Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court

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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

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Daniel Peltier appealed an order denying his motion for relief from a child support judgment. Peltier argued the district court erred in denying his motion because the Turtle Mountain Tribal Court had exclusive subject matter jurisdiction to decide his child support obligation. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the state district court had concurrent jurisdiction to decide Peltier's child support obligation, and the district court did not err in denying his motion for relief from the judgment. View "North Dakota v. Peltier" on Justia Law

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Greggory Tank appealed an amended judgment quieting title to royalty interests in property located in McKenzie County, North Dakota in favor of several of the defendants. In June 2014, Tank sued numerous defendants seeking to quiet title to royalty interests in proceeds from the production from an oil and gas well. Most of the defendants did not appear or settled with Tank. The remaining defendants who were the appellees in this appeal contested the quiet title action. The royalty interests at issue were subject to several possible conveyances. Tank claims ownership of a 16 percent royalty interest based on an unbroken chain of title utilizing filed county records dating back to the federal fee patent. Included within that chain of title was a 1931 purchase of the property by McKenzie County under a tax foreclosure sale. The County subsequently sold and transferred the property in 1945. The defendants claimed various percentages of royalty interests under a recorded 1938 assignment of an 11 percent royalty to oil and gas produced on the property. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed the district court's amended judgment quieting title to the royalty interests in favor of the defendants and directed the entry of judgment quieting title in favor of Tank. A county's tax deed gives it title or color of title to the whole estate in the land including the royalty interests. A tax deed, valid upon its face, creates a presumptive title to the entire estate in the land which continues until it has been overcome by the affirmative action in court, by suit or counterclaim on the part of a person who has a sufficient interest to challenge the title. Royalty interests cannot be "possessed" for purposes of the statute of limitations or adverse possession. The Court remanded this case to the district court for determination of whether Tank was barred from the recovery of royalty payments previously made to the defendants and, if not barred, the amount of the recovery. View "Siana Oil & Gas Co., LLC v. Dublin Co." on Justia Law

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S&B Dickinson Apartments I, LLC, and Dickinson Properties, LLC, appealed a judgment affirming the Stark County North Dakota Board of Commissioners' denial of their requests for an abatement of property taxes for the year 2016. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not have jurisdiction and the appeals should have been dismissed because the statutory requirements for perfecting an appeal were not followed. The Court therefore reversed and remanded for entry of judgment dismissing the appeals. View "S&B Dickinson Apartments I, LLC v. Stark County Board of Commissioners" on Justia Law

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J.G., the mother of minor child J.J.T, appealed a judgment terminating her parental rights to the child. J.G. argued the juvenile court erred: (1) in finding J.J.T. was deprived; (2) in denying her court-appointed counsel's motion for a continuance to prepare for trial; (3) in granting her court-appointed counsel's motion to withdraw as counsel of record and appointing that counsel as standby counsel; and (4) in denying her statutory right to counsel. Because the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion in denying a continuance and in allowing withdrawal of counsel, J.G.'s actions were the functional equivalent of a voluntary, knowing, and intelligent waiver of her right to counsel, and the statutory requirements for termination of J.G.'s parental rights were satisfied. Therefore, the Court affirmed the judgment. View "Interest of J.J.T." on Justia Law

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Jeff Moen appealed a judgment awarding Jason Haider damages for wrongful injury to timber. Moen argued the district court abused its discretion in excluding a jury instruction on treble damages and erred in admitting an expert's testimony. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court's admission of expert testimony, reversed the district court's exclusion of a jury instruction on treble damages, and remanded this case for a new trial. View "Haider v. Moen" on Justia Law

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Natasha Reiger appealed a district court judgment granting primary residential responsibility of J.Z. to Matthew Zuraff. Social services first became involved with the family because of a positive methamphetamine screening when J.Z. was born. Both Zuraff and Reiger had a history of methamphetamine use, although Reiger testified to being sober for approximately ten months and Zuraff testified he was sober for over three years. Both parents had criminal histories related to drug use, and Zuraff was incarcerated for approximately seven months after J.Z. was born. The North Dakota social worker assigned to J.Z. declined to recommend who should be awarded primary residential responsibility, but noted Zuraff was previously the more appropriate and stable option. After review of the district court record, the North Dakota Supreme Court determined the district court did not abuse its discretion granting primary residential responsibility to Zuraff. View "Zuraff v. Reiger" on Justia Law

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The North Dakota Department of Transportation ("the DOT") took Rosie Glow, LLC's property through an eminent domain quick-take action. The DOT deposited $2,296,000.00 for the land and $940,860.00 for severance damages. Rosie Glow and the DOT disputed the value of the property taken. Rosie Glow's appraiser estimated the total compensation owed to Rosie Glow was $4,899,000.00, consisting of $3,788,400.00 for the land and $1,110,600.00 for severance damages. The jury awarded Rosie Glow $2,296,000.00 for property taken and $1,240,860.00 in severance damages, totaling $300,000.00 more than the DOT deposited. Rosie Glow appealed the district court's award of $32,400.00 in attorney fees and expert fees and litigation costs of $11,236.41. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. The Supreme Court determined the district court did not abuse its discretion in reducing the costs awarded for an appraisal because it adequately explained its reasoning. However, the Court found the district court abused its discretion in declining to award any costs for the appraiser's review of the DOT's appraisal because it did not explain its decision. The district court also misapplied the law by not awarding costs for the DOT's deposition of the appraiser. View "N.D. Dep't of Transportation v. Rosie Glow, LLC" on Justia Law