LITTLE MEDICINE CREEK RANCH, INC., a Wyoming corporation, f/k/a BURNETT RANCH, INC., Appellant (Defendant/Counterclaimant),
SERGE M. D'ELIA and LILIAN C.S.L. D'ELIA, Trustees of the D'Elia Family Trust and WAGONHOUND LAND & LIVESTOCK, LLC, a Wyoming limited liability company, Appellees (Plaintiffs/Counterclaim Defendants).
from the District Court of Albany County The Honorable Tori
R.A. Kricken, Judge
Representing Appellant: David G. Ditto of Associated Legal
Group, LLC, Cheyenne, Wyoming; Eric C. Rusnak of K&L
Gates LLP, Washington, DC; Michael E. Zeliger and Ranjini
Acharya of K&L Gates LLP, Palo Alto, CA. Argument by Ms.
Representing Appellee Serge M. d'Elia and Lilian C.S.L.
d'Elia, Trustees of the d'Elia Family Trust: Peter C.
Nicolaysen and Pamala M. Brondos of Nicolaysen &
Associates, P.C., Casper, Wyoming; Keith P. Tyler, Casper,
Wyoming. Argument by Mr. Nicolaysen.
Representing Appellee Wagonhound Land & Livestock
Company, LLC: Kermit C. Brown and William L. Hiser of Brown
& Hiser, LLC, Laramie, Wyoming. Argument by Mr. Hiser.
DAVIS, C.J., and FOX, KAUTZ, BOOMGAARDEN, and GRAY, JJ.
This is an adverse possession case involving two cattle
ranches. The Appellant, Little Medicine Creek Ranch, Inc.,
f/k/a Burnett Ranch, Inc., owns a ranch in Albany County that
has historically been known as Burnett Ranch. The
Appellees-Serge and Lilian d'Elia, Trustees of the
d'Elia Family Trust, and Wagonhound Land & Livestock,
LLC-are the most recent owners of Warbonnet
Ranch. The Appellees filed a Complaint for
Declaratory Judgment and Petition to Quiet Title with respect
to three non-contiguous parcels of property that are deeded
to the Appellees but fenced into Burnett Ranch. The Appellant
counterclaimed for adverse possession of those parcels and
moved for summary judgment. The district court denied the
Appellant's motion and granted summary judgment to the
Appellees. It also denied the Appellant's subsequent
motion to alter or amend its order. Because genuine issues of
material fact preclude summary judgment, we reverse and
remand for trial.
The Appellant raises three issues on appeal, rephrased as:
1. Does the district court's failure to follow the
procedural safeguards of Rule 56(f) necessitate reversal and
remand for trial?
2. Does the district court's improper determination of
witness credibility on summary judgment necessitate reversal
and remand for trial?
3. Does the district court's reliance on the absence of
objections by the deed holders to find permissive use
necessitate reverse and remand for trial?
Appellees phrase the third issue differently:
3. Whether the record and Wyoming law support the District
Court's finding of permissive use based on multiple
factors including the fence-out doctrine and neighborly
The dispositive issue is whether genuine issues of material
fact preclude summary judgment in favor of the
This fact-intensive adverse possession case involves three
non-contiguous parcels of land that are deeded to Warbonnet
Ranch's owners but located within Burnett Ranch. Burnett
Ranch's perimeter is fenced, except where land
characteristics make fencing impossible, but the parcels are
not separately fenced within the ranch. Parcel 1 consists of
approximately 640 acres and has also been referred to as
"Lindsey Place" and "the peach orchard."
Parcel 2 consists of 40 acres. Parcel 3 consists of two
120-acre parcels, 210 of which are fenced into Burnett Ranch
and subject to this litigation.
The following map depicts the general location of Parcels 1,
2, and 3 within Burnett Ranch:
does not, however, clearly depict Burnett Ranch's
perimeter fence or Burnett Ranch's location relative to
The history of the two ranches and the three families-the
Burnetts, the Crosses, and the d'Elias-who have been
associated with them over the years provides important
background. The Burnetts' ancestors homesteaded much of
the land that constitutes Burnett Ranch. Richard Burnett
managed the ranch for approximately 65 years; Wally Burnett
managed the ranch next; and John Burnett became president of
Burnett Ranch, Inc. in 2000 and managed it for the next
sixteen years. The Burnetts sold their cattle in 2000 to
avoid foreclosure and continuously leased the ranch to
various individuals-including Lynn Carter, Jim Hageman, Art
Hageman, Warren Manning, and the Crosses-from 2000 until 2016
for grazing. The leases included use of Parcels 1, 2, and 3.
The Crosses leased the ranch for summer pasture from 2007 or
2008 until 2016.
Warbonnet Ranch borders Burnett Ranch to the east and north.
The Crosses owned Warbonnet Ranch off-and-on from the 1950s
until they sold it to Farm Credit in 1985. Mr. d'Elia
purchased the ranch in 1987 and, a couple of years later, he
conveyed it to himself and his wife as ...