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Moen v. Thomas

627 N.W.2d 146 (2001)

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Moen v. Thomas

North Dakota Supreme Court

627 N.W.2d 146 (2001)

Facts

Laurie and Jerry Thomas (defendants) lived and worked on a ranch owned by Jerry’s father. When Jerry’s father died, Jerry inherited part of the ranch and an option to lease the rest of the ranch from the other members of the family. Jerry told the other family members that he intended to lease the land and paid one year of rent up front. At the end of that year, the other family members put the leased ranch land into a trust, with Carol Moen and others operating as trustees (plaintiffs). The trustees offered Jerry a written seven-year lease. However, Jerry told them he did not want to commit for that long and wanted only a year-to-year lease. Jerry again paid one year of rent up front. However, Jerry died in a ranching accident several months later. At the end of that year’s lease, Laurie asked the trustees to let her lease the property. The trustees declined, but Laurie would not vacate the property. The trustees sued for possession of the land and monetary damages. Laurie brought several counterclaims, including a claim that the seven-year-lease option was still valid and that she could exercise it. At trial, the trustees testified that Jerry had verbally declined the seven-year-lease option and agreed to only a one-year lease. The trial court found for the trustees, ordering Laurie to vacate the land and to pay the trust $19,000 for her unauthorized use. Laurie appealed, arguing that Jerry’s statement to the trustees declining the seven-year-lease option was hearsay and should have been excluded.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Neumann, J.)

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