Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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Huey Brock appealed judgments dismissing his negligence action against Richard Price and KS Industries, LLC (“LLC”) and awarding Price and LLC costs and disbursements in the amount of $181,467. Price and LLC cross-appealed the judgment awarding costs and disbursements. In 2011, Brock was severely injured in a traffic accident while traveling in a company-owned vehicle with Price and another LLC employee, resulting in Brock becoming quadriplegic. Days later WSI accepted his claim for benefits. In June 2012, Brock, WSI, and LLC entered into a stipulation that Brock would continue to receive WSI benefits while seeking workers’ compensation benefits in California from KS Industries, LP (“LP”). The stipulation further provided that WSI would cease paying benefits if his claim against LP’s insurance carrier were accepted and his attorney would act in trust for WSI in pursuing reimbursement of funds paid in connection with Brock’s claim. Brock then filed an application for California workers’ compensation benefits claiming he was employed by LP at the time of the accident. Based on a California administrative decision, LP’s workers’ compensation carrier commenced paying benefits to Brock and reimbursed WSI all funds expended on Brock. In 2014, WSI issued a notice of decision reversing its prior decision accepting Brock’s claim. In February 2015, Brock brought this negligence action against Price and LLC. Brock moved for summary judgment arguing collateral estoppel based on the California administrative proceedings precluded Price and LLC from arguing LLC was Brock’s employer rather than LP, and therefore his action was not barred by the exclusive remedy provisions of North Dakota law. In November 2018, Price and LLC filed a motion for summary judgment arguing collateral estoppel did not apply and the exclusive remedy provisions applied to bar Brock’s action against LLC and his co-worker, Price. The district court agreed and dismissed the action. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of the negligence action because it was indeed barred by the Workforce Safety and Insurance Act’s exclusive remedy provisions. The Court reversed the award of costs and disbursements and remanded for the court to hold a hearing on Brock’s objections required by N.D.R.Civ.P. 54(e)(2). View "Brock v. Price, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court’s judgment and amended judgment dismissing their complaint. In May 2016, Lyle Lima was driving his truck on a highway when he collided with a horse-drawn hay trailer. The collision killed one of the five passengers on the horse-drawn trailer and injured the others. In April 2015, a doctor at Dakota Eye Institute determined Lima to be legally blind, prepared a certificate of blindness, and instructed Lima and his spouse that he was not to drive. In April 2016, about six weeks before the collision, a second Dakota Eye Institute doctor, Briana Bohn, examined Lima. Dr. Bohn measured Lima’s vision as being “improved” and “told Lyle Lima he could drive, with some restrictions.” Plaintiffs claimed Dr. Bohn was liable for medical malpractice because Lima’s eyesight, although improved, was still below the minimum vision standards required to operate a vehicle in North Dakota under N.D. Admin. Code ch. 37-08-01. The injured parties and their representatives made a claim against Lima, which he could not fully satisfy. In partial settlement of the claim, Lima assigned his medical malpractice claim against Dakota Eye Institute and any recovery he might receive to the other plaintiffs. The injured parties and Lima then filed this suit individually and as assignees of Lima against Dr. Bohn, Dakota Eye Institute P.C., and Dakota Eye Institute LLC. The defendants filed two motions to dismiss: one arguing Lima’s claims were not assignable and should be dismissed under N.D.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), and one arguing the affidavit failed to meet the requirements of N.D.C.C. § 28-01-46. At the hearing on the motions, the parties also argued whether North Dakota law extends liability for medical malpractice to a third party who was not a patient. The district court granted the motions to dismiss. Before the North Dakota Supreme Court, the parties disputed whether a physician in North Dakota owed a duty to third parties to warn a patient regarding vision impairments to driving; whether medical malpractice claims were assignable; and whether the medical expert affidavit met the requirements of N.D.C.C. 28-01-46. The Supreme Court concluded physicians did not owe a duty to third parties under these circumstances, Lima’s malpractice claim was assignable, and the expert affidavit was sufficient to avoid dismissal. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Cichos, et al. v. Dakota Eye Institute, P.C., et al." on Justia Law

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On August 14, 2017, Susan Franciere and her dog were attacked by another dog in Mandan. Two days later, she went to the Mandan Police Department, asserted her rights under Article I, section 25 of the North Dakota Constitution, and requested a copy of the police report on the incident under the open records law. On August 17, 2017, she called the police department and was informed the dog was undergoing a 10-day rabies quarantine. On August 18, 2017, Franciere sent a letter to the chief of police requesting the police report. On August 22, 2017, she received a phone call from a police lieutenant who told her she would not receive the report because the case was still active and no information would be released until the case was closed. In September 2017, she contacted the city attorney about the incident. In October, she filed suit in another attempt to get the records. On November 1, 2017, Franciere received a redacted version of the report. On January 13, 2018, she received an unredacted report. She appealed when her case was dismissed as moot, because Franciere eventually received the records she requested. The district court specifically declined to rule on the City’s motion to dismiss the proceedings for insufficient service of process and lack of personal jurisdiction. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined that because a determination of subject matter and personal jurisdiction had to precede any dismissal with prejudice, the court was required to resolve the motion to dismiss for insufficiency of service and lack of personal jurisdiction before dismissing the claims with prejudice on the grounds that they were moot. The judgment was vacated and the matter remanded for a ruling on the City's motion to dismiss. View "Franciere v. City of Mandan" on Justia Law

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The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) appealed a district court judgment reversing an administrative hearing officer's decision to revoke Ewer Alvarado's driving privileges for 180 days. NDDOT argued the district court erred in finding that a partial reading of the implied consent advisory rendered Alvarado's refusal to submit to a chemical test invalid. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded North Dakota law required an operator to refuse a request "to submit to a test under section 39-20-01." A request for testing preceded by an incomplete or inaccurate advisory was not a request "to submit to a test under section 39-20-01." Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court and reinstated Alvarado's driving privileges. View "Alvarado v. N.D. Dept. of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Jon Tonneson and Mary Issendorf, in her personal capacity and as personal representative of the estate of Vesper Shirley, (“defendants”) appealed a judgment quieting title to certain property in Teresa Larson, Janet Schelling, and Lynette Helgeson (“plaintiffs”). Plaintiffs and defendants were successors in interest to certain property at Lake Metigoshe in Bottineau County, North Dakota. The parties acquired their respective properties through their families beginning in the 1950s. In 2012, plaintiffs became aware of property boundary issues after a survey was conducted when plaintiffs were attempting to replace a mobile home on the property. At that time, plaintiffs also discovered a platted roadway ran through their property, though no such roadway existed on the property. Plaintiffs thereafter took steps to vacate the road. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not clearly err in finding Larson, Schelling, and Helgeson acquired the disputed property by adverse possession. Therefore, the Court affirmed the judgment, but remanded the case for entry of a corrected judgment. View "Larson, et al. v. Tonneson, et al." on Justia Law

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Plains Trucking’s petitions sought supervisory writs from the North Dakota Supreme Court in two civil actions that arose out of an explosion on March 27, 2013. One worker, Trevor Davis, was killed, and another worker, Darian Songer Bail, was injured in the explosion that occurred while Davis and Songer Bail were cleaning a crude oil tanker trailer owned by MBI Energy Services. Plains Trucking asserted both Davis and Songer Bail were its employees and that the civil actions were barred by N.D.C.C. title 65. Respondent Songer Bail cross-petitioned for a supervisory writ to direct the district court in his case to vacate its order determining as a matter of law that he was Plains Trucking’s employee on the date of his injury. The cases were consolidated for oral argument to the Supreme Court. Exercising its original jurisdiction, the North Dakota Supreme Court granted Plains Trucking’s petitions and denied Songer Bail’s cross-petition. View "Plains Trucking, LLC v. Hagar, et al." on Justia Law

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Steven Nelson, individually and for the benefit of J&S Nelson Farms, LLP, appealed a judgment determining the value of his interest in the Nelson Farms partnership, and an order denying his post-judgment motions. Nelson argued the district court erred by ordering various sanctions and determining the value of the partnership. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err by striking some of Nelson’s claims as a discovery sanction, awarding defendants a portion of the attorney’s fees they incurred in this action, or determining the value of Nelson’s interest in the partnership. However, the Court also concluded the district court abused its discretion by ordering Nelson reimburse the partnership for the attorney’s fees and costs it incurred as a result of a separate action in federal court. View "Nelson, et al. v. Nelson, et al." on Justia Law

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In 2014, Leonard Taylor, then 55 years old, sustained severe work-related injuries when he fell 15 feet while employed as an electrician by Industrial Contractors, Inc. Taylor suffered multiple compression fractures of the thoracic vertebrae, with a fragment impinging the spinal cord resulting in partial paraplegia. Taylor underwent surgery and was diagnosed with a spinal cord injury, incomplete paraplegia at T5-6, neurogenic bowel and bladder, a closed head injury, and neuropathic pain. While at the hospital, Taylor exhibited numerous signs of cognitive dysfunction. Taylor was eventually transferred to a hospital rehabilitation unit where he received physical, occupational, and cognitive therapy. WSI accepted liability for Taylor’s claim and paid him benefits. WSI appealed a judgment affirming an Administrative Law Judge’s (“ALJ”) order finding Taylor had a retained earnings capacity of zero and he had good cause for noncompliance with vocational rehabilitation for failing to perform a good faith work search. Because the ALJ misapplied the law in determining Taylor had zero retained earnings capacity, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed the judgment and remanded to the ALJ for further proceedings. View "WSI v. Taylor, et al." on Justia Law

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SWMO, LLC appealed district court orders granting partial summary judgment to Mon-Dak Plumbing and Heating, Inc. and RK Electric relating to their work performed on a building owned by SWMO. SWMO contracted with Eagle Rigid Spans for the construction of a commercial building in Williston, North Dakota. Eagle was the general contractor and Mon-Dak and RK Electric were subcontractors for the project. Mon-Dak and RK Electric contracted with Eagle to provide HVAC, plumbing, and electrical work on the building. During construction, SWMO noticed defects in the materials and workmanship and believed the building was not properly constructed. The trial court ultimately awarded Mon-Dak $125,600 and RK Electric $114,242 from funds deposited into court by SWMO. SWMO claimed disputed issues of fact precluded summary judgment. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined The district court provided no analysis of the documents in its summary judgment orders. "By not addressing the evidence submitted by SWMO, the district court in effect found Mon-Dak’s and RK Electric’s evidence was more persuasive." In viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to SWMO at the time of the motions, SWMO raised a genuine issue of material fact, and Mon-Dak and RK Electric were not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Although the court later found at trial that Eagle materially misrepresented the true amounts paid to its subcontractors, the court did not make findings on whether Eagle misrepresented the payments made to Mon-Dak and RK Electric. The Court therefore reversed and remanded for further findings relating to amounts Mon-Dak and RK Electric were entitled to recover from funds SWMO deposited into court; the parties' remaining arguments were without merit or not necessary to the Court's decision. The trial court was affirmed in all other respects. View "SWMO, LLC v. Eagle Rigid Spans Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Bad Habit Trucking LLC owned a 1996 Peterbilt truck. Great West Casualty Company insured the truck. Dusty Weinreis, a member of Bad Habit Trucking LLC, took the truck to Butler Machinery Company for service work. The truck was destroyed by fire after the service work was completed but before Weinreis paid for the services. Great West paid Bad Habit Trucking $85,000 for the loss of the truck in accordance with the insurance policy. In November 2017 Butler sued Weinreis in small claims court for the unpaid service work. Weinreis counterclaimed in small claims court for the statutory maximum, $15,000, alleging loss of use of the truck, lost profits, cost to repair and replace the truck, and loss of personal property. Prior to the small claims hearing Butler moved to dismiss the case without prejudice. Weinreis resisted the motion, and a small claims hearing took place in 2018. The court awarded Butler $8,041.57 for the unpaid service work and awarded Weinreis $15,000 for lost profits. Offsetting the recoveries resulted in a net award to Weinreis of $6,958.43. In June 2018 Great West sued Butler in district court for $81,753.32 for the loss of the truck plus interest and costs. Butler moved to dismiss under N.D.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), arguing the case was fully decided in small claims court when Weinreis sued Butler for loss of the truck. The district court granted Butler’s motion to dismiss because the issue stemmed from the same transaction or occurrence, and found Great West should have filed a claim for damages in the small claims action. Great West moved to reconsider on the basis that Weinreis was the defendant in the small claims action, not Great West or Bad Habit Trucking. Great West argued privity did not exist between Weinreis in his personal capacity and Great West as the insurance company for Bad Habit Trucking. The district court denied the motion to reconsider. The North Dakota Supreme Court found the district court erred in dismissing Great West's claim, and reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Great West Casualty Company v. Butler Machinery Company" on Justia Law