Davidson-Eaton v. Iversen

Citation2022 WY 135
Decision Date02 November 2022
Docket NumberS-22-0011
PartiesCHERIE DAVIDSON-EATON, Appellant (Defendant), v. CHRISTY IVERSEN and SUSAN D. KIRK, as co-personal representatives of the Estate of Gale S. Iversen, deceased, Appellees (Plaintiffs).
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming

2022 WY 135

CHERIE DAVIDSON-EATON, Appellant (Defendant),

CHRISTY IVERSEN and SUSAN D. KIRK, as co-personal representatives of the Estate of Gale S. Iversen, deceased, Appellees (Plaintiffs).

No. S-22-0011

Supreme Court of Wyoming

November 2, 2022

Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County The Honorable Thomas T.C. Campbell, Judge

Representing Appellant: Bernard Q. Phelan, Cheyenne, WY.

Representing Appellee: John E. Masters, Cheyenne, WY.



FENN, Justice.

[¶1] Christy Iversen and Susan Kirk, co-personal representatives of the Estate of Gale S. Iversen (hereinafter "the Estate"), sued Cherie Davidson-Eaton (hereinafter "Ms. Eaton[1]"), Mr. Iversen's caregiver. The Estate filed an action for an accounting and sought to recover property it alleged Ms. Eaton unlawfully transferred to herself. Ms. Eaton in turn filed a creditor's claim against the Estate claiming a right to compensation for services she rendered to Mr. Iversen during his lifetime. When that claim was rejected, she sued the Estate in a separate action for breach of express contract, breach of implied contract, and quantum meruit. The district court consolidated the Estate's property claims with Ms. Eaton's lawsuit.

[¶2] The district court granted partial summary judgment to the Estate on its real property claims. After a bench trial, it denied Ms. Eaton's claims and found the Estate was entitled to lost rents and profits. The district court ordered Ms. Eaton to provide the Estate with an accounting. Following a hearing on the accounting, the district court ordered Ms. Eaton to return all of Mr. Iversen's personal property in her possession and entered judgment against her for lost rents and equity. We affirm.


[¶3] Ms. Eaton presents several issues on appeal, which we rephrase as follows:

I. Did the district court err when it declined to admit the testimony of Mr. Iversen's attorney and evidence of an unsigned will due to the attorney-client privilege
II. Was there sufficient evidence to support an express or implied agreement, which required Mr. Iversen to compensate Ms. Eaton for services she rendered to him during his lifetime through a legacy in his Estate?
III. Was Ms. Eaton entitled to compensation for services she rendered to Mr. Iversen during his lifetime through a theory of unjust enrichment?
IV. Did the district court err when it found the quitclaim deeds executed by Ms. Eaton were an invalid transfer of real property?
V. Did the district court err by not considering the Estate's failure to mitigate its damages through a foreclosure redemption when it awarded damages for the loss of equity?
VI. Was the district court's decision to enter judgment against Ms. Eaton for rent supported by sufficient evidence and in accordance with law?


[¶4] This case arose from a dispute about who was entitled to Gale Iversen's property upon his death, his Estate or Ms. Eaton. Prior to his death, Mr. Iversen possessed and had ownership interests in three parcels of real estate in Laramie County, Wyoming: (1) a house, outbuildings, and land on Primrose Trail; (2) a townhouse on Dean Paul Drive; and (3) an undivided half interest in his parents' home on Plum Drive. He also had various personal property in dispute.

Ms. Eaton's Association with Mr. Iversen

[¶5] In 2011, Ms. Eaton lived next door to Mr. Iversen's parents on Plum Drive. She developed a friendship with them and "used to shovel their walks during the winter" and trimmed their hedges and bushes in the summer. Ms. Eaton received housing assistance from the Cheyenne Housing Authority. In December 2011, the housing authority required her to recertify her lease. However, her landlord declined to renew her lease, which expired in March 2012. In February 2012, she asked Mr. Iversen's mother to have Mr. Iversen call her about his townhouse on Dean Paul Drive that was listed for sale. This resulted in Mr. Iversen agreeing to rent his townhouse to Ms. Eaton. To receive housing assistance, the housing authority required Ms. Eaton's rental to meet certain requirements, so Mr. Iversen and Ms. Eaton repaired items at the townhouse to meet those requirements.

[¶6] Ms. Eaton did not hear from Mr. Iversen for a period of time before moving into the townhouse-she worried he changed his mind about renting her the townhouse and possibly sold the home. Ms. Eaton called Mr. Iversen's mother who stated she would check on Mr. Iversen. His mother called Ms. Eaton and informed her Mr. Iversen was sick and asked if she could possibly take him to his doctor's appointment the next day. Ms. Eaton agreed, and the next day she went with Mr. Iversen to his appointment. While waiting in the lobby, a nurse approached her and stated Mr. Iversen had a serious infection in his foot, so they were going to admit him to the hospital. The nurse told Ms. Eaton she needed to take Mr. Iversen to the hospital because he refused transportation by ambulance. Ms. Eaton went with Mr. Iversen to the hospital and made sure he checked in. At the hospital, Mr. Iversen asked Ms. Eaton to contact his neighbor, and then take his dogs to his parents' home and purchase food for the dogs. Ms. Eaton did as Mr. Iversen asked and continued to check in on him and his pets.

[¶7] Ms. Eaton visited Mr. Iversen on a daily basis at the hospital. On one visit, she informed Mr. Iversen of a conversation she had with his mother about placing him in a nursing home once he was released. Mr. Iversen feared being placed in a nursing home,


so he asked Ms. Eaton to speak to his lawyer, Tom Lee. Mr. Lee represented Mr. Iversen in a pending personal injury action involving Mr. Iversen being hit by a motor vehicle while riding his bicycle, which was being negotiated for settlement. Ms. Eaton contacted Mr. Lee, and he visited Mr. Iversen in the hospital. Their conversation caused Mr. Lee to believe a guardian ad litem was necessary before any settlement could be accepted in the personal injury case due to Mr. Iversen's limited competency.

[¶8] In March of 2012, before executing any lease agreement and while Mr. Iversen was presumably still in the hospital, Ms. Eaton moved into his townhouse on Dean Paul Drive. A written lease agreement for the property was executed on May 9, 2012. The terms of the lease required Ms. Eaton to remit a deposit of $600 and pay Mr. Iversen $708 per month. Ms. Eaton paid the deposit, but never paid Mr. Iversen rent. Mr. Iversen did however receive a subsidy through Ms. Eaton's housing assistance, which he used to pay the mortgage on Dean Paul Drive. Ms. Eaton testified the terms of her lease never changed from May 2012 to 2017.

[¶9] During this same period, Mr. Iversen was discharged from the hospital. His discharge was conditioned upon someone taking him to his follow-up appointments. Ms. Eaton informed the hospital she was willing to do that. Ms. Eaton provided in-kind services to Mr. Iversen in lieu of rent, which included taking him to his medical appointments. Over time, Ms. Eaton became more involved in Mr. Iversen's care, including going to appointments with him, monitoring his medications and health, changing his wound dressings, cooking for him, bathing him, helping him get dressed, and helping him with his mobility exercises. Mr. Iversen began helping Ms. Eaton financially, which included paying for her gas, the utilities at the townhouse, medical bills, car repairs, and buying her personal items. Mr. Iversen and Ms. Eaton's relationship evolved and grew, and they interacted with one another on a daily basis. They rode bicycles, shared meals, went to lunch with his family, ran errands, and stayed at each other's homes.

Other Legal Proceedings involving Mr. Iversen

[¶10] During this same time period, Mr. Lee requested the appointment of a guardian ad litem to review a settlement in the pending personal injury matter. The record is unclear, but at some point, a settlement was proposed in the personal injury action, and the district court appointed Laura Jackson as Mr. Iversen's guardian ad litem in a proceeding in 2012. Ms. Eaton was concerned the settlement was too low, so she advised Mr. Iversen to speak with another attorney. Ms. Eaton knew Henry Bailey, so she approached Mr. Bailey to attain a higher settlement for Mr. Iversen. Mr. Bailey agreed to represent Mr. Iversen, and while the record is unclear, it appears Mr. Iversen terminated his attorney-client relationship with Mr. Lee. Mr. Bailey entered an appearance in the pending personal injury action and the 2012 proceeding involving Ms. Jackson. He also filed a separate action against Mr. Iversen's insurance company seeking additional recovery through his underinsured motorist policy. The record is unclear, but it appears Mr. Iversen settled the


personal injury action for policy limits. Mr. Bailey was concerned the money from the settlement would go to pay for the guardian ad litem and diminish Mr. Iversen's ultimate recovery, so he asked the district court to terminate Ms. Jackson's appointment. He testified Mr. Iversen was lucid enough to give him directions, but in doing so Mr. Iversen needed Ms. Eaton's assistance.

[¶11] Mr. Bailey testified that, during his representation, Ms. Eaton always accompanied Mr. Iversen to meetings. When asked if Ms. Eaton was Mr. Iversen's caregiver, Mr. Bailey testified he "believed at the time that she was his girlfriend or had some kind of a relationship like that with him." He stated Mr. Iversen depended on Ms. Eaton and needed her help in preparing his documents for the underinsured motorist proceeding. He testified Ms. Eaton exerted influence over Mr. Iversen, especially near the end of the representation. Mr. Bailey also testified he was aware Ms. Eaton held a power of attorney on behalf of Mr. Iversen but could not verify what power...

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