Justia Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Montana Supreme Court
Sayler v. Yan Sun
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgments of the district court adjudicating a parental interest and accompanying parenting plan regarding Father's minor child in favor of his non-parent ex-wife (Surrogate), holding that the district court erroneously made a child custody parenting plan determination involving a non-parent without the predicate parental interest implied as a condition precedent to imposition of a best interests-based parenting plan.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the district court (1) correctly concluded that the preclusive terms of a gestational carrier agreement did not preclude Surrogate from later acquiring or establishing a parental interest and right to the extent independently authorized under Montana law; (2) did not err in finding and concluding that Father voluntarily signed the premarital agreement and that it ws thus a validly formed and enforceable contract; (3) did not erroneously reject Father’s assertion that the parent-child relationship provision was unenforceable as equitably unconscionable; and (4) erroneously adjudicated a non parent "parental interest" in favor of Surrogate without the required predicated finding of fact specified by Mont. Code Ann. 40-4-228(2)(a). View "Sayler v. Yan Sun" on Justia Law
Bender v. Rosman
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court enforcing a settlement agreement between Duane Bender and Rebecca Estates, LLC (collectively, Bender) and Stacey Rosman providing for Bender's purchase of Rosman's property near Shepherd, holding that the district court did not err.Bender filed suit against Rosman alleging trespass and tortious interference with contract and seeking to quiet title. Prior to trial, the parties reached a settlement agreement providing for the purchase of Rosman's property by Bender. The district court issued an order enforcing the settlement agreement for the price of $202,000. Bender appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err by concluding that Rosman was entitled to specific performance of the settlement agreement. View "Bender v. Rosman" on Justia Law
Christian v. United Fire & Casualty Co.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment for United Fire and Casualty Company and concluding that Clifford Christian and/or his Estate were not owed a defense or indemnification for claims made against Christian in litigation brought by Linda and Albert Parisian, holding that there was no error.Christian contracted with a general contractor on his project to construct four townhomes, one of which was pre-sold to the Parisians. A subcontractor later sued the general contractor and Parisians to obtain payment for his work to landscape the homesites. Christian was named as a third-party defendant and sought defense and indemnification from United Fire, which had insured the general contractor with a liability policy for the period at issue. After United Fire denied Christian's request Christian's Estate initiated this action. The district court granted summary judgment to United Fire. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the complaint did not allege facts that if proven, would trigger policy coverage. View "Christian v. United Fire & Casualty Co." on Justia Law
In re Estate of Williams
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting petitions made by Lorri Williams to formally probate the estate of Gerry Williams, her ex-husband, and to remove Vicki Hofedlt as personal representative of Gerry's estate, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion.Gerry and Lorri had two daughters, Brittany Williams and Vicki, during their marriage and later divorced. After Gerry died, Lorri paid for his funeral expenses. Vicki then filed an application for informal probate. Lorri filed a creditor's claim claiming funeral expenses and then filed a petition for formal probate asserting that the divorce decree was a testamentary instrument that needed to be probated along with Gerry's will. Lorri also filed a petition to remove Vicki as personal representative of Gerry's estate. The district court granted both petitions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Vicki was not entitled to relief on her claims of error. View "In re Estate of Williams" on Justia Law
Lustre Oil Co. v. Anadarko Minerals, Inc.
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing the complaint brought by Lustre Oil Company LLC and Erehwon Oil & Gas, LLC (collectively, Lustre Oil) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that the district court did not properly weigh the relevant jurisdictional factors.Lustre Oil filed an action against A&S Mineral Development Company, LLC seeking to quiet title and to invalidate A&S's interests in forty-one of the fifty-seven oil and gases leases operated by A&S within the Fort Beck Indian Reservation, home to the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes. The district court dismissed the action for lack of jurisdiction, concluding that A&S was an arm of the Tribes entitling it to immunity. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court did not err in concluding that A&S's incorporation under Delaware law did not favor immunity and in thus refusing to deny A&S tribal sovereign immunity based on state incorporation alone; and (2) consideration of the White factors weighed against the extension of sovereign immunity to A&S as an arm of the Tribes for the purpose of Lustre Oil's claims in this case. View "Lustre Oil Co. v. Anadarko Minerals, Inc." on Justia Law
Romo v. USA Biofuels, LLC
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of a group of eastern Montana farmers (Farmers) and against four affiliates of USA Biofuels, LLC (Affiliates) on Farmers' claims on a variety of contract and tort theories, holding that there was no error.In 2018, Farmers entered individual written contracts with USA Biofuels to grow 10,000 acres of hemp. Farmers brought this action alleging that they never received full payment from Defendants, including USA Biofuels and various affiliates. The district court concluded on summary judgment that USA Biofuels breached its contract and awarded damages. Farmers subsequently abandoned their contract claims and secured a tort judgment against Affiliates. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion when it entered judgment on the punitive damages award; (2) did not err in instructing the jury; and (3) did not err in ruling on summary judgment that three shareholders were alter egos of USA Biofuels. View "Romo v. USA Biofuels, LLC" on Justia Law
Thermal Design, Inc. v. Thorson
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment, decree of foreclosure, and order of sale by the district court, and the orders and actions contained within these documents, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion.Thermal Design, Inc. filed a complaint to foreclose its construction lien against Mark and Pam Duffy and Central Copters, Inc. The complaint also asserted claims against TNT Building Systems. A jury found that TNT, acting as an agent of Central Copters, entered into a contract with Thermal Design for the insulation system, and both TNT and Central Copters were jointly and severally liable for breaching the contract with Thermal Design. As to a crossclaim between TNT and Central Copters, the jury found that both parties breached their agreement but that only TNT incurred damages. The district court entered a final order restating that, as a matter of law, Thermal Design had a valid construction lien attaching to both the Duffys’ real property and Central Copters’ building that should be foreclosed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion in the proceedings below. View "Thermal Design, Inc. v. Thorson" on Justia Law
M.K. Weeden Construction, Inc. v. Simbeck & Assocs., Inc.
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court vacating an interim award and final award issued by the arbitrator and requiring the parties to resubmit their dispute to arbitration before a new arbitrator, holding that the district court erred.M.K. Weeden Construction, Inc. and Simbeck and Associates, Inc. entered into a subcontract for Simbell to install a geosynthetic lining system on the slopes of a new embankment on a tailings storage facility at a mine near Nye, Montana. After Weeden terminated the subcontract by invoking the subcontract's default provision Simbeck filed a demand for arbitration. The arbitrator first issued an interim award awarding Simbeck damages and then a final award awarding Simbeck attorney fees. The district court granted Weeden's motion to vacate the award and ordered the parties again to submit the dispute to arbitration before a new arbitrator, ruling that the arbitrator exceeded his authority by issuing the interim award. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the interim award was a proper "reasoned award" and the district court abused its discretion by vacating it; and (2) Simbeck was entitled to attorney fees incurred in defense of the arbitration award. View "M.K. Weeden Construction, Inc. v. Simbeck & Assocs., Inc." on Justia Law
Smith v. Lindemulder
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting a motion to approve a settlement agreement reached in mediation involving siblings Lily Smith and Sam, Dan, and Vernon Lindemulder, holding that Petitioners were not entitled to relief on their claims of error.The agreement at issue resolved claims involving the Alice M. Lindemulder Trust, established by the parties' mother, which held more than 2,000 acres of land in Stillwater County. Sam appealed the district court's decision to approve the settlement agreement, arguing that the agreement was unenforceable because he lacked the capacity to enter it and had been subjected to undue influence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in concluding that Sam validly consented to the agreement; and (2) did not err in holding that the agreement was valid and enforceable. View "Smith v. Lindemulder" on Justia Law
Sagorin v. Sunrise Heating & Cooling, LLC
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court dismissing Appellant's complaint against eighteen defendants relating to the installation of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units at a property owned by Yellowstone Lodging, LLC, holding that Appellant did not meet the constitutional or prudential requirements of standing.Yellowstone, which owned and operated a hotel in West Yellowstone, hired and entered into contracts with several HVAC contractors to upgrade the HVAC system at the motel. Appellant, the sole member of Yellowstone, brought this complaint alleging thirty-nine claims related to the HVAC system, as well as claims of legal malpractice against the law firm and attorney Appellant originally engaged to pursue these claims on behalf of Yellowstone. The district court concluded that Appellant lacked standing to sue. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant may not, through an assignment, bring Yellowstone's claims on his own behalf and without counsel. View "Sagorin v. Sunrise Heating & Cooling, LLC" on Justia Law