Zoss v. Schaefers, No. 20637.

CourtSupreme Court of South Dakota
Writing for the CourtKONENKAMP, Justice.
Citation598 N.W.2d 550,1999 SD 105
PartiesFred ZOSS, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Doug SCHAEFERS, Defendant and Appellant.
Decision Date04 August 1999
Docket NumberNo. 20637.

598 N.W.2d 550
1999 SD 105

Fred ZOSS, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
Doug SCHAEFERS, Defendant and Appellant

No. 20637.

Supreme Court of South Dakota.

Considered on Briefs April 26, 1999.

Decided August 4, 1999.


598 N.W.2d 551
Patrick Pardy of Mumford, Protsch & Pardy, Howard, for plaintiff and appellee

Larry M. Vonwald and Linden R. Evans of Truhe, Beardsley, Jensen, Helmers & VonWald, Rapid City, for defendant and appellant.

KONENKAMP, Justice.

[¶ 1.] Doug Schaefers appeals the denial of his motion for summary judgment in a livestock trespass action. We affirm.

FACTS

[¶ 2.] Fred Zoss owns twenty-five acres of land in rural Sanborn County, South Dakota, that was planted as a pumpkin patch in the summer of 1996. On August 22, 1996, some of Schaefers' cattle trespassed onto the property, damaging the pumpkin crop. Zoss discovered the trespass that August and the extent of the damage by mid-September. After attempting to negotiate with Schaefers' insurer, Zoss brought suit against Schaefers with service of a summons and complaint on August 21, 1997. The suit was filed pursuant to SDCL 40-28-4 and SDCL 40-28-18 and their strict liability provisions for trespassing livestock.1

[¶ 3.] SDCL 40-28-20, the statute of limitations applicable to actions under SDCL 40-28-4 and SDCL 40-28-18, provides:

Any person seeking to recover damages pursuant to § 40-28-18 shall file suit no later than one year after the trespass occurred or six months after he knew or should have known of the injury resulting from the trespass.

Contending Zoss commenced his suit more than six months after he knew or should have known of the injury resulting from the trespass, Schaefers moved for summary judgment. In denying the motion, the circuit court found SDCL 40-28-20 ambiguous in setting forth two limitations periods (i.e., one year or six months) without specifying when the different periods apply. Because of this ambiguity, the court applied the longer limitations period and denied summary judgment on the basis that Zoss commenced his action within one year after the trespass occurred. We granted Schaefers' petition for an intermediate appeal of the order denying summary judgment.

ISSUE

[¶ 4.] Which alternative limitations period in SDCL 48-28-20 applies to Zoss's trespass action?

[¶ 5.] In reviewing the grant or denial of summary judgment, this Court must determine whether a genuine issue of material fact exists and whether the law was correctly applied. Stene v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 1998 SD 95, ¶ 10, 583 N.W.2d 399, 401. If there is any basis to

598 N.W.2d 552
support the court's ruling, affirmance of its decision is proper. Id.

[¶ 6.] There are no factual disputes here. Resolution of this appeal is entirely dependent upon the correct interpretation of SDCL 40-28-20. "Statutory interpretation presents a question of law reviewable de novo." Satellite Cable Srvs. v. Northern Electric, 1998 SD 67, ¶ 5, 581 N.W.2d 478, 480.

One of the primary rules of statutory... construction is to give words and phrases their plain meaning and effect. This court assumes that statutes mean what they say and that legislators have said what they meant. When the language of a statute is clear, certain and unambiguous, there is no occasion for construction, and the court's only function is to declare the meaning of the statute as clearly expressed in the statute.

South Dakota SIF v. CRE, 1999 SD 2, ¶ 17, 589 N.W.2d 206, 209 (quoting Delano v. Petteys, 520 N.W.2d 606, 608 (S.D. 1994)). A statute is ambiguous when it is reasonably capable of being understood in more than one sense. Petition of Famous Brands, Inc., 347 N.W.2d 882, 886 (S.D. 1984). When called upon to construe ambiguous statutes, courts may look to "the legislative history, title, and the total content of the legislation[.]" LaBore v. Muth, 473 N.W.2d 485, 488 (S.D.1991).2

[¶ 7.] In LaBore, supra, this Court construed a statute prohibiting certain discriminatory practices based upon race, color, creed, religion, sex, ancestry, disability or national origin. The latter part of the statute prohibited additional discriminatory practices against "any person" and was separated from the former part of the statute by a semicolon and the word "or." The issue in the case was whether the latter part was an independent clause extending protection to "any person," or whether it was a dependent clause subject to the same class membership restrictions as the former part. Based on the legislative intent of the act as a whole and the express language of other applicable provisions, we held that the latter part of the statute was a dependent clause subject to class membership restrictions.

[¶ 8.] Relying on the dependent clause analysis in LaBore, Schaefers argues the six month limitations period in the latter half of SDCL 40-28-20 is a dependent clause subject to the general one year limitations period in the first half of the statute. Under this interpretation, SDCL...

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25 practice notes
  • Sanford v. Sanford, No. 23175
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • March 9, 2005
    ...N.W.2d 289, 292) (citations omitted). Likewise, the construction and interpretation of a statute is a question of law. Zoss v. Schaefers, 1999 SD 105, ¶ 6, 598 N.W.2d 550, 552 (citing Satellite Cable Srvs. v. Northern Electric, 1998 SD 67, ¶ 5, 581 N.W.2d 478, 480). We review question of la......
  • Peterson, ex rel. Peterson v. Burns, No. 21689.
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • October 24, 2001
    ...STATUTES [¶ 31.] When two statutes of limitations conflict, the statute providing the longer period of time applies. Zoss v. Schaefers, 1999 SD 105, ¶ 11, 598 N.W.2d 550, 553. The three-year wrongful death statute of limitations is longer than the two-year medical malpractice statute of lim......
  • Petersen v. Magna Corp., Docket No. 136542.
    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court
    • July 31, 2009
    ...& Training, 922 A.2d 93 (RI, 2007); Kennedy v. South Carolina Retirement Sys., 345 S.C. 339, 549 S.E.2d 243 (2001); Zoss v. Schaefers, 598 N.W.2d 550 (S.D., 1999); Sallee v. Barrett, 171 S.W.3d 822 (Tenn., 2005); In re Missouri P. R. Co., 998 S.W.2d 212 (Tex., 1999); Martinez v. Media-Payma......
  • State v. Asmussen, No. 23477.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • April 12, 2006
    ...for issues of statutory construction. State v. Myrl & Roy's Paving, Inc., 2004 SD 98, ¶ 6, 686 N.W.2d 651, 653 (citing Zoss v. Schaefers, 1999 SD 105, ¶ 6, 598 N.W.2d 550, 552 (citing Satellite Cable Srvs. v. Northern Electric, 1998 SD 67, ¶ 5, 581 N.W.2d 478, 480)). "Statutory construction......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
25 cases
  • Sanford v. Sanford, No. 23175
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • March 9, 2005
    ...N.W.2d 289, 292) (citations omitted). Likewise, the construction and interpretation of a statute is a question of law. Zoss v. Schaefers, 1999 SD 105, ¶ 6, 598 N.W.2d 550, 552 (citing Satellite Cable Srvs. v. Northern Electric, 1998 SD 67, ¶ 5, 581 N.W.2d 478, 480). We review question of la......
  • Peterson, ex rel. Peterson v. Burns, No. 21689.
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • October 24, 2001
    ...STATUTES [¶ 31.] When two statutes of limitations conflict, the statute providing the longer period of time applies. Zoss v. Schaefers, 1999 SD 105, ¶ 11, 598 N.W.2d 550, 553. The three-year wrongful death statute of limitations is longer than the two-year medical malpractice statute of lim......
  • Petersen v. Magna Corp., Docket No. 136542.
    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court
    • July 31, 2009
    ...& Training, 922 A.2d 93 (RI, 2007); Kennedy v. South Carolina Retirement Sys., 345 S.C. 339, 549 S.E.2d 243 (2001); Zoss v. Schaefers, 598 N.W.2d 550 (S.D., 1999); Sallee v. Barrett, 171 S.W.3d 822 (Tenn., 2005); In re Missouri P. R. Co., 998 S.W.2d 212 (Tex., 1999); Martinez v. Media-Payma......
  • State v. Asmussen, No. 23477.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • April 12, 2006
    ...for issues of statutory construction. State v. Myrl & Roy's Paving, Inc., 2004 SD 98, ¶ 6, 686 N.W.2d 651, 653 (citing Zoss v. Schaefers, 1999 SD 105, ¶ 6, 598 N.W.2d 550, 552 (citing Satellite Cable Srvs. v. Northern Electric, 1998 SD 67, ¶ 5, 581 N.W.2d 478, 480)). "Statutory construction......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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