Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court

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The United States District Court for the District of North Dakota certified questions of North Dakota law to the North Dakota Supreme Court involving Dawn Vail's right to bring a common law tort action against S/L Services, Inc., for personal injuries she sustained while working for S/L Services. The certified questions and the parties' arguments involved issues about employer immunity and an employee's exclusive or dual remedy for injuries occurring during the course of employment under North Dakota’s statutory provisions for workforce safety and insurance. The Supreme Court concluded the exclusive remedy provisions of North Dakota’s workers' compensation laws did not preclude Vail's tort action against S/L Services under provisions authorizing the action for willfully misrepresenting to Workforce Safety and Insurance ("WSI") the amount of payroll upon which a premium is based, or for willfully failing to secure workers' compensation coverage for employees. View "Vail v. S/L Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Bremer Bank, the Public Service Commission ("PSC"), Auto-Owners Insurance Company, and Curt Amundson appealed a judgment in a grain warehouse insolvency proceeding involving Grand Forks Bean Company after the district court appointed the PSC as trustee for the sale of dry edible beans from Grand Forks Bean's warehouse, denied Bremer's motion to intervene in the insolvency proceeding, and ordered distribution of the proceeds of the sale of the beans to growers determined to be noncredit-sale receiptholders. We conclude the district court did not err in construing applicable statutory provisions for insolvency proceedings and in applying those provisions. The PSC initially issued a trustee's report concluding all nine bean growers were noncredit-sale receiptholders entitled to participate in the trust fund proceeds and recommending payment of $652,747.92 to those receiptholders based on a December 2014 insolvency date and a market price of $23 per hundredweight on that date. The court ruled eight of the bean growers were noncredit-sale receiptholders entitled to participate in the insolvency trust fund proceeds. The court concluded one grower, Amundson, had a credit-sale contract with Grand Forks Bean under N.D.C.C. 60-04-01(2) and was not entitled to participate in the trust fund proceeds. The court also determined the date of Grand Forks Bean's insolvency under N.D.C.C. 60-04-02 was October 15, 2013, and the market price for beans on that date was $38 per hundredweight. The court determined three growers were entitled to a different price per hundredweight for their beans because they had cash claims with Grand Forks Bean for an agreed price. The court further concluded the PSC was entitled to its costs and expenses under N.D.C.C. sections 60-04-03.1, 60-04-09, and 60-04-10. The court ordered disbursement of the trust fund proceeds and thereafter issued an order denying Auto-Owner's motion for post-hearing relief. The district court denied without prejudice Bremer's motion to intervene to litigate the priority of its security interest, but allowed Bremer to participate in the proceeding "to the full extent provided to any other receiptholder/claimant." Amundson argued the district court erred in concluding he had a credit-sale contract with Grand Forks Bean because the definition of a credit-sale contract in N.D.C.C. 60-02-19.1 controls and required signatures by both the grower and the warehouseman to be a credit-sale contract. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Public Service Commission v. Grand Forks Bean Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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A person dealing with a personal representative does not receive the protections of N.D.C.C. 30.1-18-14 unless the person obtains the personal representative's letters of appointment or any other court order giving the personal representative authority to act in this state. Dudley Stuber, trustee of the D.J. Stuber Land and Royalty Trust, and Rocky Svihl, trustee of the RGKH Mineral & Royalty Trust (collectively "Plaintiffs") appealed a judgment deciding ownership of certain mineral interests in favor of the estates of Victoria Davis and Helen Jaumotte. Plaintiffs moved for summary judgment, arguing there were no genuine issues of material fact and they were entitled to judgment as a matter of law. They claimed Jay Jaumotte, as personal representative of the estates, was authorized to sell property in North Dakota as a foreign personal representative, and Northland Royalty Corp. (to whom Jay Jaumotte first conveyed the interests) was a good-faith purchaser and was entitled to statutory protections under N.D.C.C. 30.1-18-14, and the statute of limitations had expired, precluding the heirs' claims. The heirs also moved for summary judgment. The heirs argued the deeds transferring the minerals to Northland were void because Jay Jaumotte lacked any authority to act on behalf of the Davis or Helen Jaumotte estates when dealing with North Dakota property, the Plaintiffs were not good-faith purchasers, and there were genuine issues of material fact about whether Northland was a good-faith purchaser. EOG Resources intervened and responded to the motions, arguing the Plaintiffs had no interest in the mineral estate, the Plaintiffs' predecessor-in-interest had notice of the heirs' potential interests in the property and failed to investigate, and the Plaintiffs and Northland were not good-faith purchasers. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decision quieting title, but reversed its decision awarding damages to the Victoria Davis and Helen Jaumotte heirs. View "Stuber v. Engel" on Justia Law

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Under an installment sales contract for patent from the State Board of University and School Lands, the State retains the legal title to the property and holds it in trust for the purchaser and as security for the purchaser's compliance with the contract. The purchaser of such land holds equitable title until the terms of the installment sales contract have been completed and a patent has been issued, at which time the legal title merges with the equitable title. Completion of the terms of the installment sales contract for patent perfects title relating back to the date of the contract. In 2014, Curtis and Joan Hokanson ("Hokansons") initiated a quiet title action naming Corrine Zeigler, Charles Zeigler, Bonnie Scharback, Terry Scharback, Bruce Bibler, Beverly Bibler, Delton R. Bibler, Lee Bibler, Curtis D. Bibler, Carol M. Bibler, Gerald Bibler, Alice Bibler, Trudy Mathae, Bruce Mathae, Howard L. Bibler, Continental Resources, Inc., and all other persons unknown ("Biblers") claiming any estate or interest in, or lien or encumbrance upon, the property described in the complaint as defendants. In 1957, the Board of University and School Lands of the State of North Dakota and Edson and June Bibler entered into an installment sale contract for the purchase of the land at issue here. Prior to the initiation of the quiet title action by the Hokansons, the Biblers entered into oil and gas leases in 2013. The Biblers were named as the lessors, and the lessee in all the leases was Continental Resources. All leases were dated July 9, 2013. The Hokansons claimed they had title to an undivided 50% mineral interest under the property. The Hokansons argued they received this interest because the subject property was conveyed to them from Hans Hanson (the Hokansons' predecessor-in-interest) with no reservations of mineral interest appearing in a 1971 Warranty Deed. The Hokansons argued the predecessor in interest to Hans Hanson was the State of North Dakota who conveyed to Hans Hanson the surface and 50% of the mineral interest by a 1971 Patent. The district court entered an order granting the Biblers' motion for summary judgment. After review, and finding no reversible error in that judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hokanson v. Zeigler" on Justia Law

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Don Sorenson Investments owned residentially-zoned property. In 2015, Don Sorenson requested a zone change for the property from residential to commercial to "conduct small commercial business." A site inspection following Sorenson's request indicated the property was being used to store semi-trucks, gooseneck flatbed trailers, bulk fuel tanks, and shipping containers. A report prepared for the Williams County Board of County Commissioners stated Sorenson had been out of compliance since October 2014 for operating a trucking oilfield business on the property without the County's permission. The Board of County Commissioners denied Sorenson's request and ordered removal of all commercial items from the property. Sorenson appealed the Board's decision, and the district court affirmed. In October 2015, Williams County sued Sorenson for violating zoning ordinances and maintaining a public nuisance. In December 2015, the County moved for a preliminary injunction, alleging the Sorensons continued to use the property for commercial purposes. The Sorensons moved for summary judgment, arguing the County did not indicate which provisions of the zoning ordinances they violated and did not provide specific details regarding the commercial business alleged to have been operated on the property. The County opposed the Sorensons' motion and filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. The County argued administrative res judicata prevented the Sorensons from challenging the zoning violations on their property because the Board of County Commissioners had already determined they were in violation. The district court granted the Sorensons' motion for summary judgment and denied the County's cross-motion for summary judgment, concluding the zoning ordinances did not define "commercial," "commercial operation," or "commercial item" so as to give the Sorensons proper notice of what constituted a zoning violation. The court concluded res judicata did not apply, denied the County's request for sanctions for spoliation of evidence, denied its request for civil penalties, and dismissed the County's complaint. "Administrative res judicata is applied more cautiously than judicial res judicata," taking into consideration the subject matter decided by the administrative agency, the purpose of the administrative action, and the reasons for the later proceeding. On appeal, the party opposing a motion for summary judgment will be given all favorable inferences that may be reasonably drawn from the evidence. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed that part of the judgment granting summary judgment in favor of the Sorensons, denying the County's cross-motion for summary judgment, and dismissing the County's complaint. View "Williams County v. Sorenson" on Justia Law

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A district court has broad discretion on evidentiary matters and its decision to admit or exclude evidence will not be overturned unless it abused its discretion. Issues not raised before the district court will not be considered for the first time on appeal. Brian Linstrom and Leisa Bennett (collectively referred to as the "Linstroms") hired Mike Normile to complete a remodeling of their home for a price of $107,000.00. The Linstroms paid Normile the contract price plus an additional $30,000.00 for certain changes made during the remodel. Normile believed the Linstroms owed more money for the work that was completed. After failing to receive additional payment, Normile put a mechanic's lien on the home. The Linstroms commenced a breach of contract action against Normile after they were unsatisfied with the work completed on their home. The Linstroms' complaint also requested the lien on their home be discharged. Mike Normile appealed after a jury found him liable for breach of contract and awarded damages to the Linstroms. Because the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded each issue raised was either waived or was not error, it affirmed the judgment. View "Linstrom v. Normile" on Justia Law

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A party with a royalty interest in a property, who has not signed a division order with an oil company, may recover underpayments from the oil company. Newfield Production Company ("Newfield") operates four oil and gas wells on the property at issue here. The Trustees of the George S. Maragos Residuary Trust ("the Trust") asserted they owned a 1/8 of 1% royalty interest in the property. While operating the wells, Newfield relied upon a division order-title opinion ("division order") to allocate the royalty interest for the property. The Trust argued it acquired its interest in the royalties through the following process: H. H. Hester possessed a royalty interest in the property and conveyed to George S. Maragos a 1/8% royalty interest in December 1937. George S. Maragos retained his interest until his death when the administrators of his estate assigned the royalty interest to the Trust in January 1985. The Trust sued Newfield for an accounting and all unpaid revenue from the 1/8% royalty interest in the property. The Trust moved for summary judgment. Newfield filed a cross-motion for summary judgment, arguing it was not a proper party defendant because it did not have a competing interest in the 1/8% royalty interest. The district court granted Newfield's cross-motion for summary judgment, holding the Trust claim was really a quiet title claim, Newfield was not a proper party defendant, the proper parties are the other competing royalty interest owners, and the Trust was not entitled to attorney's fees and interest under N.D.C.C. 47-16-39.1. The Trust appealed the district court's summary judgment in favor of Newfield, determining Newfield was not a proper party defendant. Because Newfield failed to establish they were entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed and remanded. View "Maragos v. Newfield Production Company" on Justia Law

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An individual seeking to adopt a child must ordinarily obtain the written consent of the child's parents, though if written consent is not provided, it must be proven the parent either (1) for one year failed significantly without justifiable cause to communicate with the child or provide for the care and support of the child or (2) abandoned the child. A.F. appealed a district court order denying his petition to adopt J.L.F. The district court denied his petition after finding the child's biological father neither consented to the adoption nor abandoned his child. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the district court's findings of fact were not clearly erroneous. View "Adoption of J.L.F." on Justia Law

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A district court must analyze all four Stout-Hawkinson factors in determining whether a custodial parent may move out-of-state with a child. Cody Booen appealed a district court's order granting Jessica Appel's motion to relocate. Appel cross-appealed the orders granting her motion to relocate and to show cause finding her in contempt. Booen argued the district court erred by granting the motion to relocate because it did not properly analyze and weigh the Stout-Hawkinson factors. Appel argued the district court erred in establishing a parenting plan, by finding her in contempt and requiring her to pay half of Booen's attorney fees. Finding no abuse of the district court's discretion in either decision, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court's orders. View "Booen v. Appel" on Justia Law

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Appeals from decisions of the Industrial Commission cannot be turned into inverse condemnation actions; the Industrial Commission was authorized to modify previously designated spacing units. Arthur Langved appealed an Industrial Commission grant of Continental Resources, Inc.'s application to terminate existing oil and gas well spacing units, to create new spacing units, and to modify well setback requirements for portions of the Elm Tree-Bakken and Sanish-Bakken pools. Langved owned leased and unleased mineral interests in property covered by spacing units created by the Commission in 2013 and 2014. In 2015, Continental filed an application to amend these Commission orders to terminate the existing spacing units and to create new spacing units. On appeal, Langved stated the issue was "[w]hether the [Commission] could constitutionally, statutorily, or discretionally reunitize a producing drilling and spacing unit and thereby diminish his vested property rights and take his surface estate to afford Continental and the state of North Dakota an opportunity to access submerged minerals under the sections added in the enlarged unit." The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the Commission regularly pursued its authority, and its findings and conclusions were sustained by the law and by substantial and credible evidence. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the judgment. View "Langved v. Continental Resources, Inc." on Justia Law