Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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Campbell Farming Corporation had its shares controlled by three shareholders: Stephanie Gately controlled fifty-one percent of the shares, and H. Robert Warren and Joan Crocker controlled the remaining forty-nine percent. Stephanie awarded her son, Robert Gately, who was president of the company, a bonus after a vote by the shareholders. Warren and Crocker filed a derivative and direct action against the company and the Gatelys in federal district court seeking to void the bonus. The district court entered judgment in favor of Defendants. The Supreme Court accepted certification from the Tenth Circuit to answer several questions and held (1) the safe harbor provision of Mont. Code Ann. 35-1-462(2)(c) can be extended to cover a conflict-of-interest transaction involving a bonus that lacks consideration and would be void under Montana common law; (2) the business judgment rule does not apply to situations involving a director's conflict-of-interest transaction; and (3) the holding in Daniels v. Thomas, Dean & Hoskins does not apply to the claim challenging Stephanie's role in the director conflict of interest transaction, but the Daniels test does apply to the claim of breach of fiduciary duties alleged by the minority shareholders against Stephanie in her capacity as majority shareholder. View "Warren v. Campbell Farming Corp." on Justia Law

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Meril Curtis's houseguest took his credit card and made over $7,000 in unauthorized charges. After acknowledging that the charges were unauthorized and that Curtis was not personally liable for the charges, Citibank referred the account to a collection agency called Professional Recovery Services (PRS). Curtis filed suit against Citibank, alleging libel and credit libel and violation of the Montana Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). The district court granted summary judgment to Citibank, finding that Curtis's claims were preempted by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred in finding that Curtis' state law claims were preempted by the FCRA because the FCRA does not regulate collection agencies such as PRS. Remanded. View "Curtis v. Citibank" on Justia Law

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Appellant Angela O'Connell was involved in a theft scheme whereby Appellant's husband would steal property from a local business and sell the stolen goods for cash. Appellant pled guilty to accountability for theft pursuant to a plea agreement. Upon sentencing, Appellant was prohibited from entering bars and casinos and consuming alcohol, and was ordered to pay restitution to the business she stole from in the amount of $159,606. The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) because the district court's determination of lost profits in this matter was based upon speculation and not supported by substantial evidence, the district court erred by ordering payment of lost profits, in addition to the replacement value of the stolen property, as part of Appellant's restitution obligation, and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion by prohibiting Appellant from entering bars as a condition of her sentence because the restriction furthered Appellant's rehabilitation. Remanded for recalculation of restitution based upon the replacement value of the stolen property.

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Sheryl Crasco secured three payday loans from three different lenders. After the payor banks returned the checks for insufficient funds, the payday lenders assigned the checks to Credit Service, a collection agency. Credit Service filed an action against Crasco to recover the face value of the checks, a service fee per check, and bad check penalties of $500 per check. The county justice court concluded (1) Crasco must pay to Credit Service the face amount of each check and the service charge on each check, (2) Credit Service could not collect the bad check penalties, and (3) Crasco could recover damages for Credit Service's illegal pursuit of the bad check penalties. The district court reversed, determining that Credit Service could collect the bad check penalties. The Supreme Court reversed, holding a collection agency cannot charge bad check penalties for checks assigned to it from payday lenders when the payday lenders themselves are statutorily prohibited from charging such penalties. Remanded to determine whether the justice court incorrectly awarded Crasco damages.

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Victor Tacke failed to pay real property taxes on his property in Lake County from 2005 to 2008. In 2006, the County conducted a tax sale for the year 2005, at which the County purchased the tax lien. In 2009, the County assigned its interest in the tax lien to Montana Lakeshore Properties (Lakeshore) in exchange for payment of the past due taxes and issued a tax sale certificate to Lakeshore. The County subsequently issued a tax deed to Lakeshore. In 2010, Tacke filed an action to quiet title in the property, seeking a judicial declaration that the tax deed was void. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Lakeshore. At issue on appeal was whether Lakeshore violated Mont. Code Ann. 15-17-212(3) by paying the back taxes two hours and forty-five minutes short of two weeks after giving notice to Tacke. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err by granting summary judgment upholding the tax deed obtained by Lakeshore because this case fit within the general principle that "the law regards the day as an indivisible unit" and discards fractional days in most time computations.

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Gary Hoff filed a complaint alleging contract and negligence claims against Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. and Lake County Abstract & Title Company. Countrywide failed to appear or answer within the 20 days permitted by Mont. R. Civ. P. 12(a), after which Hoff moved for entry of default against Countrywide. Countrywide later attempted to reverse the default proceedings with a motion to set aside the default pursuant to Mont. R. Civ. P. 55(c) and then a Mont. R. Civ. P. 60(b) motion to set aside the entry of default for mistake or excusable neglect. The court denied the motions and entered a default judgment against Countrywide. Countrywide appealed and Hoff cross-appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in its judgment against Countrywide because pursuant to Cribb v. Matlock Commc'n, Inc., good cause did not exist to set aside the entry of default, and (2) the district court did not err as Countrywide's 60(b) motion was procedurally defective. Lastly, the Court concluded the district court correctly denied Hoff's request for attorneys fees because the contract did not entitle either party to attorneys fees under the circumstances.

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Dennis Deschamps purchased a mobile home park from the estate of Larry Rasmussen. Deschamps financed part of the purchase price through the estate in the form of an indenture note. In the previous case, Deschamps sued the estate, and a jury found the estate was not liable for negligent non-disclosure. In 2007 the estate began the proceedings for a nonjudicial foreclosure on the park after Deschamps stopped making payments on the note. In the instant case, Deschamps again sued the estate, seeking a temporary injunction barring the estate's sale of the property. The district court granted the estate's motion for summary judgment. Deschamps appealed, arguing (1) that the estate is barred from conducting a nonjudicial foreclosure on the property because the nonjudicial foreclosure must have been pleaded as a compulsory counterclaim in the first case; and (2) Deschamps was entitled to raise the affirmative defense of fraud to defeat the estate's nonjudicial foreclosure. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in ruling that the estate was not required to assert nonjudicial foreclosure as a mandatory counterclaim in the first action; and (2) as a plaintiff, Deschamps cannot assert affirmative defenses.

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During the dissolution of the marriage of Karen and Rodney Stevens in 2008, the district court entered a temporary economic restraining order prohibiting any transfer by the parties of their assets during the pendency of the proceedings. The district court awarded Rodney all right and title in a truck titled in Karen's name and ordered Karen to transfer title to Rodney. Karen later transferred the title to her mother. In 2010 the district court issued a written order declining to hold Karen in contempt for her violation of the economic restraining order. Instead, the court ordered Karen to remove any liens on the truck and to secure a new certificate of title and ruled if Karen refused to do so, a judgment would be entered against her in the amount of $21,000. Later, Karen retook possession of the vehicle. Rodney appealed. The Supreme Court determined that the court acted within its discretion in refusing to issue a contempt order but did not have authority to modify the distribution of property under its prior decree without notice to both parties and an opportunity to be heard. However, because Rodney was not prejudiced by the district court's ruling, the judgment was affirmed.

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Grizzly Security Armored Express, which provides security and armored services in Montana, filed suit against The Armored Group (TAG), which sells armored vehicles statewide and internationally, to recover damages from a sale of an allegedly defective vehicle. TAG failed to file a timely answer, and Grizzly moved for entry of default. The district court entered a default judgment against TAG, and the Supreme Court reversed. On remand, the district court granted TAG's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Grizzly appealed. On appeal, the Supreme Court held that the district court had personal jurisdiction over TAG because (1) TAG transacted sufficient business in Montana to support the extension of long-arm jurisdiction over TAG under Mont. R. Civ. P. 4B(1)(a), and (2) the Montana court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over TAG through long-arm provisions does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. Reversed and remanded.

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In 2000, Dick Anderson Construction (DAC) entered into a contract with Monroe Construction to do construction work on Paws Up Ranch, which was owned by Monroe Property. When each phase of the construction was completed, Monroe Construction sold that phase to Monroe Property. When DAC was not paid for the last $800,000 of its billings, it filed a construction lien to secure its claim. In 2001, DAC sued Monroe Property to foreclose the lien. On remand to the district court, Monroe Property argued since it was not a party to the construction contract with DAC, it was not a contracting owner against whom the lien could be foreclosed under the construction lien statutes. The district court granted Monroe Property's motion for summary judgment, and DAC appealed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding the facts of the case demonstrated that Monroe Construction was the actual agent of Monroe Property for the purpose of engaging DAC to complete construction work on the ranch. Therefore, under the statutes, Monroe Property, acting through its agent Monroe Construction, was a contracting owner with regard to the construction contract with DAC.