Johnson Cnty. Ranch Improvement #1, LLC v. Goddard, S-19-0251

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Writing for the CourtKAUTZ, Justice.
Citation471 P.3d 307
Parties JOHNSON COUNTY RANCH IMPROVEMENT #1, LLC, a Wyoming limited liability company and Sand Creek Ranch Preservation Association, Inc., a Wyoming nonprofit corporation, Appellants (Plaintiffs), v. Greg L. GODDARD; Luke Andrew Goddard; Marcia Goddard and Goddard Ranch, LLC, a Wyoming limited liability company, Appellees (Defendants). Goddard Ranch, LLC, a Wyoming limited liability company, Appellant (Defendant), v. Sand Creek Ranch Preservation Association, Inc., a Wyoming nonprofit corporation, Appellee (Plaintiff).
Docket NumberS-19-0251,S-19-0252
Decision Date01 September 2020

471 P.3d 307

JOHNSON COUNTY RANCH IMPROVEMENT #1, LLC, a Wyoming limited liability company and Sand Creek Ranch Preservation Association, Inc., a Wyoming nonprofit corporation, Appellants (Plaintiffs),
v.
Greg L. GODDARD; Luke Andrew Goddard; Marcia Goddard and Goddard Ranch, LLC, a Wyoming limited liability company, Appellees (Defendants).


Goddard Ranch, LLC, a Wyoming limited liability company, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
Sand Creek Ranch Preservation Association, Inc., a Wyoming nonprofit corporation, Appellee (Plaintiff).

S-19-0251
S-19-0252

Supreme Court of Wyoming.

September 1, 2020


Representing Appellants in No. S-19-0251: Tyler J. Garrett, Hathaway & Kunz LLP, Cheyenne, Wyoming; Clint A. Langer and Darci A.V. Phillips, Davis & Cannon, LLP, Sheridan, Wyoming.

Representing Appellees in No. S-19-0251: Mitchell H. Edwards, Nicholas & Tangeman, LLC, Laramie, Wyoming; Barry V. Crago, Crago Law Offices, PC, Buffalo, Wyoming.

Representing Appellant in No. S-19-0252: Barry V. Crago, Crago Law Offices, PC, Buffalo, Wyoming; Mitchell H. Edwards, Nicholas & Tangeman, LLC, Laramie, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee in No. S-19-0252: Tyler J. Garrett, Hathaway & Kunz LLP, Cheyenne, Wyoming; Clint A. Langer and Darci A.V. Phillips, Davis & Cannon, LLP, Sheridan, Wyoming.

Before DAVIS, C.J., and FOX, KAUTZ, GRAY, JJ., and LAVERY, D.J.

KAUTZ, Justice.

¶1] The Sand Creek Ranch Conservation Community is a subdivision where private home lots are surrounded by ranch land used for farming and grazing. The concept of the subdivision is that homeowners will benefit from the open space in the ranch area and that a ranch/farm operator could utilize the ranch area for productive purposes. These appeals involve a dispute between the residential lot owners and the ranch operator over where the ranch operator can build fences.

[¶2] Goddard Ranch, LLC, purchased the ranch lands in the subdivision and installed a barbed-wire fence on those lands to keep its cattle out of its alfalfa fields. The fence encroached upon easements belonging to the owners of the residential lots in the subdivision, including Johnson County Ranch Improvement #1, LLC (JCRI). JCRI and Sand Creek Ranch Preservation Association, Inc. (SCRPA), whose members are the owners of the residential lots, sued Goddard Ranch, Greg, Luke, and Marcia Goddard (collectively the Goddards) alleging trespass, ejectment, and breach of contract and seeking injunctive and declaratory relief. With limited exceptions, the district court denied the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment and the matter proceeded to trial. The jury returned a Special Verdict in favor of the Goddards. The Final Judgment incorporated the Special Verdict and also rendered judgment in favor of SCRPA against Goddard Ranch on two of its claims for declaratory relief which were not included in the jury's verdict. Those claims declared SCRPA had the right to install signage and above ground utilities and communication facilities within the easements.

[471 P.3d 310

SCRPA and JCRI appealed and Goddard Ranch filed a cross-appeal.

¶3] In their appeal, SCRPA and JCRI argue the district court erred in denying their summary judgment motion, the evidence was insufficient to support the jury's Special Verdict, and the Special Verdict and Final Judgment are inconsistent. We conclude the district court's order denying summary judgment is not reviewable on appeal; SCRPA and JCRI waived their insufficiency of the evidence arguments by failing to file a motion for judgment as a matter of law under Wyoming Rule of Civil Procedure 50 (Rule 50 ) in the district court; and they have waived their argument that the Special Verdict and Final Judgment are inconsistent because they prepared and submitted the Final Judgment for the district court's approval.

[¶4] In its cross-appeal, Goddard Ranch contests the district court's entry of Final Judgment on SCRPA's claims for declaratory relief concerning SCRPA's right to install signage and above ground utilities and communication facilities within the easements. We conclude there was no justiciable controversy with respect to these claims, reverse the Final Judgment as to these claims, and remand to the district court to remove these declarations from the Final Judgment.

ISSUES

[¶5] The dispositive issues in these appeals are:

1. Is the district court's order denying SCRPA and JCRI's motion for summary judgment reviewable on appeal?

2. Did JCRI and SCRPA waive their insufficiency of the evidence arguments by failing to file a motion for judgment as a matter of law?

3. Did SCRPA and JCRI waive their argument that the Special Verdict and Final Judgment are inconsistent by preparing and submitting the Final Judgment for the district court's approval?

4. Was there a justiciable controversy with respect to SCRPA's claims for declaratory relief concerning its right to install signage and above ground utilities and communication facilities within the Platted Easements?

FACTS

[¶6] We recite only those facts relevant to these appeals.

Creation of Sand Creek Ranch Conservation Community

[¶7] In 2007, JCRI created the Sand Creek Ranch Conservation Community, an 835.75-acre Planned Unit Development (PUD) located in Johnson County, Wyoming. The PUD consists of 99 one-acre residential lots (Member Fee Parcels) and 736.75 acres of open space (Ranch Lands). The plat of the PUD (Plat), which was approved by the Johnson County Commissioners and properly recorded, creates nine named "60 Foot Access & Utility Easements" and several unnamed "30 Foot Access & Utility Easements" (collectively the Platted Easements). The Platted Easements are located on the Ranch Lands and were reserved on the Plat as "private roads and/or private access easements"; "said private road easements and/or private access easements [were] also reserved as perpetual easements for the installation and maintenance of utilities." The 60’ Platted Easements are referred to as the Community Ranch Roads and contain approximately 20’ of graveled roadway. The 30’ Platted Easements connect one or more Member Fee Parcels to a Community Ranch Road.

[¶8] The PUD is subject to a Conservation Easement and an "Amended and Restated Declaration of Preservation Covenants" (Amended Covenants). The Conservation Easement, granted to the State of Wyoming, encumbers 508.13 acres of property within the PUD. Its stated purpose is to preserve and protect the property's open spaces while allowing the property to be used for ranching and farming. In the Conservation Easement, JCRI expressly reserved the right to (1) "conduct normal agricultural operations [on the property] ... including the grazing and pasture of ... cattle ...[,] the leasing of existing pasture for grazing purposes[,] and the growing of hay and

[471 P.3d 311

other crops"; (2) "build, maintain, and repair perimeter and other fencing [on the property] related to the ranching [and] farming ..., provided that fencing shall be constructed so as not to exclude or unduly restrict wildlife movement to and from the [p]roperty"; and (3) "construct, maintain and repair underground utility systems [on the property], including underground water wells, cisterns, and appurtenances." The Conservation Easement prohibits, among other things, "the construction or placement of any residential, commercial or industrial buildings or other facilities, electronic or communications transmission or receiving tower, energy facility, camping accommodations, mobile homes, boat ramps, billboards, or other advertising materials or structures within the [p]roperty."

¶9] The Amended Covenants state they "shall run with the land and shall be a burden and benefit to the [PUD], [JCRI], [SCRPA], [SCRPA's] Members and their successors, and all parties having any right, title or interest in the land or any part thereof, their heirs, successors and assigns, all for the purposes set forth in Article II of [these Amended Covenants]." Those stated purposes are: (1) "that the lands of [the PUD] remain intact [and] its open spaces preserved for the use, benefit and enjoyment of the Members and the Ranch Owner as described in [the Amended Covenants]"; (2) "that the [PUD's] scenic beauty be preserved"; and (3) "that the Members and the Ranch Owner enjoy a sense of privacy, seclusion and solitude." It defines "Ranch Owner" as "the record title owner of the Ranch Lands"; "Ranch Lands" as "includ[ing] all lands lying within the boundary of the Plat ... less the ninety-nine (99) Member's Fee Parcels"; and "Member's Fee Parcel" as "one of the ninety-nine (99) individually-owned parcels of fee land depicted on the Plat. ..." SCRPA is charged with implementing and enforcing the Amended Covenants for the benefit of its Members and the Ranch Owner.

[¶10] Section 5.7 of the Amended Covenants governs the Community Ranch Roads. It states the roads "shall be private," are "limited to those named on the Plat," and are to be maintained and improved by SCRPA and the Ranch Owner. It requires the roads to "have an unobstructed horizontal clearance width of not less than 20’ and an unobstructed vertical clearance height of 13.5’." It defines "[u]nobstructed ... as a clear zone area that would not have protrusions or impediments within it that would preclude the opening of doors, operation of outriggers, or pulling of hose."

[¶11] Section 6.1 of the Amended Covenants gives SCRPA Members and their guests an easement in the Community Ranch Roads. The...

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5 practice notes
  • Hanft v. City of Laramie, S-20-0068
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • April 15, 2021
    ...judgment is not reviewable following a full trial on the merits. Johnson Cnty. Ranch Improvement #1, LLC v. Goddard, 2020 WY 115, ¶ 25, 471 P.3d 307, 315 (Wyo. 2020) (citing Halvorson v. Sweetwater Cnty. Sch. Dist. No. 1, 2015 WY 18, ¶ 21, 342 P.3d 395, 402 (Wyo. 2015)). Here, there was a f......
  • Hanft v. City of Laramie, S-20-0068, S-20-0069
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • April 15, 2021
    ...judgment is not reviewable following a full trial on the merits. Johnson Cnty. Ranch Improvement #1, LLC v. Goddard , 2020 WY 115, ¶ 25, 471 P.3d 307, 315 (Wyo. 2020) (citing Halvorson v. Sweetwater Cnty. Sch. Dist. No. 1 , 2015 WY 18, ¶ 21, 342 P.3d 395, 402 (Wyo. 2015) ). Here, there was ......
  • Forbes v. Forbes, S-21-0159
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 12, 2022
    ...the prudential standing test articulated in Brimmer . See, e.g. , Johnson Cnty. Ranch Improvement #1, LLC v. Goddard , 2020 WY 115, ¶ 51, 471 P.3d 307, 322 (Wyo. 2020) ; Allred , ¶ 37, 409 P.3d at 270 (quoting Brimmer v. Thomson , 521 P.2d 574, 578 (Wyo. 1974) ); William F. West Ranch , ¶ 1......
  • Forbes v. Forbes, S-21-0159
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 12, 2022
    ...the prudential standing test articulated in Brimmer. See, e.g., Johnson Cnty. Ranch Improvement #1, LLC v. Goddard, 2020 WY 115, ¶ 51, 471 P.3d 307, 322 (Wyo. 2020); Allred, ¶ 37, 409 P.3d at 270 (quoting Brimmer v. Thomson, 521 P.2d 574, 578 (Wyo. 1974)); William F. West Ranch, ¶ 12, 206 P......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 cases
  • Hanft v. City of Laramie, S-20-0068
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • April 15, 2021
    ...judgment is not reviewable following a full trial on the merits. Johnson Cnty. Ranch Improvement #1, LLC v. Goddard, 2020 WY 115, ¶ 25, 471 P.3d 307, 315 (Wyo. 2020) (citing Halvorson v. Sweetwater Cnty. Sch. Dist. No. 1, 2015 WY 18, ¶ 21, 342 P.3d 395, 402 (Wyo. 2015)). Here, there was a f......
  • Hanft v. City of Laramie, S-20-0068, S-20-0069
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • April 15, 2021
    ...judgment is not reviewable following a full trial on the merits. Johnson Cnty. Ranch Improvement #1, LLC v. Goddard , 2020 WY 115, ¶ 25, 471 P.3d 307, 315 (Wyo. 2020) (citing Halvorson v. Sweetwater Cnty. Sch. Dist. No. 1 , 2015 WY 18, ¶ 21, 342 P.3d 395, 402 (Wyo. 2015) ). Here, there was ......
  • Forbes v. Forbes, S-21-0159
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 12, 2022
    ...the prudential standing test articulated in Brimmer . See, e.g. , Johnson Cnty. Ranch Improvement #1, LLC v. Goddard , 2020 WY 115, ¶ 51, 471 P.3d 307, 322 (Wyo. 2020) ; Allred , ¶ 37, 409 P.3d at 270 (quoting Brimmer v. Thomson , 521 P.2d 574, 578 (Wyo. 1974) ); William F. West Ranch , ¶ 1......
  • Forbes v. Forbes, S-21-0159
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 12, 2022
    ...the prudential standing test articulated in Brimmer. See, e.g., Johnson Cnty. Ranch Improvement #1, LLC v. Goddard, 2020 WY 115, ¶ 51, 471 P.3d 307, 322 (Wyo. 2020); Allred, ¶ 37, 409 P.3d at 270 (quoting Brimmer v. Thomson, 521 P.2d 574, 578 (Wyo. 1974)); William F. West Ranch, ¶ 12, 206 P......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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