Articles Posted in South Dakota Supreme Court

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Buyers and Sellers entered into a contract for deed of property. The contract for deed indicated that Buyers were purchasing the home “as is” and that neither party made any representations or warranties except those made in the contract for deed. Within a year after moving into the home, Buyers discovered major defects on the property. Buyers brought suit against Sellers alleging fraud and failure to disclose defects. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Sellers. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding (1) the circuit court erred when it applied the parol evidence rule to exclude Buyers’ extrinsic evidence and when it granted summary judgment on Buyers’ fraud claims; and (2) the circuit court erred when it granted summary judgment on their claim that Sellers violated S.D. Codified Laws 43-4-38. View "Oxton v. Rudland" on Justia Law

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Ronald Johnson, a South Dakota State Penitentiary correctional officer, was murdered by two inmates during an escape attempt. Lynette Johnson, individually and on behalf of Ronald’s Estate (collectively, Johnson) sued the Department of Corrections (DOC) and a number of its employees in state court, alleging, among other claims, a violation of substantive due process rights under the state and federal constitutions pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983. DOC removed the case to federal court. The federal court granted summary judgment to DOC on the grounds of qualified immunity and remanded the remaining claims back to state court. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. After the case returned to state court, the circuit court granted DOC’s motion for summary judgment on Johnson’s remaining claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court properly dismissed Johnson’s intentional infliction of emotional distress claim; (2) no genuine issues of material fact existed as to Johnson’s fraudulent misrepresentation claim; and (3) the circuit court correctly determined that res judicata barred any constitutional due process claim arising under the South Dakota Constitution. View "Estate of Johnson v. Weber" on Justia Law

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The circuit court granted Plaintiff’s petition requesting a stalking protection order against Defendant after conducting an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court’s findings sufficiently addressed the facts of the case under the specific elements of stalking at issue such that the Supreme Court may determine whether the evidence met the statutory elements of stalking; (2) the circuit court’s findings of fact were not clearly erroneous; and (3) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion when it granted the protection order. View "Doremus v. Morrow" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, as the administrator of her brother’s estate, sued the owners of the group home where her brother resided, alleging that Defendants (1) negligently failed to provide her brother medical care in a timely manner, (2) caused her brother’s wrongful death, and (3) failed to seek proper consent for the handling of her brother’s body after his death. The circuit court dismissed the third claim on summary judgment. After a trial, the jury found that Defendants were negligent but that the negligence was not the legal cause of the damage alleged by Plaintiff. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion when it (1) granted Defendants partial summary judgment or at trial when it excluded Plaintiff’s evidence related to Defendants’ involvement in the post-death decisions; (2) denied Plaintiff’s motion for change of venue; (3) refused Plaintiff’s instruction on spoliation; and (4) denied Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial. View "Red Bear v. SESDAC, Inc." on Justia Law

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Raymond Bennett, who was intoxicated and driving his motorcycle, entered a curve at a high rate of speed and drove into a ditch. He was killed in the accident. Several Highway Patrol troopers soon arrived to manage the scene and investigate the incident. Approximately an hour and a half later, Douglas Howard rounded the same curve and encountered a motorhome that was stopped in his lane of travel. Howard lost control of his motorcycle and was injured. Howard sued Bennett’s estate, alleging that Bennett’s negligence in his own accident proximately caused Howard’s injuries in the subsequent accident. The Estate moved for summary judgment. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Bennett’s negligence was not the proximate cause of Howard’s injuries as a matter of law. Remanded with instructions for entry of summary judgment in favor of the Estate. View "Howard v. Bennett" on Justia Law

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After Keith Mendenhall and Lisa Swanson divorced, Keith brought a claim for slander against Lisa. Lisa counterclaimed for intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, slander, and alienation of her daughter’s affection. Before trial, the trial court granted Lisa’s motion for judgment as a matter of law on Keith’s slander claim. The jury subsequently found in favor of Lisa on each of her counterclaims except slander and awarded her $211,710. Keith appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred by admitting fourteen exhibits consisting of court documents from prior proceedings. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed, holding that the court’s failure to analyze the facts contained in the fourteen exhibits under principles of judicial notice or issue preclusion was error, and the error likely had a substantial influence on the jury’s verdict. View "Mendenhall v. Swanson" on Justia Law

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Total Auctions and Real Estate, LLC (Total Auctions) was a licensed automobile dealer that intended to hold automobile auctions in Lincoln County. Total Auctions met with a dealer agent employed by the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) on how to comply with the applicable law. Total Auctions informed the agent that its business plan included the sale of vehicles consigned from dealers outside Lincoln County, the county of Total Auctions’ place of business. The agent failed to inform Total Auctions that state law prohibited auctioning vehicles consigned from dealers outside Lincoln County. After incurring expenses setting up its business, Total Auctions was informed that there was a problem with the out-of-county consignments. Total Auctions sued the DMV agent, the DMV, its director, and the Department of Revenue and Regulation, alleging negligence and negligent supervision. The court of appeals dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Total Auctions’ claimed damages were caused by the agent’s alleged misrepresentation of law, relief was barred as to all claims because misrepresentations of law are not actionable. View "Total Auctions & Real Estate, LLC v. S.D. Department of Revenue & Regulation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed lawsuits against Defendants - a medical doctor, his medical clinic, two hospitals, and other individual defendants (collectively, Defendants) - alleging various causes of action, including negligence, negligent credentialing, fraud, and deceit. Plaintiffs sought production of documents from Defendants, but Defendants declined to produce all of them, asserting that some of the materials sought were peer review materials protected under S.D. Codified Laws 36-4-26.1. Plaintiffs moved to compel production, asking the circuit court to determine that section 36-4-26.1 was unconstitutional. The circuit court ordered Defendants to produce, without in camera review, documents protected by peer review, determining that the statute was constitutional only if it applied a “crime-fraud exception” and that the exception had been met in this case. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred (1) by creating a crime-fraud exception to section 36-4-26.1, and (2) by ordering Defendants to produce materials in the possession of medical peer review committees. View "Novotny v. Sossan" on Justia Law

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This lawsuit centered around the termination of the employment of Dr. Sonia Hernandez by Avera Queen of Peace Hospital (Avera). Hernandez brought suit against Avera and multiple persons associated with the hospital for, inter alia, defamation and breach of contract. The circuit court dismissed several of Hernandez’s causes of action and, during the ensuing jury trial, entered judgment as a matter of law dismissing the defamation action. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Avera on the breach of contract claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err (1) when it dismissed several of Hernandez’s claims against Avera and the additional parties, and (2) when it dismissed Hernandez’s defamation claim during trial. View "Hernandez v. Avera Queen of Peace Hosp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs and Defendants owned abutting properties. This lawsuit centered on the drainage of water from Defendants’ property onto Plaintiffs’ property. Specifically, Plaintiffs contended that Defendants caused an increased amount of drainage on Plaintiffs’ land by altering the natural flow of water across Defendants’ land. After a jury trial, Plaintiffs were awarded $9,950 in damages. Defendants requested judgment as a matter of law, arguing that Plaintiffs failed to offer proof that Defendants caused the increase in drainage. The court denied the motions. The court subsequently granted Plaintiffs a permanent injunction ordering Defendants to pay an additional $28,936 to Plaintiffs for repairs and preventive landscaping. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the circuit court (1) did not err by Defendants’ motions for judgment as a matter of law, as Plaintiffs’ testimony was sufficient to permit the jury to conclude that Defendants caused the water invasion; and (2) erred in granting the injunction, as S.D. Codified Laws 21-8-14 did not authorize the first half of the injunction, and, even if it did, the second half of the injunction was overbroad and an abuse of discretion. View "Magner v. Brinkman" on Justia Law