/COUNTER-DEFENDANT).



Appeal from the District Court of Teton County The Honorable James L. Radda, Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kite, Chief Justice.

Before KITE, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, VOIGT, and BURKE, JJ.

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in Pacific Reporter Third. Readers are requested to notify the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Supreme Court Building, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002, of typographical or other formal errors so correction may be made before final publication in the permanent volume.

[¶1] The South Wilderness Ranch Homeowners Association (HOA) filed an action against William R. Fix to recover $2,500 in assessments he allegedly owed as a lot owner in the South Wilderness Ranches Subdivision. The HOA also sought interest and attorney fees. Mr. Fix denied that he owed the assessments and filed a counterclaim seeking a judicial determination that the covenants pursuant to which the assessments were to be paid were null and void. In the alternative, he sought damages for injuries he allegedly sustained when the HOA failed to enforce the covenants and allowed his neighbor to build a fence that violated the covenants.

[¶2] After summary judgment proceedings, the district court entered an order granting judgment in favor of the HOA on its claim for the assessments, interest and attorney fees. Subsequently, the court severed Mr. Fix's counterclaim from the rest of the case and entered judgment for the HOA on its complaint in the amount of the $2,500 assessments, plus pre-judgment interest, attorney fees and costs, for a total judgment of $22,077.38.

[¶3] Mr. Fix appeals, claiming the district court erred in granting summary judgment against him on the HOA's complaint and severing his counterclaim. He also claims the attorney fees and costs award is excessive. We affirm the district court's order and judgment with the exception that we vacate the costs awarded for legal research.

ISSUES

[¶4] Mr. Fix, appearing pro se,*fn1 presents the issues for this Court's determination as follows:

I. The [district] court erred in granting summary judgment against the homeowner.

II. The [district] court awarded attorney fees that are excessive.

III. The severance ordered by the [district] court sua sponte constitutes error.

IV. The costs awarded by the [district] court are not permitted.

The HOA asserts the district court rulings were proper and seeks leave to submit evidence of its fees, costs and expenses, including attorney fees, incurred in defending this appeal.

FACTS

[¶5] Mr. Fix owns Lot 2 in South Wilderness Ranches Subdivision in Teton County, Wyoming. The HOA is responsible for providing common services in the subdivision and for making and collecting annual assessments from the lot owners. On September 22, 2009, the HOA filed a complaint in circuit court alleging that Mr. Fix had failed to pay the 2009 annual assessment of $1,000. The HOA sought payment of the assessment plus interest, costs and attorney fees as provided in the subdivision covenants.

[¶6] Mr. Fix answered the complaint, admitting that he owned Lot 2 in the subdivision but denying that he owed the 2009 assessment. He also filed a counterclaim for breach of contract asserting that the HOA breached the covenants by failing to enforce them and seeking a judicial determination that the covenants were null and void.*fn2 At a subsequent pre-trial conference, Mr. Fix stated that he wished to amend his counterclaim to add as a party Frank Forelle, the neighbor who built a fence along one of the boundaries of his property in violation of the covenants. The HOA likewise indicated it intended to amend its complaint to include collection of ...


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