Justia Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Montana Supreme Court
Holms v. Bretz
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
B.Y.O.B., Inc. v. Montana Department of Revenue
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
Masters Group v. Comerica Bank
In this dispute regarding a $10.5 million loan from Comerica Bank to Masters Group International, Inc. and Masters' eventually default on that loan, the Supreme Court reversed the June 12, 2020 decision and order on attorney fees and affirmed the November 8, 2019 decision of the district court and the accompanying June 17, 2020 judgment, holding that the attorney fees award was in error.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court's determination under Michigan law that Comerica breached the parties' forbearance agreement causing Masters to suffer contract damages was supported by substantial evidence; (2) the district court correctly found that Comerica did not affirmatively plead a defense of setoff or recoupment; (3) the district court's determination under Michigan law that Masters was entitled to prejudgment interest was legally correct; (4) because the parties' agreement did not provide for Masters to recover attorney fees and because Michigan did not have a reciprocal attorney fees statute, the district court erred by awarding Masters attorney fees; (5) Masters was not entitled under Michigan law to recover damages for lost profits or the lost value of a United Kingdom business; and (6) the district court did not err in limiting Masters' award of costs to the amount allowed by statute. View "Masters Group v. Comerica Bank" on Justia Law
House v. U.S. Bank National Ass’n
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting various mortgage lenders and trustees summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims for negligence and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, holding that genuine issues of material fact did not preclude summary judgment.Plaintiff filed an action asserting negligent loan supervision/administration, breach of the implied contract covenant of good faith and fair dealing, anticipatory declaratory judgment, and quiet title to mortgaged property. The district court granted summary judgment to Bank of America, N.A. (BOA) on all claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in granting BOA summary judgment on Plaintiff's asserted negligence and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing claims. View "House v. U.S. Bank National Ass'n" on Justia Law
Posted in: Banking, Contracts, Montana Supreme Court, Real Estate & Property Law
Peters v. Hubbard
In this case involving a grant of easement and easement agreement between Roger Peters and Carrie Peters and Douglas Hubbards and Nathan Hubbards the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the Peterses, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion.The easement agreement in this case granted the Hubbards an easement to use a road crossing the Peterses' land. The Peterses later rescinded the agreement, but the Hubbards continued to use the road. The Peterses subsequently filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that the rescission was proper and that the Hubbards' rights under the agreement were terminated. The Hubbards filed a counterclaim asserting claims for a private prescriptive easement and a public prescriptive easement. The district court granted summary judgment for the Peterses on all issues. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in interpreting the language of the easement agreement; (2) the Hubbards did not establish either a private or public prescriptive easement across the Peterses' property covered in the easement agreement; and (3) the district court properly awarded attorney fees to the Peterses. View "Peters v. Hubbard" on Justia Law
Posted in: Contracts, Montana Supreme Court, Real Estate & Property Law
Deschamps v. Farwest Rock, Ltd.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting Defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismissing Plaintiff's claim alleging breach of contract and breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, holding that the district court properly concluded that there was no dispute of material fact and that Defendants were entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.Bar 11 Enterprises, LLC, a company created by Deschamps, entered into a gravel pit sublease agreement with FarWest Rock Products. Mining operations later ceased, Bar 11 was dissolved, and Deschamps received notice of termination of lease. Deschamps filed a complaint, listing himself and Bar 11 as plaintiffs. Thereafter, Deschamps filed articles of organization to create a business entity named Bar 11 Enterprises, LLC. The district court dismissed all claims based on a lack of standing by both Deschamps and Bar 11. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly found that (1) the Bar 11 entity named as a party to this suit was not the same as the original Bar 11 that entered into the disputed agreement with Farwest Products; (2) Deschamps lacked standing to sue in his personal capacity; and (3) Defendants were entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. View "Deschamps v. Farwest Rock, Ltd." on Justia Law
Montana Digital, LLC v. Trinity Lutheran Church
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court holding Trinity Lutheran Church liable under a theory of unjust enrichment, holding that the district court erred as a matter of law in determining that Trinity Lutheran was unjustly enriched.Montana Digital, LLC contracted with Trinity Lutheran to provide unlimited telephone and internet services to Trinity Lutheran. Trinity Lutheran's system was later hacked and used by a theft to make international telephone calls to Africa at a service cost of $47,977. Montana Digital was invoiced for the cost of the calls, and Montana Digital paid the full amount of the invoice. Montana Digital then initiated this action against Trinity Lutheran, asserting a claim for unjust enrichment. The district court found Trinity Lutheran liable and awarded Montana Digital the same of $47,977. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under the circumstances, a claim of unjust enrichment was not established against Trinity Lutheran as a matter of law. View "Montana Digital, LLC v. Trinity Lutheran Church" on Justia Law
Kramer v. Fergus Farm Mutual Insurance Co.
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court granting class certification in this action alleging breach of contract and violation of Montana's Unfair Trade Practices Act (UTPA), Mont. Code Ann. 33-18-101 et seq., holding that a sufficient factual basis was established to justify certification of the classes.Plaintiffs filed this action against Fergus Farm Mutual Insurance Company (FFM), alleging that FFM breached its insurance contract with Plaintiffs and all other insureds by failing to include general contractor overhead and profit in the cost to repair or replace Plaintiffs' property. The district court granted Plaintiffs' motion for class certification. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion by determining that common questions of law predominate the litigation and support certification of the class; but (2) certain conclusions reached by the district court were a "bridge too far" at this stage of litigation. View "Kramer v. Fergus Farm Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Posted in: Class Action, Contracts, Insurance Law, Montana Supreme Court
MTSUN, LLC v. Montana Department of Public Service Regulation
The Supreme Court overruled the decision of the Public Service Commission (PSC) rejecting a proposed development of an eighty-megawatt solar energy facility near Billings, Montana, holding that the PSC violated the requirements of the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) and state law precluding discrimination against solar energy projects.The district court reversed and remanded the PSC's order setting terms and conditions of MTSUN, LLC's proposed eighty megawatt solar project based on findings of violations of due process, PURPA, and Montana's mini-PURPA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in concluding that the PSC's determinations were arbitrary and unlawful; and (2) relied on record evidence in determining the existence of a legally-enforceable agreement and the avoided-cost rates. View "MTSUN, LLC v. Montana Department of Public Service Regulation" on Justia Law
AWIN Real Estate, LLC v. Whitehead Homes, Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court in favor of AWIN Real Estate, LLC (AWIN) on its claim that Whitehead Homes, Inc. (WHI) breached an investment agreement between the parties and in favor of WHI on an unpled claim that AWIN breached the parties' operating agreement, holding that the court lacked record evidence to award WHI damages for AWIN's breach of the operating agreement.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court's interpretation of the ambiguous language in the investment agreement to hold WHI in breach was reasonable in light of the circumstances of the case; and (2) the district court lacked sufficient evidence to support its award of $55,000 in damages to WHI for AWIN's alleged breach of the operating agreement. The Supreme Court remanded for further proceedings on attorney's fees consistent with this opinion. View "AWIN Real Estate, LLC v. Whitehead Homes, Inc." on Justia Law