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Oldroyd v. Oldroyd

Court of Appeals of Utah

September 26, 2019

Robben Ann Oldroyd, Appellant,
v.
Farrell Lynn Oldroyd, Appellee.

          Second District Court, Morgan Department The Honorable Noel S. Hyde No. 134500028

          Brent D. Wride and Bryant McConkie, Attorneys for Appellant

          Brian E. Arnold and Lauren Schultz, Attorneys for Appellee

          Judge Michele M. Christiansen Forster authored this Opinion, in which Judges Kate Appleby and David N. Mortensen concurred.

          OPINION

          CHRISTIANSEN FORSTER, JUDGE.

         ¶1 Robben Ann Oldroyd (Wife) appeals the district court's determination that Farrell Lynn Oldroyd (Husband) was entitled to an equitable interest in property she acquired prior to the parties' marriage. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 This case previously came before us in Oldroyd v. Oldroyd (Oldroyd I), 2017 UT App 45, 397 P.3d 645. At that time, Wife challenged the district court's determination that Husband had acquired a premarital interest in a home constructed prior to their marriage and titled in her name. Id. ¶¶ 2, 5.

         ¶3 We vacated the award and remanded for the district court to make additional findings disclosing "the steps by which the district court reached its ultimate conclusion." Id. ¶¶ 5, 11. Although courts have discretion to grant one spouse an equitable portion of premarital property belonging to another spouse in certain circumstances, see Lindsey v. Lindsey, 2017 UT App 38, ¶ 33, 392 P.3d 968, the district court had not made findings regarding any of those circumstances. Instead, it concluded that Husband had "acquired a separate premarital interest in the improvements on the property." Oldroyd I, 2017 UT App 45, ¶ 4 (quotation simplified). Yet the court did not articulate "what legal theory gave" Husband a premarital interest in the property as opposed to an equitable interest in a portion of a premarital asset belonging to Wife. Id. ¶ 8. Thus, we were "unable to trace with accuracy the steps by which the district court reached its ultimate conclusion that [Husband] had obtained a premarital interest in the house." Id. ¶ 11 (emphasis added).

         ¶4 On remand, the court made additional findings regarding Husband's contribution to the value of the home. The court found that Wife had contributed $350, 000 toward the out-of- pocket costs of constructing the home and that "[t]he value of the specialized expertise and labor provided" by Husband, which included providing "the vast majority of supervision and conceptual direction for the construction of the home, " "was equivalent to the value of [Wife's] financial contributions to the home's construction, " i.e., $350, 000.[1] The court further found that Husband "conferred upon [Wife] the benefit of his unique and specialized knowledge and skills in constructing the . . . home, " that Wife "was aware of and appreciated the unique and substantial benefit being conferred upon her, " and that permitting Wife "to retain the benefit of [Husband's] knowledge and skills without granting [Husband] equal value in the home would unjustly enrich" Wife. Based on these findings, the court determined that the parties "should each be awarded a 50% premarital interest" in the home based on a theory of unjust enrichment. Wife again appeals the district court's decision.

         ISSUE AND STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶5 Wife asserts that the district court erred in recognizing a 50% premarital interest for Husband based on unjust enrichment. "We review the district court's legal conclusions for correctness, and will reverse its factual findings only if they are clearly erroneous." 438 Main St. v. Easy Heat, Inc., 2004 UT 72, ¶ 49, 99 P.3d 801.

         ANALYSIS

         ¶6 Wife asserts that the district court erred in awarding Husband a premarital interest based on unjust enrichment, because that theory was neither pleaded nor tried by consent. Husband maintains that his pleadings adequately asserted an unjust enrichment claim and that, even if they did not do so explicitly, Wife was aware of the claim and ...


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