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Defendant entered a guilty plea to aggravated driving under the influence, reserving his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress. After an evidentiary hearing on appeal, the district court denied Defendant’s motion to suppress. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the totality of the circumstances, a corroborated tip from an identified citizen informant based, in part, on personal observations of a co-worker was sufficiently reliable to provide the law enforcement officer with particularized suspicion to stop Defendant’s vehicle. Therefore, the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress. View "State v. Zietlow" on Justia Law

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This contempt proceeding arose from the failure of Petitioner, the birth father’s counsel in a youth in need of care proceeding, to appear at a termination of parental rights hearing before the Honorable Gregory G. Pinski. After Judge Pinski issued the order of contempt, Petitioner filed a petition for writ of review, arguing that the contempt hearing was criminal in nature and that she was not afforded due process. The Supreme Court denied Petitioner’s petition for a writ of review, holding (1) the district court had jurisdiction of these contempt proceedings pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 3-1-511; and (2) substantial evidence supported the order of contempt. View "Cross Guns v. Eighth Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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In 2002, Lone Moose Meadows, LLC (LMM) and Boyne USA, Inc. (Boyne) entered into an agreement wherein LMM would construct a ski lift and pay Boyne to operate it. The agreement stated that LMM shall be required to make depreciation payments for operating expenses. In 2008, Boyne filed suit for breach of contract based on LMM’s failure to make depreciation payments. In response, LMM argued that it was not obligated to make depreciation payments until Boyne owned the lift. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Boyne. LMM appealed but also paid $634,328 to Boyne, satisfying the judgment. While the appeal was pending, LMM filed an action alleging that Boyne had engaged in wrongful collection efforts with respect to the first judgment. Boyne counterclaimed for breach of contract, asserting that LMM now owed depreciation expenses for the 2009-10, 2010-11, and 2011-12 ski seasons. LMM later voluntarily dismissed the wrongful collection claim. The district court granted summary judgment for Boyne on the counterclaim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court properly allowed Boyne to pursue successive claims for breach of contract, and LMM’s argument that Boyne’s claims were barred by claim preclusion was unavailing. View "Lone Moose Meadows, LLC v. Boyne USA, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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After Plaintiff’s employment was terminated, he filed suit against Defendant alleging wrongful discharge, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and defamation. The district court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, concluding that Ohio law governed or, alternatively, that Ohio was the appropriate forum to exercise jurisdiction. The Supreme Court vacated the district court’s dismissal, holding that Montana courts had subject-matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s claim, and remanded for further proceedings to consider whether dismissal under the doctrine of forum non conveniens was appropriate. On remand, the district court denied Plaintiff’s motion to amend the complaint and granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss under forum non conveniens. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not act arbitrarily or exceed the bounds of reason in concluding that Plaintiff’s amendment would prejudice Defendant and that the amendment would run counter to the Supreme Court’s remand instructions in Harrington I; and (2) did not abuse its discretion by determining that resolution of Plaintiff’s claims in Ohio would promote the convenience of witnesses and the ends of justice. View "Harrington v. Energy West Inc." on Justia Law

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This dispute involved two water rights claims filed by the City of Helena for the waters of Tenmile Creek, which passes through Rimini. Andy Skinner owned junior water rights on Tenmile Creek. Both Skinner and the Community of Rimini objected to Helena’s water right claims. On remand, the water judge adopted the Water Master’s finding that the City had abandoned 7.35 cubic feet per second (cfs) of its water rights claims but that the City did not intend to abandon the 7.35 cfs. The water court also found that the City abandoned 0.60 cfs in the Rimini Pipeline. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Mont. Code Ann. 85-2-227(4), as applied to the City’s water rights claim, is not impermissibly retroactive; (2) the water court did not err in reinstating 7.35 cfs of Helena’s Tenmile Creek water rights; (3) the water court erred in determining that the City had abandoned 0.60 cfs of its Tenmile Creek water rights; and (4) the water court did not err in imposing specific place of use restrictions on Helena’s decreed Tenmile Creek water rights. View "City of Helena v. Community of Rimini" on Justia Law

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Jessica Huckins filed a complaint against Barry Van Sickle and his real estate agent alleging several causes of action related to Van Sickle’s failure to disclose previous basement flooding problems in the sale of his home. At all relevant times, Van Sickle held three insurance policies through United Services Automobile Association (USAA). USAA denied coverage for the claims stated in the underlying complaint. Van Sickle settled the underlying litigation with Huckins by way of a consent judgment and Van Sickle’s assignment of all claims under his insurance policies to Huckins in exchange for a covenant not to execute. Huckins then brought this case against USAA, alleging, inter alia, breach of duty to defend Van Sickle. The district court concluded that USAA had not breached its duty to defend under any of the policies because the claim did not constitute an “occurrence” as defined by the policies. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) USAA had a duty to defend Van Sickle, at least until a ruling was obtained declaring there was no coverage; and (2) by failing to defend Van Sickle, USAA breached its duty to defend. View "Huckins v. United Services Automobile Ass’n" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

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While employed by a company now known as Asurion Services, LLC, Christy Harris filed industrial injury claims for two different incidents. Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Company adjusted Harris’s workers’ compensation claims until it was declared insolvent. Montana Insurance Guaranty Association (MIGA) subsequently assumed the handling of Harris’s claims. Thereafter, MIGA notified Asurion that it would seek reimbursement for the benefits it paid to Harris pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 33-10-114(2). Asurion filed a declaratory judgment action against MIGA. The district court granted motion for Asurion based on the exclusivity provision of the Montana Workers’ Compensation Act (Act), concluding that because Asurion met its obligation to obtain workers’ compensation insurance, it had no payment obligations to Harris, and therefore, Mont. Code Ann. 33-10-114(2) did not afford MIGA relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Asurion provided workers’ compensation coverage in accordance with the Act, Asurion was not required to reimburse MIGA for benefits paid to Harris. View "Asurion Services, LLC v. Montana Insurance Guaranty Ass’n" on Justia Law

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Landowners appealed from an order of the district court granting summary judgment to the City of Lewistown and allowing the City to annex portion of the Landowners’ properties. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in (1) concluding that the City followed the statutory annexation requirements of Title 7, chapter 2, part 43, Mont. Code Ann.; (2) concluding that the City had correctly determined that there were less than a majority of valid protests; (3) concluding that the Landowners were not denied equal protection of the law by the City’s decision of what properties to annex; and (4) concluding that the Landowners lacked standing to enforce a contract between the City and a subdivision developer. View "St. John v. Lewistown" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction for deliberate homicide. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in instructing the jury on Defendant’s justifiable use of force defense without including a “forcible felony” component; (2) Defendant’s claims that the prosecutor’s comments regarding Defendant’s failure to tell police his self-defense story constituted plain error did not warrant plain error review because Defendant had not demonstrated that the State violated his fundamental rights; and (3) the prosecutor’s misstatement of the legal elements for justified use of lethal force did not constitute plain error. View "State v. Lackman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Roger and Carrie Peters and Draggin’ Y Cattle Company (collectively, Peters) entered into a stipulated settlement with Junkermier, Clark, Campanella, Stevens, P.C. and Larry Addink (collectively, Junkermier). Judge George Huss, the presiding judge, determined that the stipulated settlement was reasonable and entered judgment against New York Marine and General Insurance Company, Junkermier’s insurer. On appeal, the Supreme Court held that Judge Huss improperly failed to disclose a potential conflict of interest. On remand, the district court determined that Judge Huss was required to recuse himself and should have been disqualified and vacated Judge Huss’s orders issued after he should have been disqualified. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) correctly held that Judge Huss was required to disqualify himself pursuant to Montana Code of Judicial Conduct Rule 2.12(A); and (2) did not err in vacating Judge Huss’s orders issued after he should have disqualified himself. View "Draggin Cattle Co. v. New York Marine & General Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics