Articles Posted in Alaska Supreme Court

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A husband and wife divorced after 40 years of marriage. The wife appealed the superior court’s decision to equally divide their marital property, which consisted primarily of retirement benefits and debt. The superior court declined to consider how the couple’s Social Security benefits affected a fair distribution, believing that Alaska Supreme Court case law precluded it from doing so. But the Supreme Court held that although federal law prohibited any allocation of the parties’ Social Security benefits, the court could consider them as evidence of the parties’ financial condition in crafting an equitable division of the marital property. The wife raised a number of other challenges to the property division, but the Supreme Court concluded they lacked merit. The Court vacated the order dividing the marital property and remanded for further consideration in light of the parties’ Social Security benefits. View "Dunmore v. Dunmore" on Justia Law

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A couple divorced after nearly 30 years of marriage. The husband appealed the superior court’s valuation of his corporate stock and its characterization of the wife’s retirement health benefits as non-marital property. The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the court’s stock valuation, but reversed its characterization of the retirement health benefits as non-marital. The Court therefore remanded for valuation of the health benefits and reconsideration of the equitable distribution of the marital estate. View "Wiegers v. Richards-Wiegers" on Justia Law

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The City of Juneau kept a campground open through the winter to accommodate the local homeless population. A campground resident was shot and severely injured. He sued the municipality for damages, arguing primarily that the municipality did not do enough to prevent alcohol-related violence at the campground. He also argued that the campground’s caretaker performed his duties negligently, that this negligence precipitated the shooting, and that the municipality was vicariously liable for the caretaker’s actions. The superior court granted summary judgment for the municipality on all claims, concluding the municipality could not, under the doctrine of discretionary function immunity, be liable for any decision requiring “deliberation” and “judgment.” It also concluded that the municipality was not vicariously liable for the caretaker’s alleged negligence because his challenged actions were outside the scope of his employment. The shooting victim appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the application of discretionary function immunity to bar some of his claims was error, as they related to “operational” rather than “planning” decisions. Furthermore, the Court found genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment on the shooting victim’s claims for negligent supervision and vicarious liability. Therefore, the Court affirmed the superior court’s judgment in part, reversed it in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Lane v. City & Borough of Juneau" on Justia Law

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The City of Juneau kept a campground open through the winter to accommodate the local homeless population. A campground resident was shot and severely injured. He sued the municipality for damages, arguing primarily that the municipality did not do enough to prevent alcohol-related violence at the campground. He also argued that the campground’s caretaker performed his duties negligently, that this negligence precipitated the shooting, and that the municipality was vicariously liable for the caretaker’s actions. The superior court granted summary judgment for the municipality on all claims, concluding the municipality could not, under the doctrine of discretionary function immunity, be liable for any decision requiring “deliberation” and “judgment.” It also concluded that the municipality was not vicariously liable for the caretaker’s alleged negligence because his challenged actions were outside the scope of his employment. The shooting victim appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the application of discretionary function immunity to bar some of his claims was error, as they related to “operational” rather than “planning” decisions. Furthermore, the Court found genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment on the shooting victim’s claims for negligent supervision and vicarious liability. Therefore, the Court affirmed the superior court’s judgment in part, reversed it in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Lane v. City & Borough of Juneau" on Justia Law

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A corporate shareholder sought a shareholder list to mail proxy solicitations for an annual director election. The corporation required a signed confidentiality agreement in exchange for releasing the list. After obtaining and using the list, the shareholder later declared the agreement unenforceable, and refused to return or destroy the list. The corporation sued, seeking to that the shareholder had breached the confidentiality agreement and that the corporation was not obligated to provide the shareholder access to its confidential information for two years. After the superior court refused to continue trial or issue written rulings on the shareholder’s two pending summary judgment motions, the shareholder declined to participate in the trial. The court proceeded, ruled in favor of the corporation, and denied the shareholder’s subsequent disqualification motion. The shareholder appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court determined the superior court did not err in determining the shareholder had materially breached a valid, enforceable contract and did not err or abuse its discretion in its pretrial decisions or in denying the post-trial disqualification motion. But because the declaratory relief granted by the superior court regarding the shareholder’s statutory right to seek corporate information no longer pertained to a live controversy, the Court vacated it as moot without considering the merits. View "Pederson v. Arctic Slope Regional Corporation" on Justia Law

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An asphalt plant operator threw a can at a driver waiting outside his truck to get his attention, striking him in the back. The driver dropped to his hands and knees after being struck, and went to an emergency room for medical treatment. The driver brought negligence and battery claims against the plant operator and his employer, but was awarded minimal damages after trial. The driver appealed, challenging several of the superior court’s decisions regarding jury instructions, evidentiary rulings, and pre- and post-trial orders. But because the Alaska Supreme Court found no error in the superior court’s decisions, it affirmed. View "Lindbo v. Colaska, Inc." on Justia Law

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A family rushed to the scene of a car accident, only to discover that it had been caused by a family member, who soon thereafter died from her traumatic injuries. The family brought a bystander claim against the deceased family member’s estate for negligent infliction of emotional distress, making the novel argument that, even though the family member was also the tortfeasor, the family could recover for its resulting emotional distress. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of the estate, reasoning that the family’s claim had no basis in current Alaska law. The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed, concurring that the family’s claim had no basis in Alaska law and also failed to satisfy the test set forth in D.S.W. v. Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, 628 P.2d 554, 555 (Alaska 1981) regarding expanding tort liability. View "Schack v. Schack" on Justia Law

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An association representing naturopathic physicians challenged a new Alaska regulation that effectively forbade naturopaths from using and prescribing injectable vitamins and minerals. The association argued the statutory definition of naturopathy included the use of dietetics, that dietetics included injectable vitamins and minerals obtained by pharmaceutical prescription, and that the statutory restrictions on the practice of naturopathy prohibited the use of only prescription drugs, not all prescription medicines. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court concluded the statutory text, the larger statutory context, and the legislative history together suggest that the legislature did not intend to grant prescriptive authority to naturopaths. Therefore, the Court affirmed the superior court’s decision to grant summary judgment against the association on this issue. View "Alaska Association of Naturopathic Physicians v. Alaska Division of Corporations, Business & Professional Licensing" on Justia Law

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After a Montana state court issued a series of judgments against Donald Tangwall and his family, the family members transferred two pieces of property to the “Toni 1 Trust,” a trust allegedly created under Alaska law. A Montana state court and an Alaska bankruptcy court found that the transfers were made to avoid the judgments and were therefore fraudulent. Tangwall, the trustee of the Trust, then filed this suit, arguing that Alaska state courts have exclusive jurisdiction over such fraudulent transfer actions under AS 34.40.110(k). The Alaska Supreme Court concluded this statute could not unilaterally deprive other state and federal courts of jurisdiction, therefore it affirmed dismissal of Tangwall’s complaint. View "Toni 1 Trust v. Wacker" on Justia Law

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After a Montana state court issued a series of judgments against Donald Tangwall and his family, the family members transferred two pieces of property to the “Toni 1 Trust,” a trust allegedly created under Alaska law. A Montana state court and an Alaska bankruptcy court found that the transfers were made to avoid the judgments and were therefore fraudulent. Tangwall, the trustee of the Trust, then filed this suit, arguing that Alaska state courts have exclusive jurisdiction over such fraudulent transfer actions under AS 34.40.110(k). The Alaska Supreme Court concluded this statute could not unilaterally deprive other state and federal courts of jurisdiction, therefore it affirmed dismissal of Tangwall’s complaint. View "Toni 1 Trust v. Wacker" on Justia Law