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Fix v. Forelle

Supreme Court of Wyoming

June 18, 2014

WILLIAM R. FIX, Appellant (Counter-Plaintiff),
v.
FRANK FORELLE, Appellee (Counter-Defendant)

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

William R. Fix, Representing Appellant, Pro se.

Representing Appellee: Anna M. Reeves Olson and Weston W. Reeves of Park Street Law Office, Casper, Wyoming.

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

OPINION

Page 746

FOX, Justice.

[¶1] This appeal arises out of a controversy between neighbors William Fix, Appellant, and Frank Forelle, Appellee, concerning the construction of a fence along the border of their adjoining properties. After prevailing on his claim in the district court, Mr. Fix, an attorney who represented himself in the matter, claimed that he was entitled to attorney fees according to the terms of the covenants at issue. The district court disagreed and Mr. Fix appealed. We find that because Mr. Fix did not incur any fees, he is not entitled to an award of fees. We therefore affirm.

ISSUE

[¶2] The issue presented by Mr. Fix is whether the district court erred in failing to award him attorney fees.

FACTS

[¶3] The parties in this case are neighbors in the South Wilderness Ranches Subdivision in Teton County, Wyoming. In 2008, Mr. Forelle built a fence on his property along the boundary between his property and Mr. Fix's property. Mr. Fix complained to the Homeowners' Association (HOA) that the fence violated the subdivision's covenants, but the HOA failed to enforce the covenants. In response, Mr. Fix refused to pay his HOA assessments. The HOA then filed suit, seeking to recover payment for the delinquent assessments. Mr. Fix, an attorney who appeared pro se, filed a counterclaim seeking a determination that the fence violated the covenants.[1]

[¶4] The district court severed Mr. Fix's counterclaims against the HOA and Mr. Forelle and considered the HOA's claims against Mr. Fix. It entered judgment against Mr. Fix and in favor of the HOA, awarding the HOA payments due. The district court also awarded prejudgment interest, costs, and attorney fees to the HOA, relying upon language in the covenants stating, " [a]ny Lot Owner who uses or allows his or her Lot to be used or developed in violation of these Covenants further agrees to pay all costs incurred by the Design Committee or other Lot Owner in enforcing these Covenants, including reasonable attorney's fees." Mr. Fix appealed and that portion of the case was affirmed in Fix v. South Wilderness Ranch Homeowners Ass'n, 2012 WY 96, 280 P.3d 527 (Wyo. 2012).

[¶5] The district court addressed the remaining claims, including Mr. Fix's counterclaims, and granted summary judgment in favor of Mr. Fix on his claim that the fence violated the covenants prohibiting the construction of boundary fences. The district court conducted a jury trial on the remaining issues, including Mr. Fix's claim for damages with respect to the construction of the fence and Mr. Forelle's claim for trespass. The jury awarded $400 to Mr. Forelle on the trespass claim and $500 to Mr. Fix on the fence claim.

[¶6] Subsequently, again relying upon the covenant provision regarding reimbursement for costs incurred in enforcing the covenants, the district court awarded Mr. Fix attorney fees in the amount of $19,158.75, which included $18,958.75 for Mr. Fix's time and $200 attributable to another attorney hired by Mr. Fix to assist with the summary judgment ...


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