United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division
L. Christensen, Chief Judge
States Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch entered findings
and recommendations in this case on May 31, 2017,
recommending that Defendant Chicago Title Insurance
Company's ("Chicago Title") motion for summary
judgment be granted. Plaintiff Billy Budd Sullivan
("Sullivan") timely filed objections to the
findings and recommendations. Thus, he is entitled to a de
novo review of those findings and recommendations to which he
specifically objects. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). This
Court reviews for clear error those findings and
recommendations to which no party objects. See McDonnell
Douglas Corp. v. Commodore Bus. Mack, Inc., 656 F.2d
1309, 1313 (9th Cir. 1981); Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S.
140, 149 (1985). Clear error exists if the Court is left with
a "definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been
committed." United States v. Syrax, 235 F.3d
422, 427 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted).
Lynch concluded, and this Court agrees, that the statute of
limitations applies here. Sullivan's claims under his
title insurance policy relate back to 1993. (Doc. 2 at 9.)
Under Montana Code Annotated § 27-2-202(1), a contract
in writing is subject to an eight-year statute of
limitations. Sullivan filed suit in August 2016, so his
claims against Chicago Title are barred.
this Court also agrees with Judge Lynch that deference should
be given to Sullivan as a pro se litigant, and the Court
should address his claims on the merits. First, the Court
finds that Chicago Title did not breach its insurance
contract. Chicago Title's policy insured Sullivan against
others who may also claim ownership in the subject property.
There is no dispute there is no evidence in the public
records or by Sullivan that any other person or entity holds
title to Sullivan's property. Thus, his claim for breach
of contract is without merit.
objects to this conclusion. He contends that
"[a]ccording to the local banks and certain county
officials that there are several suits regarding the title
insurance company with propertys in Lincoln County, I'm
requesting full discloser of this. I'm not the only one
that has been a victim of defective property." (Doc. 24
at 1.) However, this statement is made without direct
evidence that the "suits" actually exist. Sullivan
did not submit additional evidence from these local banks or
county officials regarding the validity of these
"suits." Therefore, the Court finds that, without
more, Sullivan's claim for breach of contract fails.
Sullivan claims that Chicago Title is obligated to insure
against the alleged "easement/right away issues."
(Doc. 2 at 9.) In 1993 at the time of sale of Sullivan's
property, Chicago Title's policy disclosed all easements
and encumbrances within the public record, and the policy
specifically excluded coverage for loss or damage caused by
the specific easements which were expressly identified. (Doc.
23 at 10-11.) Judge Lynch concluded that all of
Sullivan's claims relate to the easements identified by
Chicago Title. The Court agrees with Judge Lynch that
Sullivan has not presented or identified any evidence
suggesting that there exists additional easements that are of
public record but were not identified by Chicago Title's
policy. Again, Sullivan's objection restates the same
arguments made before Judge Lynch. There is no evidence
relating to other easements. Thus, the Court finds that
Chicago Title is entitled to summary judgment on
Sullivan's claims asserting that easements exist
burdening his property which Chicago Title is obligated to
cover under its policy and provide compensation.
Sullivan claims that criminal activities have occurred on his
property due to the easement issues and that Chicago Title is
liable for these activities. The Court agrees with Judge
Lynch that the title insurance policy here does not insure
against third parties' crimes against Sullivan's
property. There is no language in the policy that would
provide coverage for the intentional or criminal acts of
others. Further, under Montana Code Annotated §
33-25-105(12), "a title insurer insures or indemnifies
the insured against loss or damage sustained by reason of:
(a) defects in or liens or encumbrances on the title to the
stated property; (b) unmarketability of the title to the
stated property; or (c) invalidity or unenforceability of
liens or encumbrances on the stated property." Mont.
Code Ann. § 33-25-105(12) (2015). Without any specific
provision providing coverage, and pursuant to statute, the
Court finds that Chicago Title's insurance policy does
not cover the illegal and intentional acts of others.
Sullivan objects to this Court's treatment of this case.
He states that "the judges involved with this case is
showing discrimination, prejudice, favors, etc." (Doc.
24 at 1.) Sullivan requests that Judge Lynch recuse himself
and that the Court appoint another judge to adjudicate this
matter. The Court determines that Judge Lynch has not
demonstrated any bias whatsoever in this case. Judge Lynch
gave Sullivan a fair opportunity to respond to Chicago
Title's motion for summary judgment, and analyzed the
claims thoroughly and fairly. If anything, Judge Lynch was
deferential to Sullivan as a pro se litigant. Instead of
simply granting summary judgment based on the statue of
limitations, he addressed the merits of each claim.
IT IS ORDERED that Judge Lynch's findings and
recommendations (Doc. 23) are ADOPTED IN FULL. Defendant
Chicago Title's summary judgment ...