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Ragsdale v. Wireman

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 21, 2019

GREGORY RAGSDALE, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
DAVID WIREMAN, Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Bradley J. Harris, Judge.

         Gregory Ragsdale appeals the district court's order granting David Wireman's motion for summary judgment on a petition for declaratory judgment.

          Robert J. Murphy, Dubuque, for appellant.

          Craig Ament of Ament Law Firm, Waterloo, for appellee.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Greer, JJ.

          VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         Richard and Anita Wright owned landlocked property adjacent to property owned by David Wireman. They filed an application to condemn a strip of land owned by Wireman and another landowner. The strip, depicted in the following illustration, would allow them to gain access to their property.

         (Image Omitted)

         The district court approved the application in 1988.

         Twenty-eight years later, Gregory Ragsdale purchased the Wrights' property. He sued Wireman, alleging Wireman trespassed on the tract of land that was subject to the condemnation proceedings. He sought a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief excluding Wireman and the general public from the tract. Wireman filed an answer denying Ragsdale's claims and a counterclaim alleging Ragsdale had "no right, estate, lien, or interest in [his] land south of and adjacent to the roadway created by the condemnation proceeding." He sought to quiet title in the land. Wireman also filed a motion for summary judgment, requesting dismissal of Ragsdale's action and confirmation "that the subject-matter roadway is for public use; that ownership of the property is the public, with [Ragsdale] the responsible steward of the land pursuant to Iowa Code section 471.4(2) (1987)." Ragsdale filed a resistance in which he asserted, "The roadway property at issue is not publicly owned or intended for public use," and he "acquired legal title and exclusive use to the roadway property through condemnation by and pursuant to due process of the law."

         The district court initially denied Wireman's motion. Wireman filed a motion to dismiss and sought expanded findings and conclusions. The court treated the motion as a renewed motion for summary judgment and, after taking judicial notice of the condemnation action, granted the motion. The court reasoned:

Section 471.4(2), Code of Iowa 1987, grants upon owners of land without a way to the land the right to take private property for public use. This section sets forth the location and dimensions of the property which may be condemned for public use and rights and responsibilities regarding this property after condemnation has been completed. Chapter 472, Code of Iowa 1987, provides those procedures which must be followed to allow condemnation of private land for public use. Although chapters 471 and 472, Code of Iowa 1987, only provide for the condemnation of private land for public use, several of those documents contained in the file regarding the condemnation of that real estate in question in this matter refer to the creation of an easement for private use. Neither party herein [has cited] nor has the court found any legal procedure by which the state or an individual can acquire land for private use through the means of [e]minent domain.
. . . .
Condemnation[] proceedings regarding the real estate described as the East 20 feet in even width of that portion of the Northeast Quarter of the Southeast Quarter of 10-90-14 line North of the county road established in 85LD374 and other real estate made mention of the acquisition of an easement upon said real estate for a driveway. Final notice contained in the condemnation file shows that the compensation commissioner's ...

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