Monday, July 2, 2012

Meguerditchian v. Smith

The Utah Court of Appeals recently issued an opinion in the case of Meguerditchian v. Smith, which addressed an issue related to Utah water rights.

In the case, Mr. Meguerditchian had obtained a court judgment of approximately $55,000 against Mr. Smith in a breach of contract case.  Mr. Meguerditchian filed for and received a writ of execution, under which the sheriff was instructed to sell Mr. Smith's personal and real property to satisfy the judgment. The notice for the sheriff's sale indicated that the property to be sold would include Mr. Smith's interest in Water Right #51-224 and "other rights of [Mr. Smith] in water rights and/or interests in water wells located in Sanpete County, Utah."  At the sale, Mr .Meguerditchian purchased Water Right #51-224 for $30,000 and the other unspecified water rights for $3,000.  Mr. Smith then asked the district court to set aside the sale.

The district court concluded that the water rights were worth at least $150,000, and that the sales price had therefore been grossly inadequate. The district court also concluded that the description of the water rights in the notice of sale had been insufficient.  The court ruled that the insufficient descriptions may have caused confusion and discouraged bidders.  Based on these determinations, the district court set aside the sheriff's sale of the water rights.  Mr. Meguerditchian appealed the decision to the Utah Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals noted that the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure require that notice of a sheriff's sale include "a particular description of the property to be sold."  The Court concluded that the notice of sale's description of Water Right #51-224 was sufficient to allow for the sale of the 3.275 acre-feet of water that Mr. Smith owned under Water Right #51-224.  Accordingly, the Court reversed the district court's decision on this point, and held that the sale was proper.  It appears, however, that the Court of Appeals upheld the district court's determination with respect to the other unspecified water rights, which appear to be Mr. Smith's segregations from Water Right #51-224.

To read the full opinion, click here.

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