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Easement Results in Litigation for Significant Ranch Operations and Banking Expert Witness Report

By: Leon Royer
Tel: 406-932-4255
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The dispute arose as the result of the plaintiffs attempting to use an easement across the defendants’ land to one of the plaintiffs’ other ranches. The defendants claimed that the plaintiffs’ intended use of the easement was outside the recorded terms of the easement which governed the width of the easement, the persons who could use the easement as well as the purpose for using the easement. Both plaintiffs and defendants were owners of very substantial ranch operations.

The plaintiffs then brought suit that resulted in cross petitions by the original party defendants and well as the original plaintiffs who became cross defendants.

In plaintiffs’ suit, the plaintiffs alleged that the behavior of the defendants resulted in: (1) plaintiffs’ inability to sell one of plaintiffs’ ranches; (2) plaintiffs being prohibited from borrowing additional funds for acquisitions and expansions; (3) tortious inference with business relations and prospective economic opportunity; (4) negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress; and (5) a laundry list of other claims. The plaintiffs sought in excess of $10 million in damages.

The case had been active for a few years. With a jury trial approaching, I was engaged. My clients were insurance companies, represented by two law firms. I was asked to provide my opinion:

  1. “…regarding plaintiffs’ allegation of financial stress related to the easement”;
  2. “…regarding the financial liability of the plaintiffs’ sale of a majority interest in the adjoining property to a third party;
  3. regarding “whether you believe the Contract for Deed was ‘economically viable’ regardless of the issue of the easement”; and
  4. “to review the reconveyance in light of any affect it had on any of plaintiffs’ businesses, their ability to purchase other properties and ability to obtain credit.”

This was very complex litigation that necessitated my review of in excess of 14,000 pages of documentation including:

  1. banks and federal agency records;
  2. depositions of numerous parties to the action;
  3. cadastral records;
  4. real property files;
  5. over ten years of financial statements and tax returns relating to individuals, corporations and partnerships; and
  6. numerous other documents related to the individuals and entities involved.

My expert opinion affidavit was 29 pages in length and contained 139 footnotes (tying back to the documents that were part of the record). It is my opinion that my findings disproved the allegations which I was charged with examining.

Due to matters unrelated to the scope of my engagement, the case settled after submission of my opinion to plaintiffs’ counsel and before my deposition.

The contact attorney who retained me said that the plaintiffs’ attorney would stay as far away from me as possible. He also told me that I had found “the smoking gun” that is almost never found. I took that to mean that through my very thorough research of the voluminous financially information obtained in discovery (discovery that I was instrumental in structuring) that I definitively proved the plaintiffs’ were not financially disadvantaged by the actions of the defendants.

Leon Royer has over 40 years of Banking experience, 30 years of which were in executive management positions in banks ranging in size from community banks to multi-billion dollar, multi-state banking organizations. As an Executive responsible for all phases of Lending, Lending Disciplines, and Credit Assessment, Mr. Royer has special expertise in determining Borrower Creditworthiness and in assessing the appropriateness of Lender Behavior.

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