Wasatch County v. Okelberry, Round 2 of __?

You may recall this post from two years ago, where I reported on a trilogy of cases which dealt with the public dedication of private roadways; in the opinions, the Utah Supreme Court held that “An overt act that   is intended by a property owner to interrupt the use of a road as a public thoroughfare, and is reasonably calculated to do so, constitutes an interruption sufficient to restart the required ten-year period under the Dedication Statute.”

The Okelberrys and Wasatch County were the parties to one of those three cases, and when the Supreme Court issued its opinion, it sent them back to the trial court for further proceedings, in light of its clarification.  The Okelberrys sought a new hearing or trial to present evidence on their intent; the trial court denied that request and reviewed prior pleadings, new memoranda and heard new arguments.  The trial court found that there were gates on the roads, and that the gates were intermittently locked.  The court stated that Ray Okelberry had testified that he locked the gates but “he did not testify that he intended to keep the public from accessing the roads at this time.

The appellate court reviewed this history, and ultimately sent the case back, once again, to the trial court to “give the parties an opportunity to present evidence related to the Okelberrys’ intent to interrupt public use and identify with more specificity whether and when the gates were closed and locked and the intent of those actions.”

I think we can anticipate another appeal in a couple of years, at which time the court will review the credibility of Okelberrys’ almost certain testimony that the locks were indeed put there to stop people, (rather than exceptionally intelligent Wasatch County livestock with opposable hooves), and Wasatch County’s contention that that testimony is not credible.  Hopefully, when presented with that evidence, the appellate courts will allow this case to be finally resolved.

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