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Edsall v. Moore

Supreme Court of Wyoming

July 15, 2016

RAY P. EDSALL, Trustee of the RAY P. EDSALL REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST, Dated October 28, 2011, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
JOY BELL MOORE and TIFFANY LA TOYA MOORE, Appellees (Plaintiffs).

         Appeal from the District Court of Crook County The Honorable John R. Perry, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Harriet M. Hageman and Korry D. Lewis, Hageman Law P.C., Cheyenne, Wyoming. Argument by Ms. Lewis.

          Representing Appellees: Madison M. Brown and Matthew R. Sorenson, Daly & Sorenson, LLC, Gillette, Wyoming. Argument by Ms. Brown.

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

          BURKE, Chief Justice.

         [¶1] Appellant, Ray Edsall, challenges the district court's denial of his motion for attorney's fees incurred in his defense of an action to establish a private road brought by Appellees Joy Bell Moore and Tiffany La Toya Moore. He also challenges the denial of his motion seeking compensation as a result of the district court's decision to grant the Moores temporary access to an existing road across Mr. Edsall's property. We find the district court lacked jurisdiction to consider the motions. Because we have no greater jurisdiction than the district court, we dismiss.

         ISSUE

         [¶2] Does this Court have jurisdiction to entertain Mr. Edsall's appeal?

         FACTS

         [¶3] In 2006, Joy Bell Moore and her daughter, Tiffany La Toya Moore, received a 520-acre parcel of land in Crook County, Wyoming from Alice Jay, mother to Joy and grandmother to Tiffany.[1] The property, referred to as the "Jay Ranch, " is adjacent to property owned by Mr. Edsall. Following Ms. Jay's death in 2011, the Moores sought access to the property via the "Jay Road, " an existing private road which runs across Mr. Edsall's property. According to the Moores, they made attempts to contact Mr. Edsall in October and November 2012 in order to gain access to the hay crop on the property. Mr. Edsall did not respond. The Moores made several attempts to contact Mr. Edsall again in July 2013 and, in a letter dated July 25, 2013, they offered to pay for access across Mr. Edsall's property. In August, counsel for Mr. Edsall responded that he would be willing to negotiate access to the property. However, as a result of the delayed response, the Moores were unable to harvest the hay crop.

         [¶4] In October 2013, the Moores filed a Complaint for Private Road and Damages. In Count I of their complaint, the Moores sought to establish a private road pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 24-9-101 (LexisNexis 2013).[2] In Count II, they sought to recover damages for loss of the hay crop. Mr. Edsall answered and filed a motion to dismiss the Moores' damage claim. He contended the Moores' claim for damages was not a recognized cause of action because the Moores had no legally enforceable right to cross his property.

         [¶5] While this suit was pending, the Moores were also involved in litigation to determine the rightful ownership of the Jay Ranch. In January 2014, after learning of that litigation, Mr. Edsall filed a motion to stay the proceedings in this case. He also filed a motion for an award of attorney's fees in the amount of $4, 717.50, alleging that the Moores' damage claim had been brought in bad faith. The district court denied both motions.

         [¶6] The district court subsequently held a hearing, pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 24-9-101(h), to determine whether the Moores had satisfied the statutory threshold requirements to move forward with their private road claim. The court found that the Moores had satisfied the requirements and granted the Moores temporary access to the "Jay Road" across Mr. Edsall's property until September 30, 2014. Subsequently, the court extended access to December 31, 2014. The court required the Moores to post a $10, 000 bond for costs allowed under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 24-9-103.[3] The district court also dismissed the Moores' damage claim with prejudice. It concluded, however, that the Moores had not acted in bad faith in asserting their claim and denied Mr. Edsall's motion for attorney's fees.

         [¶7] Mr. Edsall filed a notice of appeal from the district court's order. He sought review of the district court's determination that the Moores had satisfied the threshold statutory requirements to establish a private road, as well as the court's denial of his motion for attorney's fees. This Court dismissed the appeal after finding the district court's order "is not a final, appealable order because it does not determine the action or 'resolve all outstanding issues.'"

         [¶8] In October 2014, a decision was rendered against the Moores in the litigation to determine ownership of the Jay Ranch. Afterwards, they took no further action in the present case. On February 11, 2015, the district court issued a Notice of Intent to Dismiss. The notice informed the parties that, because no action had taken place in the case for a period of 90 days, the court would dismiss for lack of prosecution unless the parties provided good cause for continuing the case ...


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