Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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Otter Tail Power Company provided electric service to the City of Drayton, North Dakota under a franchise agreement. In August 2019, Drayton annexed to the city property known as McFarland’s Addition. In November 2019, an entity purchased a portion of McFarland’s Addition with the intention of building a truck stop. In April 2020, Drayton passed a resolution requiring Otter Tail to provide electric service to McFarland’s Addition. Nodak Electric Coop provided service to rural customers outside of Drayton, and did not provide services to customers in McFarland’s Addition. Nodak did not have a franchise from Drayton to provide electric service in the city. Nodak filed suit against Otter Tail, requesting the Public Service Commission to prohibit Otter Tail from extending electric service to McFarland’s Addition. Nodak alleged Otter Tail’s service would interfere with Nodak’s existing service and be an unreasonable duplication of services. In response, Otter Tail claimed the PSC lacked jurisdiction over Drayton’s decision on which provider could extend service within the city. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the PSC lacked jurisdiction to rule on Nodak’s complaint, and reversed and vacated the PSC’s order: Otter Tail’s motion to dismiss should have been granted. View "Nodak Electric Coop. v. N.D. Public Svc. Commission, et al." on Justia Law

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LeRoy Wheeler appeals from orders dismissing without prejudice his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights action against prison officials and denying his request for reconsideration. In February 2021, Wheeler commenced this § 1983 action against North Dakota State Penitentiary officials (“State”) by serving a summons and complaint upon the State. Wheeler did not file the summons and complaint with the district court at that time, and has never served a notice of filing the complaint upon the State. In March 2021, Wheeler moved for a “continuance” to extend his time to reply to the State’s “answer,” which was served on Wheeler, but was never filed with the court. In February 2022, eleven months after Wheeler moved for a “continuance” in this case, the district court filed a “notice of intent to dismiss,” stating the court’s intent to dismiss the case without prejudice on its own motion unless a party requested, within three weeks, that the case remain open. None of the parties responded, and the court dismissed the action without prejudice. Wheeler requested reconsideration, alleging that he did not receive notice of intent to dismiss. The court denied the request to reconsider. Because these orders were not appealable, the North Dakota Supreme Court dismissed the appeal. View "Wheeler v. Sayler, et al." on Justia Law

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Jeff Trosen appealed a judgment and amended judgment awarding damages for a breach of contract claim to the Estate of Shirley Trosen and the Trosen Family Trust and dismissing Jeff’s counterclaim and third-party complaint. A dispute arose over Jeff’s lease of farmland from Shirley. The lease covered the farming seasons of 2017 through 2022. Partial payments were made in 2020 and 2021, leaving balances owed for those years. Shirley and the Trust sued Jeff for breach of contract and to cancel the lease. Jeff argued the district court erred in granting summary judgment on the breach of contract claim and by dismissing his counterclaim and third-party complaint. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the judgments. View "Trosen, et al. v. Trosen, et al." on Justia Law

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The federal district court for the District of North Dakota certified five questions regarding N.D.C.C. § 38-08-08(1) and North Dakota Industrial Commission pooling orders. The litigation before the federal court involved allocation of mineral royalties in the case of overlapping oil and gas spacing units. Allen and Arlen Dominek owned oil and gas interests in Williams County, North Dakota. In 2011, the North Dakota Industrial Commission pooled the interests in Section 13 on the Dominek property with the interests in Section 24 in a 1280-acre spacing unit (the “Underlying Spacing Unit”). In 2016, the Commission pooled the interests in Sections 11, 12, 13, and 14 in a 2560-acre spacing unit (the “Overlapping Spacing Unit). The "Weisz" well terminated in the southeast corner of Section 14. The Defendants (together “Equinor”) operated the Weisz well. The Domineks sued Equinor in federal district court to recover revenue proceeds from the Weisz well. The parties agreed production from the Weisz well should have been allocated equally to the four sections comprising the Overlapping Spacing Unit. Their disagreement was whether the 25% attributable to Section 13 should have been shared with the interest owners in Section 24 given those sections were pooled in the Underlying Spacing Unit. In response to the motions, the federal district court certified five questions to the North Dakota Court. Responding "no" to the first: whether language from N.D.C.C. § 38-08-08(1) required production from Section 13 to be allocated to Section 24, the Supreme Court declined to answer the remaining questions because it found they were based on an assumption that the Commission had jurisdiction to direct how production was allocated among mineral interest owners. "Questions concerning correlative rights and the Commission’s jurisdiction entail factual considerations. ... An undeveloped record exposes this Court 'to the danger of improvidently deciding issues and of not sufficiently contemplating ramifications of the opinion.'” View "Dominek, et al. v. Equinor Energy, et al." on Justia Law

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Clinton Mullin and Valrena Nelson appealed the dismissal of their claims for legal malpractice/negligence. Mullin and Nelson argued Elizabeth Pendlay committed legal malpractice by: (1) stipulating to jury instructions that misstated the law; (2) failing to plead the affirmative defenses of unclean hands and/or illegality; (3) not objecting to a video admitted as evidence at the trial; and (4) filing a motion to stay with the North Dakota Supreme Court before filing an appeal. In November 2014, Mullin retained Pendlay to commence an action to evict Richard Twete from property Twete "sold" to Mullin meant to be a temporary conveyance. Twete subsequently sued Mullin and Nelson seeking a return of his property, alleging a confidential relationship existed between Twete and Mullin. Pendlay served as the attorney for Mullin and Nelson through most of the litigation and was their attorney for the trial. A jury found Mullin to have breached a confidential relationship with Twete. Mullin and Nelson were ordered to convey the property back to Twete and compensate Twete for the value of any property that could not be returned. Represented by new counsel, Mullin and Nelson appealed and the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. After the conclusion of the Twete litigation, Mullin and Nelson filed suit against Pendlay. The Supreme Court concluded summary judgment was proper and affirmed the judgment. View "Mullin, et al. v. Pendlay" on Justia Law

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Kristen Overboe appealed a divorce judgment, an order striking a declaration, an order denying a motion to amend the findings of fact, and an order striking additional filings and granting a protection order. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the divorce judgment but remanded for the district court to specify in the order for judgment whether either or both of the parties would be permitted to marry, and if so, when. The Court affirmed the court’s order denying Overboe’s motion to amend findings of fact but vacated the April 25, 2022 order granting Jonathan Buchholz’s motion to strike and granting a protection order. The Supreme Court also granted Buchholz’s motion for attorney’s fees and awarded double costs. View "Buchholz v. Overboe" on Justia Law

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Attorney DeWayne Johnston, on behalf of the late David Knapp, appealed the dismissal entered after the district court denied a motion to substitute Knapp’s widow as plaintiff under N.D.R.Civ.P. 25. Attorney DeWayne Johnston, on behalf of the late David Knapp, appeals from a dismissal judgment entered after the district court denied a motion to substitute Knapp’s widow as plaintiff under N.D.R.Civ.P. 25. This litigation began after the Minnesota Department of Revenue issued a third-party levy on securities held by Edward Jones for Knapp. Knapp sued the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Revenue and Edward Jones in North Dakota seeking dissolution of the levy. Knapp subsequently commenced this lawsuit against Edward Jones requesting dissolution of the levy or a declaration that his securities were exempt from the levy. He also brought a conversion claim and requested damages. The district court ordered the case stayed pending arbitration under terms in Edward Jones account agreements. Knapp died during the stay. Edward Jones served Knapp’s counsel, Attorney Johnston, with a statement noting Knapp’s death. Attorney Johnston filed a motion on Knapp’s behalf requesting Knapp’s widow, Cabrini Knapp, be substituted as plaintiff under N.D.R.Civ.P. 25. The court held a hearing. After the hearing, the court denied the substitution motion and dismissed the case with prejudice. The court noted that ownership of the securities had transferred to Cabrini Knapp and her “rights are not extinguished by this order and there is no prejudice to her in denying the motion to substitute her as a party.” The North Dakota Supreme Court granted Edward Jones’ motion and dismissed the appeal, agreeing that Johnston could not appeal on behalf of a dead person. If Johnston was not authorized to file this appeal, his motion to substitute on appeal was moot. View "Knapp v. The Jones Financial Co., et al." on Justia Law

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Troubadour Oil and Gas, LLC, petitioned the North Dakota Supreme Court for a supervisory writ after the district court issued a discovery order requiring Troubadour to disclose all communications between Troubadour’s counsel and Troubadour’s owner who also was identified as an expert witness. Troubadour argued the court erroneously required the disclosure of confidential communications protected by the attorney-client privilege and the work product doctrine. After review, the Supreme Court granted the petition and directed the district court to vacate the portion of its March 10, 2022 discovery order requiring disclosure of all communications between Troubadour’s counsel and Troubadour’s owner because the court abused its discretion and misapplied the law by relying on federal rules and case law not applicable in this state court proceeding. The Supreme Court also vacated the court’s award of attorney’s fees and remanded for reconsideration. View "Troubadour Oil & Gas v. Rustad, et al." on Justia Law

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The underlying dispute before the North Dakota Supreme Court in this case concerned two competing oil and gas leases. In 2006, Ritter, Laber and Associates, Inc. was part of a joint venture that was locating mineral owners and leasing their interests. Eugene and Carol Hanson entered into a lease agreement with Ritter ("EOG lease") and a "Side Letter Agreement" was executed at the same time, allowing Ritter to “exercise its option” to lease the minerals. If Ritter chose not to exercise the option, Ritter was required to “immediately release [the Hansons] from any further obligation.” The EOG Lease was not immediately recorded. In April 2007, Eugene and Carol Hanson executed a warranty deed to their son and daughter-in-law, Kelly and Denise Hanson, which included the minerals in question and was recorded. The deed reserved a 50% life estate in the minerals. In May 2007, Ritter recorded a “Memorandum of Oil and Gas Lease Option” that referenced the EOG Lease. In July 2007, Ritter recorded the EOG Lease and sent Eugene and Carol Hanson a letter stating it “has elected to exercise its option to lease.” In August 2007, Ritter’s partner sent the couple a check for roughly $37,000 “as total consideration for your Paid up Oil and Gas Lease dated December 20, 2006.” In September 2007, Ritter assigned the EOG Lease, along with a batch of other leases, to EOG. The assignment was recorded. In December 2007, Ritter obtained an oil and gas lease from Kelly and Denise Hanson listing the tracts in question ("Northern Lease"). It was recorded in January 2008 and assigned to Northern in June 2008. Northern filed suit seeking a declaration of what it owned. The court determined the transaction between Eugene and Carol Hanson and Ritter created an option to lease, Denise and Kelly Hanson had no notice of the option, and they took title to the minerals free of it. The court entered a partial judgment determining “the EOG Lease is not valid and subsisting insofar as it conflicts with the Northern Lease.” EOG Resources, Inc. appealed and Northern cross appealed, arguing the court erred when it declined to grant additional relief after its title determination. The Supreme Court held the district court erred when it quieted title in Northern. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Northern Oil & Gas v. EOG Resources, et al." on Justia Law

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On June 23, 2021, Kathy Schmidt filed a quiet title action covering property located in Benson County, North Dakota, offering a document titled “warranty deed” as evidence of title. The district court granted the defendants’ N.D.R.Civ.P. 12(b) motion to dismiss the complaint with prejudice based on lack of standing and res judicata. Schmidt filed two motions for reconsideration arguing the court failed to consider new evidence. She appealed when the trial court denied her motions. The North Dakota Supreme Court found the district court did not err in dismissing Schmidt’s complaint based on standing. Because the warranty deed did not convey Schmidt a valid interest in the property, she failed to meet the requirements in N.D.C.C. § 47-10-05. Therefore, she did not have standing to bring a quiet title claim. Additionally, since the invalidity of the warranty deed was litigated and a final judgment was rendered, the district court did not err in dismissing Schmidt’s complaint based on res judicata. View "Schmidt v. Hageness, et al." on Justia Law