Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court

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R.W.D. appealed a juvenile court order terminating his parental rights to his two children, K.S.D. and J.S.D. After a review of the juvenile court record, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded clear and convincing evidence established that the children were deprived, the deprivation was likely to continue, and the children had been in foster care at least 450 of 660 nights. The Court also concluded active efforts to prevent the breakup of this Indian family were made and those efforts have been unsuccessful. However, the Court found nothing in the record to satisfy the Indian Child Welfare Act (“ICWA”) requirement of evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, including testimony of a qualified expert witness, that continued custody by the parents would likely result in serious emotional or physical damage to the children. Accordingly, though the Court retained jurisdiction over this case, it remanded for testimony from an ICWA qualified expert witness. View "Interest of K.S.D." on Justia Law

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Mary Ann Vig, as personal representative of the Estate of Junietta Swenson, appealed the dismissal of the Estate’s action against Willis Swenson. The Estate argued that Junietta Swenson lacked capacity to execute a July 2012 quit claim deed conveying her home in Noonan to her son, Willis Swenson, and that he converted rent and grain proceeds when he subleased her farmland. After review of the trial court record, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not clearly err in finding Junietta Swenson was legally competent to execute the quit claim deed, or in finding that Willis Swenson did not convert the proceeds of a sublease of land he leased from Junietta Swenson. View "Vig v. Swenson" on Justia Law

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Dawn Osborne appealed a district court's order granting Brown & Saenger, Inc.'s motion to dismiss for improper venue. In 2011, Brown hired Osborne as a sales representative in its Fargo office to sell office supplies to businesses. Brown was headquartered in South Dakota, but operated as a foreign business corporation in North Dakota. Osborne signed yearly employment contracts with Brown. The parties agreed that the 2015 Employment Agreement was the controlling contract for this action, and it was the only one brought before the district court. The two clauses at issue in deciding the motion to dismiss were the "Agreement Not to Compete" ("non-compete clause") and the "Choice of Law/Forum" clauses. In January 2017, Brown terminated Osborne. Osborne sued Brown, alleging retaliation, improper deductions, and breach of contract. Osborne also sought a declaratory judgment declaring the non-compete clause to be void. Osborne moved for a preliminary injunction seeking to prevent Brown from enforcing the covenant-not-to-compete against her. Brown responded to that motion and moved to dismiss the action for improper venue. Brown argued the forum-selection clause in the employment agreement was valid and therefore a North Dakota court was an improper venue. Brown argued that the clause required the case to be heard by the South Dakota court specified in the agreement. The district court, without ruling on the motion for preliminary injunction, agreed with Brown and granted the motion to dismiss. Additionally, Brown sued Osborne in the state circuit court situated in Minnehaha County, South Dakota, seeking a preliminary injunction against Osborne restricting her actions under the non-compete clause. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed under N.D.C.C. 28-04.1-03(5), concluding the forum-selection clause in the parties' employment agreement violated North Dakota's public policy against non-compete agreements. The non-compete clause was unenforceable under N.D.C.C. 9-08-06 to the extent it limited Osborne from exercising a lawful profession, trade, or business in North Dakota. View "Osborne v. Brown & Saenger, Inc." on Justia Law

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Hess Corporation ("Hess") appealed the grant of summary judgment which held Sundance Oil and Gas, LLC ("Sundance") held the superior leasehold mineral interest in a property located in Mountrail County. Sundance and Hess both moved for summary judgment, each arguing they had a superior claim to the mineral interests. The district court determined the trust action was res judicata and granted partial summary judgment in favor of Sundance, quieting title to the leasehold interest. Although the district court entered an order for partial summary judgment, the parties stipulated to the remaining issues related to revenues and expenses, and the district court later entered a final judgment. On appeal, Hess argued: (1) the district court erred in applying res judicata to determine Sundance was a good-faith purchaser for value; (2) the district court erred in granting summary judgment in Sundance's favor because genuine disputes of material fact existed; and (3) the district court erred by concluding Sundance could obtain a superior lease for the same property without providing Hess actual notice of the trust action proceedings. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court determined the district court improperly applied res judicata and failed to consider the factual issues raised by Hess: a district court may not use the findings in an unlocatable mineral owner trust action as res judicata in a subsequent quiet title action to resolve all factual disputes regarding whether a later purchaser was a good-faith purchaser for value. The judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Sundance Oil and Gas, LLC v. Hess Corporation" on Justia Law

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The North Dakota Department of Human Services appealed a district court judgment reversing the Department's order deciding Altru Specialty Services, doing business as Yorhom Medical Essentials, received overpayments for medical equipment supplied to Medicaid recipients and ordering recoupment. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not have jurisdiction and the appeal should have been dismissed because Yorhom failed to satisfy statutory requirements for perfecting an appeal. View "Altru Specialty Services, Inc. v. N.D. Dep't of Human Services" on Justia Law

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Karen Corum appealed the grant of summary judgments in two collection actions brought by American Express Centurion Bank. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court's summary judgments were proper as a matter of law and the district court did not err by denying Corum's request to allow her husband to be her spokesperson in court. A party who is not represented by a licensed attorney cannot be represented by another person, including their spouse, in any court of record in this state, absent authorization provided by state law or supreme court rule. The right of free speech does not encompass in-court advocacy by a non-lawyer on behalf of another person, including a spouse. View "American Express Centurion Bank v. Corum" on Justia Law

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Keith Candee appealed the grant of summary judgment to his parents, Lyla and Douglas Candee, awarding them an $884,508.83 deficiency judgment following foreclosure of properties in California and North Dakota. Keith and his parents executed a settlement agreement and mutual release of claims in 2013 relating to earlier disputes between the parties about the management of their family assets. Under the settlement agreement, Keith agreed to pay $2.2 million to Lyla and Douglas. The $2.2 million settlement amount was secured by real property in California and North Dakota. A deed of trust in favor of Lyla and Douglas secured the California property, and a mortgage secured the property in North Dakota. The deed of trust securing the California property included a power of sale provision allowing Lyla and Douglas to foreclose the property in a nonjudicial manner via a trustee's sale. After Keith failed to make payments under the settlement agreement, Lyla and Douglas foreclosed the California property. They proceeded with a nonjudicial foreclosure and in January 2014 purchased the property at a trustee's sale for a credit bid of $200,000. Lyla and Douglas foreclosed the North Dakota property and purchased the property for $975,000 at a July 2015 sheriff's sale. In September 2015, Lyla and Douglas sued Keith in North Dakota for a deficiency judgment for the difference between the amount Keith owed under the settlement agreement and the amount Lyla and Douglas obtained through foreclosure of the properties. Keith argued a deficiency judgment was not available under the agreement because California law applied and a deficiency judgment was prohibited under California law. The district court concluded California law applied only to the California property and granted summary judgment to Lyla and Douglas. The court entered an $884,508.83 deficiency judgment against Keith. On appeal, Keith maintained the California anti-deficiency statutes applied to the settlement agreement, and those statutes barred a deficiency judgment in this case. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed and remanded, concluding California law barred a deficiency judgment in this case as a matter of law. View "Candee v. Candee" on Justia Law

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United Fire & Casualty Company appealed a district court judgment awarding Carol Forsman $249,554.30 in her garnishment action against United Fire, commenced after she settled claims in the underlying suit against Blues, Brews and Bar-B-Ques, Inc., d.b.a. Muddy Rivers. Muddy Rivers was a bar in Grand Forks that was insured by United Fire under a commercial general liability ("CGL") policy. In 2010, Forsman sued Muddy Rivers and Amanda Espinoza seeking damages for injuries to her leg allegedly sustained while a guest at a February 2010 private party at Muddy Rivers. Muddy Rivers notified United Fire of the suit and requested coverage. United Fire denied defense and indemnification based on the policy's exclusions for assault and battery and liquor liability. However, after appeals and reconsideration, the court ruled in Forsman's favor, finding the settlement amount was reasonable. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the court erred in granting summary judgment because material fact issues existed on whether exclusions for "assault and battery" and "liquor liability" in the CGL policy excluded coverage of Forsman's negligence claim against Muddy Rivers. Furthermore, the Court concluded further conclude the court properly granted summary judgment to Forsman holding United Fire had a duty to defend Muddy Rivers under the CGL policy in the underlying suit. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Forsman v. Blues, Brews & Bar-B-Ques Inc." on Justia Law

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Shannon Evans appealed an order granting Gerald Feldmann ownership of certain property from Leonhard Feldmann's estate. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the district court did not err in finding an inter vivos gift and did not err in finding the proceeds of the standing crop passed with the devise of real property. “The appellate court does not reweigh evidence, reassess witness credibility, or substitute its judgment for the trial court's decision merely because it would have reached a different result. Standing crops at the time of death pass with the real estate to which they are attached unless otherwise specified in a will.” View "Estate of Feldmann" on Justia Law

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North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance ("WSI") appealed a judgment affirming a decision of an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") that had reversed WSI's administrative reclassification of Questar Energy Services, Inc.'s ("Questar") employees. n July 2012, Questar applied for and received insurance coverage from WSI. Following an audit in 2014, WSI determined Questar's employees had been improperly classified and reclassified Questar's employees. The classification of employees directly impacts the insurance rate used to calculate Questar's premiums for the insurance received from WSI. WSI contends the ALJ applied the wrong standard of review, improperly excluded from evidence the changes to the Rate Classification Manual, and erred in determining classification of Questar's employees was not supported by the record. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded after review, the ALJ's underlying factual conclusions were supported by a preponderance of the evidence, and affirmed. View "WSI v. Questar Energy Services, Inc." on Justia Law