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Reichert v. Daugherty

Supreme Court of Wyoming

August 31, 2018

FOREST G. REICHERT and JENNIFER G. REICHERT, husband and wife, Appellants (Plaintiffs),
v.
JEFFREY B. DAUGHERTY and DEBRA D. DAUGHERTY, husband and wife, Appellees (Defendants).

          Appeal from the District Court of Teton County The Honorable Marvin L. Tyler, Judge

          Representing Appellants Douglas FitzGerald Schultz, Schultz Law Firm, LLC, Jackson, Wyoming

          Representing Appellees James R. Salisbury, The Salisbury Firm, P.C., Cheyenne, Wyoming

          Before DAVIS, C.J., and BURKE [*], FOX, KAUTZ, and BOOMGAARDEN, JJ.

          DAVIS, CHIEF JUSTICE.

         [¶1] Forest and Jennifer Reichert own Lot 8 in the Western Tanager Subdivision in Jackson, Wyoming, and Jeff and Debra Daugherty own Lot 7. The Reicherts filed a quiet title action against the Daughertys challenging the enforceability of a plat restriction that bars Reicherts' use of a portion of Lot 8 and gives exclusive use of and responsibility for that property to the Daughertys. The district court granted summary judgment to the Daughertys, and we affirm.

         ISSUES

         [¶2] The Reicherts present two issues on appeal, which we summarize and restate as a single issue:

Does the restriction contained in the subdivision's recorded plat create an enforceable covenant appurtenant to Lot 8?

         FACTS

         [¶3] The Reicherts and Daughertys own adjacent properties in the Western Tanager Subdivision in Jackson, Wyoming. The Reicherts obtained their property by a warranty deed dated September 24, 1996, which described the property as: "Lot 8 Western Tanager Subdivision Second Amendment, Teton County, Wyoming, according to that plat recorded in the Office of the Teton County Clerk on September 12, 1990 as Plat No. 701." The warranty deed conveyed the property "subject to taxes, reservations, covenants, encroachments, conditions, restrictions, rights-of-way and easements of sight and/or record."

         [¶4] The Daughertys obtained their property by a warranty deed dated February 21, 2014, which described the property as: "Lot 7 Western Tanager Subdivision, Second Amendment, Teton County, Wyoming, according to that plat recorded September 12, 1990 as Plat No. 701." The warranty deed also conveyed the property "subject to taxes, reservations, covenants, encroachments, conditions, restrictions, rights-of-way and easements of sight and/or record."

         [¶5] Both Lots 7 and 8 are located on and accessed via Juniper Lane, with the entirety of Lot 7 located to the west of Juniper Lane. Most of Lot 8 is located to the east of Juniper Lane, but the westernmost portion of Lot 8 is transected by Juniper Lane, leaving a strip of Lot 8 to the west of the road. Lot 6 is configured in a similar manner, with most of it situated to the east of Juniper Lane and a small strip to the west of the road.[1]

          [¶6] The smaller strips of Lots 6 and 8 located to the west of Juniper Lane are each marked on the subdivision's recorded plat (Plat 701) as a "restricted use area," with a reference to the Certificate of Owners located on sheet one of the plat. The Certificate of Owners specifies:

Lot 6 and 8 of the foregoing subdivision shall have no private use or maintenance responsibility within that area of the Juniper Lane right-of-way which is located on the northwesterly side of the actual Juniper Lane road; said private use and maintenance responsibility shall be assigned instead to Lots 4, 5, and 7 of the foregoing subdivision; each of said Lots being assigned the private use of, and maintenance responsibility for the portion of said area which adjoins that Lot, and lies between the easterly extensions of the side boundaries of that Lot.

         [¶7] In 2015, the Reicherts and Daughertys began having issues concerning a fence located on Lot 8's restricted use area west of Juniper Lane. The fence existed when the Reicherts purchased Lot 8 in 1996, and both parties claim they have done work to maintain it. The parties disagreed on which of them controlled the fence and what should be done with it. The Reicherts contend the fence should be removed from the Lot 8 restricted use area and relocated to the Lot 7 property line to protect Lot 8 from the Daughertys' livestock and to make room for the Reicherts to store plowed snow. The Daughertys contend that they have the exclusive right to use and maintain the restricted use area, including the fence, and that the Reicherts are improperly plowing their snow onto the property and thereby damaging the fence.

         [¶8] The disputed property (restricted use area) and fence are depicted below in relation to the parties' respective properties.

         (Image Omitted)

          [¶9] The parties were unable to resolve their differences concerning the disputed property, fence, and snow storage, and on March 25, 2016, the Reicherts filed a quiet title action against the Daughertys. The Reicherts sought to quiet title to the restricted use area and requested an order directing the Daughertys to remove the fence from that portion of Lot 8. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court ruled in favor of the Daughertys. The court found the terms and provisions of Plat 701 to be clear and unambiguous and concluded:

Under the plain and ordinary meaning of the language imposing the restrictions under Plat 701, [the Reicherts] may not use, and/or they are restricted from using the Disputed Property for their private use, and they have no maintenance responsibility for the Disputed Property. Conversely, [the Daughertys] may use the Disputed Property for their private use and must maintain or provide for the general repair and upkeep [of] the Disputed Property. This restriction included in Plat 701 was a private agreement that restricts the use of the Disputed Property. Further, ...

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