Appellants were the owners of multi-unit apartment buildings located in Montana and the property management companies that managed Owners’ apartment complexes during the time relevant to this suit. Appellees were current or former tenants of Owners’ apartment complexes who signed leases for those apartments through the property management companies. Appellees filed a complaint on behalf of themselves and other unnamed plaintiffs alleging that certain provisions included in the leases were prohibited by law. The district court granted Appellees’ motion for class certification. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by certifying the class under Mont. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3). View "Worledge v. Riverstone" on Justia Law
Posted in: Landlord - Tenant
Plaintiff, who leased commercial property from Defendant, filed a complaint with the Montana Human Rights Bureau, alleging that Defendant violated the Montana Human Rights Act (MHRA) by sexually harassing her. The Montana Human Rights Commission ruled that Plaintiff could proceed with her claim because the MHRA “prohibits unlawful discrimination in commercial property transactions, as well as all other real estate transactions.” The district court vacated the Commission’s decision and reinstated the hearing officer’s, ruling that the Commission violated Defendant’s right to due process by analyzing Plaintiff’s action under the MHRA’s real estate provisions. The Supreme Court remanded, directing the district court to resolve the issue that formed the alternate basis for Defendant’s challenge to the Commission’s decision - whether the MHRA’s real estate provisions applied to Plaintiff’s commercial lease. On remand, the district court ruled that the MHRA’s real estate provisions prohibit discrimination in commercial real estate transactions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the MHRA applies to Plaintiff’s commercial lease. View "Bates v. Neva" on Justia Law
Plaintiff rented an apartment from Defendant, a residential hotel. After Plaintiff’s tenancy terminated, she filed suit against Defendant for failing to return her $500 security deposit within thirty days. During the discovery process, Defendant failed to provide informal or formal discovery, resulting in entry of an order compelling discovery and granting Plaintiff her attorney fees as a sanction against Defendant. Plaintiff subsequently filed a motion for sanctions due to Defendant's continued failure to provide discovery. After a hearing at which Defendant did not appear, the court granted the motion for sanctions and entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff. Defendant filed a motion for relief from judgment, which the justice court denied. Defendant filed a notice of appeal, which Plaintiff moved to dismiss, contending that the notice of appeal was not timely filed and that, although the judgment had already been satisfied, Defendant’s failure to file an undertaking required dismissal. The district court granted the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the notice of appeal was timely filed and that no undertaking was required due to the satisfaction of judgment. Remanded. View "Guethlein v. Family Inn" on Justia Law
Posted in: Landlord - Tenant
Defendant-Appellant Robert Shipley appealed a district court order which granted summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff-Appellee BNSF Railway Company. BNSF leased commercial property in Miles City, Montana, to Shipley. The lease provided that either party could terminate the lease upon 30 days written notice. Shipley failed to pay rent to BNSF for a number of years. This failure by Shipley resulted in overdue rent payments of $17,700. BNSF notified Shipley on January 7, 2011, that the Lease Agreement would be cancelled and terminated in 30 days, effective on February 10, 2011. The Lease Agreement also required that Shipley remove all improvements and personal property from the leased premises within the 30 days of the lease termination. Shipley failed to remove the items. BNSF provided Shipley with a 60 day extension to remove the items. Shipley again refused to remove the items. Shipley’s refusal prompted BNSF to file a complaint to quiet title to the improvements and personal property, a declaratory judgment that BNSF had terminated the lease validly, trespass, unlawful detainer, and claim for reasonable rent. Shipley acknowledged that he owed $17,700 in rent. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that no genuine issue of material fact existed and that the district court correctly granted summary judgment. View "BNSF v. Shipley" on Justia Law
The Heins rented a house from Julia Benintendi and the Perkerwicz family (hereinafter B&P). B&P alleged the Heins caused considerable damage to the property when they vacated the premises. The Heins countered that B&P unlawfully retained their security deposit and refused to reimburse the Heins for home and lawn improvements. B&P sued and obtained a default judgment. The district court subsequently set aside the default judgment and held a jury trial. B&P were awarded damages but not attorney fees or costs. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying attorney fees to both parties; (2) the district court incorrectly required each party to bear its own costs because, as the prevailing party, B&P was entitled to its costs under Mont. Code Ann. 25-10-101; and (3) the district court did not manifestly abuse its discretion in setting aside the default judgment because it had good cause to do so. View "Benintendi v. Hein" on Justia Law
In a previous landlord/tenant action in 2007, attorney Kevin Brown filed suit against Ronald Fick in district court on behalf of two tenants who alleged that Fick had unlawfully evicted them from a unit he manages. The district court found for Fick. Fick filed the present action in 2010, arguing that Brown had fraudulently brought the prior action in district court rather than in justice's court. The district court granted Brown's motion to dismiss, and Fick appealed. At issue was whether Mont. Code Ann. 3-10-302 confers concurrent jurisdiction on justices' and district courts for actions arising under the Landlord and Tenant Act. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that (1) the clear terms of Montana law provide that justices' courts share concurrent jurisdiction with district courts; and (2) Fick's arguments were not made in good faith, Fick's appeal is frivolous and vexatious and filed for purposes of harassment, and sanctions are warranted. Remanded.
Plaintiff appealed from the order of the district court granting defendant's motion to dismiss where the suit arose out of a previous landlord/tenant action filed in district court. At issue was whether section 3-10-302, MCA, conferred jurisdiction on justices' and district courts for actions arising under the Montana Residential Landlord and Tenant Act of 1977. The court held that the clear terms of the Montana statute provided that justices' courts shared concurrent jurisdiction with district courts. The court also held that plaintiff's arguments were not made in good faith and sanctions were warranted. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint and remanded for a determination and assessment of costs and reasonable attorney's fees incurred on appeal.