Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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Kyle Christianson appealed a district court’s judgment affirming the North Dakota Department of Transportation’s suspension of his driving privileges. Christianson claimed the Department’s hearing file, which was admitted at the adjudication hearing, was improperly certified as a true copy of the Department’s official records. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded Christianson rebutted the presumption that the individual whose signature certified the record had authority to do so. Therefore, the Court reversed the hearing officer’s decision to admit the hearing file and vacated the Department’s suspension of Christianson’s driving privileges. View "Christianson v. NDDOT" on Justia Law

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Samantha Schweitzer appealed a district court order dismissing her petition for a child custody order. Schweitzer and Blake Miller have one child together, born in Wisconsin in 2014. Schweitzer had primary custody of the child after the child’s birth. On January 6, 2017, Schweitzer and the child moved from Wisconsin to North Dakota. On January 13, 2017, Miller petitioned in Wisconsin for joint custody and parenting time. After an August 2018 hearing, the parties stipulated they would have joint custody of the child and Schweitzer would move to Madison, Wisconsin. The Wisconsin court entered an order on the basis of the parties’ stipulation. In January 2019, Schweitzer petitioned for an emergency child custody order and initial child custody determination or modification of child custody determination in North Dakota. Miller moved to dismiss the petition, arguing the district court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to decide Schweitzer’s petition. Miller claimed the Wisconsin court had jurisdiction to decide custody issues relating to the child. The North Dakota district court determined it lacked jurisdiction to decide Schweitzer's petition, and the North Dakota Supreme Court concurred with that judgment. View "Schweitzer v. Miller" on Justia Law

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North Star Mutual Insurance appealed a declaratory judgment holding that a commercial general liability policy it issued to Jayme Ackerman, doing business as Ackerman Homes, provided coverage for Ackerman’s potential liability arising from an accident involving Kyle Lantz, and that North Star has a duty to defend Ackerman. North Star argued the district court erred in finding coverage because the policy excluded accidents arising out of the use of an automobile. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Star Mutual Insurance v. Ackerman, et al." on Justia Law

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Big Pines, LLC, appealed from a district court order denying its “Motion for Award of Attorneys’ Fees and Costs.” Phoenix M.D., L.L.C., as landlord, entered into a lease agreement for real property with Biron D. Baker Family Medicine PC, as tenant, on May 3, 2011. The lease began on June 15, 2011, and ended on June 14, 2016. At the same time the lease was entered, Biron Baker signed a personal guaranty agreement making him personally liable for a breach of the terms of the lease. Under the guaranty, the landlord was also entitled to recover “all costs and attorneys’ fees incurred in attempting to realize upon [the guaranty].” In August 2016, Big Pines, LLC purchased the property formerly leased by Baker Medicine from Phoenix. The guaranty agreement was not specifically mentioned in the assignment agreement. However, the assignment stated a copy of the “Lease Agreement” was attached to the assignment as “Exhibit A.” In March 2017, Big Pines contacted Baker regarding damages to the property in violation of the terms of the lease that resulted from Baker Medicine’s tenancy. Baker denied any responsibility and refused to pay for the alleged damages. Big Pines filed suit against Baker and Baker Medicine in February 2018 claiming the property damages resulted from Baker Medicine’s tenancy and were in violation of the terms of the lease. The case proceeded to trial, and at trial a jury found Baker and Baker Medicine liable for breaching the terms of the lease and awarded $18,750.00 in damages to Big Pines. Big Pines filed a post-trial motion under N.D.R.Civ.P. 54(e)(3) requesting the district court award Big Pines its attorney’s fees for having to bring suit against Baker and Baker Medicine for breaching the terms of the lease. Finding that the district court erred in interpreting the lease and guaranty as separate agreements, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed the district court which denied the attorneys' fees. View "Big Pines v. Baker, et al." on Justia Law

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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