Reno Livestock Corp. v. Sun Oil Co. (Delaware), No. 5531

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Writing for the CourtBefore ROSE; RAPER; ROONEY, Justice, concurring in part and dissenting in part, with whom ROSE
Citation638 P.2d 147
PartiesRENO LIVESTOCK CORPORATION, a Wyoming Corporation, Appellant (Defendant), v. SUN OIL COMPANY (DELAWARE), a Delaware Corporation, Appellee (Plaintiff).
Docket NumberNo. 5531
Decision Date29 December 1981

Page 147

638 P.2d 147
RENO LIVESTOCK CORPORATION, a Wyoming Corporation, Appellant (Defendant),
SUN OIL COMPANY (DELAWARE), a Delaware Corporation, Appellee (Plaintiff).
No. 5531.
Supreme Court of Wyoming.
Dec. 29, 1981.

Page 149

Bruce P. Badley and Fred R. Dollison (argued), Badley, Rasmussen & Schoumaker, Sheridan, for appellant.

C. Robert Klus, Jr., Morgan & Brorby, Gillette, for appellee.


RAPER, Justice.

The appellant seeks reversal of the district court's summary judgment. That judgment enjoined appellant from interfering with appellee's drilling operations and awarded appellee damages of $10,912.00. The damages arose when appellant chased off a dirt contractor who had been employed by appellee to prepare a site for setting up an oil well drilling rig, and appellee was compelled to pay for the downtime of machinery brought there. Appellant claims as errors:

1. There were genuine issues of material fact requiring a trial.

2. Summary judgment was granted before appellant had an opportunity to take a noticed deposition to disclose material.

3. Summary judgment should not have been granted where there existed a counterclaim by appellant seeking an amount equal to or greater than appellee's claim of damages.

4. The district court should have required appellee to seek a protective order under Rule 26(c), W.R.C.P. with respect to the deposition appellant was seeking to take.

5. The district court's order striking appellant's jury demand.

The appellee claims there is no reasonable cause for appeal and seeks attorney's fees and penalty under Rule 10.05, W.R.A.P.

We will affirm, hold there was no reasonable cause for appeal and allow the fees and penalty provided by Rule 10.05, W.R.A.P.


The record consists of various materials offered in support of the motion for summary judgment. The information for the narrative which follows is from those materials. The appellant is the surface owner of the real property over which this dispute arose. It was originally patented to a predecessor in title under the Stock-Raising Homestead Act. 43 U.S.C. § 291 et seq. Under the provisions of that act, " * * * any patent therefor shall contain a reservation to the United States of all minerals in said lands and the right to prospect for, mine, and remove the same." 43 U.S.C. § 291. The warranty deed to appellant was "SUBJECT to all prior reservations * * *."

The appellee is an owner and operator of an oil and gas lease issued by the United States on the particular land involved. 1 Appellant was notified that appellee proposed to drill an oil and gas well at a particular site on the land. The appellant refused entry until appellee agreed to pay initial damages of $5,000.00 and annual damages of $1,000.00 for the well site; initial

Page 150

damages of $1,500.00 and annual damages of $500.00 for the tank battery; and, $5.00 per rod for the first five years and $.50 per rod escalator every three years for road damages. Appellee refused to enter into any such agreement, claiming it was not required to do so under its lease, issued pursuant to 43 U.S.C. § 299:

" * * * Any person who has acquired from the United States the coal or other mineral deposits in any such land, or the right to mine and remove the same, may reenter and occupy so much of the surface thereof as may be required for all purposes reasonably incident to the mining or removal of the coal or other minerals, first, upon securing the written consent or waiver of the homestead entryman or patentee; second, upon payment of the damages to crops or other tangible improvements to the owner thereof, where agreement may be had as to the amount thereof; or, third, in lieu of either of the foregoing provisions, upon the execution of a good and sufficient bond or undertaking to the United States for the use and benefit of the entryman or owner of the land, to secure the payment of such damages to the crops or tangible improvements of the entryman or owner, as may be determined and fixed in an action brought upon the bond or undertaking in a court of competent jurisdiction against the principal and sureties thereon * * *."

Appellee claimed there were no damages to "crops or other tangible improvements."

A "nation-wide" oil and gas bond in the sum of $150,000.00 was in force and has been posted with the Bureau of Land Management, Department of the Interior, United States, "for the use and benefit of (1) the United States; (2) the owner of any of the land subject to the coverage of this bond, who has a statutory right to compensation in connection with a reservation of the oil and gas deposits to the United States * * *." This form was found to satisfy 43 U.S.C. § 299, supra, in Coquina Oil Corp., 41 IBLA 248 (1979).

The appellee was informed that a drilling rig would be available on December 10, 1980. During the final week of November, 1980, a dirt contractor, Mike's Water and Dozer, Inc., engaged by appellee, entered the property to begin preparing ground for the rig. There was a long-established roadway going to other well sites in the area. The appellant ranching corporation, through its president, William E. Reno, showed up on the scene and commanded the appellee and its dirt contractor not to leave the established roadway for the purpose of preparing the proposed well site and threatened to shoot out the tires of the contractor's heavy earth-moving equipment if the appellee and its contractor moved off the road.

Appellee and the contractor discreetly, with permission of Mr. Reno, removed the equipment from the road to a nearby field where it sat idle for several days. The dirt contractor thereafter billed appellee $10,912.00 for equipment downtime. The action for injunction and damages followed shortly thereafter. By way of augmentation, other pertinent facts will be set out as the opinion flows through the issues.


As a prelude, the setting out of some principles enveloping summary judgments, provided by Rule 56, W.R.C.P., is appropriate. When a motion for summary judgment is before the supreme court, we have exactly the same duty as the district judge; and, if there is a complete record before us, we have exactly the same material as did he. We must follow the same standards. The propriety of granting a motion for summary judgment depends upon the correctness of a court's dual findings that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the prevailing party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. This court looks at the record from the viewpoint most favorable to the party opposing the motion, giving to him all favorable inferences to be drawn from the facts contained in affidavits, depositions and other proper material appearing in the record.

Page 151

We separate the formal and pretended from the genuine and substantial so only the latter may be considered in eliminating the burden of a formal trial if only questions of law are left to decide; there must be no issue of material fact to decide. Weaver v. Blue Cross-Blue Shield, Wyo., 609 P.2d 984, 986-987 (1980). A material fact, expressed in various ways, is one having legal significance which would in a given case control the legal relations of the parties; one upon which the outcome of the litigation depends in whole or in part; one on which the controversy may be determined; one which will affect the result or outcome of the case depending upon its resolution; or one which constitutes a part of the plaintiff's cause of action or the defendant's defense. Johnson v. Soulis, Wyo., 542 P.2d 867 (1975). Summary judgment affords an opportunity for prompt disposition of a lawsuit in its early stages, permitting an end to unfounded claims and avoiding the expense of a full-fledged trial to both litigants and the state's judicial machinery. Bluejacket v. Carney, Wyo., 550 P.2d 494 (1976).

The various aspects of the case before us make it an excellent candidate for summary judgment. The district judge aptly recognized it as such.


We will first dispose of any question of the law applicable to rights of the surface owner and those of mineral lessee under the Stock-Raising Homestead Act, supra. The right to entry by the lessee is beyond doubt, once it has given notice of entry and posted the requisite bond to protect the surface owner, for payment of damages for crops, tangible improvements, use of more of the surface than needed and negligence. There is no question that the district court had jurisdiction and appellee performed those conditions precedent; and, upon doing so, appellee was entitled to immediate entry. Holbrook v. Continental Oil Co., 73 Wyo. 321, 278 P.2d 798 (1955); Kinney-Coastal Oil Co. v. Kieffer, 277 U.S. 488, 48 S.Ct. 580, 72 L.Ed. 961 (1928); Bourdieu v. Seaboard Oil Corp. of Delaware, 38 Cal.App.2d 11, 100 P.2d 528 (1940). Appellant knew these requirements and did not seriously resist the granting of the injunction 2, nor does it on appeal raise any question in that regard. We need not further explore the law; it is settled.


The appellant asserts a position that genuine issues of material fact do exist and that summary judgment was and is improper with respect to (1) the actual threat against appellee's agents; (2) actual physical opposition to preparation of the well site; and, (3) the actual downtime expense of Mike's Water and Dozer, Inc.

With respect to the threat, the circumstances are disclosed by the affidavit of Carl M. Bradberry, production supervisor of appellee, and the deposition of appellant, presented in support of the summary judgment. Bradberry's affidavit disclosed that on December 1, 1980 he and employees of Mike's Water and Dozer, Inc., all with three pieces of heavy earth-moving equipment, proceeded to the land in question for the purpose of constructing a drill site. The affidavit recites:

"4. That Mr. William E. Reno meet (sic) us at the time and place above...

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