Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment to Defendant, a Montana corporation that offered trail horse rides, on Plaintiff’s claim alleging negligence resulting in Plaintiff’s fall from a horse. The district court concluded that Plaintiff’s accident was caused by a risk inherent in equine activities for which liability was precluded under Mont. Code Ann. 27-1-727, the Equine Activities Act. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to Defendant pursuant to the Equine Activities Act and that Plaintiff’s claim did not come within the exception stated in section 27-1-727(3)(a)(i). View "Fishman v. GRBR, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting partial summary judgment for Defendant on Plaintiff’s claims alleging negligence and breach of contract. Plaintiff claimed that it incurred more than $1 million resolving problems caused directly by Defendant’s design work on a facility. Defendant argued that it could not be liable to Plaintiff under the parties’ contract for any amount exceeding $50,000. The district court agreed with Plaintiff, thus rejecting Defendant's argument that the contractual limitation of liability violates Mont. Code Ann. 28-2-702 and is therefore unenforceable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the limitation of liability found in the agreement is enforceable; and (2) the district court did not err in granting partial summary judgment to Defendant on Plaintiff’s breach of contract claim. View "Zirkelbach Construction, Inc. v. DOWL, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court granting Continental Resources, Inc.’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the estate of Zachary Buckles in which the estate alleged that Continental and other defendants were liable for Zachary’s death. The district court dismissed the complaint on the grounds that Continental, an Oklahoma corporation authorized to do business in Montana, was not subject to personal jurisdiction in Montana. The Supreme Court disagreed and remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing, holding that material jurisdictional facts existed, requiring a preliminary hearing by the district court pursuant to Mont. R. Civ. P. 12(d) to determine whether Continental was subject to the court’s jurisdiction. View "Estate of Buckles v. Continental Resources, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The district court did not err in concluding that the statute of limitations had run on Miles Kingman’s claim for conversion of property. Kingman was convicted of aggravated assault and sentenced to twenty years’ imprisonment. Thereafter, Thomas Weightman, the senior evidence technician for the Bozeman Police Department, informed Kingman that his personal property, including a watch, was authorized to be released. Weightman, however, later advised Kingman that the watch was not his. Kingman initiated this action alleging that Weightman failed to return Kingman’s wristwatch and seeking damages for theft and malicious intent. The district court deemed the theft claim as one for conversion of property. The court then entered judgment in favor of Weightman, concluding that the two-year limitation period on the conversion claim had expired prior to the filing of the suit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Kingman’s conversion claim was time barred. View "Kingman v. Weightman" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s judgments ruling that the Montana Public Employees’ Association (MPEA) breached its duty of fair representation (DFR) to Jeffrey Folsom and engaged in common law fraud, awarding Folsom attorney fees as an element of compensatory damages on his DFR claim and awarding $50,000 in punitive damages on his common law fraud claim. The Supreme Court held (1) Folsom’s separately pled common law fraud claim is necessarily subsumed in his DFR claim and is thus not independently cognizable in this case; (2) the district court did not err in denying Folsom’s claim for compensatory lost wages and benefits on his DFR claim; (3) the district court erred in awarding fees to Folsom as an element of compensatory damages on his DFR claim; (4) the district court erred in awarding punitive damages without a compensatory damages predicate; and (5) the district court abused its discretion in refusing to grant MPEA’s motions for postjudgment relief from its summary judgment. View "Folsom v. Montana Public Employees’ Ass’n" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part an order of the district court entering judgment in favor of Plaintiffs on their complaint against Defendants for breach of contract, negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, and unjust enrichment. The Supreme Court held (1) the district court erred in concluding that Plaintiffs had an enforceable contract to purchase real property; (2) the district court did not err in entering judgment against three of the defendants for actual damages; but (3) the case must be remanded for an entry of judgment against the remaining defendants because they were joined in this proceeding and Mont. Code Ann. 72-3-1012 required them to also bear the cost of the claim. View "Wood v. Anderson" on Justia Law

by
After Plaintiff’s employment was terminated, he filed suit against Defendant alleging wrongful discharge, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and defamation. The district court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, concluding that Ohio law governed or, alternatively, that Ohio was the appropriate forum to exercise jurisdiction. The Supreme Court vacated the district court’s dismissal, holding that Montana courts had subject-matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s claim, and remanded for further proceedings to consider whether dismissal under the doctrine of forum non conveniens was appropriate. On remand, the district court denied Plaintiff’s motion to amend the complaint and granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss under forum non conveniens. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not act arbitrarily or exceed the bounds of reason in concluding that Plaintiff’s amendment would prejudice Defendant and that the amendment would run counter to the Supreme Court’s remand instructions in Harrington I; and (2) did not abuse its discretion by determining that resolution of Plaintiff’s claims in Ohio would promote the convenience of witnesses and the ends of justice. View "Harrington v. Energy West Inc." on Justia Law

by
In 2009, Atkins-Swanson applied and qualified for participation in the Self-Directed Personal Assistance Service Program, a government-sponsored program that allowed Atkins-Swanson to direct health-related tasks. Consumer Direct was Atkins-Swanson’s provider agency and provided administrative services to Atkins-Swanson during the course of her participation in the program. In 2013, Atkins-Swanson succumbed to a fatal overdose of buspirone. Lee Swanson, on his own behalf and on behalf of Atkins-Swanson’s estate, filed this action against Consumer Direct, alleging wrongful death, survivorship, and breach of contract. The district court granted summary judgment for Consumer Direct, concluding that Consumer Direct was statutorily immune from liability because it was not directing the personal-care services. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly granted Consumer Direct’s motion for summary judgment and did not err by denying Swanson’s motion to alter or amend the judgment on the ground that the claims were foreclosed under Mont. Code Ann. 53-6-145. View "Swanson v. Consumer Direct" on Justia Law

by
Thomas Cherewick and Ronald Henry and Landowners all owned property in Remington Ranch, a real estate development comprising several subdivisions. Landowners filed a complaint against Cherewick, Henry, and the development’s property owner’s association, alleging, as relevant to this appeal, that Henry and Cherewick took actions that were either unauthorized or exceeded their authority as directors and officers of the association. Henry and his company, Western Investments, Inc., brought several counterclaims against Landowners, including defamation and tortious interference with business relations and prospective economic opportunity. The district court granted summary judgment against all parties on their respective claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in granting Landowners summary judgment on Henry’s and Western Investment’s counterclaims for conspiracy and other alleged tortious conduct; and (2) did not abuse its discretion in denying Henry’s and Cherewick’s motion for attorney fees after they prevailed on Plaintiff’s claims against them. View "Henry v. Sullivan" on Justia Law

by
Charlene Berdahl, a court reporter, filed a sexual harassment complaint against Judge George Huss, a district judge, with the Montana Human Rights Bureau (HRB). Huss’s attorney requested that the State agree to defend and indemnify Huss regarding Berdahl's HRB claims. Berdahl and Huss subsequently entered into a stipulated judgment resulting from the State’s refusal to defend and indemnify. The State filed this action seeking declarations that the State had no duty to defend or indemnify Huss against the claims and that Huss had entered a settlement without the consent of the State, which was unenforceable against the State. Berdahl counterclaimed seeking declarations that the State was responsible for the stipulated judgment entered by Berdahl and Huss and that the State was liable under the principle of respondent superior. The district court rejected Berdahl’s request for a declaration and held that the State owed no duty to defend or indemnify Huss. The court further reasoned that Berdahl’s exclusive remedy regarding her respondent superior claim was under the Montana Human Rights Act. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that the State bore no obligation to pay the stipulated settlement between Huss and Berdahl. View "State v. Berdahl" on Justia Law