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Forbes v. Forbes

Supreme Court of Wyoming

January 23, 2015

WILLIAM C. FORBES and JULIA FORBES, Trustees of the Beckton Ranch Trust U/A/D April 1, 1920, Appellants (Defendants),
v.
WALDO E. FORBES, Appellee (Plaintiff). WALDO E. FORBES, Appellant (Plaintiff),
v.
WILLIAM C. FORBES, JULIA FORBES, EDITH L. FORBES, and SARAH FORBES, Trustees of the Beckton Ranch Trust U/A/D April 1, 1920, Appellees (Defendants).

Appeal from the District Court of Sheridan County The Honorable William J. Edelman, Judge

Representing William C. Forbes and Julia Forbes in Case No. S-14-0122: Patrick J. Murphy and Keith J. Dodson, Williams, Porter, Day & Neville, P.C., Casper, Wyoming. Argument by Mr. Murphy.

Representing William C. Forbes, Julia Forbes, Edith L. Forbes, and Sarah Forbes in Case No. S-14-0123: Patrick J. Murphy and Keith J. Dodson, Williams, Porter, Day & Neville, P.C., Casper, Wyoming. Argument by Mr. Murphy.

Representing Waldo E. Forbes: Debra J. Wendtland, Wendtland & Wendtland, LLP, Sheridan, Wyoming.

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

FOX, Justice.

[¶1] The Beckton Ranch Trust (BRT) was formed in 1920 by six members of the Forbes family to hold certain parcels of land and their appurtenant water and ditch rights in Sheridan County, Wyoming, for the benefit of their descendants. The number of beneficiaries grew over time to 19, but the Forbes family managed the Trust's interests without significant strife. That changed in 2007, when Waldo E. Forbes (Spike) resigned as trustee following a dispute with his siblings. Later that year, the remaining trustees―Spike's brother, William Forbes (Cam) and his sisters, Julia Forbes, Sarah Forbes, and Edith Forbes―began a series of land and water transactions that form the basis for the breach of the duty of loyalty alleged in the complaint Spike filed against them.

[¶2] After a bench trial, the district court found that two of the four trustees, Cam and Julia, had breached their duty of loyalty and should be removed. The district court made no finding regarding Sarah and Edith, and did not remove them as trustees. Both sides appeal. We reverse the district court's order removing Cam and Julia, and affirm the decision not to remove Sarah and Edith.

ISSUES

[¶3] Cam Forbes and Julia Forbes, Trustees of the BRT, raise the following issues on appeal:

1. Was the district court's decision to remove Cam and Julia as trustees because of the exchange of water rights reversible error because it was based on an unpled claim and because it made clearly erroneous findings regarding the exchange of water rights?
2. Was the district court's finding that Julia profited from the transactions that were undertaken to place a conservation easement on the BRT property clearly erroneous?
3. Did the district court err when it found that Cam and Julia improperly issued new shares in the BRT?
4. Did the district court commit reversible error when it allowed undesignated expert testimony, concluded property deeded to Cam was not suitable for development in spite of Spike's expert's testimony otherwise, and based its finding on difference in value by comparing a 2007 value of one property to a 2013 value of another?
5. Did the district court commit reversible error when it failed to address the BRT Trustees' affirmative defenses?

[¶4] Spike raises only one issue in his cross appeal:

1. Did the district court err as a matter of law when it failed to remove Edith and Sarah ...

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