LAWSUIT WITH JRM
01 OCT 2021
COURT DOCUMENTS, UPDATES, AND MORE
On September 12, 2019 Chief District Judge Gregory Pinski ruled on the lawsuit brought against the DLOA, its officers and DOES 1-100 by John and Ruth Sechina (JRN Holdings).
For those of you who are new to the area, Powerline Road is one of the river access roads in the Dearborn area, and crosses the river providing the only access to approx. 38 lots west of the river in Lewis & Clark County. (This is almost identical to Long Drop Lane. The properties on the Lewis & Clark side were surveyed and developed in 1978, and Long Drop Lane was identified as a 60' roadway easement.) John and Ruth Sechina purchased a lot in early 2000 in which Powerline Rd. runs through the NW corner of their lot. In 2012 John & Ruth installed a gate across Powerline Rd. blocking landowners on the west side of the gate and offered those landowners access to their properties if they signed a permissive access form in order to obtain a key to the lock. For those that are not aware, a permissive access is merely permission to cross and can be revoked at any time for any reason. They were attempting to close a 40 year prescriptive easement on Powerline Road. Subsequently their gate was torn down 3 different times by landowners.
In the spring meeting of 2016 John & Ruth had a statement read to the assembled landowners of their intention to install the gate again and that it would be locked. Landowners voted in a fall meeting in September of 2016, that all roads are to remain open and that gates are not permitted on the Dearborn Meadows and Upper Sawmill Tract area roadway system. They also voted that John & Ruth were to remove their gate. In response to this landowner’s vote, in February of 2017, John and Ruth Sechina sued the association to legally expunge the Powerline Easement and gate the road. They requested attorney fees if they prevailed. After considerable expense to private landowners who donated to the legal fund, large amounts of time spent for its officers to attend meetings, hearings and briefings, we finally had our day in court on February 15, 2019 at the district court in Great Falls. 10 landowners testified on behalf of the Association. This was a bench trial. On September 11th, 2019 Judge Pinski ruled 100% in our favor that Powerline Rd has an established Prescriptive Easement and is to remain open and accessible to all landowners (not just those on the west side of the river) for residential and recreational access. JRN was ordered to not impede access in any way for the use of the road and was given 30 days to clear the road.
Rather than removing the impediments of the gate posts and boulders, John had a barb-wired fence erected on their land that narrows the road to approx. 14 feet in some spots. Fencing was also placed in the high-water area along the river as a way to restrict use of that area for recreation. This creates a potential hazard to floaters. We urge caution to those of you who float the river to be aware of barb wire that could be submerged and not readily visible. It is our sincere hope that the fencing does not harm someone until this issue is resolved. As the Association prevailed in the lawsuit, we asked the court to award attorney fees and to enforce the court order, regarding the new restrictions on Powerline Rd. The officers, attorneys and John & Ruth met via Zoom with Judge Pinski for a hearing on these matters on May 21st. Evidence for the reasonableness and amount of attorney fees were submitted to the court. Exhibits and testimony were submitted regarding the restrictions on Powerline Rd. with discussion on the width of the easement. We are waiting for Judge Pinski's ruling on these issues and will post it on our website as soon as we have it.
Please be aware that there is a strong possibility that the Sechinas will appeal, as their attorney Dave Gallik did file an appeal with the MT Supreme Court prematurely and had to withdraw the appeal as the original lawsuit was not finalized. The court ruling is on our website dearbornloa.com under the tab Association Documents, in the Powerline Rd. lawsuit file. It is a very informative document and we
strongly encourage you to take the time to download this court order and read it. We have invested over $100,000 defending our roadway system. This is a huge landmark case for the Dearborn.
UPDATE :On September 28, 2020 we received the court’s ruling on our last hearing requesting attorney fees and asking the court to enforce the original court order. The court ruled that we are entitled to attorney fees and has awarded us $96,650. (We have an outstanding balance with Rick Sherwood of approx. $13,120 so our net is $83,530. The court did not award us any of the costs of the 2nd hearing of May 21st.) The court denied our request to enforce the court order, stating that the extent of the easement is not the scope of this lawsuit.