Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court

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In August 2016, the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Revenue issued an order assessing personal liability against David Knapp, a North Dakota resident, for $65,843.80 in unpaid Minnesota sales and use taxes relating to his interest in a business in Bemidji, Minnesota. In December 2016, the Commissioner issued a third-party levy on securities held by broker Edward Jones for Knapp by sending a notice to Edward Jones at its Missouri office. The third-party levy said Edward Jones had to sell Knapp's securities under Minn. Stat. Ann. 270C.7101(7) and send the Minnesota Department of Revenue payment up to the amount due. The levy instructed Edward Jones not to send money that was exempt or protected from the levy and cautioned that state law allowed the Commissioner to assess debt to businesses, officers, or other individuals responsible for honoring the levy, including assessing the total amount due plus a twenty-five percent penalty. Knapp petitioned the district court to dissolve the levy and for a writ of prohibition against the Commissioner and Edward Jones to prohibit them from taking any further action to levy on his account. Knapp alleged that the Commissioner had no jurisdiction in North Dakota to levy on his North Dakota property and that his property was exempt from the levy. The district court issued a preliminary writ of prohibition to stay the levy pending the filing of an answer showing cause under N.D.C.C. 32-34-05, but later concluded Knapp failed to establish he was entitled to relief. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Knapp's petition for a writ of prohibition, and affirmed the judgment and the order. View "Knapp v. Commissioner of Minnesota Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Shane Dockter appealed the denial of his N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion to vacate a default judgment, arguing the judgment was either void or should have been vacated for excusable neglect. Brandon and Shane Dockter were brothers. In 2007, the brothers formed a partnership to facilitate a joint farming operation. In conjunction with the formation of the partnership, the brothers also created a trust, the Dockter Brothers Irrevocable Trust, to hold farmland. The brothers were co-trustees of the trust. Shane had mental health and chemical dependency problems. By 2012, Shane's mental health and chemical dependency had escalated and caused him to be absent from the farm. In 2015, Shane was detained by law enforcement after he was found walking down a public road carrying a Bible while wearing a church robe and claiming to be Jesus. The incident resulted in Shane's admission to the North Dakota State Hospital for about a month. Around the same time, Shane developed an addiction to opioids and methamphetamine. He was readmitted to the State Hospital in late 2016 after threatening his mother. In February 2017, Shane was arrested for various offenses and was readmitted to the State Hospital. Brandon commenced a lawsuit against Shane seeking "dissolution" of the partnership and "dissolution" of the trust. Brandon alleged that "Shane's mental health and chemical dependency problems" made him unable to participate in partnership activities and made it impossible to achieve the purpose of the trust. Shane was served while in custody at the sheriff's office. Shane did not answer the complaint, and he was readmitted to the State Hospital for another month. While Shane was at the Hospital, Brandon moved for default judgment. Shane was served with the motion for default judgment at the State Hospital, but did not respond. The district court ultimately granted the default judgment "expell[ing]" Shane from the partnership and removing him as co-trustee of the trust. On appeal, Shane argued: (1) the default judgment was void and should have been vacated under N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(4); and (2) the court abused its discretion by denying relief as provided in N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(1), which allowed relief from a final judgment for mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect. Applying the limited standard for reviewing denial of motions to vacate default judgments, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion and affirmed the orders denying the motion. View "Dockter v. Dockter" on Justia Law

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William Beaulieu appealed a district court judgment reversing an administrative law judge's ("ALJ") order awarding benefits and affirming prior Workforce Safety & Insurance ("WSI") orders. The ALJ's order finding Beaulieu had a fifty percent permanent partial impairment rating was not in accordance with the law and not supported by the evidence. Therefore, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the ALJ erred in awarding permanent partial impairment and permanent total disability benefits. View "WSI v. Beaulieu" on Justia Law

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William Nelson appealed a judgment ordering the sale of real property, removing him from the property, ordering him to pay past rent, and awarding Steven Nelson and Gail Nelson-Hom attorney fees for defending against his frivolous pleadings. The North Dakota Supreme Court found the district court erred in granting partial summary judgment on William Nelson's claims of undue influence and lack of mental capacity involving the execution of the quitclaim deed to the property and reversed and remanded for trial on those issues. The Supreme Court reversed the award of costs and attorney fees and remanded for reconsideration. View "Nelson v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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Jacob Greer, doing business as Greer Farm, appealed from a judgment dismissing his claims against Global Industries, Inc. and Nebraska Engineering Co. ("NECO"), an unincorporated division of Global Industries (collectively "Global"). Greer argued the district court erred in granting summary judgment dismissal of his claims against Global because there were genuine issues of material fact about whether Advanced Ag Construction Incorporation, also a party to this action, was Global's agent when Advanced Ag sold a grain dryer to Greer. The North Dakota Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, concluding certification under N.D.R.Civ.P. 54(b) was improvidently granted. View "Greer v. Global Industries" on Justia Law

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Raymond and Linus Poitra appealed a judgment quieting title in two parcels of land on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in Darrel Gustafson, and ordering the Poitras to pay Gustafson $67,567.98 in damages and $6,620 in attorney's fees. In 2015, Gustafson sued the Poitras and all others claiming an interest in two parcels of land, alleging Gustafson was a non-Indian fee owner of the two parcels located in Rolette County, North Dakota within the exterior boundaries of the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation by virtue of a 2007 foreclosure judgment and a 2008 sheriff's deed. The Poitras argued the district court erred in deciding the Turtle Mountain Tribal Court did not have jurisdiction over Gustafson's action. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the inherent sovereign powers of an Indian tribe generally do not extend to activities of nonmembers on non-Indian fee land, but a tribe may regulate through taxation, licensing, or other means, the activities of nonmembers who enter consensual relationships with the tribe or its members, through commercial dealings, contracts, leases or other arrangements, and a tribe may also exercise civil authority over the conduct of non-Indians on fee lands within the reservation when the conduct threatens or has some direct effect on the political integrity, the economic security, or the health or welfare of the tribe. The Court concluded the tribal court indeed did not have jurisdiction over Gustafson's action to quiet title and affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Gustafson v. Poitra" on Justia Law

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Bradley and Karol Johnson appealed a judgment granting the law firm Barna, Guzy, & Steffen, Ltd. ("BGS") foreclosure of a real estate mortgage for payment of a $258,769.97 debt, and an order denying their N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion for relief from judgment. In 2013 the Johnsons retained BGS to represent them in a lawsuit in connection with the probate of the estate of Bradley Johnson's father in Minnesota. The Johnsons resided in, and BGS was located in, the Minneapolis, Minnesota area. BGS extended credit to the Johnsons for costs, fees, and expenses that would be incurred in representing them in the lawsuit through a revolving line of credit agreement and a revolving promissory note. To secure payment, the Johnsons executed a mortgage on land they owned in North Dakota. The mortgage required the Johnsons to pay all of the principal and interest on the indebtedness when due to BGS. The Johnsons failed to make the payments to BGS as required under the loan agreements. In 2015 BGS brought this action against the Johnsons and others in North Dakota to foreclose the mortgage. The Johnsons counterclaimed, alleging its attorneys committed legal malpractice and other torts during the Minnesota legal proceedings. The district court ultimately dismissed the Johnsons' counterclaim without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under N.D.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3). The court granted summary judgment for foreclosure on the North Dakota property in favor of BGS, concluding the Johnsons were indebted to BGS in the amount of $258,769.97 under the loan agreements with interest continuing to accrue. Because the Johnsons did not establish the district court erred in any of its rulings, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the judgment, and the order denying the motion for relief from judgment. View "Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd. v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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David Ramirez appeals from an order dismissing his retaliatory discharge action against Walmart without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Ramirez was employed by Walmart in Jamestown, North Dakota. On April 18, 2017 Walmart terminated Ramirez's employment. On October 13, 2017 Ramirez sued Walmart under N.D.C.C 34-01-20, which prohibited retaliatory discharges by employers. Ramirez claimed he was discharged from employment in retaliation for complaining to supervisors about other employees' "unfair" terminations. Walmart moved to dismiss the action for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under N.D.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), arguing Ramirez failed to plead any facts establishing that his complaints about "serial dismissals" constituted protected activity as defined in the statute. The district court granted the motion on December 1, 2017, and dismissed the action without prejudice. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Ramirez v. Walmart" on Justia Law

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Steven and Linda Bickler commenced an action against Happy House Movers. The Bicklers had contracted with Happy House Movers to raise their house eight feet to protect the house against rising waters at Rice Lake. While Happy House Movers had the house resting on supports above its original position, the house fell, causing significant structural damage. In August 2016, the Bicklers moved for a default judgment. In September 2016, Michael Knoke, an employee of Happy House Movers, moved for an extension of time to file an answer. Knoke argued Happy House Movers made an appearance, indicating it could not find an attorney and requested a hearing. The motion also notified the Bicklers that Happy House Movers was contesting the motion for default judgment. Knoke filed an answer to the complaint he prepared himself. The district court ordered Knoke's answer be stricken from the record sua sponte, because Happy House Movers is a separate entity requiring it to be represented in court by a person licensed in law. The court extended Happy House Movers' deadline to properly file an answer and indicated it would review the motion for default judgment shortly thereafter. On December 15, 2016, the court entered an order for default judgment, concluding Happy House Movers failed to properly respond to the summons and complaint. Based on its review of the record and pleadings, the court awarded the Bicklers $251,711.68, and entered a judgment indicating the same. Happy House appealed the district court order denying their motion to vacate the default judgment and granting Bickler's motion to strike the supporting affidavits. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court's order. View "Bickler v. Happy House Movers, L.L.P." on Justia Law

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Francis Franson appealed after the district court granted Hess Corporation’s (“Hess”) motion for summary judgment and Agri Industries, Inc.’s (“Agri”) motion for prejudgment interest. Hess cross-appealed parts of the district court’s judgment rejecting Hess’ alternative arguments for dismissal. In 2008, Hess hired Geokinetics USA, Inc. to complete seismographic testing on Franson’s property. Shortly after, Franson noticed a loss of pressure from his water well between December 2008 and January 2009. Franson hired Agri to drill a new well in January 2009. In March 2013, Agri sued Franson for not paying for its well-drilling services. The district court determined Hess was not entitled to dismissal under the statute of limitations and Franson’s third-party complaint was adequate under N.D.R.Civ.P. 8 and 14. However, the district court granted Hess’ motion for summary judgment, concluding Hess could not be held liable for the negligence of its independent contractor and Franson did not comply with N.D.C.C. 38-11.1-06, which required a certified water test to recover against a mineral developer for damage to a water supply. The district court held a jury trial on the remaining issues between Agri and Franson, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of Agri in the amount of $77,924.85, the exact amount invoiced to Franson for the services. The jury verdict did not mention interest. Agri moved for an award of prejudgment interest. The district court determined Agri was entitled to prejudgment interest because the damages were certain or capable of being made certain by calculation. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the portion of the district court’s judgment granting summary judgment to Hess. The Court reversed the portion of the district court’s judgment granting Agri’s motion for prejudgment interest. "A district court errs by granting a motion for prejudgment interest when the unobjected-to jury instruction on awarding interest became the law of the case." View "Agri Industries v. Franson" on Justia Law