Wagner v. MSE Technology Applications, Inc., 083016 MTSC, DA 15-0448

Docket Nº:DA 15-0448
Opinion Judge:MIKE MCGRATH CHIEF JUSTICE.
Party Name:CHRIS WAGNER, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. MSE TECHNOLOGY APPLICATIONS, INC. MSE INFRASTRUCTURE SERVICES, INC., BUTTE LOCAL DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, and SHEA REALTORS, PLLC, Defendants and Appellees.
Attorney:For Appellant: Todd A. Stubbs, Stubbs Law, P.C., Manhattan, Montana For Appellee MSE: Cynthia L. Walker, Emma R. Armstrong, Poore, Roth & Robinson, P.C., Butte, Montana For Appellee Butte Local Development Corporation: William M. O'Leary, Fleming & O'Leary, PLLP, Butte, Montana For Appellee Shea ...
Judge Panel:We Concur: PATRICIA COTTER, MICHAEL E. WHEAT, BETH BAKER, JIM RICE
Case Date:August 30, 2016
Court:Supreme Court of Montana
 
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2016 MT 215

CHRIS WAGNER, Plaintiff and Appellant,

v.

MSE TECHNOLOGY APPLICATIONS, INC. MSE INFRASTRUCTURE SERVICES, INC., BUTTE LOCAL DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, and SHEA REALTORS, PLLC, Defendants and Appellees.

No. DA 15-0448

Supreme Court of Montana

August 30, 2016

Submitted on Briefs: June 8, 2016

APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Second Judicial District, In and For the County of Butte-Silver Bow, Cause No. DV-10-298 Honorable Brad Newman, Presiding Judge

For Appellant: Todd A. Stubbs, Stubbs Law, P.C., Manhattan, Montana

For Appellee MSE: Cynthia L. Walker, Emma R. Armstrong, Poore, Roth & Robinson, P.C., Butte, Montana

For Appellee Butte Local Development Corporation: William M. O'Leary, Fleming & O'Leary, PLLP, Butte, Montana

For Appellee Shea Realtors, PLLC: William T. Wagner, Garlington, Lohn & Robinson, PLLP, Missoula, Montana

OPINION

MIKE MCGRATH CHIEF JUSTICE.

¶l Chris Wagner appeals from the District Court's dismissal of his claims at trial pursuant to M. R. Civ. P. 50. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

¶2 We restate the issues on appeal as follows:

Issue 1: Did the District Court err in dismissing Wagner's intentional interference claims against all defendants and granting them judgment as a matter of law pursuant to M. R. Civ. P. 50(a)?

Issue 2: Did the District Court err in dismissing Wagner's claims by granting Shea Realtors summary judgment, and judgment as a matter of law pursuant to M. R. Civ. P. 50(a)?

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

¶3 In 2009 Wagner sought to buy land in Butte to establish a commercial nursery. He hired Shea Realtors as his agent in purchasing approximately sixty acres of land from the Montana Tech Foundation. Shea became the agent of both Wagner and the Foundation, and in November 2009 Wagner and the Foundation entered a buy-sell agreement under which Wagner would purchase the land. Shea agreed to not engage in negotiations with any other persons or to show the property while the buy-sell agreement was in place. The parties agreed to close the purchase on January 8, 2010.

¶4 Wagner inserted four contingencies into the buy-sell agreement with the Foundation. Those were that he would not be required to bore underneath adjacent railroad tracks for utility installation; that he not be required to use city water for irrigation; that he could subdivide the property; and that his business would meet zoning requirements. There are numerous references in this case to an "easement" condition, but no such condition appears on the face of the buy-sell.

¶5 In December 2009 Wagner hired Gaston Engineering to advise him about the feasibility of subdividing the property and selling the majority of it to others. Gaston identified access as an issue and concluded that the only feasible access was an existing road that was on adjacent property owned by MSE. A Gaston representative spoke to MSE Vice President Tretheway about securing an easement for use of the existing road. Tretheway told Gaston that MSE "would not stand in the way" of Wagner's purchase and would not "throw monkey wrenches" into the process. After additional investigation Gaston advised Wagner that it was feasible for him to subdivide the land into six parcels and to sell five of them.

¶6 MSE requested that Gaston provide more information about Wagner's plans for the land. On January 5, 2010, Gaston responded with a simple "conceptual plan" that showed possible boundaries for dividing the land into six lots. The Foundation agreed to extend the closing date to January 29, 2010. Wagner waited to hear from MSE about an easement and testified that his several attempts to contact MSE about this were unsuccessful. The Foundation agreed to extend the closing date again, to February 15, 2010.

¶7 On January 29, 2010, representatives of the Butte Local Development Corporation (BLDC), the Foundation and MSE met to discuss the property. During the meeting, Mr. Kebe from MSE called Shea to ask whether Wagner would be interested in purchasing a forty-seven-acre parcel owned by MSE adjacent to the land he was trying to buy from the Foundation. At Shea's request Wagner visited the property and then told Shea that he was not interested in it. While the forty-seven-acre parcel contained the existing road that Wagner needed for access to the sixty acres, Wagner never knew this and never obtained an easement from MSE.

¶8 On February 9, 2010, the same persons who were at the January 29 meeting met again to work out an agreement for BLDC to buy the sixty acres from the Foundation and for MSE to provide the necessary easements. On or after February 11, 2010, Shea began working to implement BLDC's purchase of the sixty acres from the Foundation. Wagner knew nothing about the January 29 or February 9 meetings and knew nothing about Shea's involvement. Shea claimed at trial that on or about February 11 Wagner told him he was no longer interested in buying the sixty acres. Wagner denied saying that.

¶9 The February 15, 2010 closing date on the Wagner-Foundation buy-sell agreement passed and Wagner did not close. On February 26, 2010, BLDC purchased the land from the Foundation for the same price contained in the buy-sell with Wagner, and MSE granted easements over its land to BLDC.

¶10 In July 2010 Wagner sued the MSE entities and BLDC, contending that they had improperly interfered with his attempt to purchase the sixty acres from the Foundation. Wagner later amended the complaint to add Shea Realtors as a defendant. The case stagnated and Wagner could not get the District Court to issue a scheduling order or to rule on pending motions. In May 2014 Wagner applied to this Court for a writ of supervisory control. This Court granted relief, ordering the District Court to rule on pending motions and to issue a...

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