Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Appellant's motion to transfer venue to Flathead County, holding that the venue provisions of the Montana Uniform Trust Code (MUTC), Mont. Code Ann. 72-38-205(1), controlled in this case and that the district court did not err when it denied Appellant's motion to transfer venue. Appellant was appointed as the successor trustee to the David William Betts Trust. The trustor's children, who were remainder beneficiaries, decided to remove Appellant and appoint a successor trustee and filed a petition in Missoula County requesting that the court enforce the appointment of a nonprofit entity located in Missoula. Appellant agreed to step down as trustee. Thereafter, the Trust filed a separate action in Missoula County alleging, among other things, that Appellant breached his fiduciary duty and his duty as trustee. Appellant filed a motion for change of venue to Flathead County, but the district court denied the motion. Appellant appealed, arguing that the district court erred by applying the venue provisions of the MUTC because the applicable venue provision was Mont. Code Ann. 25-2-122. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, as the more specific statute in this instance, the MUTC venue provision controlled. View "Betts v. Gunlikson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court dismissing the third-party complaint filed by HRC Two Rivers LLC and HRC Cottages Inc. (collectively, the General Partners) against Aultco Construction Inc. as barred under the principles of res judicata and collateral estoppel, holding that a prior suit by the partnership entity precluded the General Partners from pursuing their claims against Aultco. The HRC entities were general partners of Two Rivers Apartments LLLP, which contracted with Aultco Construction Inc. to build an apartment building. In 2015, Two Rivers filed suit against Aultco for negligent construction resulting in mold in that apartments' attic. The case was litigated, settled, and dismissed with prejudice. The apartment tenants then filed suit against Two Rivers Apartments and the General Partners alleging that they were not given the required disclosure of mold testing and its results. The General Partners filed a third-party complaint against Aultco for contribution and indemnity. The district court granted Aultco's motion to dismiss on the grounds of either res judicata or collateral estoppel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in dismissing the third-party complaint on the grounds of res judicata and collateral estoppel. View "HRC Two Rivers, LLC v. Aultco Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the findings of the district court that a confessed judgment was unreasonable and the product of collusion, and, on the basis of these findings, reversed and remanded the district court’s amended judgment with instructions to dismiss Plaintiffs’ claims with prejudice, holding that the district court abused its discretion when it opted to reduce the settlement amount rather than dismiss the action. Plaintiff brought this action against a contractor after it discovered construction defects and associated problems with a massive luxury home. The district court entered a $12 million stipulated judgment against the contractor. The Supreme Court reversed with instructions for the district court to address an insurer’s request to intervene to challenge the reasonableness of the confessed judgment and whether it was the product of collusion. On remand, the district court reduced the judgment to approximately $2.4 million. The Supreme Court held (1) the confessed judgment was unreasonable and the product of collusion; (2) the district court should have dismissed the action rather than reduce the settlement amount; and (3) the district court properly awarded attorney fees and costs to the insurer, but the case is remanded for recalculation of the award to include only costs allowable under Mont. Code Ann. 25-10-201. View "Abbey/Land, LLC v. Glacier Construction Partners, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Water Court denying Little Big Warm Ranch, LLC’s (LBWR) motion to reopen proceedings and its request to substitute as an objector, holding that the Water Court did not err when it denied LBWR’s motion to reopen cases 40M-171 and 40M-238 and when it denied LBWR’s request for substitution in those cases. At issue was two water rights from Big Warm Springs Creek and Little Warm Springs Creek - one claim for stock water and the other claim for irrigation. The Water Court in this case determined that LBWR was not entitled to substitute itself as an objector to Claimants’ water rights in Cases 40M-171 and 40 M-238 and denied LBWR’s request for substitution and its motion to reopen. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Water Court did not err. View "Little Big Warm Ranch, LLC v. Doll" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting Victory Insurance Company’s (Victory) motion to change venue, holding that the specific venue provision in Mont. Code Ann. 33-2-1118 controlled over the general venue provision in Mont. Code Ann. 25-2-124. Appellant Matthew Rosendale filed a complaint against Victory, a Montana workers’ compensation insurance company with its principal office located in Custer County, Victory’s president, and a living trust formed under the laws of South Dakota and a Victory shareholder, seeking statutory fines and to enjoin Victory pursuant to alleged violations of Montana’s Holding Company Act. Appellant filed the complaint in the First Judicial District Court in Lewis and Clark County. Victory filed a motion to change venue to Custer County. The district court granted the motion on the basis that section 33-2-1118 controlled and that venue was proper in Custer County. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly concluded that venue was proper in Custer County for all defendants. View "Rosendale v. Victory Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court denying Nan Stevenson’s motion to amend her answer, third-party complaint, and counterclaim and entering judgment in favor of the third-party defendant, Big Sky RV, holding that the district court abused its discretion by denying Stevenson leave to amend her pleadings and erred by entering judgment in favor of Big Sky RV. In denying Stevenson leave to amend the district court concluded that the proposed amendment unduly prejudiced the parties and that the amendment was futile. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) amendment would not have prejudiced the parties, and there was no support for the district court’s conclusion that the proposed amendment was futile; and (2) where Big Sky RV did not file a motion for summary judgment, the district court erroneously entered a judgment in Big Sky RV’s favor. View "Ally Financial, Inc. v. Stevenson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s orders granting motions to dismiss Plaintiffs’ negligence claims against BNSF Railway Company, holding that a company does not consent to general personal jurisdiction by registering to do business in Montana and voluntarily conducting in-state business activities. BNSF, a rail carrier incorporated in Delaware with its principal place of business in Texas, registered to do business in Montana and designated an in-state agent for service of process. Plaintiffs filed suit against BNSF under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act for injuries allegedly sustained while working for BNSF in states other than Montana. BNSF moved to dismiss Plaintiffs’ claims for lack of personal jurisdiction. The district court determined that BNSF did not consent to personal jurisdiction in Montana and, accordingly, granted BNSF’s motions to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a foreign corporation does not consent to general personal jurisdiction when it registers to do business in Montana and then voluntarily conducts in-state business activities; and (2) accordingly, BNSF did not consent to general personal jurisdiction in this case. View "Deleon v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Appellant’s petition for a writ of mandate requesting that the court compel the Flathead County Treasurer to issue him a tax deed or appear and show cause why it should not do so, holding that a writ of mandate was inappropriate because Appellant had an adequate remedy at law. Flathead County purchased a tax lien on certain property after the property taxes became delinquent. When the owner and occupant did not redeem the property within the redemption period the County assigned the tax lien to a limited liability company (LLC), of which Appellant was a member. The Flathead County Treasurer subsequently allowed the owner to redeem the property. When the County Treasurer declined to issue a tax deed to the LLC, Appellant filed his petition for a writ of mandate arguing that the County Treasurer had a statutory duty to issue the tax deed. The district court denied the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly determined that Appellant was not entitled to a writ of mandate because a quiet title action provided Appellant with an adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. View "O'Brien v. Krantz" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s orders dismissing ECI Credit, LLC’s case against Diamond S. Inc. under Mont. R. Civ. P. 41(b) and denying its motion for relief from that dismissal under Mont. R. Civ. P. 60(b), holding the district court did not abuse its discretion when it dismissed ECI’s complaint for failure to prosecute. In deciding whether the district court abused its discretion in dismissing the underlying action for failure to prosecute, the Supreme Court considered the four factors set forth in Becky v. Norwest Bank Dillon, N.A., 798 P.2d 1011, 1015 (Mont. 1990). Noting that ECI’s case was unusual because ECI initially invested considerable time and effort and received a favorable ruling before it allowed this case to languish, the Supreme Court held that the district court did not commit a clear error in weighing the Becky factors and dismissing ECI’s claims. Further, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying ECI’s motion for relief under Rule 60(b). View "ECI Credit, LLC v. Diamond S Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s deemed denial of Scottsdale Insurance Company’s motion to set aside the default judgment entered against it, holding that Scottsdale satisfied its burden of establishing that doubt existed concerning whether service was properly effectuated. National Parks Reservations (NPR) filed a complaint and demand for jury trial, naming Scottsdale. Because Scottsdale was a foreign insurer, NPR was statutorily required to serve Scottsdale through the Office of the Montana State Auditor, Commissioner of Securities and Insurance (the Commissioner). The Commissioner, in turn, was statutorily required to forward the complaint and summons to Scottsdale. After Scottsdale failed to appear the district court entered a partial default judgment against Scottsdale. Scottsdale moved to set aside the default judgment, arguing that both NPR and the Commissioner had failed strictly to comply with foreign insurer service requirements under Mont. Code Ann. 33-1-603(1), and, thus, the default judgment was void. Scottsdale’s motion was deemed denied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Scottsdale established that doubt existed regarding whether service was properly completed by the Commissioner. View "Reservation Operations Center LLC v. Scottsdale Insurance Co." on Justia Law