Articles Posted in South Dakota Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the circuit court’s dismissal of this challenge to a decedent’s pre-death conveyance, holding that Plaintiff may have an unjust enrichment claim against one of the defendants in this case. Plaintiff’s father, the decedent in this case, promised Plaintiff he would leave her half of his estate if Plaintiff conveyed considerable amounts of land to her father and nephew. The decedent, however, left Plaintiff only $30,000 in his will after conveying the vast majority of his multi-million-dollar estate to Plaintiff’s nephew. Plaintiff sued her nephew and the estate alleging fraud, contract, and unjust enrichment. The circuit court granted summary judgment for the defendants. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the denial of the breach of contract claim, holding that this claim failed under S.D. Codified Laws 29A-2-514 because it was not evidenced in writing; (2) affirmed the denial of Plaintiff’s fraud claim, holding that S.D. Codified Laws 29A-3-803 barred this claim; and (3) reversed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment on Plaintiff’s unjust enrichment claim against her nephew, holding that genuine issues of material fact existed precluding summary judgment on this claim. View "Huston v. Martin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants in this action for summary judgment, holding that an exculpatory clause in a contract between the parties unambiguously insulated Defendants for liability in tort and contract for their good-faith acts and failures to act under the authority granted to them by the contract and contract documents. At issue was the enforceability of exculpatory clauses insulating a third party from claims of negligent design and negligent administration and interpretation of a contract. The Supreme Court held that Defendants, who were hired by the Oglala Sioux Tribe to design a road reconstruction project, were entitled to summary judgment where (1) Plaintiff failed to establish that the clause at issue contravened public policy; (2) Defendants established a prima facie case of good faith, and there was no material issue of fact in dispute on the issue of Defendants’ good-faith acts and failures to act in the interpretation and application of the contract documents; and (3) no genuine material issue existed for trial that Defendants’ design and drafting fell below a professional standard of care. View "Domson, Inc. v. Kadrmas Lee & Jackson, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case asserting breach of contract and fraud, the Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court granting the motion filed by Portable Lift Equipment Inc. (PLE) for a new trial on the issue of damages, holding that the circuit court erred in concluding that there was insufficient evidence to support the compensatory awards. International Services Group Corp. (ISG) contracted with PLE to build two observation platforms for use by law enforcement at a festival held in Puerto Rico. PLE failed to deliver the agreed-upon platforms and instead delivered a contractually noncompliant platform. ISG sued PLE and its president. The jury found in favor of ISG and awarded both compensatory and punitive damages. PLE later filed a motion for a new trial. The circuit court granted a new trial on the issue of damages, expressing concern that it could not replicate the jury’s calculations, and denied the motion on the issue of liability. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the compensatory damages awards provided by the jury could be explained by the evidence, and the compensatory damages did not impermissibly taint the punitive-damages awards. View "ISG, Corp. v. PLE, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court granted summary judgment for Debtor in this breach of contract case brought by Creditor to recover unpaid installments under a promissory note. In moving for summary judgment, Debtor relied on an acceleration provision in the promissory note, asserting that the statute of limitations had expired on Creditor’s claim six years after Debtor defaulted. The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Debtor, holding that a material issue of fact was in dispute whether Debtor’s conduct following default warranted a different limitation period. View "Work v. Allgier" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal from a circuit court order granting Defendant’s motion to compel arbitration, holding that no statutory authority existed to entertain the appeal as a matter of right. Plaintiffs sued Defendant seeking a declaratory judgment and rescission of a contract for the sale of land and an incorporated lease. The circuit court issued a temporary restraining order against Defendant and a show cause order setting a hearing for preliminary injunction. Thereafter, Defendant filed a demand for arbitration. The circuit court entered an order compelling arbitration on all claims alleged in Plaintiffs’ complaint. Plaintiffs appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the order compelling Plaintiffs to engage in arbitration was not an order appealable as a matter of right under either S.D. Codified Laws 15-26A-3(2) or S.D. Codified Laws 21-25A-35. View "Stoebner v. Konrad" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court entering judgment on the jury’s general verdict in favor of real-estate developers (Developers) and against the City of Rapid City in this suit seeking to recover the prospective cost of repairing roads in a development outside Rapid City. Specifically, the Court held that the circuit court did not err by (1) denying the City’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability; (2) excluding evidence of the Developers’ litigation and settlement with their subcontractors; (3) granting one of the developer’s motion for judgment as a matter of law; (4) instructing the jury on estoppel defenses; and (5) not instructing the jury on the City’s public-nuisance claim. View "City of Rapid City v. Big Sky, LLC" on Justia Law

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The circuit court did not err in denying Sellers’ motions for judgment as a matter of law and for a new trial in this case brought by Buyers against Sellers of a house alleging violation of statutory disclosure requirements. Shortly after purchasing a house, Buyers experienced water-penetration issues. Buyers sued Sellers, claiming violation of the statutory disclosure requirements, fraudulent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment, and negligent misrepresentation. The jury found in favor of Buyers on its statutory disclosures claim and in favor of Sellers on the remaining claims. On appeal, the Supreme Court held that the circuit court (1) did not err in denying Sellers’ renewed motion for judgment of a matter of law and Sellers’ motion for new trial; and (2) did not abuse its discretion in declining to award attorney fees. View "Center of Life Church v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court ordering Eryn Winegeart to sell real estate she owned jointly with her former spouse, Weston Winegeart, holding that the court did not err by ordering Eryn to sign a purchase agreement signed by a third party. After the parties underwent mediation, Weston signed an agreement with a real-estate agent to list the jointly owned real estate, and the listing agreement included a commission for the realtor. After the third party signed the purchase agreement, Eryn refused to sign it, asserting that during mediation Weston had orally agreed to sell the property without paying for a realtor. The circuit court found that the parties had not entered into an enforceable oral agreement in regard to realtor fees and ordered Eryn to sign the purchase agreement. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err by entering its order requiring Eryn to sign the purchase agreement. View "Winegeart v. Winegeart" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s partial denial of Plaintiffs’ partial denial of their request for preliminary injunctive relief against Defendant, their former agent, holding that the circuit court did not err by enjoining Defendant only from soliciting business from Plaintiffs’ existing customers without also enjoining Defendant from selling to those customers. Plaintiffs, Farm Bureau Life Insurance Co. and Farm Bureau Property and Casualty Insurance Co., argued in their complaint that Defendant, after leaving Farm Bureau, breached the agency contracts he entered into with Farm Bureau by selling insurance policies to clients to whom he had previously sold Farm Bureau policies. In partially denying Plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief, the circuit court concluded that portions of the agency contracts that prohibited Defendant from selling to Farm Bureau’s existing customers was an invalid restraint on trade under S.D. Codified Laws chapter 53-9. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the plain meaning of section 53-9-12 supported the circuit court’s decision to adhere to that statute’s language. View "Farm Bureau Life Insurance Co. v. Dolly" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed and remanded a jury award of $260,464 after the jury found in favor of Plaintiff on its breach of contract and fraud claims against Defendant. In Stern Oil I, Defendant appealed a judgment awarding Plaintiff over eight years of lost profits in excess of $900,000. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, ruling that the circuit court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff on its breach of contract claims against Defendant and by denying Defendant’s fraud claims against Plaintiff.On remand, a jury found in favor of Plaintiff on both claims. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the circuit court erred by (1) instructing the jury on consequential damages and the foreseeability of Plaintiff’s lost profits to Defendant at the time of contracting; and (2) excluding Plaintiff’s evidence on four damage scenarios. View "Stern Oil Co. v. Brown" on Justia Law