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Stanley v. Hotes

Supreme Court of Montana

August 13, 2019

DAVID STANLEY and JEAN B. KEFFELER, Plaintiffs and Appellees,
v.
WILLIAM CHARLES HOTES, ARDIS J. HOTES and all other persons unknown, claiming or who might claim any right, title estate, or interest in or lien or encumbrance upon the real property described in the complaint adverse to Plaintiffs' Ownership or any cloud upon Plaintiffs' title thereto, whether such claim or possible claim be resent to contingent, Defendants and Appellants.

          Submitted on Briefs: April 10, 2019

          APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Sixth Judicial District, In and For the County of Park, Cause No. DV 13-161 Honorable Yvonne Laird, Presiding Judge.

          For Appellants: Stephen E. Woodruff, Huppert, Swindlehurst & Woodruff, P.C., Livingston, Montana.

          For Appellees: Karl Knuchel, Eric T. Oden, Attorneys at Law, Livingston, Montana.

          OPINION

          DIRK M. SANDEFUR JUDGE.

         ¶1 Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum opinion and shall not be cited and does not serve as precedent. Its case title, cause number, and disposition shall be included in this Court's quarterly list of noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and Montana Reports.

         ¶2 William Charles "Chuck" Hotes and Ardis J. Hotes (collectively Hotes) appeal judgments of the Montana Sixth Judicial District Court, Park County, ordering Hotes to cease "cabling" of their cattle guards on the Mission Meadows Road and awarding David Stanley and Jean B. Keffeler (Plaintiffs) attorney fees. We affirm.

         ¶3 This action arises out of a multi-faceted property rights dispute between Plaintiffs and Hotes in the Mission Meadows subdivision in Park County, Montana. Mission Meadows is rural residential subdivision created of record by county-approved certificate of survey (COS) in 1974. Plaintiffs own tracts 2-4, and 8 as originally platted in COS 11, and tract 3A as subsequently platted in COS 1424. Ardis Hotes is the record owner of a tract of land subsequently platted in Park County COS 101A and comprised from original Mission Meadows 17-18 and 21-22 (COS 11). Chuck is Ardis's adult son and the managing occupant of her property.

         ¶4 Swingley Road is a roadway meandering southeast from Interstate 90 through the Mission Meadows subdivision in Park County. Mission Meadows Road is a platted private roadway meandering northwest from the southwest extension of Swingley Road, bisecting Hotes's property, and then continuing along the interior boundaries of various subdivision tracts to its ultimate terminus in the interior of Plaintiffs' aggregate property. Mission Meadows Road is the record access between Plaintiffs' aggregate property and Swingley Road.

         ¶5 In November 2013, as amended October 2015, Plaintiffs filed various claims against Hotes in the Montana Sixth Judicial District Court for quiet title, damages in trespass, and declaratory and injunctive relief regarding various ownership and access rights. Hotes responded with general denials and various counterclaims. On April 28, 2017, the District Court vacated an imminent bench trial and underlying pretrial order based on the parties' purported settlement of all outstanding issues. A few months later, based on the parties' failure to either timely file proof of settlement, or show cause for failure to do so, the District Court issued a sanctions order pursuant to M. R. Civ. P. 16(f) entering judgment in favor of Plaintiffs on all outstanding issues. In pertinent part, the Court ordered, adjudged, and decreed that:

Having violated protective covenants pertaining to said property, [Hotes] shall either replace existing cattle guards installed by either of them with cattle guards that do not interfere with reasonable vehicle access to [Plaintiffs'] property or remove [them] entirely.

(Emphasis added.)[1]

         ¶6 In November 2017, after further negotiation between the parties and upon subsequent uncontested motion, the District Court approved a final written settlement agreement executed by the parties (Plaintiffs and Hotes) on October 3, 2017. In pertinent part, the 2017 agreement provided:

In order to better address the Covenant violation issues adjudicated by the [c]ourt . . . Hotes'[s] existing cattle guards may remain in place, provided that in lieu of replacing the cattle guards ...

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