This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Emery Bulinski, et al.,
Kawishiwi Lodge, Inc., et al.,
Filed April 22, 2003
Lake County District Court
File No. C401405
Paul D. Cerkvenik, Scott C. Neff, The Trenti Law Firm, 1000 Lincoln Building, 225 North First Street, Virginia, MN 55792 (for respondents)
William G. Campbell, 628 East Sheridan Street, Ely, MN 55731 (for appellants)
Considered and decided by Minge, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Hudson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
On appeal from summary judgment in this easement dispute, appellants argue that the district court erred by (1) rejecting appellants’ argument that laches rendered the easement defective when the easement document was not recorded for 13 years; (2) granting summary judgment stating that the easement was valid when fact questions existed regarding whether appellants had notice of the existence of the easement when they acquired the property; and (3) granting summary judgment when fact questions existed regarding whether the grantor of the easement lacked the authority to create the easement. We affirm.
On appeal from summary judgment, we ask whether there are any genuine issues of material fact and whether the trial court erred in its application of the law. State by Cooper v. French, 460 N.W.2d 2, 4 (Minn. 1990). Also, we “view the evidence in the light most favorable to the party against whom judgment was granted.” Fabio v. Bellomo, 504 N.W.2d 758, 761 (Minn. 1993).
Appellants argue that laches voids the easement because the easement document was not recorded until 13 years after Bulinski and Udovich signed it. We disagree.
In Minnesota, whether to apply laches is determined on a case-by-case basis. Klapmeier v. Town of Center of Crow Wing County, 346 N.W.2d 133, 137 (Minn. 1984). The basic question in applying laches is “whether there has been such an unreasonable delay in asserting a known right, resulting in prejudice to others, as would make it inequitable to grant” the requested relief. Harr v. City of Edina, 541 N.W.2d 603, 606 (Minn. App. 1996) (quotation omitted). Moreover, “[t]he doctrine of laches depends on a factual determination in each case.” Eide v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 492 N.W.2d 549, 556 (Minn. App. 1992). And “[m]ere delay does not constitute laches, unless the circumstances were such as to make the delay blamable.” Elsen v. State Farmers Mut. Ins. Co., 219 Minn. 315, 321, 17 N.W.2d 652, 656 (1945) (quotation omitted).
Here, Bulinski’s failure to record the easement for 13 years did not result in an unreasonable delay that prejudiced appellants. Bulinski accessed his property using the easement over Amex road from 1982 until 2001, and appellants knew about his use. Shortly after appellants thwarted his use of the road, Bulinski recorded the easement and brought this action. In addition, Bulinski’s failure to record the easement did not invalidate it. An unrecorded but otherwise valid, executed, acknowledged conveyance is enforceable between the parties thereto. Staples v. Miller, 319 N.W.2d 57, 60 (Minn. 1982). Thus, there was not an undue delay that prejudiced appellants and application of laches is not appropriate.
Appellants contend that the district court did not adequately address the fact question of whether Kawishiwi Lodge, Inc. (KLI) had notice of the easement when Udovich transferred ownership from himself to the lodge. Appellants argue that KLI is protected as a subsequent purchaser in good faith.
Minn. Stat. § 507.34 (2002) describes the situation when unrecorded conveyances become void. The statute states that
every such conveyance not so recorded shall be void as against any subsequent purchaser in good faith and for a valuable consideration of the same real estate, or any part thereof, whose conveyance is first duly recorded.
A “purchaser in good faith is one who gives consideration without actual, implied, or constructive notice of any inconsistent outstanding rights of others.” Miller v. Hennen, 424 N.W.2d 89, 91 (Minn. App. 1988) (citation omitted). And, “[a] person who purchases land with notice that the property is burdened takes the property subject to the easement.” Levine v. Bradley Real Estate Trust, 457 N.W.2d 237, 240 (Minn. App. 1990), review denied (Minn. Aug. 7, 1990). Moreover, the supreme court has stated that knowledge of the “mere existence” of a prior unrecorded interest constitutes actual notice. Id. (quotation omitted).
We reject appellants’ argument that the lodge did not have actual notice of the easement. When Udovich transferred ownership of the lodge to KLI, he became KLI’s sole shareholder and only corporate officer. Because Udovich knew of the easement and was the only authorized agent for KLI at the time of the conveyance, we conclude that KLI had actual notice of the existence of the easement and took title to the property subject to the easement. Thus, KLI is not protected as a subsequent purchaser in good faith.
Appellants also contend that Udovich lacked the legal capacity to convey the easement because, as a purchaser under a contract for deed, he was prohibited from making transfers without the owner’s consent. We disagree.
Under a contract for deed for the purchase of land, the vendee is the equitable owner of the property, and the vendor retains legal title as security for the purchase price of the property. Gilbert Builders, Inc. v. Cmty. Bank of DePere, 407 N.W.2d 706, 708 (Minn. App. 1987), review denied (Minn. Aug. 19, 1987). The vendee’s equitable interest is conveyable and mortgageable. Minnesota Bldg. & Loan Ass’n v. Closs, 182 Minn. 452, 453, 234 N.W. 872, 873 (1931). Thus, permission from the vendor was not necessary, and Udovich was legally capable of conveying his equitable interest in the easement.
Appellants also raise several factual issues, contending that they were material to summary judgment or that the district court made impermissible findings of fact in its summary judgment order. After careful review, we conclude that appellants’ claims are without merit.