An unconventional process of handling what would otherwise be a court lawsuit is being attempted by a Lawrence man to get a monetary settlement for what he says was illegal trespassing and dumping on his land by a construction company working for Douglas County more than 25 years ago.
Earlier this year, Rex Youngquist, with assistance from a friend, Craig Sundell, filed papers with the Douglas County Clerk's office seeking damages of $3,000 per month dating back to 1980. Called a "notice of demand and intent," it was directed not only at Douglas County but also the city of Lawrence, Anderson Construction Co. of Holton, and other city and county officials, including all past city and county commissioners to 1978.
Because Youngquist's notice received no response, he claims he has a "perfected judgment" in his favor for $11 million, Sundell said. That includes alleged damages to the value of his property, storage, accumulated interest and punitive damages.
That's nonsense, according to the county's attorney, Evan Ice.
"They don't have any judgment or legal finding against the county unless they file a lawsuit, and they haven't done that," Ice said.
The dispute began in 1981 after Youngquist returned to Lawrence from jobs in South America and found mountains of rebar and other debris on his property northwest of Teepee Junction, north of Lawrence. The land had been a soybean field.
"I was mystified. I couldn't believe it happened," Youngquist, 86, said recently as he recalled the moment.
The debris had been hauled by Anderson Construction from the demolition of the old Massachusetts Street bridge over the Kansas River. The bridge was torn down to make way for two new bridges in use today. Anderson signed a contract with the county in 1975 to take ownership, tear down the bridge and remove it, Ice said. Though inside the city limits, the county had previously been responsible for the bridge.
Youngquist says he didn't give permission to dump on the site and had even posted "no trespassing" signs. He said he purchased the property in 1978, though Ice said Youngquist didn't own the property until after the bridge was demolished.
Youngquist said he talked to county officials about the matter during the years after the dumping but was unable to afford an attorney to go to court because of business problems. In 2004, an attorney, on behalf of Youngquist, made inquiries with the county about a settlement and requested a document that purportedly gave Anderson Construction permission to dump on the property.
The county denied it was responsible in the matter and Anderson never produced the document. Anderson is no longer in business.
Filing papers with the county clerk's office instead of the court on a civil or property matter was not uncommon during the late 19th and early 20th centuries when there were not as many judges in some areas of the country, according to Sundell. It was used to secure a hearing and findings of fact prior to the passage of the Uniform Commercial Code and other laws in 1933, Sundell said.
"It's an unconventional approach, but it's legal," said Sundell, who is not an attorney.
"I'm still going to keep on fighting," Youngquist said.
Some of the debris eventually was used, with Youngquist's permission, by a railroad firm for track abutments that run near the property.