Sherburn v. Patterson Farms, Inc., No. 20584

CourtSupreme Court of South Dakota
Writing for the CourtSABERS
Citation1999 SD 47,593 N.W.2d 414
Docket NumberNo. 20584
Decision Date24 February 1999
PartiesJohn SHERBURN, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. PATTERSON FARMS, INC., and Ronnie Patterson, Defendants and Appellants. . Considered on Briefs

Page 414

593 N.W.2d 414
1999 SD 47
John SHERBURN, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
PATTERSON FARMS, INC., and Ronnie Patterson, Defendants and
Appellants.
No. 20584.
Supreme Court of South Dakota.
Considered on Briefs Feb. 24, 1999.
Decided April 14, 1999.

Jason A. Campbell, Britton, South Dakota, for plaintiff and appellee.

Michael D. Stevens, Blackburn, Stevens & Fox, Yankton, South Dakota, for defendants and appellants.

SABERS, J.

¶1 Ronnie Patterson and Patterson Farms, Inc. (Patterson) appeal an order by the circuit court which denied a prescriptive easement and issued a permanent injunction requiring Patterson to either remove a dike located on his property or install culverts to allow for the flow of water at ground level. We affirm in part and reverse and remand in part.

FACTS

¶2 On February 21, 1994, John Sherburn sued Patterson seeking to enjoin Patterson from obstructing the flow of water across his land. Patterson's property is located north of Sherburn's property. 1 Sherburn claimed that a dike located on Patterson's property caused flooding on his property. Part of the dike has been located

Page 416

on the property since at least 1939 and apparently did not cause flooding problems until enlarged by Patterson in 1993 on the west end (western extension). 2

¶3 A court trial was held April 15-16, 1998. The trial court found that there was not a prescriptive easement to allow Patterson to obstruct the natural flow of water. It voided the Vested Drainage Right Registration Form filed by Patterson and issued a permanent injunction ordering Patterson to either remove the entire dike or install culverts in order to allow for the flow of water at ground level. Patterson made a motion for a new trial which was denied by the trial court.

¶4 Patterson appeals claiming that: 1) a new trial should be granted because an irregularity in the proceedings prevented him from receiving a fair trial; 2) a prescriptive easement was established as a matter of law; and 3) the trial court abused its discretion in granting a permanent injunction.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

SB11<470>[1-3] Our standard of review of the trial court's findings of fact is under a clearly erroneous standard. Jasper v. Smith, 540 N.W.2d 399, 401 (S.D.1995); Muhlenkort v. Union County Land Trust, 530 N.W.2d 658, 660 (S.D.1995). The trial court's findings will not be disturbed unless the court is "firmly and definitely convinced a mistake has been made." Jasper, 540 N.W.2d at 401. Conclusions of law, on the other hand, are reviewed under a de novo standard, giving no deference to the trial court's conclusions of law. Id.

City of Colton v. Schwebach, 1997 SD 4, p 8, 557 N.W.2d 769, 771.

¶5 1. WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN DENYING PATTERSON'S MOTION FOR A NEW TRIAL.

¶6 At the close of Sherburn's case, Patterson moved for a directed verdict. The trial court denied the motion. In doing so, it stated that a prescriptive easement "probably" existed up to 1980 when the dike was enlarged. Patterson claims that the trial court actually ruled that a prescriptive easement existed as a matter of law. He further claims that the trial court's statement "altered the entire presentation of the case and impacted upon all issues before the [c]ourt." He claims that this was an irregularity in the proceedings which denied him a fair trial.

¶7 SDCL 15-6-59(a)(1) provides:

A new trial may be granted to all or any of the parties and on all or part of the issues for any of the following causes: (1) Irregularity in the proceedings of the court, jury, or adverse party or any order of the court or abuse of discretion by which either party was prevented from having a fair trial[.]

¶8 The decision to grant a new trial is left in the sound judicial discretion of the trial court. Harter v. Plains Ins. Co., Inc., 1998 SD 59, p 9, 579 N.W.2d 625, 629 (quoting Schuldies v. Millar, 1996 SD 120, p 8, 555 N.W.2d 90, 95 (citation omitted)). The trial court's decision will not be disturbed absent a clear showing of abuse of discretion. Id.

¶9 "In all actions tried upon the facts without a jury ..., the court shall unless waived as provided in § 15-6-52(b) find the facts specially and state separately its conclusions of law thereon[.]" SDCL 15-6-52(a). The trial court found in its findings of fact and conclusions of law that there was not a prescriptive easement allowing Patterson to impede the natural flow of water. 3

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"Any expression of opinion or views by the trial judge extraneous to his decision in the manner and form contemplated by law is of no binding force or effect as a matter of law either upon the trial judge himself or any one else." Mellema v. Mellema, 407 N.W.2d 827, 829 (S.D.1987) (quoting Western Bldg. Co. v. J.C. Penney Co., 60 S.D. 630, 636-37, 245 N.W. 909, 911-12 (1932)). In denying the motion for directed verdict, the trial court merely stated that "perhaps a prescriptive easement existed on the dike's formation up until 1980" and did not find as a matter of law that a prescriptive easement existed. Any reliance by Patterson on the statement of the trial court was misplaced. Patterson has not shown that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion for a new trial and, therefore, we affirm.

¶10 We note that even if the trial...

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36 practice notes
  • Benson v. State, No. 23492.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • January 24, 2006
    ...Under the de novo standard of review, we give no deference to the circuit court's conclusions of law. Sherburn v. Patterson Farms, Inc., 1999 SD 47, ¶ 4, 593 N.W.2d 414, 416 (citing City of Colton v. Schwebach, 1997 SD 4, ¶ 8, 557 N.W.2d 769, [¶ 40.] Challenges to the constitutionality of a......
  • In re Sd Microsoft Antitrust Litigation, No. 23506.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • November 16, 2005
    ...the trial court's conclusions of law are given no deference and are reviewed by this Court de novo. Sherburn v. Patterson Farms, Inc., 1999 SD 47, ¶ 4, 593 N.W.2d 414, 416 (citing City of Colton v. Schwebach, 1997 SD 4, ¶ 8, 557 N.W.2d 769, 771). However, a trial court's decision based on a......
  • Hamen v. Hamlin Cnty., #28671
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • February 10, 2021
    ...we give no deference to the circuit court's conclusions of law." Id. (citing Sherburn v. Patterson Farms, Inc. , 1999 S.D. 47, ¶ 4, 593 N.W.2d 414, 416 ). Similarly, whether qualified immunity protects officers is a question of law. Swedlund v. Foster , 2003 S.D. 8, ¶ 12, 657 N.W.2d 39, 45.......
  • IN RE GUARDIANSHIP OF SMN, No. 25025
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • April 7, 2010
    ...Under the de novo standard of review, we give no deference to the circuit court's conclusions of law. Sherburn v. Patterson Farms, Inc., 1999 SD 47, ¶ 4, 593 N.W.2d 414, 416 (citing City of Colton v. Schwebach, 1997 SD 4, ¶ 8, 557 N.W.2d 769, ¶ 11. The "circuit court's factual findings are ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
36 cases
  • Benson v. State, No. 23492.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • January 24, 2006
    ...Under the de novo standard of review, we give no deference to the circuit court's conclusions of law. Sherburn v. Patterson Farms, Inc., 1999 SD 47, ¶ 4, 593 N.W.2d 414, 416 (citing City of Colton v. Schwebach, 1997 SD 4, ¶ 8, 557 N.W.2d 769, [¶ 40.] Challenges to the constitutionality of a......
  • In re Sd Microsoft Antitrust Litigation, No. 23506.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • November 16, 2005
    ...the trial court's conclusions of law are given no deference and are reviewed by this Court de novo. Sherburn v. Patterson Farms, Inc., 1999 SD 47, ¶ 4, 593 N.W.2d 414, 416 (citing City of Colton v. Schwebach, 1997 SD 4, ¶ 8, 557 N.W.2d 769, 771). However, a trial court's decision based on a......
  • Hamen v. Hamlin Cnty., #28671
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • February 10, 2021
    ...we give no deference to the circuit court's conclusions of law." Id. (citing Sherburn v. Patterson Farms, Inc. , 1999 S.D. 47, ¶ 4, 593 N.W.2d 414, 416 ). Similarly, whether qualified immunity protects officers is a question of law. Swedlund v. Foster , 2003 S.D. 8, ¶ 12, 657 N.W.2d 39, 45.......
  • IN RE GUARDIANSHIP OF SMN, No. 25025
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • April 7, 2010
    ...Under the de novo standard of review, we give no deference to the circuit court's conclusions of law. Sherburn v. Patterson Farms, Inc., 1999 SD 47, ¶ 4, 593 N.W.2d 414, 416 (citing City of Colton v. Schwebach, 1997 SD 4, ¶ 8, 557 N.W.2d 769, ¶ 11. The "circuit court's factual findings are ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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