Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court
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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

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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

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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

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the district court in this case, holding that the district court applied an overly narrow legal standard in denying a motion to vacate or modify an arbitration award but did not err in refusing to grant attorney fees.Sutey Oil Company brought a complaint against Monroe's High County Travel Plaza and Marvin Monroe (collectively, Monroe), and the parties stipulated to arbitration. After a hearing, the arbitrator entered judgment for Sutey and awarded $220,750. Monroe moved to either modify or vacate the arbitration award. The district court denied the motion and refused to grant Sutey's request for attorney fees and costs. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) remand was required for clarification of the amount of the award pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 25-5-217; and (2) the district court did not err in denying Sutey's motion for an award of attorney fees. View "Sutey Oil Co. v. Monroe's High Country Travel Plaza, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court the decision and final judgment of the district court in favor of Truss Works, Inc. to foreclose a construction lien against Oswood Construction Company, holding that the district court did not err.After Truss Works filed its construction lien it brought this action seeking to foreclose on its lien. Oswood counterclaimed, alleging that Truss Works caused Oswood $118,571 in damages. After a trial, the district court entered judgment in Truss Works's favor. Oswood appealed, arguing that the district court's findings of fact were clearly erroneous because the court never addressed Oswood's counterclaim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court's findings implicitly addressed Oswood's counterclaim; and (2) the court's findings of fact were supported by substantial evidence, and the court did not commit an error of law. View "Truss Works, Inc. v. Oswood Construction Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the district court ordering Plaintiff to pay the attorney fees and costs of Defendant, the prevailing party in a construction defect suit initiated by Plaintiff, holding that the district court erred in part.Plaintiff filed an action against Defendants alleging negligence, breach of contract, and other claims. The district court held in favor of Defendants on all of Plaintiffs' claims. The court then awarded attorney fees and costs to Defendant. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the district court erred by determining that Defendant had a reciprocal right to an award of attorney fees under Mont. Code Ann. 70-19-428 and Mont. Code Ann. 28-3-704. View "Rafes v. McMillan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of felony sexual intercourse without consent, holding that Defendant received constitutionally effective assistance of counsel.At issue was whether Defendant's trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance when counsel allowed prior consistent statements from a forensic interview into evidence without challenge. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the record before the Court implied at least a plausible justification for counsel's actions; and (2) without more evidence, it cannot be determined whether defense counsel did not perform effectively for Defendant. View "State v. Mikesell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the district court concluding that Appellant was not entitled to underinsured motorist (UIM) and medical payment (MP) coverages under his automobile policy with USAA Casualty Insurance Company, holding that the court erred in part.The district court granted summary judgment for USAA on both coverages. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) as to the UIM coverage, the district court erred by interpreting the contract and determining its terms were not contrary to public policy; and (2) as to the MP coverage, the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of USAA. View "Goss v. USAA Casualty Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a plaintiff must file a motion to substitute a presiding district judge within thirty days of service of the summons or of an adverse party's appearance, whichever occurs first, and that Plaintiff's motion for substitution of judge in this case was void at its inception.Plaintiff sued Defendant, alleging breach of a confidentiality agreement. The case was originally assigned to the Honorable Robert Whelan. Defendant filed a motion to change venue, after which Plaintiff filed a motion for substitution of judge. Judge Whelan issued an order inviting assumption of jurisdiction, and the matter was transferred to the Honorable Kurt Krueger. Judge Krueger denied Defendant's motion to change venue. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because Plaintiff filed his motion for substitution of judge more than thirty days after he served Defendant the motion was void at its inception, and Judge Whelan improperly transferred the case to Judge Krueger; and (2) because Judge Krueger lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter, any orders he issued must be vacated. View "Holms v. Bretz" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment to the Montana Department of Revenue and dismissing Appellants' claims that the Department tortiously, unconstitutionally, and in breach of contract interfered with B.Y.O.B., Inc.'s (BYOB) attempts to transfer its ownership of an agency franchise agreement (AFA) for liquor sales, holding that the district court did not err.After the Department took action to terminate the AFA at issue for alleged violations of the Montana liquor laws, BYOB attempted to sell its interest and transfer ownership of the AFA it held with the Department. When the effort was unsuccessful, Appellants brought this suit. The district court granted summary judgment to the Department, finding that Appellants' AFA transfer-related claims were barred by quasi-judicial immunity or, alternatively, by the parties' settlement agreement. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in its rulings related to BYOB's attempts to assign the AFA to third parties. View "B.Y.O.B., Inc. v. Montana Department of Revenue" on Justia Law