The Appellate Group

Nelson v. 15 White Barn Drive

Nelson v. 15 White Barn Drive, 2022 UT App 106 (Christiansen Forster, J.)

Property/Contracts/Attorney Fees

When Nelson signed a Real Estate Purchase Agreement (REPC), Nelson thought she was receiving a loan on her property; in fact, Nelson sold the property to a friend’s Wife through Wife’s business, 15 White Barn Drive LLC (White Barn). The parties intended to execute a purchase agreement in conjunction with a rental contract, but because Nelson decided not to live at the property, the option to repurchase the property never materialized. Nelson never read the contract she signed. She later sued White Barn, raising claims of quiet title, equitable mortgage, constructive trust, and fraud. Nelson and White Barn both moved for summary judgment. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of White Barn and awarded White Barn attorney fees. Nelson appealed. The Utah Court of Appeals affirmed, holding:

  • The district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of White Barn on Nelson’s equitable mortgage and fraud claims. The court could not consider parol evidence to vary the terms of the parties’ written REPC, and Nelson failed to present sufficient evidence of fraud, especially when her own deposition testimony admitted the transaction was “a giant misunderstanding.”
  • White Barn prevailed below and is, therefore, entitled to attorney fees under the terms of the REPC. Of note, Nelson did not respond to White Barn’s request for attorney fees below.
  • Practice Point: Nelson’s challenge of the district court’s denial of her motion to strike affidavits submitted by White Barn is inadequately briefed. On appeal, Nelson fails to cite the affidavits or point to specific areas of concern in them. She points, instead, to White Barn’s Opposition Motion, contending with that motion, and inappropriately leaving the burden of briefing and argument to the court.

Read the full court opinion