WAYNE ROSS, TRUSTEE OF THE WAYNE ROSS REVOCABLE TRUST & a.
DONALD W. ROSS & a.
Argued: June 1, 2017
Ramsdell Law Firm, P.L.L.C., of Concord (Michael D. Ramsdell
on the brief and orally), for the plaintiffs.
Flaherty, Beliveau & Pachios, PLLP, of Concord (Peter G.
Callaghan on the brief and orally), for the defendants.
plaintiffs, Wayne and Ruth Ross, trustees of the Wayne Ross
Revocable Trust and the Ruth Ross Revocable Trust,
respectively, appeal an order of the Superior Court
(McNamara, J.), following a bench trial, in favor of
the defendants, Donald Ross and Rossview Farm, LLC (the LLC).
The plaintiffs contest the trial court's findings that
the parties entered into a lease for the plaintiffs'
lifetimes and that they had no right to evict the defendants
pursuant to RSA 540:2, II(d) or (e) (2007). We vacate and
trial court found the following facts. The plaintiffs have
owned a farm in Concord since at least 1957. Throughout the
years, the farm has produced or sold dairy products, hay,
firewood, timber, Christmas trees, strawberries, maple syrup,
1998, one of the defendants, Donald, the plaintiffs' son,
agreed to work on the farm. Through the early 2000's,
Donald was treated as an employee of the farm, and he began
to assume increasing responsibility for the farm's
operation. As he did so, the plaintiffs transferred assets of
the farming operation to him. In 2003, Wayne told Donald that
he wanted Donald to run the farm until Wayne's death,
whereupon Donald would inherit the farm. The plaintiffs
consulted with attorneys about estate planning and attended
seminars on transferring family farms. In 2004, defendant
Rossview Farm, LLC was registered with the State and the
parties granted the LLC permission to use the trade name
"Rossview Farm." Around 2004 or 2005, Donald took
over operations of the farming business. Wayne continued to
work on the farm occasionally, but Donald received all of the
farm's income and paid all of its expenses.
parties agreed in January of 2006 that Donald would pay
monthly rent. In June of that year, Wayne agreed to revise a
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) contract to
reflect that "Wayne Ross [was] leasing [the farm's]
operation to Donald." (Quotation omitted.) Nine days
after Donald submitted the revision, the parties executed a
written lease which provides, in total, as follows:
June 23, 2006
To whom it concerns:
We, Wayne and Ruth Ross, lease our farm land on District #5
Road in Concord, NH, to Donald Ross of Rossview Farm LLC for
$21, 000 per year.
trial court found that the written lease was prepared only to
satisfy the requirements of the USDA and that the original
lease between the parties was oral. Between 2004 and 2013,
Donald ran the farm and made significant investments in it.
Donald paid the rent of $21, 000 per year, although he did
not always pay on time and frequently paid in cash, until
2011, when the parties agreed rent would no longer be
2013, the parties were at odds with one another. Two physical
altercations occurred, one in 2010 and one in 2013. After
serving Donald an "eviction notice and notice to vacate,
on or before January 11, 2014, " the plaintiffs filed
this action seeking a preliminary injunction, a permanent
injunction, and declaratory judgment to determine their
rights to terminate the lease and declare that Donald had no