Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Gallagher v. Townsend

Supreme Court of Wyoming

June 25, 2019

RHONDA LEA GALLAGHER, Appellant (Plaintiff),
v.
CURTIS DARREL TOWNSEND, Appellee (Defendant).

          Appeal from the District Court of Weston County The Honorable Thomas W. Rumpke, Judge.

          Representing Appellant: J. Craig Abraham, Liberty Law Offices, P.C., Gillette, Wyoming.

          Representing Appellee: Christopher R. Ringer, Ringer Law, P.C., Gillette, Wyoming.

          Before DAVIS, C.J., and FOX, KAUTZ, BOOMGAARDEN, and GRAY, JJ.

          BOOMGAARDEN, Justice.

         [¶1] Appellant, Rhonda Gallagher, appeals from the district court's order partitioning a vacant lot that she and Appellee, Curtis Townsend, own as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. Ms. Gallagher contends that the district court improperly partitioned the property. She also contends that the district court erred in determining the amount of property taxes Mr. Townsend paid. We reverse and remand.

         ISSUES

         [¶2] Ms. Gallagher raises two issues, which we restate as follows:

1. Did the district court err when it partitioned the property?
2. Did the district court err when it determined Mr. Townsend paid $4, 241.53 in property taxes?

         FACTS

         [¶3] The parties cohabitated from approximately October 2007 until March 2009 and share a child together. In 2008, Mr. Townsend purchased a vacant lot for $25, 014.20 with his own funds. The warranty deed conveyed the property to the parties as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. The parties each paid property taxes through the years-Ms. Gallagher paid $510 in property taxes and Mr. Townsend paid the remaining property taxes.[1] After Ms. Gallagher moved to Colorado in July 2013, Mr. Townsend invoiced Ms. Gallagher for maintenance costs as they arose, but she did not pay the invoices.

         [¶4] In August 2017, Ms. Gallagher filed suit seeking partition of the lot. The district court appointed partition commissioners, who determined that the property could not be partitioned in kind without manifest injury to its value and should be sold. The district court agreed, ordered the sale of the lot if neither party elected to purchase the other party's share, and valued the property at $33, 500. Although the district court determined that each party owned a one-half interest in the lot, it ordered that Mr. Townsend be paid the first $25, 017.20[2]-the amount he paid to purchase the property-from the sale or election proceeds and that any excess proceeds be divided equally between the parties. The district court determined that an equitable division of the proceeds was proper because "Mr. Townsend paid the entire purchase price, maintained[] the property, and paid the majority of the expenses associated with the property during the parties' short relationship." Ms. Gallagher timely appealed.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         [¶5] "Following a bench trial, this court reviews a district court's findings and conclusions using a clearly erroneous standard for the factual findings and a de novo standard for the conclusions of law." Hofstad v. Christie, 2010 WY 134, ¶ 7, 240 P.3d 816, 818 (Wyo. 2010) (citation omitted).

         [¶6] "Requests for equitable relief are matters over which the district court exercises broad discretion." Jacoby v. Jacoby, 2004 WY 140, ¶ 7, 100 P.3d 852, 855 (Wyo. 2004) (citation omitted).

In determining whether there has been an abuse of discretion, we focus on the "reasonableness of the choice made by the trial court." If the trial court could reasonably conclude as it did and the ruling is one based on sound judgment with regard to what is right under the circumstances, it will not be disturbed absent a showing that some facet of the ruling is arbitrary or capricious.

Id. (citations omitted). However, "[e]ven when acting in equity, the district court is not free simply to do what it thinks is fair." Id. ¶ 10, 100 P.3d at 855. "Equitable discretion may be limited by statute." McCarthy v. Lippitt, 150 Ohio App.3d 367, 381, 781 N.E.2d 1023, 1033 (Ohio Ct. App. 2002) (citation omitted).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Did the district court err when it ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.