WILLIAM S. HANSULD and TIA J. HANSULD, Appellants (Plaintiffs),
LARIAT DIESEL CORPORATION and MARVIN PIEL, Appellees (Defendants)
Appeal from the District Court of Natrona County. The Honorable Catherine E. Wilking, Judge.
Representing Appellants: Larry W. Harrington of the Harrington Law Firm, P.C., Casper, Wyoming.
Representing Appellees: Thomas M. Hogan, Casper, Wyoming.
Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, KITE, DAVIS, and FOX, JJ.
[¶1] The district court determined the location of an implied access easement for Lariat Diesel Corporation and Marvin Piel (hereinafter referred to collectively as " Lariat" ) across property belonging to William S. and Tia J. Hansuld. The Hansulds assert the district court applied the wrong rule of law in determining the location of the easement and its decision was not supported by the evidence presented at trial. While we agree that the district court's legal analysis was incorrect in some respects, we conclude that its ultimate decision was correct and affirm.
[¶2] The issues we must address in this appeal are:
1. Did the district court err by refusing to rule that Lariat did not prove the elements of an implied easement and, therefore, was not entitled to an easement at all?
2. Did the district court apply the wrong rule of law to locate the easement?
3. Was the district court's decision as to the location of Lariat's implied easement unsupported by the record or erroneous as a matter of law?
[¶3] The properties at issue in this case are commercial properties that were, at one time, commonly owned by Chapin and Ratcliff, LLC (the LLC). Lariat purchased part of the property in 1995 when it took over a diesel truck sales and service business that had been operating on the property. The truck business had historically used the adjoining property for access, and the LLC and Lariat agreed that the arrangement should continue. Hansuld v. Lariat Diesel Corp., 2003 WY 165, ¶ ¶ 4-6, 81 P.3d 215, 217 (Wyo. 2003) ( Hansuld I ).
[¶4] In 1996, the LLC sold the property adjacent to Lariat's to Gary Petley. Prior to the closing on that transaction, the LLC, Lariat and Mr. Petley met to discuss exchanging easements, specifically an access easement for Lariat across Petley's property and a sewer easement for Petley across Lariat's property. Hansuld I, ¶ ¶ 6-7, 81 P.3d at 217. The LLC signed the Access Agreement in favor of Lariat, and Lariat signed a sewer easement. The Access Agreement granted Lariat an easement over the southerly 100 feet of Petley's property. Unfortunately, the Access Agreement was not recorded until after the warranty deed from the LLC to Petley so the agreement was outside the chain of title. Id., ¶ 8, 81 P.3d at 217. Nevertheless, Lariat continued to use the adjoining property for access and, although the property had different owners over the years, there were no problems until the Hansulds acquired it in 2001.
[¶5] The Hansulds' predecessors operated businesses involving the sale of various types of vehicles. Similarly, the Hansulds operate a low volume used car business and an electrical contractor business on their property. Immediately after purchasing it, the Hansulds notified Lariat that it could no longer use their property for access and constructed a fence along the property line. The conflicts between the parties grew and litigation ensued. Hansuld I, ¶ 10, 81 P.3d at 217.
[¶6] The present matter is the third appeal of the parties' various claims to this
Court. In Hansuld I, we ruled that Lariat had an implied easement for access across the Hansulds' property, including a portion that had been part of the highway right-of-way and abandoned to the adjacent property owners in 2001. In Hansuld v. Lariat Diesel Corp., 2010 WY 160, 245 P.3d 293 (Wyo. 2010) ( Hansuld II ), we ruled, among other things, that Lariat was entitled to a judicial determination ...