Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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Ronald Smithberg petitioned the North Dakota Supreme Court for a supervisory writ following the district court’s denial of his demand for a jury trial. Ronald, Gary, and James Smithberg were brothers who were shareholders in Smithberg Brothers, Inc. In July 2016, Ronald filed a “complaint and jury demand,” suing Gary, James and Smithberg Brothers, Inc., seeking damages and to have the corporation and his brothers purchase his shares. After a jury trial was scheduled for October 1, 2018, the parties stipulated to “waive their right to a jury trial and to schedule a court trial.” The stipulation also stated “the Court should schedule a three-day Court trial for February 2018, or as soon as possible thereafter.” In January 2018, the district court granted summary judgment dismissing all of Ronald’s claims for damages. After a bench trial was held on several remaining claims, the court determined the value of Ronald’s interest in the corporation, ordered the corporation to pay Ronald for his interest, and entered judgment. Ronald appealed, and the Supreme Court reversed judgment and remanded for a trial, holding the district court erred by granting summary judgment dismissing Ronald’s claims for damages On remand, Ronald requested a jury trial and defendants opposed his request. The district court ordered a bench trial, noting the stipulation to waive the jury trial did not state that it was contingent on any circumstance. Ronald argued the Supreme Court should exercise its supervisory jurisdiction to rectify the district court’s error of denying his request for a jury trial and to prevent an injustice. The Supreme Court concluded that when a case is reversed and remanded for a trial without limitation, a party who stipulated to waive the right to a jury trial before the original trial may demand a jury trial on remand, unless the parties intended their stipulation to apply to any future trials or the right is otherwise limited by law. Ronald had a right to a jury trial on remand. The district court erred by deciding it had discretion in determining whether to order a jury trial on remand and by denying Ronald’s request. The Court granted Ronald’s petition for a supervisory writ and instructed the district court to schedule a jury trial. Ronald also asked the Supreme Court to remand this case to a different judge, but did not explain why a different judge should have been assigned. “To the extent he is asserting judicial impropriety based on the judge’s misapplication of the law, we have stated that ‘[a]n erroneous opinion as to the merits of the case or the law relating to the proceedings is not evidence of bias.’” View "Smithberg v. Jacobson, et al." on Justia Law

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Janice and Robert Rieger appealed, and Lyle Ackerman and Kathleen Rub cross-appealed, a district court order directing the sale of real property owned by the Riegers, Ackerman, and Rub. Janice Rieger, Ackerman, and Rub owned a 473-acre parcel of agricultural property in Grant County, North Dakota. In May 2017, Janice Rieger sued Ackerman and Rub for partition of the property. Rieger proposed a partition of the property into thirds. Under the proposal, Rieger would receive the southern third of the property and Ackerman and Rub would split the remaining two-thirds of the property. Ackerman and Rub opposed Rieger’s proposal and requested a sale of the property. After a February 2019 trial, the district court ordered that the Riegers could have their proposed third of the property if the remainder could be “sold for 2/3 of the $917,000 amount indicated in a 2016 appraisal, or such other amount as may be agreed upon by the parties” within six months. If two-thirds of the property could not be sold for a satisfactory amount within six months, the court ordered the entire property be sold. The Riegers argued on appeal the district court erred in ordering a sale of the whole property if two-thirds of the property could not be sold within six months. The Riegers argued the court should have ordered a partition of the property. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the district court did not err with respect to its order regarding the property; however, the Court determined the Riegers’ motion for attorney’s fees was premature because they brought it within the six-month period to sell two-thirds of the property. The Court found that the district court did not deny the Riegers’ motion under N.D.C.C. 32-16-45. The Supreme Court remanded for the district court to decide the Riegers’ motion under N.D.C.C. 32-16-45. View "Rieger v. Ackerman, et al." on Justia Law

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Cheryl Reese appealed an amended judgment entered after the district court granted summary judgment deciding ownership of certain mineral interests and the right to receive the mineral royalties and bonus payments. In 2005, Dennis Reese and Tia Reese-Young, who both owned an interest in the minerals at the time, entered into an oil and gas lease for the property. After several conveyances, Dennis and Cheryl Reese owned a 12.5% interest in the minerals as joint tenants, and Reese-Young owned a 12.5% interest in the minerals as a tenant in common with Dennis and Cheryl. In July 2008, Dennis and Cheryl conveyed their 12.5% interest to Reese-Young by quit claim deed and reserved a life estate interest in the minerals. Dennis died in September 2008. In 2017, Cheryl sued Tia Reese-Young to quiet title and for declaratory judgment determining that Cheryl was the sole remaining life tenant in the property and that she was entitled to all of the proceeds to be derived from the minerals during her lifetime. Reese-Young argued the deed creating the life estate in Cheryl Reese did not explicitly reserve to Cheryl Reese an interest in the royalties, the deed was unambiguous, there were no disputed issues of material fact, and Tia Reese-Young is entitled to all of the income derived from the oil and gas production as a matter of law. Cheryl argued the unambiguous language of the deed established she reserved a life estate in the minerals and she was entitled to receive the royalty payments under the open mines doctrine because an oil and gas lease had been executed and oil and gas were being produced before the life estate was created. When the district court ruled in favor of Reese-Young, Cheryl appealed. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded as a matter of law, Cheryl was entitled to the proceeds from the oil and gas production, including the royalties and bonus payments, and she was not required to hold the proceeds in trust for Reese-Young. Judgment was reversed. View "Reese v. Reese-Young" on Justia Law

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Zachary Beck appealed the denial of his request for relief from a judgment awarding damages to Hustle Proof Corporation and Chinedu Ilogu (Hustle Proof). Hustle Proof sued Beck and his manager, Ryan Matthews, alleging a breach of the parties’ contract for a joint concert tour. Beck and Matthews were personally served with the summons and complaint. According to Beck, he was told by Matthews that Matthews would handle the lawsuit. Matthews apparently initiated email contact with Hustle Proof’s attorney regarding the lawsuit, but neither Beck nor Matthews answered the complaint. Hustle Proof moved for the entry of a default judgment. Notice of the default proceedings was sent by registered mail to Beck and Matthews at the address of Matthews’ limited liability company in Florida. Neither Matthews nor Beck appeared at the hearing on the motion for default judgment. Hustle Proof sought the entry of a judgment in the amount of $252,740 consisting primarily of the profit Hustle Proof claimed it would have made had Matthews and Beck not breached the parties’ contract. The district court refused to enter a default judgment for a sum greater than the $3,000 guaranteed payment included in the parties’ contract and offered Hustle Proof the option of the entry of a default judgment in the amount of $3,000 or proceeding to trial. Hustle Proof elected to proceed to trial. A jury trial was held on January 30, 2018. Neither Matthews nor Beck appeared at the jury trial. Hustle Proof presented its evidence to the jury and the jury returned a verdict in favor of Hustle Proof in the amount of $192,500 plus interest. A judgment, including costs and interest, was entered in the amount of $227,790. Beck argued to the North Dakota Supreme Court that the district court abused its discretion in denying his request for relief from the judgment pursuant to N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(6) because he was not properly served with notice of the default judgment proceedings and the facts and circumstances of this case compelled relief from the judgment. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hustle Proof, et al. v. Matthews, et al." on Justia Law

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Glenvin Albrecht (“Glen”) appealed judgment entered in favor of the Estate of Sharleen Albrecht (“Estate”) regarding certain assets in which he had an ownership interest. In February 2010, Glen sued Sharleen for divorce after nearly 50 years of marriage. Sharleen died on July 29, 2013, before a final divorce judgment was entered. The district court entered a final divorce judgment after her death, and the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed, holding Sharleen's death abated the divorce action. Sharleen had a will, and Sharleen and Glen's son, Mark Albrecht, was appointed personal representative of the Estate. In February 2017, the Estate petitioned for the return, partition, and sale of estate assets. The Estate alleged Sharleen owned a one-half interest in various farm machinery, equipment, and vehicles, which were in Glen's control. The Estate alleged a partition and sale of the assets was necessary to satisfy estate expenses. Glen objected to the petition, arguing Sharleen did not have an ownership interest in the assets. A trial was conducted in 2018, the result of which ended with judgment in favor of the estate. Glen argued on appeal that the district court erred by finding Sharleen had an interest in the assets at issue, and the court abused its discretion by allowing personal representative’s and attorney’s fees. Finding no reversible error or abuse of discretion, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Estate of Albrecht" on Justia Law

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Mark Krebsbach appeals a district court judgment dismissing his lawsuit against Trinity Hospital relating to medical services provided to his wife. Krystal Krebsbach died in June 2016. In September 2013 she was diagnosed with hepatitis C while a patient at the ManorCare nursing home in Minot. Krystal’s diagnosis occurred during a hepatitis C outbreak in the Minot area. In September 2016 Krebsbach moved to intervene in a lawsuit with other plaintiffs against Trinity related to the hepatitis C outbreak. The district court granted Krebsbach’s motion in December 2016. Krebsbach’s complaint against Trinity alleged negligence, fraud, deceit and unlawful sales and advertising practices. Krebsbach claimed negligence and misconduct by Trinity’s staff and management caused Krystal Krebsbach’s hepatitis C. Krebsbach alleged Trinity engaged in actual fraud or deceit by misrepresenting the competency of its care providers and withholding information about its employees’ theft or misuse of drugs (known as drug diversion) and needle reuse. Krebsbach asserted Krystal Krebsbach relied on Trinity’s misrepresentations and allowed Trinity to provide her with phlebotomy services, which caused her to contract hepatitis C. The court dismissed Krebsbach’s action after a special master appointed by the court concluded the two-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice applied to Krebsbach’s action. The special master also concluded the action was barred because Krebsbach had notice of Trinity’s possible negligence more than two years before bringing his lawsuit. Krebsbach claimed the six-year statute of limitations under N.D.C.C. 28-01-16 applies to his negligence claims against Trinity. Before the North Dakota Supreme Court, Krebsbach argued the special master and district court erred in concluding he was on notice of Trinity’s possible negligence more than two years before commencing his action against Trinity. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed dismissal. View "Krebsbach, et al. v. Trinity Hospitals, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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In consolidated appeals, garnishees N.Starr, LLC; Lee Finstad; and Jeff Trosen appealed from a Grand Forks County, North Dakota district court order dismissing their counterclaims in a garnishment proceeding, and Johnston Law Office, P.C. appealed from a Cass County district court order dismissing its action. Both orders dismissed their respective claims in each case against PHI Financial Services, Inc. (“PHI”) and Jon Brakke and the Vogel Law Firm, Ltd. (collectively, “Vogel Law”). Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed dismissal as to all claims. View "PHI Financial Services v. Johnston Law Office, et al." on Justia Law

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Gene Hondl appealed from an order that granted the State’s motion to dismiss his “motion for writ of replevin” and dismissed his case with prejudice. On January 23, 2019, Hondl filed a “motion for writ of replevin” to the district court, in addition to filing a notice of motion, motion for evidentiary hearing, motion for appointment of counsel, and a certificate of service. Hondl named the North Dakota and Stark County as defendants (collectively, “the State”), seeking the return of certain personal property seized when he was arrested on drug charges and forfeited in separate civil forfeiture proceedings. Hondl’s certificate of service indicates the documents were served by U.S. Mail on December 28, 2018. On February 19, 2019, a district court entered its order dismissing the matter with prejudice. The North Dakota Supreme Court found the district court dismissed the case with prejudice without providing any explanation. The Supreme Court therefore vacated the order and remanded for the court to decide the State’s motion to dismiss for insufficiency of service of process and lack of personal jurisdiction. View "Hondl v. State, et al." on Justia Law

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Nicholas Reineke appeals a district court judgment affirming the administrative hearing officer’s decision to suspend his driver’s license for 365 days. Reineke was arrested for driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor. On May 5, 2019, a temporary operator’s permit was issued to Reineke. On May 15, Reineke requested an administrative hearing. The envelope containing Reineke’s request was returned undeliverable due to an incorrect mailing address for the Department of Transportation. Reineke argued he renewed the request for hearing when he resent the request to the correct mailing address on May 23, 2019. On May 31, an administrative proceeding occurred without providing Reineke notice and without him present. The hearing officer concluded the Department did not have jurisdiction to grant Reineke an administrative hearing because he did not request a hearing in time as required by statute. The hearing officer suspended his license for 365 days. The district court affirmed. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded Reineke’s untimely request for a hearing did not invoke the Department’s jurisdiction for a hearing. Therefore, the Department and the hearing officer did not have authority to hold the hearing. The only authority the Department had was to administratively revoke Reineke’s license as outlined in N.D.C.C. 39-20-05(1), after expiration of the temporary operator’s permit. Because the hearing officer did not follow the statute, the order was not in accordance with the law. The Supreme Court reversed the district court judgment, and vacated the hearing officer’s order. The Court rejected Reineke’s request to reverse the hearing officer’s decision and reinstate his driving privileges, and remanded for the Department to administer suspension of Reineke’s driving privileges according to law. View "Reineke v. N.D. Dept. of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Workforce Safety and Insurance (WSI) appealed a district court judgment reversing an Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ) confirmation of a prior order of WSI. In 2014, Ellis began receiving partial disability benefits. In 2016, Ellis underwent a functional capacity assessment and further review by WSI. WSI determined Ellis continued to be eligible to receive partial disability benefits, but at a reduced amount. WSI ordered his partial disability benefits be reduced by the greater of his actual wages or his retained earning capacity as had been determined by WSI. Ellis appealed the WSI order, triggering review by the ALJ. WSI contended the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Ellis’ appeal of the ALJ’s decision because his appeal to the district court was untimely. The North Dakota Supreme Court found the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Ellis failed to timely file his appeal of the ALJ's decision. The Court therefore ordered the district court judgment vacated, and reinstated the decision of the ALJ. View "Ellis v. WSI" on Justia Law