Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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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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In 2010, Havre High School’s roof partially collapsed. Dick Anderson Construction, Inc. (Anderson) built the roof and Springer Group Architects (Springer) designed it. Hill County High School District No. A filed suit against against Springer and Anderson, alleging negligence, breach of express and implied warranty, breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, deceit, and fraud. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Springer and Anderson, concluding that the statute of repose time-barred the School District’s claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in (1) concluding that the statute of repose barred the School District’s claims; (2) ruling that the period of repose could not be tolled; and (3) awarding Spring attorney fees under the contract. View "Hill County High School District No. A v. Dick Anderson Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellants attempted to execute judgments obtained against Robert Fitte in their respective underlying lawsuits by attaching the proceeds of a commercial liability policy issued to Fitte by joined party Mountain West Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company (Mountain West). In a separate declaratory proceeding, a federal court determined that the commercial policy covered Fitte’s actions. Thereafter, Mountain West filed a motion to deposit the proceeds of the commercial policy into an existing interpleader action. The underlying proceedings filed by Appellants were consolidated. The district court granted summary judgment to Fitte and Mountain West, concluding that Appellants were not entitled to execute judgments secured outside the pending interpleader action and attach the proceeds of the commercial policy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in concluding that the proceeds from the commercial policy must be distributed through the interpleader; and (2) deposit of the commercial policy proceeds was not required at the time of the interpleader proceeding to establish the interpleader court’s jurisdiction. View "Associated Dermatology & Skin Cancer Clinic of Helena, P.C. Profit Sharing & Trust Benefit of Stephen D. Behlmer, M.D. v. Fitte" on Justia Law

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Appellants owned property adjacent to Whitefish Lake, which the City of Whitefish has annexed. In 2005, Appellants petitioned the City for annexation of the property, and their petition was granted. In 2010, Appellants petitioned to have their property de-annexed. The City Council denied the petition. Appellants commenced a declaratory action in the district court challenging the decision. The district court dismissed the complaint on the basis of lack of service and on the ground that the statute of limitations for Appellants’ claims would bar any re-filed action. In 2014, Appellants filed another petition for de-annexation of their property. The City Council denied Appellants’ second petition for de-annexation, and Appellants filed a second declaratory action challenging the denial of their second petition. The district court entered summary judgment for the City, concluding that Appellants’ action was barred by claim preclusion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err by granting summary judgment on the basis of claim preclusion. View "Schweitzer v. City of Whitefish" on Justia Law

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Jason Talbot was seriously injured in Montana when he was struck by a vehicle driven by an employee of WMK-Davis, LLC. At the time of the accident, Talbot was employed by Cudd Pressure Control, Inc. Talbot, who was a resident of Oklahoma, filed a workers’ compensation claim in Oklahoma. Talbot then filed a complaint in Yellowstone County against WMK-Davis’s employee. Cudd, in turn, successfully moved to intervene in order to assert a workers’ compensation subrogation lien against Talbot’s potential tort recovery. Such an action is allowable under Oklahoma law, but Oklahoma law directly conflicts with Montana’s rule that a party may not subrogate until the injured worker has been whole. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Talbot, concluding that Montana applied and Cudd was prohibited from asserting a workers’ compensation subrogation lien in the underlying action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in determining that Montana courts will not conduct a choice of law analysis when determining the validity of a workers’ compensation subrogation lien; and (2) because the Montana Constitution applies in this case, and Cudd stipulated that Talbot will not be made whole under Montana law, Talbot was entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. View "Talbot v. Cudd" on Justia Law

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In 2014, the Bozeman City Commission adopted the Nondiscrimination Ordinance 1890, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender expression by landlords, providers of public accommodations, and parties engaged in residential real estate transactions. Petitioners, certain Bozeman residents, filed suit against the City of Bozeman, the Commission, and the City Commissioners (collectively, Respondents) seeking a declaration that the Ordinance is invalid as a matter of law. The district court dismissed the complaint on the ground that Petitioners did not present a justiciable case or controversy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in denying Petitioners’ motion for summary judgment and dismissing their complaint based on the conclusion that Petitioners were requesting an advisory opinion; and (2) did not abuse its discretion in denying Petitioners’ motion for reconsideration and to amend. View "Arnone v. City of Bozeman" on Justia Law

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Zabrocki began receiving Teachers Retirement System (TRS) retirement benefits in 2007. In 2012 TRS notified Zabrocki that he did not qualify for those benefits and was liable to reimburse TRS for the amounts it paid. Zabrocki requested administrative review. The TRS Board affirmed. Zabrocki requested a contested case hearing. TRS appointed a hearing examiner who issued a proposed order granting TRS's motion for summary judgment. Zabrocki filed exceptions. The Board heard argument on February 21, 2014; the chair stated that a final decision would be adopted at a subsequent meeting. On May 16, the Board issued its order, finding disputes as to material facts precluding summary judgment, and remanded to the hearing examiner. Zabrocki sought judicial review, contending that TRS violated MCA 2-4-623(1)(a), which requires that a final decision in a contested case be issued within “90 days after a contested case is considered to be submitted for a final decision.” The district court agreed that the May 16 order was not a final order, noted that a denial of summary judgment is not a final decision for purposes of appeal, and determined that on May 16 the Board decided “the issues raised on summary judgment” and not the entire dispute, so that “there is more to be done at the agency level.” The Montana Supreme Court affirmed, in favor of TRS. The Board did not violate the final agency decision requirement of MCA 2-4-623(1)(a). View "Zabrocki v. Teachers Ret. Sys." on Justia Law

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In consolidated appeals, plaintiffs Robert Nelson and Kelli Tyrrell, as Special Administrator of the Estate of Brent Tyrrell (Brent), pled violations of the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), for injuries allegedly sustained while Nelson and Brent were employed by BNSF Railway Company in states other than Montana. BNSF moved to dismiss both plaintiffs’ claims for lack of personal jurisdiction. In Tyrrell's case, the court denied BNSF's motion to dismiss. In Nelson's case, the court granted BNSF's motion. The issues on appeal centered on personal jurisdiction over BNSF: whether Montana courts had jurisdiction under FELA or Montana law. After review, the Montana Supreme Court held that Montana courts had general personal jurisdiction over BNSF under the FELA and Montana law. Both cases were remanded for further proceedings. View "Tyrrell v. BNSF" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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In consolidated appeals, plaintiffs Robert Nelson and Kelli Tyrrell (Tyrrell), as Special Administrator of the Estate of Brent Tyrrell, pled violations of the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) for injuries allegedly sustained while Nelson and Brent were employed by BNSF Railway Company in states other than Montana. BNSF moved to dismiss both plaintiffs’ claims for lack of personal jurisdiction. The motion in Nelson's case was granted; the motion in Tyrrell's case was denied. The issue on appeal was whether Montana courts had personal jurisdiction over BNSF under FELA and Montana law. After review, the Montana Supreme Court concluded that Montana courts had personal jurisdiction over BNSF under FELA and Montana Law. The order denying BNSF's motion to dismiss Tyrrell's case was affirmed, and the motion in Nelson's case was reversed. View "Tyrrell v. BNSF" on Justia Law

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The Denturist Association of Montana (Association), on behalf of denturist Carl Brisendine, filed suit against the Board of Dentistry, challenging the validity of A.R.M. 24.138.2302(1)(j) (Rule J), the latest in a long line of legal disputes between the two. "Wiser v. Montana," (129 P.3d 133 (Wiser I)) and "Wiser v. Board of Dentistry," (Wiser II)) either implicitly or explicitly claimed that the Board's promulgation of Rule J was invalid because it conflicted with statute. The Wiser I plaintiffs (comprised of every denturist in Montana) made their claims "on behalf of the profession of denturitry." Wiser I plaintiffs lost their challenge to the Board's authority. The Wiser II plaintiffs, comprised of a smaller group of denturists, attempted to distinguish themselves from the Wiser I plaintiffs, but the Court saw no distinction in their capacity to challenge the Board’s promulgation of Rule J as individuals rather than as representatives of a group. The Court barred the Wiser II plaintiffs’ claims on res judicata grounds. In this case, Brisendine’s complaint contains three counts: Count 1 Rule J was discriminatory and restrained trade, and that the Board violated Montana law by discriminatorily applying its disciplinary rules: being unduly harsh on denturists while giving leniency to dentists. Counts II and III alleged Rule J was invalid because it conflicted with various statutes. Brisendine moved for summary judgment on Count II, and the Board filed a cross-motion for summary judgment on all counts. The District Court, citing Wiser I and II, held Brisendine’s claims were barred by res judicata as a matter of law. Brisendine appealed. The Supreme Court concluded that privity existed between the litigants in the Wiser cases and Brisendine. Because privity exists and the other elements of claim preclusion were not contested with respect to Counts II and III, the Court affirmed the District Court’s grant of summary judgment to the Board on those claims on res judicata grounds. Brisendine's claim in Count I was an entirely different claim than those made in the Wiser cases, and the District Court erred when it granted summary judgment to the Board on this claim. View "Denturist Assoc. v Montana DOL" on Justia Law