Articles Posted in South Dakota Supreme Court

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Steven Wipf (Plaintiff) sued Dr. Terry Alstiel and Regional Health Physicians Inc. (Defendants) for medical malpractice, alleging that Dr. Altstiel accidentally perforated Wipf’s small bowel during a laparoscopic hernia repair and that Dr. Altstiel failed to inspect and find the perforations before completing the surgery. During discovery, Wipf sought access to operative and postoperative notices relating to follow-up care of some of Dr. Altstiel’s patients who had received laparoscopic hernia repairs. The circuit court found those records relevant and ordered Defendants to partially redact and produce the redacted records. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court did not adequately ensure that privileged information was not disclosed. Remanded for the circuit court to consider whether additional safeguards will ensure patient anonymity and, if so, the court must enter a protective order before disclosure. View "Wipf v. Altstiel" on Justia Law

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Two members of a seven-member trust succession committee petitioned the circuit court for court supervision of the trust. Marvin M. Schwan owned and operated Schwan’s Sales Enterprises (a.k.a. The Schwan Food Company) until his death in 1993. In 1992, Marvin had created the Marvin M. Schwan Charitable Foundation. The Trust Instrument named seven beneficiaries: Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, Wisconsin Lutheran College Conference, Inc., Evangelical Lutheran Synod, Bethany Lutheran College, Inc., International Lutheran Laymen’s League, and Wisconsin Lutheran Synod Kingdom Workers, Inc. After Marvin’s death, the Trustees redeemed all Marvin’s stock in the company and funded the Foundation with assets valuing nearly $1 billion. The parties did not dispute that certain investments made by the Trustees over several years caused approximately $600 million in losses to the Foundation. These losses reduced the value of the Foundation’s assets and reduced the Foundation’s distributions to the Beneficiaries. According to Committee members Paul and Mark Schwan, the Trustees did not inform the Committee until 2013 that the Foundation had experienced such significant losses from the investments. In June 2014, Mark and Paul petitioned the circuit court for instruction and supervision under SDCL 21-22-9. Paul and Mark asked the court to address whether the Committee had a duty under the Trust Instrument to request an accounting from the Trustees related to the Trustees’ investment losses, whether a majority vote of the Committee was required in order to request an accounting, whether the Committee members that were also Trustees had a conflict of interest, whether the Committee had a fiduciary duty to request an accounting, and whether Paul and Mark as individual Committee members could request an accounting. After a hearing, the circuit court dismissed the petition because it concluded that the two members did not meet the classifications of persons able to petition the circuit court for supervision. After its review of the trial court’s decision, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded. The Supreme Court found the trial court did not conclude that the Trustees, Attorney General, or Beneficiaries established good cause to the contrary related to the merits of Paul and Mark’s petition. The court did not hold a hearing on the merits of Paul and Mark’s petition, noting that it would not address arguments raised by the Trustees or Paul and Mark because it concluded that Paul and Mark did not meet any classification entitled to seek court supervision. The Supreme Court remanded to the trial court to "fix a time and place for a hearing thereon, . . . and upon such hearing, enter an order assuming supervision unless good cause to the contrary is shown." View "Schwan v. Burgdorf" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of driving under the influence and having an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle. Defendant appealed, arguing that the magistrate court and circuit court erred by failing to suppress evidence from the traffic stop that led to his convictions because the law enforcement officer lacked reasonable suspicion to initiate the traffic stop. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the totality of the circumstances led to a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, and therefore, the lower courts did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress. View "State v. Olson" on Justia Law

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Developers obtained a conditional use permit to build a dairy on Owner’s property in Brookings County. The City of Hendricks and others (collectively, City) filed a petition for writ of certiorari in circuit court challenging the permit. The circuit court affirmed the grant of the permit. City appealed. Developers filed a notice of review to challenge City’s standing but did not serve their notice of review on Owner. City moved to dismiss Developers’ notice of review/cross-appeal, arguing that Owner was a party required to be served with the notice of review. The affirmed, holding (1) Owner was a party required to be served with Developers’ notice of review, and Developers’ failure to serve Owner required dismissal of their notice of review/cross-appeal; and (2) neither S.D. Codified Laws 15-6-5(a) nor Developers’ alleged alignment of interests with Owner excused Developers’ failure to serve Owner. View "Lake Hendricks Improvement Ass’n v. Planning & Zoning Comm’n" on Justia Law

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Attorney Irene Schrunk represented Mary Ellen Nylen in a divorce and was involved subsequent legal matters regarding Mary Ellen and her new husband, Mark Nylen. When Mark served Mary Ellen with a summons and complaint for divorce, Schrunk advised Mary Ellen that Schrunk could not represent her because Schrunk had represented Mark in the past. On July 31, 2014, Mary Ellen’s adult children, Molly and Brendon, commenced this action against Mary Ellen seeking a declaration that Mary Ellen had gifted them personal property. Molly and Brendon sought to depose Schrunk regarding communications she had with Mary Ellen between November 1, 2013, and December 31, 2014. Mary Ellen moved to prohibit the discovery, citing the attorney-client privilege protected the communications. The circuit court determined that the initial communications were privileged but did not extend the privilege to communications and documents shared with Schrunk after January 1, 2014. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Mary Ellen failed to meet her burden of proving entitlement to the attorney-client privilege after January 1, 2014, and Mary Ellen waived the privilege with respect to certain documents when she shared with Schrunk privileged communications between Mary Ellen and her current attorneys. View "Nylen v. Nylen" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff suffered an injury from a fall while at Black Hills Dialysis LLC’s (BHD) facility in Shannon County. Plaintiff sued BHD for her injuries. A dispute subsequently arose about whether the circuit court should summon jurors from Shannon County or neighboring Fall River County where Shannon County has no physical state court facilities and all Shannon County legal proceedings are held at the Fall River County Courthouse. The circuit court ruled that it would summon Fall River County jurors, holding that a 2009 standing order issued by the presiding judge of the Seventh Circuit stating that all Shannon County matters would be tried in Fall River County supported its resolution of the issue. The Supreme Court vacated the presiding judge’s standing order and reversed the order of the circuit court, holding (1) the presiding judge exceeded his statutory and constitutional authority in issuing the standing order, which effectively changed venue in all Shannon County cases; (2) the circuit court’s ruling on venue in this case was improper and without legal basis; and (3) under the circumstances of this case, venue was proper in Shannon County, and Shannon County jurors should be summoned and empaneled. View "Good Lance v. Black Hills Dialysis, LLC" on Justia Law