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Lindstrom v. Custom Floor Covering Inc.

Court of Appeals of Utah

August 3, 2017

Andrea P. Lindstrom, Appellant,
v.
Custom Floor Covering Inc., Appellee.

         First District Court, Logan Department The Honorable Thomas L. Willmore No. 140100438

          Shaun L. Peck and John D. Luthy, Attorneys for Appellant.

          Mark B. Hancey, Attorney for Appellee.

          Judge David N. Mortensen authored this Opinion, in which Judges Gregory K. Orme and Stephen L. Roth concurred.[1]

          MORTENSEN, Judge.

         ¶1 Andrea P. Lindstrom appeals the district court's decision that a lien encumbering her residence was not wrongful under Utah's Wrongful Lien Act (the Act). We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 Lindstrom and her ex-husband (Ex-husband) owned a piece of residential property (the Property) as joint tenants. As part of their January 2010 divorce, Lindstrom was awarded the Property. Initially, neither Lindstrom nor Ex-husband recorded the divorce decree or any other document, such as a quitclaim deed, that transferred ownership in the Property.

         ¶3 In February 2011, Ex-husband executed a promissory note payable to Custom Floor Covering Inc. (CFC), in the amount of $14, 685.13. The promissory note granted CFC the right to record liens against "all real and personal property currently held, or hereinafter acquired" by Ex-husband. CFC recorded a notice of lien against the Property that same month.

         ¶4 Lindstrom eventually learned of the lien and, through counsel, wrote a letter to CFC indicating that the lien was wrongful and demanding that the lien be released within ten days. In response, CFC recorded a clarified notice of lien against the Property in June 2011, noting that the lien applies "only against the interests of [Ex-husband]." Lindstrom then recorded the divorce decree in July 2011. Thus, at the time CFC recorded the clarified notice of lien, Ex-husband's name remained on the property's title. But see infra ¶ 28 note 7.

         ¶5 In February 2014, Lindstrom again demanded that CFC release the lien. When CFC did not release the lien, Lindstrom filed a petition to nullify a wrongful lien, asking the district court, pursuant to the Act, to declare the lien void and also seeking treble damages, attorney fees, and costs.

         ¶6 After a summary hearing, [2] the district court concluded that the lien was not wrongful under the statute, explaining that its review must be limited "to what the parties knew at the time the liens were filed." Twenty-two days later, Lindstrom filed a motion to alter judgment under rule 59(e) of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure. The district court declined to alter its judgment and further stated that it "considers the Motion to Alter Judgment to be a motion to reconsider. Even though counsel has styled it as a Motion to Alter Judgment, the same arguments are being presented to the Court." Twenty-eight days after the court's order was entered, Lindstrom filed a notice of appeal. Lindstrom argues that the district court's conclusion that CFC's lien was not wrongful was in error.

         ISSUES AND STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         ¶7 There are two issues before us for review. We first must determine whether the district court's characterization of Lindstrom's motion to alter judgment as a motion to reconsider deprives this court of jurisdiction. "Whether appellate jurisdiction exists is a question of law." Rosas v. Eyre, 2003 UT App 414, ¶ 9, 82 P.3d 185 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). We review legal conclusions for correctness. See Davis v. Davis, 2003 UT App 282, ¶ 7, 76 P.3d 716.

         ¶8 Second, we must determine whether the district court erred in its determination that CFC's lien on the Property was not wrongful. "Whether a lien is wrongful [under the Act] is a question of law which we review for correctness, giving no deference to the [district] court's legal conclusions." Pratt v. Pugh, 2010 UT App 219, ¶ 7, 238 P.3d 1073 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         ANALYSIS

         I. The Motion to Alter Judgment Tolled the Time for Appeal

         ¶9 We first examine the district court's conclusion that Lindstrom's motion to alter judgment was actually a motion to reconsider. This question is paramount to Lindstrom's appeal because if her motion was a motion to reconsider, it did not toll the time within which she could file her appeal, and this court lacks jurisdiction to consider it.[3] See Gillett v. Price, 2006 UT 24, ¶ 7, 135 P.3d 861.

         ¶10 Rule 4 of the Utah Rules of Appellate Procedure states that a notice of appeal "shall be filed . . . within 30 days after the date of entry of the judgment or order appealed from." Utah R. App. P. 4(a). Rule 4 also lists specific motions for which the date of final disposition of that motion replaces the date of the entry of judgment when calculating the timeliness of the notice of appeal. Id. R. 4(b). A rule 59 motion to alter or amend judgment extends the time for appeal, id. R. 4(b)(1)(C), but a motion to reconsider-a motion that does not exist under the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure-does not, Gillett, 2006 UT 24, ¶ 6.

         ¶11 The Utah Supreme Court analyzed this issue in B.A.M. Development, LLC v. Salt Lake County, 2012 UT 26, 282 P.3d 41. There, the court held, "Rule 4(b) is triggered by the filing of a motion that is properly styled as one of the motions enumerated in the rule and that plausibly requests the relevant relief." Id. ¶ 13. The court further concluded that "although B.A.M.'s arguments were unconvincing and repetitive, neither rule 4(b) nor rule 59 require that a posttrial motion make winning arguments to be procedurally proper." Id. ¶ 14.

         ¶12 Here, it is undisputed that Lindstrom styled her motion to alter judgment as a proper motion under rule 59 of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure. Lindstrom's motion also plausibly requested relief under that rule-requesting that the district court alter its judgment against her. The district court nevertheless concluded that the motion was a motion to reconsider because Lindstrom made "the same arguments" to the court in the motion that she argued at the hearing. However, just as in B.A.M., the "repetitive" arguments here do not affect whether the motion is "procedurally proper." See id. Because her motion was "properly styled" as a rule 59(e) motion and "plausibly requests the relevant relief, " we conclude that Lindstrom's motion to alter judgment was "procedurally proper." See id. ΒΆΒΆ ...


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