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Rogers v. Board of Regents of University of Arizona

Court of Appeals of Arizona, Second Division, Department A

October 1, 2013

N. TERRYL ROGERS, as Successor Trustee for the Bankruptcy Estate of Michael Keith Schugg, Plaintiff/Appellant,

APPEAL FROM THE SUPERIOR COURT OF PINAL COUNTY Cause No. S1100CV200905071 Honorable Bradley M. Soos, Judge Pro Tempore

Beus Gilbert PLLC By Leo R. Beus, L. Richard Williams, Franklyn D. Jeans, and A. Erin McGuinness Phoenix Attorneys for Plaintiff/Appellant

Steven Weatherspoon, PLLC By Steven Weatherspoon Tucson Attorneys for Defendant/Appellee



¶1 N. Terryl Rogers, trustee of the bankruptcy estate of Michael Keith Schugg (Schugg), appeals from a judgment entered in favor of the Board of Regents of the University of Arizona (ABOR). The trial court found that Schugg's actions against ABOR alleging an easement in the road that traversed ABOR's property were time-barred under A.R.S. § 12-821. Schugg contends the court erred by dismissing his claims with prejudice and by granting summary judgment in favor of ABOR. This appeal requires us to determine when a quiet title action for an easement by implication[1] accrues pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-821. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

Factual and Procedural Background

¶2 The following facts are undisputed. ABOR is a subdivision of the State of Arizona and a "public entity" under A.R.S. § 12-821. It owns the burdened property, which is an experimental farm generally referred to as the Maricopa Agricultural Center (the MAC). Schugg owns the benefited property, a nearby parcel known as "Section 16." The Gila River Indian Community owns property encircling Section 16, including the property in between MAC and Section 16.[2]

¶3 Smith-Enke Road (the Road) runs east-west through MAC and along the southern boundary of Section 16. It provided a western route from Section 16. In early 2008, ABOR constructed a gate on its land that blocked Schugg from using the Road.

¶4 On September 17, 2008, Schugg demanded ABOR execute a quitclaim deed that would have provided an express grant of an easement to use the Road traversing ABOR's property. ABOR implicitly rejected the demand by not responding. On December 14, 2009, Schugg filed a verified complaint seeking judicial determination that he had an easement by implication, necessity and/or prescription over the Road, quiet title relief establishing the same, and a declaration that ABOR's gate blocking his access to the disputed section of the Road amounted to a trespass. ABOR answered Schugg's complaint and counterclaimed for quiet title relief and a judicial declaration that Schugg had no right, title, or interest in the MAC. ABOR holds fee simple title to the MAC conveyed by warranty and quitclaim deeds. Schugg does not rely on an express conveyance, such as a deed or will.

¶5 ABOR moved to dismiss Schugg's complaint as barred by the one-year statute of limitations set forth in A.R.S. § 12-821. The trial court granted ABOR's motion and dismissed Schugg's complaint with prejudice, finding Schugg's claims barred under § 12-821. The court granted ABOR's subsequent motion for summary judgment on ABOR's counterclaims and entered judgment against Schugg. Schugg timely appealed, and we have jurisdiction pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-2101(A)(1).


I. ABOR's Motion to Dismiss

¶6 Schugg argues the trial court erred in determining when his claims accrued under A.R.S. § 12-821. We review de novo questions of law concerning the statute of limitations, including "when a particular cause of action accrues, " where, as here, such a determination "hinges solely on a question of law rather than resolution of disputed facts." Montaño v. Browning, 202 Ariz. 544, ¶ 4, 48 P.3d 494, 496 (App. 2002). In addition, because the court dismissed Schugg's complaint, we assume the truth of the well-pled allegations and uphold the dismissal only if Schugg would not be entitled to relief under any facts susceptible of proof Large v. Superior Court, 148 Ariz. 229, 231, 714 P.2d 399, 401 (1986).

¶7 Section 12-821 states: "All actions against any public entity or public employee shall be brought within one year after the cause of action accrues and not afterward." A cause of action accrues "when the damaged party realizes he or she has been damaged and knows or reasonably should know the cause, source, act, event, instrumentality or condition which caused or contributed to the damage." A.R.S. § 12-821.01(B); see Dube v. Likins, 216 Ariz. 406, 167 P.3d 93, supp. op., 216 Ariz. 421, ¶ 2, 167 P.3d 108, 108 (App. 2007) (definition of accrual in § 12-821.01(B) applies to both filing of notice of claim and filing of action); Long v. City of Glendale, 208 Ariz. 319, ¶¶ 11-16, 93 P.3d 519, 525-26 (App. 2004). An analysis of the elements of the underlying claim is necessary to determine when a cause of action accrues. See Dube, 216 Ariz. 406, ¶ 7, 167 P.3d at 98; Glaze v. Larsen, 207 Ariz. 26, ¶ 10, 83 P.3d 26, 29 (2004).

¶8 Schugg contends he and his predecessors in interest acquired an easement appurtenant[3] by implication over the Road as a result of the federal government's intent to create an easement when it transferred title of Section 16 to the Territory of Arizona. Schugg concedes that he intermittently lost access to the Road in early 2008 when ABOR erected a gate. He contends that by erecting ...

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