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Esterholdt v. PacifiCorp

Supreme Court of Wyoming

May 22, 2013

ERICK W. ESTERHOLDT as Trustee of the Erick W. Esterholdt Revocable Trust dated August 6, 2009, and JEANNE M. ESTERHOLDT as Trustee of the Jeanne M. Esterholdt Revocable Trust dated August 6, 2009, Appellants (Plaintiffs),
v.
PACIFICORP, an Oregon corporation, Appellee (Defendant), and JASON THORNOCK, Appellee (Intervenor).

Appeal from the District Court of Lincoln County The Honorable Dennis L. Sanderson, Judge

Representing Appellants: Sharon M. Rose of The Rose Law Firm, P.C., Evanston, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee PacifiCorp: David G. Ditto of Associated Legal Group, LLC, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee Jason Thornock: David M. Clark of Worrall & Greear, P.C., Worland, Wyoming.

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

VOIGT, Justice.

[¶1] The effect of [the Marketable Title Act] on the recording act is astonishing.

Gary B. Conine & Daniel J. Morgan, The Wyoming Marketable Title Act--A Revision of Real Property Law, XVI Land & Water L. Rev. 181, 199 (1981).

[¶2] Via a partial summary judgment, the district court held that the Wyoming Marketable Title Act (the Act), Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 34-10-101 et seq. (LexisNexis 2011), validated PacifiCorp's pole line and utility easement across the Esterholdts' property. The Esterholdts had filed an action seeking to have the easement declared invalid because it emanated from a "wild deed."[1] Thornock intervened as a potential user of PacifiCorp's power line. Several issues were determined by the district court, but the only issues before this Court in this appeal are based upon the Act. We will affirm.

ISSUES

[¶3] 1. Can a "wild deed" be the "root of title" under the Act?

2. Is a "wild deed" an inherent defect in the chain of title?

FACTS[2]

[¶4] The Esterholdts own certain property in Lincoln County, Wyoming. The property was conveyed by warranty deed in 1946 from Continental Live Stock Company to J.A. Reed, who is Jeanne Esterholdt's grandfather.[3] In 1968, Reed conveyed the property to his daughter, Julianne Reed Biggane, and in 2006, the Biggane Trust transferred the property to the Esterholdts.

[¶5] Prior to Reed's transfer of the property to his daughter in 1968, a Pole Line Easement across the property was granted to PacifiCorp's predecessor in interest, Utah Power & Light Company. That easement was dated March 1, 1967, and was recorded on July 21, 1967. The controversial feature of the easement grant is that Reed signed it as President of Continental Live Stock Company, rather than in his personal capacity, at a time that Continental Live Stock Company had no interest in the underlying land.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶6] Our standard for reviewing the grant of a motion for summary judgment is so well known that we need not repeat it here at length. Suffice it to say that there are no disputed facts, with the issues being questions of statutory interpretation. "Statutory interpretation is a question of law; therefore, our standard of review is de novo." A ...


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