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Stichting Mayflower Mountain Fonds v. United Park City Mines Co.

Supreme Court of Utah

March 22, 2017

Stichting Mayflower Mountain Fonds and Stichting Mayflower Recreation Fonds, Appellants,
v.
United Park City Mines Company, REDUS Park City LLC, Empire Pass Master Owners Association, Inc., and Red Cloud Homeowners Association, Appellees.

         On Direct Appeal Third District, Silver Summit The Honorable Ryan M. Harris No. 050500430

          Craig C. Coburn, Steven H. Bergman, Brad M. Liddell, Salt Lake City, for appellants

          Clark K. Taylor, Nicole M. Deforge, Salt Lake City, for appellees.

          Associate Chief Justice Lee authored the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Durrant, Justice Durham, Justice Himonas, and Justice Pearce joined.

          OPINION

          LEE, ASSOCIATE CHIEF JUSTICE

         ¶1 This case involves a dispute over a mining road built on Flagstaff Mountain (near Park City) over a century ago. The plaintiffs are Stichting Mayflower Mountain Fonds and Stichting Mayflower Recreation Fonds (collectively "Mayflower"). Defendants in the suit are owners of land traversed by the road.

         ¶2 Plaintiffs have asserted a right to use the road (1) as a public highway under the Mining Act of 1866 (R.S. 2477) and the 1880 Utah Highway Act, and (2) under a common law prescriptive easement claim. In a motion to amend their complaint, plaintiffs also sought to add an appurtenant easement claim.

         ¶3 The district court dismissed Mayflower's public roads and prescriptive easement claims on summary judgment. It also denied Mayflower's motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. We affirm.

         ¶4 Mayflower's public roads claim fails because Mayflower has not presented sufficient evidence of the road's "public use" for a sufficient period of time. The common law prescriptive easement claim also fails because the evidence and arguments presented by Mayflower on appeal were not preserved in the district court below. Finally, as to the denial of Mayflower's motion for leave to file a second amended complaint, we affirm in light of the substantial discretion afforded district courts under rule 15(a) of our Rules of Civil Procedure.

         I

         ¶5 Mayflower is the successor to a chain of title to mining claims dating from 1871 on Flagstaff Mountain near Park City. According to Mayflower, historical records from the predecessor of the Bureau of Land Management show that prospectors and mine claimants built two miles of road from Park City to the mine in or around 1871. These claimants were granted a mining patent, and thus ownership to the mine and rights of access to their claims.

         ¶6 Notes kept by prospectors from nearby mines refer to a wagon road heading south from Park City to the mines. The historical record does not tell us who built the road. But it seems a fair inference that the road was built by the Flagstaff mine claimants; the record identifies no one else who likely would have constructed it.[1]

         ¶7 Mayflower seeks to trace the "public use" of the road in question to 1871. It notes that prospectors began using the road to access Flagstaff Mountain at that time. And it claims that public use continued uninterrupted until 2006, when a new subdivision (Red Cloud) "obliterated" parts of the road. This use, in Mayflower's view, turned the road into a public highway, conferring rights on Mayflower (and the public generally) to use it.

         ¶8 Mayflower asserted such rights in this litigation. It filed its initial complaint in late 2005. That complaint formally appears to have raised only a common law prescriptive easement claim (though Mayflower insists that other claims were asserted implicitly).

         ¶9 The case languished for a time. After the parties filed their initial pleadings, there was no activity on the case for about a year and a half. This led the district court to order the parties to appear and explain why the case should not be dismissed. But the district court did not dismiss the case. Instead it noted that it anticipated a request for a hearing on a motion for preliminary injunction would be filed within sixty days. And it allowed the case to move forward on the basis of that expectation.

         ¶10 For the next two years the only activity in the case was a single deposition. In June 2009, the district court again ordered the parties "to show cause why this case should not be dismissed." Order to Show Cause, June 25, 2009. And again the case was not dismissed. Instead it was consolidated with a similar pending suit-a suit brought by Silver Cloud Properties seeking an easement over a roadway that crossed property owned by United Park City and that connected Silver Cloud's property with the highway.

         ¶11 A little over a year later Mayflower moved to amend its complaint, seeking to clarify "that plaintiff's rights include the right of use of public roads which extend to roads in which plaintiff's rights may be prescriptive." Memorandum in Support of Motion to Amend, December 22, 2010 at 2. The district court granted Mayflower's motion. In the amended complaint Mayflower "claim[ed] a right to a prescriptive easement over and across the Easement Property on the Easement Roads, and as a beneficiary of the public rights-of-way." Amended Complaint, December 22, 2010 at 4.

         ¶12 The defendants filed a motion for partial judgment on the pleadings, asserting that Mayflower had "failed to state a claim that any property at issue is a dedicated public road." Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings, December 22, 2011 at 2. The district court denied the motion. But the court sua sponte ordered Mayflower to "make full and complete disclosures of their claims and evidence in this case." Order Denying Motion for Partial Judgment, March 8, 2012 at 2. And the court warned that failure to do so "shall result in [Mayflower] being unable to use the individual, document, or evidence in further proceedings." Id. This was because the district court found Mayflower's claims to be "somewhat cryptic in nature, " and thus "d[id] not put [defendants] on adequate notice regarding what [was] claimed." Id. The March 2012 district court order also required Mayflower to "provide the specific statute or case law they allege supports their claim to a public or private road, " with failure to do so "result[ing] in [Mayflower] being unable to proceed with their claim." Id. at 3.

         ¶13 Mayflower's disclosures included at least a common-law prescriptive easement claim and a public road claim under a longstanding federal statute (the federal Mining Act of 1866, or more commonly, R.S. 2477).[2] The parties disagree on whether the claims extend further. Mayflower contends that it also included claims for an appurtenant easement and for private right of access.

         ¶14 Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that (1) Mayflower cannot prove as a matter of law that the roads crossing defendants' land were established as public roads; and (2) Mayflower cannot prove the requirement of adverse use, which is necessary for a prescriptive easement claim. The district court ruled on that motion in an order issued in August 2012. In that order, the court granted the motion as to the prescriptive easement claim but denied it on the public road claim. (Nowhere in the district court's order, or in either party's summary judgment briefing, is there any discussion of any other claims.)

         ¶15 After the entry of this order, additional defendants were allowed to intervene, Mayflower's counsel withdrew and was replaced, and the district court re-opened discovery for all parties. During that discovery, in early 2014, a defense expert asserted (in a deposition) that Mayflower's two easement claims, including the appurtenant easement claim, were no longer part of the case due to the district court's August 2012 order. In response, Mayflower filed a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. And in the memorandum in support of the motion Mayflower argued that the complaint would not put forth new theories or claims, but merely clarify those already proffered.

         ¶16 The district court denied Mayflower's motion on two independent grounds. First, it concluded that the amendment was not appropriate under the standard set forth in Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) because Mayflower had waited so long to add these claims and lacked a good explanation for the delay. Second, the court held that two new claims-appurtenant easement and private right of access-were barred by the court's earlier (March 2012) order because Mayflower had not identified these claims in its pretrial disclosures required by that order.

         ¶17 Both Mayflower and the defendants filed motions for summary judgment on the last remaining claim-the one relating to public roads. The district court denied Mayflower's motion and granted defendants' motion.

         ¶18 Mayflower filed this appeal. It challenges the dismissal of its prescriptive easement and public roads claims on summary judgment and the denial of its motion to file a second amended complaint.

         ¶19 Mayflower has also challenged the standing of one of the defendants-United Park City Mines Company-to defend the district court's judgment on this appeal. Mayflower notes that United Park City sold some of the property in question while this case was pending on appeal. It claims that this transaction divested Mayflower of any remaining interest in the roads that are the subject of this appeal. And because the roads allegedly traverse property now owned not by United Park City but by REDUS Park City LLC (REDUS), Mayflower asserts that United Park City no longer has standing to participate further in this appeal. It also has raised the question whether REDUS should be substituted for United Park City under Utah Rule of Appellate Procedure 38(c).

         ¶20 We entered an order directing the substitution of REDUS for United Park City in part-"to the extent REDUS now owns property previously held by [United Park City]." Order, April 1, 2016. In addition, we asked REDUS to clarify whether it intended to be represented by counsel for United Park City and to adopt the briefs submitted by United Park City. REDUS subsequently indicated an intent to step into United Park City's shoes "with respect to the properties" sold by United Park City to REDUS. Motion, April 5, 2016. And counsel made an appearance and argued for both appellees.

         ¶21 The above moots the standing issue raised by Mayflower. Because REDUS adopted United Park City's briefing in this case, and because the same counsel appeared and represented the interests of both appellees at oral argument, we see no need to sort through the record to determine whether or to what extent the property still owned by United Park City is implicated by this appeal. Both REDUS and United Park City are represented by the same counsel and advance the same arguments on this appeal. So we need not decide whether and to what extent one or the other of these appellees may have standing to defend ...


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