Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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Under Montana law, when a plaintiff claims he or she was injured directly by a law enforcement officer’s affirmative acts, the public duty doctrine does not exclude all duties that may arise pursuant to generally applicable principles of negligence. Plaintiff was injured in the course of a law enforcement officer’s (Officer) pursuit of a criminal suspect. Plaintiff brought a state-law negligence claim and a 42 U.S.C. 1983 violation against the Officer and the City of Billings, alleging that he was injured directly by the Officer’s affirmative acts. A federal court entered summary judgment in favor of Defendants on both claims. Regarding the negligence claim, the court found that the public-duty doctrine shielded Defendants from liability because no special relationship existed. The court of appeals certified to the Supreme Court the public duty doctrine question. The Supreme Court held (1) the public-duty doctrine applies only to an officer’s duty to protect the general public and therefore does not apply to exclude the legal duty an officer may owe to a person injured directly by the officer’s affirmative actions; and (2) in this case, the Officer owed Plaintiff a legal duty to exercise the same care that a reasonable officer with similar skill, training, and experience would under the same or similar circumstances. View "Bassett v. Lamantia" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the district court dismissing Plaintiff’s amended complaint against several lenders, holding that the district court did not err in dismissing some of Plaintiff’s claims but erred in dismissing the remaining claims. After Plaintiff defaulted on her loan on real property, she received at least nine notices of sale. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint against Lenders, alleging six causes of action. The district court granted Lenders’ motion to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to Mont. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The Supreme Court held that the district court (1) did not err in dismissing Plaintiff’s declaratory judgment claim as a matter of law or in dismissing Plaintiff’s negligent and/or intentional infliction of emotional distress claim fore failure to state sufficient facts to entitle her to relief; and (2) incorrectly determined that Plaintiff’s amended complaint failed to state a claim on her asserted breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), and Montana Consumer Protection Act (MCPA) claims. View "Puryer v. HSBC Bank" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court dismissing with prejudice this action filed by Plaintiffs against Defendant seeking damages for personal injuries allegedly sustained in an automobile collision. The district court dismissed the action under Mont. R. Civ. P. 37(d) due to each plaintiff’s failure to answer fully interrogatories or to produce relevant documents during discovery. In affirming, the Supreme Court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by granting Defendant’s motion for sanctions, denying one plaintiff’s motion to strike, and denying the other plaintiff’s motion to reconsider because the trial court’s discovery sanction related to the extent of the prejudice that resulted from the discovery abuse. View "Cox. v. Magers" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court dismissing with prejudice this action filed by Plaintiffs against Defendant seeking damages for personal injuries allegedly sustained in an automobile collision. The district court dismissed the action under Mont. R. Civ. P. 37(d) due to each plaintiff’s failure to answer fully interrogatories or to produce relevant documents during discovery. In affirming, the Supreme Court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by granting Defendant’s motion for sanctions, denying one plaintiff’s motion to strike, and denying the other plaintiff’s motion to reconsider because the trial court’s discovery sanction related to the extent of the prejudice that resulted from the discovery abuse. View "Cox. v. Magers" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a 2013 vehicle-pedestrian collision in Missoula, Montana. Kerry Maier sued Erin Wilson for injuries she sustained following the accident. As she approached the intersection of Sixth Avenue and Helen Avenue, Wilson was blinded by the sun’s glare on her windshield. Maier had parked on Helen Avenue and was walking towards her job at Curry Health Center. Maier usually crossed Sixth Avenue at the unmarked crosswalk adjacent to Helen Avenue. Maier testified that she looked for oncoming traffic but only saw a car a fair distance away and believed she could cross safely. Maier testified that she walked more than halfway across Sixth Street before she struck by Wilson’s vehicle. Maier’s body was hurled a considerable distance into the bike lane. Maier suffered serious injuries from the collision, including ten fractures, an ACL tear, a concussion, and internal injuries to her bladder. Maier filed a motion for partial summary judgment arguing, based on an accident reconstructionist and the deposition of Wilson, she was entitled to summary judgment on her negligence per se claim because she was within the unmarked crosswalk. Wilson opposed the motion, arguing Maier failed to meet her burden of showing no dispute of fact existed. The District Court concluded a genuine dispute of material fact existed concerning whether Maier was in the unmarked crosswalk, which precluded summary judgment. A jury would return a defense verdict finding Wilson not negligent in the collision. The Montana Supreme Court affirmed in part, and reversed in part, the district court's judgment. The Court held the District Court properly denied Maier’s motion for summary judgement because a clear dispute of fact existed concerning whether Maier was within the unmarked crosswalk. The Court concluded the District Court did not err when it expanded upon the jury’s question by including section 61-8-503, MCA, in its response. Furthermore, Maier failed to show how giving a proper jury instruction to the jury prejudiced her. Lastly, the Court held the District Court abused its discretion in denying Maier an opportunity to cross-examine Smith about her inconsistent statements. Denying Maier the opportunity to cross-examine affected a substantial right. Accordingly, the Court determined the verdict should be set aside and a new trial granted. View "Maier v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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In this case brought in connection with the sale of Plaintiffs’ home at a foreclosure sale, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiffs’ asserted negligence, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and Montana Consumer Protection Act (MCPA) claims against Bank of America, N.A. and ReconTrust Company, N.A. pursuant to Mont. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to sufficiently state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The court held (1) the district court correctly held that Plaintiffs’ amended complaint failed to state sufficient facts entitling them to relief on all essential elements of their asserted negligence, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and MCPA claims; and (2) the district court did not err by not sua sponte converting ReconTrusts’s Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Mont. R. Civ. P. 12(d) upon the filing of an affidavit in support of Plaintiffs’ brief in opposition. View "Anderson v. ReconTrust Co., N.A." on Justia Law

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The district court correctly concluded that Plaintiff owned certain disputed land bordering her property between the high- and low-water marks of Parker Lake, a small lake located in Flathead County, Montana. After Defendants pounded metal fence posts along the high-water mark bordering Plaintiff’s property Plaintiff filed this lawsuit asserting claims for declaratory judgment and in tort based on alleged trespass and nuisance. Plaintiff later filed an amended complaint adding counts of intentional interference with her contractual relationship with her realtors and slander of title. The district court granted summary judgment that Plaintiff owned the land between the high- and low-water marks of Parker Lake bordering Plaintiff’s property. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court properly granted summary judgment declaring that Plaintiff owned the disputed land between the high- and low-water marks. View "Ash v. Merlette" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court granting Jennifer Teeter’s motion for summary judgment in this declaratory action filed by Teeter against Mid-Century Insurance Company, Teeter's insurer, seeking payment of medical expenses and lost wages after an accident. The district court concluded that Teeter made a prima facie showing that it was reasonably clear that her medical expenses and wage losses were causally related to the accident and that the opinions of certain doctors did not create a disputed issue of material fact as to medical causation and damages. The Supreme Court disagreed and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that there was a clear dispute of material fact regarding causation because it was not reasonably clear if Teeter’s expenses were causally related to the accident. View "Teeter v. Mid-Century Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court concluding, as a matter of law, that Plaintiff’s claims against Dr. Rodney Brandt were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Dr. Brandt performed surgery on Plaintiff’s knee in 2008. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff began to experience new knee pain. In 2012, Plaintiff filed this claim asserting that Dr. Brandt negligently performed surgery on her knee. The district court ruled that Plaintiff’s claim was filed after the three-year statute of limitations had run. The Supreme Court disagreed and remanded the case, holding (1) the date on which Plaintiff discovered or reasonably should have discovered her injury involved disputed issues of material fact; and (2) Plaintiff was entitled to have a jury decide when she discovered or through reasonable diligence should have discovered her injury and that it may have been caused by Dr. Brandt. View "Wilson v. Brandt" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court granting Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company’s (BNSF) motion for summary judgment on Kelly Watson’s asbestos-related disease claim, brought under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, holding that the bankruptcy court’s order enjoining claims against W.R. Grace and other “affiliated entities,” including BNSF, tolled the statute of limitations on Watson’s claim. Thus, the district court erred in concluding that the bankruptcy court’s order expanding a previous injunction barring the commencement or filing of new claims to include BNSF as a nondebtor affiliate did not bar the commencement of new actions against BNSF. View "Watson v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law