Appeal from the District Court of Big Horn County The Honorable W. Thomas Sullins, Judge
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hill, Justice.
Before KITE, C.J., and GOLDEN*fn1 , HILL, VOIGT, and BURKE, JJ.
[¶1] These consolidated appeals stem from the Redland family's dispute over ranch property and operations. Appeals numbered S-12-0010 and S-12-0012 relate to real property that some of the Redland children claim their father, Robert Redland, agreed to place in a family trust. The district court granted Robert Redland partial summary judgment, holding that the claims were barred by the statute of limitations and by the statute of frauds, and the Redland Children appeal that summary judgment order.*fn2
[¶2] Following the entry of partial summary judgment, a bench trial was held on the remaining issues. Among the issues tried were claims for unjust enrichment by the two Redland sons, Rolly Redland and Kendrick Redland, against Robert Redland for improvements that they had made to the disputed trust properties. The trial court ruled against Robert Redland on the unjust enrichment claims and awarded damages to both Rolly and Kendrick Redland. The trial court also ruled against Robert Redland on his counterclaim against Kendrick Redland, and his wife, Sharon, for a partnership interest in Kendrick and Sharon Redland's Angus cattle operation. In Appeal No. S-12-0011, the father appeals the trial court's rulings on the unjust enrichment and partnership claims.
[¶3] We reverse the entry of summary judgment and affirm the trial court's rulings on the unjust enrichment and partnership claims.
[¶4] Appeals S-12-0010 and S-12-0012 are both appeals from the district court's order granting partial summary judgment. In S-12-0010, which was filed by three of the Redland children, Rolly Redland, Kendrick Redland and Teresa Redland Shelton, the following issues are presented for this Court's review:
1. Whether the District Court erred when it determined the [S]tatute of Frauds barred Appellants' claims for declaratory judgment, recovery of real property, estoppel and specific performance after Appellants had fully performed the agreement?
2. Whether the District Court erred when it determined that the applicable statute of limitations barred Appellants' claims for declaratory judgment, recovery of real property, estoppel and specific performance when there was no evidence that Appellants knew or should have known that the Agreement was breached before the limitations period expired?
[¶5] In Appeal S-12-0012, Roalene Redland McCarthy, in a separately filed appeal from the summary judgment ruling, states the issues differently but presents essentially the same questions for our review:
ISSUE I: For purposes of the Statute of Limitations, when did the cause of action for specific performance accrue? ISSUE II: Whether full performance by the Appellant of a Trust Agreement presented a genuine issue of material fact that precluded entry of summary judgment on the basis of the Statue of Frauds.
ISSUE III: Did the discovery of a breach present a genuine issue of material fact that precluded entry of summary judgment for filing outside the Statute of Limitations?
ISSUE IV: Where one of seven parties to a Trust Agreement breached the contract, was it error in applying the "discovery rule" for the District Court to impute to Appellant what that court apparently concluded was either known or should have been known by others of the non-breaching contracting parties?
[¶6] In Appeal S-12-0011, Robert Redland appeals the district court's rulings following a bench trial and presents the following issues on appeal:
A. Issues Related to Unjust Enrichment
1. Did the trial court err when it found that Rolly Redland and Kendrick Redland had proven the elements of unjust enrichment?
2. If Rolly Redland and Kendrick Redland proved the elements of unjust enrichment, did the trial court err in the amount of the damages awarded?
B. Issues Related to Redland Angus
1. Did the Court err when it admitted Plaintiff's Exhibit 105 redacting Plaintiff's sticky note which said "part of bull sale[?]"
2. Did the Court err when it found that Robert Redland is not and was not a partner in Redland Angus?
FACTS RELATING TO DISPUTED TRUST PROPERTY
[¶7] The claims regarding the disputed trust property include the Redland Children's claims that certain property should be conveyed to the family trust, and Rolly and Kendrick Redland's alternative claims for unjust enrichment for improvements made to that property. Those claims are independent from and unrelated to Robert Redland's claims to a partnership interest in Kendrick and Sharon Redland's Angus cattle operation, Redland Angus. We will thus set forth the facts relating to the trust property claims and those relating to the Redland Angus operation separately. In this first part of the opinion, we will set forth the facts relating to the disputed trust property, and the legal proceedings that led to the present appeal. We will set forth the facts relating to Robert Redland's claims to a partnership interest in Redland Angus in the latter part of the opinion when we discuss that portion of Robert Redland's appeal.
A. Disputed Trust Property
[¶8] The Redland property that is in dispute and that will be discussed throughout this opinion is located in three areas of the Big Horn Basin. It includes the following:
[¶9] The Manderson Place is located in Big Horn County. The parties variously refer to the deeded portion of this property as the Manderson Farm, the Manderson Place or the Home Place. Associated with this property is State of Wyoming Lease No. 3-8179. Also associated with the property is Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Lower Nowood Allotment No. 00144. For ease of reference, throughout this opinion, we will refer to the deeded property as the "Manderson Place," and to State Lease No. 3-8179 by number or as the "State Farm at Manderson."
Original Mountain Land & Additional Mountain Land
[¶10] The Original Mountain Land is located in Washakie and Johnson Counties. Associated with the deeded property is State of Wyoming Lease No. 3-8195, BLM Box Canyon Allotment No. 02008, and BLM Cedar Ridge Allotment No. 00145. For ease of reference, when we refer to State Lease No. 3-8195 separately, we will refer to it by number or as the "Mountain Land State Lease."
[¶11] The Additional Mountain Land is located in the area of the Original Mountain Land and is deeded land that was owned by Eric Redland, Robert Redland's brother, until Eric's death in 1992.
[¶12] Woody Place is also located in Washakie County, south of the Mountain Land. Associated with this property is State of Wyoming Lease No. 3-8248, BLM West Allotment No. 00147, and BLM East Allotment No. 00146. For ease of reference, we will refer to State Lease No. 3-8248 by number or as the "State Lease at Woody Place."
2. History of the Property and Events Leading to Dispute
[¶13] Richard and Nellie Redland were the parents of Robert Redland and the grandparents of Robert and Irene Redland's five children: Rolly Redland, Kendrick Redland, Roalene Redland McCarthy, Teresa Redland Shelton, and Lisa Redland Kimsey. Throughout their lifetimes, Richard and Nellie Redland accumulated ranching and farming property in the Big Horn Basin, including deeded land and federal and state leases, which they hoped would be held and operated by future Redland generations. All of the property that is in dispute in this action is property originally acquired by Richard and Nellie Redland.
[¶14] Robert and Irene Redland were married in 1951, and began living on Manderson Place in 1953. Sometime between 1959 and 1962, they purchased the Manderson Place from Richard and Nellie Redland. Robert and Irene raised their five children on the Manderson Place, and during those years they ran sheep on the Original Mountain Land and grew crops on BLM land near Manderson.
[¶15] In 1971, Robert and Irene Redland purchased Woody Place from Richard and Nellie Redland. The purchase included the deeded land and an assignment of the State Lease at Woody Place. The State Lease at Woody Place is important to the Woody Place operations because the leased land is adjacent to the deeded property and holds all of the operation's water.
[¶16] When Robert and Irene Redland purchased Woody Place in 1971, Rolly Redland, Robert's oldest son, was attending community college in Riverton, Wyoming. Robert called on Rolly to work the new property and to manage the cows Robert then owned. Woody Place required substantial work, including clean-up, fencing, and irrigation work, and after making some initial improvements to the property, Rolly stayed on and has since 1971 lived and ranched at Woody Place.
[¶17] Kendrick Redland began his fulltime career as a rancher in 1973. Kendrick lived on Manderson Place, and he conducted his operations primarily on Manderson Place and the Original Mountain Land. While the two Redland sons lived on separate properties, they often operated together and with their father. This included running their cattle together and supplying veterinary care, breeding and feed for the cattle.
[¶18] Robert Redland's father, Richard Redland, passed away in 1971. In his will, he left to his wife, Nellie Redland, a life estate in all of his properties. To his sons, Robert and Eric Redland, he left a divided option to purchase the Original Mountain Land for $27.50 per acre, which option could not be exercised until the death of Nellie Redland. The will included any federal allotments and the Mountain Land State Lease in the right to purchase, with no additional charge for those property interests.
[¶19] In March of 1983, Robert Redland paid Eric Redland $100,000 for his one-third option in the Original Mountain Land. As of 1983, then, Robert owned the entire option to purchase the Original Mountain Land as set forth in Richard Redland's will.
[¶20] By 1989, the operations of Robert Redland and his two sons, Rolly and Kendrick Redland, had grown, with each individually continuing to increase the number of livestock they were running. Also in 1989, Nellie Redland passed away, and Robert was able to exercise the option to purchase the Original Mountain Land as described in Richard Redland, Sr.'s will. Before exercising the option, however, Robert took two steps. First, on August 8, 1989, Robert assigned part of his purchase option to his wife, Irene, and then they both made partial assignments of their interests in the purchase option to their five children, with the end result being that Robert, Irene and their five children each owned a one-seventh interest in the option to purchase the Original Mountain Land. Robert's next step was to create a family trust.
[¶21] On August 10, 1989, Robert and Irene Redland executed a Trust Agreement with their five children, which created the Robert and Irene Redland Family Trust ("Redland Family Trust"). Robert, Irene and the five children were beneficial owners under the trust, and Robert and Irene were the trustees. The Trust Agreement established the trust for the purpose of holding and managing property. It provided as follows concerning property acquired by the trust:
The parties hereto declare that all property now held or hereafter acquired by the trustees or their successors, as trustees, and all income and profits therefrom, shall be by the trustees managed, administered, received, collected, disposed of, and distributed for the benefit of such persons as may from time to time be owners of beneficial interests in this trust estate, in the manner herein provided and subject to the terms and conditions set forth in this instrument and any amendments hereto.
[¶22] At its inception, the Trust Agreement identified only the first property the Redland Family Trust would hold, the Original Mountain Land. Concerning that property, the Trust Agreement specified:
Each of the above named parties transfers to this trust their interest in the options to purchase from the Estate of Richard Redland, Sr. . [sic] the lands described in Exhibit A annexed hereto subject to any indebtedness on said options and lands and the sum of $27,500.00.
[¶23] The Trust Agreement provided more specifically for the addition of property to the Redland Family Trust in Section Ten of the agreement, which stated:
The Parties hereto and any other beneficial owner of the trust estate may at anytime add other property acceptable to the trustee to the trust estate by conveyance, assignment, will or any other mode of transfer. Such property when received and accepted by the trustee shall become part of the trust estate and shall be subject to all the terms and conditions of this trust instrument.
[¶24] After the initial contributions were made to the Redland Family Trust, the trust exercised the option to purchase the Original Mountain Land. On September 11, 1989, the property was conveyed by warranty deed from the Estate of Richard Redland, Sr. to the Redland Family Trust. This conveyance created the circumstance for the first disputed Redland property.
[¶25] The Redland Children contend that when they each assigned their one-seventh interest in the option to purchase the Original Mountain Land and contributed cash to exercise that option, it was their intention and understanding that exercising the option would result in the trust acquiring the property described in Richard Redland Sr.'s will, which property included the deeded property, the BLM allotments, and the Mountain Land State Lease, that is, State Lease No. 3-8195. Robert Redland, on the other hand, contends that the only property conveyed to the trust when it exercised the option was the deeded land and the BLM allotments, and that the state lease was conveyed separately to him in his individual capacity. We will set forth additional relevant facts related to this portion of the property dispute in our discussion of the district court's summary judgment order.
[¶26] In 1991, Eric Redland passed away, and Robert Redland approached the Redland Children and requested cash contributions to purchase land from Eric Redland's estate. The children agreed to the cash contributions, and two pieces of property were purchased from the estate. One property purchased was the Additional Mountain Land. By a Court Officer's Deed dated June 30, 1992, the Additional Mountain Land was conveyed to the Redland Family Trust. The other property purchased from Eric Redland's estate was State Lease No. 3-8179, the State Farm at Manderson. By order dated February 5, 1992, the probate court approved the sale of State Lease No. 3-8179 to Robert or Irene Redland. The record does not contain a court officer's deed conveying the property, but the parties do not dispute that State Lease No. 3-8179, the State Farm at Manderson, was conveyed to Robert or Irene Redland individually, and not to the Redland Family Trust. The conveyance of State Lease No. 3-8179 is the source of the second property dispute.
[¶27] The parties disagree as to the amount of the cash contributions made to purchase property from Eric Redland's estate and the property that those contributions were to be used to purchase. Robert Redland contends that each trust member contributed $13,000, which was just enough money to purchase the Additional Mountain Land, and that there was no agreement that the State Farm at Manderson would be purchased for the Redland Family Trust. The Redland Children contend that they contributed far more than $13,000 each and that the agreement was that the money would be used to purchase the Additional Mountain Land and the State Farm at Manderson, and that both properties would be placed in the trust. As with the other disputed property, we will set forth additional relevant facts related to this portion of the property dispute in our discussion of the district court's summary judgment order.
[¶28] In December of 1992, Robert and Irene Redland gifted by warranty deed to each of their children a one-fourteenth interest in Woody Place. Exhibit A to each warranty deed contained an identical property description, which description did not include a reference to State Lease No. 3-8248, that is, the State Lease at Woody Place. In January of 1993, Robert and Irene Redland repeated the same transaction, using identical warranty deeds, and transferred an additional one-fourteenth interest in Woody Place to each of their children. Thus, after the 1993 conveyance, Robert and Irene and each of their children owned a one-seventh interest in Woody Place.
[¶29] In 1995, Robert and Irene Redland and their children each conveyed their one-seventh interest in Woody Place to the Redland Family Trust. This conveyance is the source of a third property dispute between Robert Redland and the Redland Children. The Redland Children contend that the one-seventh interest in Woody Place, which they were each gifted and then each in turn conveyed to the trust, included the State Lease at Woody Place, State Lease No. 3-8248, and it was their understanding and intention when they agreed to convey the property to the trust, that the state lease was included. Robert Redland contends to the contrary, that none of the Woody Place transactions involving the children and the trust included a conveyance of the state lease, and that he retained individual ownership of that lease, separate from the Woody Place deeded property. Again, we will set forth additional relevant facts related to this portion of the property dispute in our discussion of the district court's summary judgment order.
[¶30] Also in 1995, an amendment to the Trust Agreement was executed. The amendment provided for the appointment of a successor trustee in the event of the death, resignation or inability to act of any trustee and required that there be two trustees serving at all times. The amendment also added a Section Fourteen to the Trust Agreement, which provided:
All B.L.M., Forest Service, and State leases and/or grazing permits added to the assets of the Trust shall remain the property of the Trust unless and until a three-fourths (3/4) majority of the beneficial owners of the Trust estate agree in writing to the removal of the B.L.M., Forest Service and State lease and/or grazing permit from the assets of the Trust.
[¶31] Following formation of the Redland Family Trust, the subsequent land transactions and the amendments to the Trust Agreement, the Redlands continued to grow their operations. Robert, Rolly, and Kendrick Redland ran livestock together, and the BLM allotments associated with all of the Redland properties listed the individual brands of Robert, Rolly, and Kendrick as the brands allowed to run on the allotments. Rolly and Kendrick, and their families lived and operated on the Redland properties and made improvements to those properties.
[¶32] Rolly Redland and his family maintained Woody Place and in 1998, installed a manufactured home on the property, which Robert Redland approved of as long as Rolly paid for the home and all of the associated expenses. Kendrick Redland and his family lived and operated on the Manderson Place property and improved the trailer in which they were living by constructing an addition and a deck on a permanent foundation. They also improved the home by putting in a cistern, a septic system, and water lines, which also served the livestock operations, and by running a power line to the home. Kendrick and his wife paid for all of these improvements, and Robert Redland did not object to them. Kendrick and Sharon also constructed a feedlot on the Manderson Place property, for which they provided all of the materials and shared in the labor with one of Robert's laborers.
[¶33] In the spring of 1992, Kendrick and Sharon Redland also began working the land on the State Farm at Manderson (State Lease No. 3-8179). They cleaned up the land, began haying and irrigating, built two new hay yards, pulled out old ties and set new ones, repaired the corrals and fences, paid to have new fences built, built a new cattle working facility and purchased a cattle chute to be placed on the property. As with the improvements to the Manderson Place property, this work was performed with Robert Redland's knowledge and was paid for by Kendrick and Sharon.
[¶34] Sometime around 2000 or 2001, Rolly Redland and his wife, Deb, and their children, with the approval of Robert and Irene Redland, began living at least part of their time in a home on the State Farm at Manderson (State Lease No. 3-8179), so the children would be closer to the school they were attending. Rolly and his family cleaned and maintained the farmstead on the State Farm at Manderson, and also made other improvements to the property. They graded and graveled the road from the highway to the barnyard, built a calving shed, and installed water hydrants and tanks. Robert knew the improvements were being made, but other than the posts for the calving shed, which Robert supplied, Rolly paid the costs of the improvements.
[¶35] Sometime in 2006, Rolly Redland became concerned with the activities of Robert Redland and Lisa Redland Kimsey, Rolly's youngest sister. Robert had sold or given land on Manderson Place to Lisa on which to build a house, and it was land that Rolly had understood was land held by the Redland Family Trust. Also, Robert and Lisa were spending an unusual amount of time with Robert's attorneys in Casper. Rolly thus had a title search run. The title search revealed that property Rolly and his siblings, Kendrick, Roalene, and Teresa, thought was held by the Redland Family Trust, had not in fact been conveyed to the trust. This included Manderson Place, the State Farm at Manderson (State Lease No. 3-8179), the BLM allotments at Manderson, the Mountain Land State Lease (State Lease No. 3-8195), and the State Lease at Woody Place (State Lease No. 3-8248).
[¶36] In September 2007, Irene Redland passed away. A few days after Irene's funeral, Rolly Redland, Kendrick Redland, Roalene Redland McCarthy, and Teresa Redland Shelton prepared and presented to Robert Redland a document entitled Family Resolution Proposition. The document was a proposal to transfer all property into the Redland Family Trust that the Redland Children originally believed had been placed in the trust and a proposal for the use of those lands going forward. Robert rejected the proposal.
[¶37] During this same time frame, shortly after Irene Redland's death, Robert Redland sold his sheep to his daughter Lisa Redland Kimsey, and her husband, Mike Kimsey. As part of the transaction, Robert leased some of the trust's mountain land to the Kimseys, for the purpose of running the sheep and providing guided hunts. Robert leased the property as trustee and did so before the appointment of a new trustee to succeed Irene Redland.
[¶38] In November 2007, Rolly Redland called a special meeting of the Redland Family Trust beneficial owners. Among the agenda items was appointment of a new co-trustee, to replace Irene Redland, the transfer of property to the trust, and the propriety of leases that Robert Redland had entered into as trustee without approval of a co-trustee. Rolly was elected co-trustee at the meeting, and the co-trustees, now Robert and Rolly Redland, did not agree on resolution of the remaining issues.
[¶39] In April 2008, the Redland Children filed a complaint against Robert Redland individually, Robert Redland as trustee of the Redland Family Trust, and Lisa Redland Kimsey and her husband, Mike Kimsey, (collectively "Robert Redland"). The Redland Children amended their complaint in May 2009, asserting claims:
1. For declaratory judgment that:
a. Rolly, Kendrick, and Robert Redland operated all of the family or trust properties as partners;
b. Robert and Irene Redland were required to transfer all Redland property, including deeded lands, state leases and BLM permits to the Redland Family Trust;
c. The Redland Family Trust requires any action of the trust to be approved by two trustees and any action taken without that approval is void;
d. A partnership by estoppel exists, or recognizing that the Redland Family Trust created a de facto partnership; and
e. Each beneficiary under the Redland Family Trust has an interest in directing its operations.
2. For declaratory judgment that the lease of trust lands Robert Redland made to Lisa and Mike Kimsey is void for failure to obtain approval by two trustees;
3. For declaratory judgment that Robert Redland must transfer all of the Redland property to the Redland Family Trust and should be estopped from claiming the properties as his own;
4. For an accounting of trust assets and funds;
5. For declaratory relief establishing a tie-breaking mechanism in the event the trustees of the Redland Family Trust are deadlocked; and
6. For the recognition of a constructive trust or equitable lien against Robert Redland's individual property to the extent that he misapplied trust assets or funds to his own use.
[¶40] Robert Redland denied all of the Redland Children's claims and asserted the following counterclaims:
1. As trustee, against Rolly Redland for rent and grazing fees on trust property;
2. As trustee, against Rolly Redland for hunting fees on trust property;
3. Personally, against Kendrick and Sharon Redland for an accounting and payment of partnership distributions from Redland Angus; and
4. Personally, against the Redland Children for a ruling that if Robert Redland had to contribute personal assets to the Redland Family Trust and be subject to an accounting, the Redland Children should be required to do likewise.
[¶41] Robert Redland moved for summary judgment, asserting that the Redland Children's claims to recover real property were barred by the statute of limitations and the statute of frauds. In this motion, Robert Redland also claimed that the Redland Family Trust was void because it violated the rule against perpetuities. The district court granted Robert Redland's motion for summary judgment on the claims to recover real property, finding that no genuine issue of disputed fact existed and the claims were barred by the statute of limitations and the statute of frauds. Specifically, the district court found:
that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact of concern to those claims for relief, that Defendant Robert Redland is entitled to judgment as a matter of law with respect to those claims for relief, that the applicable statutes of limitations (whether it be under Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 1-3-103, 1-3-105, or 1-3-109) bar recovery on those claims for relief, and that Wyoming's statute of frauds, Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-23-105 and applicable case law, including Davis v. Davis, 855 P.2d 342 (Wyo. 1993), Fowler v. Fowler, 933 P.2d 502 (Wyo. 1997), and Parkhurst v. Boykin, 2004 WY 90, 94 P.3d 450 (Wyo. 2004), preclude recovery on those claims for relief, as asserted in this action.
[¶42] In that same order, the district court allowed Robert Redland to amend his counterclaims to seek declaratory relief that the Redland Family Trust violates the rule against perpetuities; to seek ejectment of Kendrick and Sharon Redland from the Manderson Place; and to seek ejectment of Rolly and Debbie Redland from the State Farm at Manderson. Robert's amended counterclaims also included claims against Rolly Redland for conversion of a sheep wagon and a tractor. In response, Kendrick, Rolly and their spouses counterclaimed for the value of the improvements that they had made to Manderson Place and the State Farm at Manderson.
[¶43] Shortly after the district court's entry of summary judgment, Rolly Redland filed a motion requesting that Judge W. Thomas Sullins recuse himself from the case, asserting a conflict of interest because Judge Sullins was a former partner in the law firm that represented Robert Redland, and because that same law firm drafted many of the trust documents that would be ruled on at trial. Judge Sullins denied any conflict of interest but entered an order of recusal and reassigned the case to the Honorable Keith G. Kautz.
[¶44] A five-day bench trial was held before Judge Kautz beginning on August 30, 2010. On December 2, 2010, while the case was under advisement, the parties filed a stipulation resolving certain of the issues. The Redland Children dismissed their first cause of action seeking declaratory judgment that the family operated as a de facto partnership, dismissed their claim for an accounting, dismissed their request for a court implemented trust tie-breaker mechanism, and dismissed their breach of fiduciary duty claim. They reserved their right to appeal the summary judgment order against their property claims. Robert Redland agreed to not pursue efforts to have Rolly Redland removed as a trustee, and Robert reserved his causes of action for contribution of assets and an accounting in the event the Redland Children succeed in the appeal of the partial summary judgment on their property claims. Last, the parties submitted to the court a tie-breaker amendment to the Redland Family Trust and requested that the court approve the amendment in the event the court ruled that the trust is valid and not void for violating the rule against perpetuities.
[¶45] On February 15, 2011, the district court issued its decision letter. The court made the following rulings:
--The court found that the Redland Family Trust does not violate the rule against perpetuities, and it approved the parties' stipulated tie-breaker amendment;
--The court found the lease agreements Robert Redland entered into with Lisa and Mike Kimsey for use of trust property were void for failure to obtain the required co-trustee approval;
--The court found that Rolly Redland owed the Redland Family Trust $6,360.00 for rent of the Woody Place for the year 2010;
--The court found no evidence that Rolly Redland had wrongfully withheld hunting fees for the Woody Place and found against Robert Redland on that claim;
--The court found that Robert Redland had not proven his claims for damages to Manderson Place or the State Farm against Rolly and Kendrick Redland and denied those claims. The court further found that Rolly and Kendrick had vacated Manderson Place and the State Farm, and it concluded that Robert's ejectment action against them was thus moot;
--The court found that Kendrick Redland had proved his unjust enrichment claim for improvements to Manderson Place, and it awarded him damages in the amount of $28,737.00;
--The court found that Rolly Redland had proved his unjust enrichment claim for improvements to the State Farm at Manderson, and it awarded him damages in the amount of $14,040.00.
--In his closing argument, Robert Redland conceded that he had not proved his claim against Rolly Redland for conversion of a tractor. The court further found that Robert had not proved his claim against Rolly for conversion of a sheep wagon, and it ruled against Robert on that claim; and
--The court found that Robert Redland had not proved that he had a partnership interest in Redland Angus and denied all of Robert's claims relating to that operation.
[¶46] Following entry of the district court's judgment, Robert Redland appealed the court's rulings on Rolly and Kendrick Redland's unjust enrichment claims and the court's ruling on the Redland Angus partnership claims. The Redland Children appealed the order granting partial summary judgment against their property claims.
[¶47] The Redland Children's appeal of the district court's order on their trust property claims is an appeal from a summary judgment order, and we therefore consider their appeal under our summary judgment standard of review. Motions for summary judgment come before the trial court pursuant to Rule 56(c) of the Wyoming Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires that
[t]he judgment sought shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.
Formisano v. Gaston, 2011 WY 8, ¶ 3, 246 P.3d 286, 288 (Wyo. 2011). We review a grant of summary judgment as follows:
We review a summary judgment in the same light as the district court, using the same materials and following the same standards. Id.; 40 North Corp. v. Morrell, 964 P.2d 423, 426 (Wyo. 1998). We examine the record from the vantage point most favorable to the party opposing the motion, and we give that party the benefit of all favorable inferences that may fairly be drawn from the record. Id. A material fact is one which, if proved, would have the effect of establishing or refuting an essential element of the cause of action or defense asserted by the parties. Id. If the moving party presents supporting summary judgment materials demonstrating no genuine issue of material fact exists, the burden is shifted to the non-moving party to present appropriate supporting materials posing a genuine issue of a material fact for trial. Roberts v. Klinkosh, 986 P.2d 153, 155 (Wyo. 1999); Downen v. Sinclair Oil Corp., 887 P.2d 515, 519 (Wyo. 1994). We review a grant of summary judgment deciding a question of law de novo and afford no deference to the district court's ruling. Roberts v. Klinkosh, 986 P.2d at 156; Blagrove v. JB Mechanical, Inc., 934 P.2d 1273, 1275 (Wyo. 1997).
Lindsey v. Harriet, 2011 WY 80, ¶ 18, 255 P.3d 873, 880 (Wyo. 2011).
[¶48] Because the unjust enrichment and partnership rulings appealed by Robert Redland were issued by the court following a bench trial, we apply the following standard of review:
Following a bench trial, this court reviews a district court's findings and conclusions using a clearly erroneous standard for the factual findings and a de novo standard for the conclusions of law. Piroschak v. Whelan, 2005 WY 26, ¶ 7, 106 P.3d 887, 890 (Wyo. 2005).
The factual findings of a judge are not entitled to the limited review afforded a jury verdict. While the findings are presumptively correct, the appellate court may examine all of the properly admissible evidence in the record. Due regard is given to the opportunity of the trial judge to assess the credibility of the witnesses, and our review does not entail re-weighing disputed evidence. Findings of fact will not be set aside unless they are clearly erroneous. A finding is clearly erroneous when, although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.
Piroschak, ¶ 7, 106 P.3d at 890. Findings may not be set aside because we would have reached a different result. Harber v. Jense[n], 2004 WY 104, ¶ 7, 97 P.3d 57, 60 (Wyo. 2004). Further, we assume that the evidence of the prevailing party below is true and give that party every reasonable inference that can fairly and reasonably be drawn from it.
Claman v. Popp, 2012 WY 92, ¶ 22, 279 P.3d 1003, 1012 (Wyo. 2012) (quoting Pennant Serv. Co., v. True Oil Co., LLC, 2011 WY 40, ¶ 7, 249 P.3d 698, 703 (Wyo. 2011)). We review the district court's conclusions of law de novo. Lieberman v. Mossbrook, 2009 WY 65, ¶ 40, 208 P.3d 1296, 1308 (Wyo. 2009).
DISCUSSION OF DISPUTED TRUST PROPERTY ISSUES
A. Redland Children's Partial Summary Judgment Appeal
[¶49] The parties' property dispute stems from the formation of the Redland Family Trust. The Redland Children contend that when Robert Redland approached them with the proposal to form a trust to hold the Redland properties, which would require contributions of capital by all of the parties, he promised that, in exchange for those contributions, all Redland property would be conveyed to the trust and managed as required by the trust. Robert Redland disagrees that any such promise was made.
[¶50] The parties do not dispute that the Redland Family Trust owns the Original Mountain Land, including its associated BLM allotments, the Additional Mountain Land and Woody Place. The property in dispute is Manderson Place, which is deeded land, the State Farm at Manderson (State Lease No. 3-8179), the Mountain Land State Lease (State Lease No. 3-8195), and the State Lease at Woody Place (State Lease No. 3-8248).
[¶51] The district court found no genuine issues of material fact existed and that as a matter of law, the Redland Children's claims to the disputed property were barred by the statute of limitations and the statute of frauds. We address first the statute of limitations ruling and then the statute of frauds ruling.
1. Statute of Limitations
[¶52] The Redland Children's property claims assert a breach of either an oral or written agreement to convey real property. The applicable statute of limitations is thus either ten years or eight years. See Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-3-105(a)(i) (ten years for action on written agreement); Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-3-105(a)(ii)(A) (eight years for action on oral agreement); Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-3-103 (ten years for action to recover real property).
[¶53] The Redland Children argue that the statute of limitations did not begin to run until 2006 when they discovered that Robert Redland had not conveyed the disputed property to the trust as they contend he had promised. Robert Redland contends that the statute of limitations began to run in 1992 at the latest, the date by which Robert had ownership of all the property he allegedly promised to convey to the trust. On review of the summary judgment record, we conclude that when the statute of limitations began to run is a disputed issue of fact.
[¶54] Wyoming is a discovery jurisdiction, which means that a statute of limitation is triggered when a plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the existence of a cause of action. Carnahan v. Lewis, 2012 WY 45, ¶ 27, 273 P.3d 1065, 1073 (Wyo. 2012); see also Platt v. Creighton, 2007 WY 18, ¶ 11, 150 P.3d 1194, 1200 (Wyo. 2007); Olson v. A.H. Robins Co., 696 P.2d 1294, 1297 (Wyo. 1985). We have explained:
That is, the statute begins to run when the claimant is chargeable with information which should lead him to believe he has a claim. If the material facts are in dispute, the application of a statute of limitations is a mixed question of law and fact; otherwise, it is a question of law.
Carnahan, ¶ 27, 273 P.3d at 1073 (citations omitted).
[¶55] The Redland Children support their statute of limitations argument with the affidavits of Rolly Redland and Kendrick Redland, which they submitted in opposition to Robert Redland's motion for summary judgment. In those affidavits, Rolly and Kendrick describe the Redland Children's agreement with Robert and Irene Redland, the parties' conduct following that agreement, and their unequivocal statements that they did not know that the disputed property had not been placed in the Redland Family Trust until 2006.
[¶56] By affidavit, Rolly Redland attested that during meetings attended by Kendrick Redland and Robert and Irene Redland, to discuss the formation of the trust, Robert made repeated promises that "it is all going in (to the Trust), the farm and all of the property of Granddad's, is going into the Trust." Kendrick's affidavit is to similar effect. Kendrick stated that in the trust formation meeting, "[w]e all talked about ways to pass on the Land that Grand[d]ad & Grandma had put together and limit or avoid inheritance taxes." Kendrick further stated in his affidavit:
At the meeting about setting up the family trust, Dad said that each of us kids contribute money from our CD's in order to secure and purchase all of the land that we were running our livestock on including the Farm at Manderson, the Woody Place at Ten Sleep, the Mountain Ground and the BLM & State grazing leases attached to those grounds. Bob made it very clear that all the ground we were running on would eventually go into the trust over time and if Eric (Pooch) Redlands' [sic] ground became available, his part of the mountain & slope, the State Farm, or his ranch at Ten Sleep became available in the future, we needed to be in a position to acquire those also so that they could be put in the family trust we were setting up.
[¶57] After the Redland Family Trust was established and the Redland Children made the contributions that Robert Redland requested, the parties operated on and made improvements to Redland property, including both trust and now disputed trust property.*fn3
According to the affidavits of Rolly and Kendrick Redland, between the years 1989 and 2006, Robert Redland never informed Rolly or Kendrick that they were making improvements to land that was not trust land or were operating on property that did not belong to the Redland Family Trust. Concerning the improvements and operations, Kendrick stated in his affidavit, "Not once did Robert tell us that we were wasting our time because the property was not Trust property." Rolly stated that Robert "never once complained about us running cattle on what is now non-Trust lands. Nor did he complain about all of the time and expense we were putting into non-Trust lands for very little return on the investment."
[¶58] Kendrick Redland denied any prior knowledge or understanding that Robert Redland had not conveyed the disputed property to the Redland ...