Archive | May, 2015

Atlantic Casualty Insur. Co. v. Greytak

Atlantic Casualty Insur. Co. v. Greytak, 2015 MT 149 (May 29, 2015) (McGrath, C.J.; Rice, J., concurring; McKinnon, J., concurring) (7-0, certified question answered)

Issue: Whether the notice-prejudice rule applies to insurers in third-party damages claims.

Short Answer: Yes.

Certified question answered

Facts: In March 2010, GTL sued Greytak and Tanglewood (Greytak) for non-payment of an obligation arising from a construction project. GTL was insured by Atlantic Casualty under a CGL policy. In March 2010 Greytak sent a letter to GTL asserting it had grounds for various counterclaims involving construction defects, and in November 2010 filed counterclaims in the state court action.

In April 2011, GTL and Greytak entered a settlement agreement that required GTL to notify Atlantic of Greytak’s counterclaims.…

Spotted Horse v. BNSF R.R. Co.

Spotted Horse v. BNSF R.R. Co., 2015 MT 148 (May 29, 2015) (Cotter, J.; Wheat, J., concurring; McKinnon, J., dissenting) (6-1, rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court abused its discretion in declining to grant plaintiff’s motion for default judgment based on spoliation of evidence; and (2) whether the district court abused its discretion when instructing the jury as to BNSF’s duty of care.

Short Answer: (1) No, but the sanction it imposed was an abuse of discretion; and (2) yes.

Reversed and remanded for a new trial

Facts: Mark Spotted Horse, a BNSF Railway machinist, claimed that he suffered a disabling injury when his co-worker inadvertently lowered a locomotive engine compartment hatch in his head. Spotted Horse reported the incident and was immediately taken to the hospital.…

State v. Braulick

State v. Braulick, 2015 MT 147 (May 26, 2015) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in denying Braulick’s motion to suppress spontaneous statements made in custody after he requested an attorney and before he was notified of his Miranda rights; (2) whether the district court erred in denying Braulick’s motion to exclude one of the crime victims from the courtroom.

Short Answer: (1) No, and (2) no.

Affirmed

Facts: Jeremy Braulick, 39, asked to stay with his mother, Cheryl, and stepfather, Scott, over Christmas in 2011. His mother was initially reluctant and agreed on the condition that Braulick would not be abusive toward her.

On Dec. 27, 2011, Braulick became increasingly agitated, and his mother and stepfather told him he would have to leave.…

In the Matter of MKS

In the Matter of MKS, 2015 MT 146 (May 26, 2015) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether psychologist’s failure to file statutorily required written report in MKS’s civil commitment proceeding was plain error.

Short Answer: No.

Affirmed

Facts: MKS has been hospitalized numerous times for mental health illness. In November 2013, MKS stipulated to a 6-month community commitment. The order provided that MKS would remain at St. Pat’s Neurobehavioral Unit until she was stabilized, that she would keep all of he appointment and follow the recommendations of her treating professionals, and that she would take all of her medications, including injectable ones.

In January 2014, the state filed a “renewed” petition for commitment, stating police had taken MKS to the ER after she called the crisis line and said she was suicidal.…

Hansen v. Bozeman Police Department

Hansen v. Bozeman Police Department, 2015 MT 143 (May 26, 2015) (McGrath, C.J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in denying Hansen’s motion for leave to file an amended complaint; and (2) whether the district court properly granted summary judgment to the police department.

Short Answer: (1) No; and (2) yes.

Affirmed

Facts: Corey Hansen is a veteran who suffers from service-connected physical conditions, including a seizure disorder. He has a service dog that alerts him to oncoming seizures. In 2011, Hansen and some friends planned a visit to the C’Mon Inn in Bozeman. Hansen had a reservation and had stayed there with his service dog previously. He left copies of his dog’s certification papers on file at the hotel, and they were still on file when Hansen arrived to check in, accompanied by his service dog wearing the appropriate identification vest.…

Worledge v. Riverstone Residential Group, LLC

Worledge v. Riverstone Residential Group, LLC, 2015 MT 142 (May 26, 2015) (Baker, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court abused its discretion by admitting new evidence submitted with Plaintiffs’ reply brief; and (2) whether the district court properly certified Plaintiffs’ class under Rule 23(a); and (3) Rule 23(b)(3).

Short Answer: (1) No; (2) yes; and (3) yes.

Affirmed

Facts: Appellants Creekside, Wildlflower, Shiloh Glen and Mullan (Owners) own multi-unit apartment buildings in Missoula and Billings. Appellant Riverstone and its predecessor, HSC, managed Owners’ apartment complexes during the relevant times. Appellees are current or former tenants of Owners’ apartment complexes who signed leases for their apartments through Riverstone (Tenants).

In June 2013, Tenants filed a complaint on behalf of themselves and other unnamed plaintiffs who entered into rental agreements with Riverstone to rent apartments at Owners’ complexes.…

Locke v. Estate of Davis

Locke v. Estate of Davis, 2015 MT 141 (May 26, 2015) (Cotter, J.) (5-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court properly denied the estate’s motion to alter or amend the judgment; (2) whether the district court abused its discretion by making findings and conclusions that effectively bind Safeco to a judgment when Safeco was not a named party and did not appear.

Short Answer: (1) No; and (2) yes.

Affirmed in part, vacated and remanded

Facts: In May 2011, Marian Davis lost control of her car and struck Amy Locke’s car. Davis died several hours later. Locke suffered multiple physical and emotional injuries.

Davis was insured by Safeco under a policy with $100,000 per person coverage. In August 2012, Locke filed a claim for damages against Davis’s estate.…

Estate of Gleason v. Central United Life Insurance Co.

Estate of Gleason v. Central United Life Insurance Co., 2015 MT 140 (May 20, 2015) (Wheat, J.; McKinnon, J., concurring & dissenting; Rice, J., concurring & dissenting) (5-2, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) whether the district erred in applying the notice-prejudice rule; (2) whether the district court erred when it instructed the jury that it must first find UTPA damages other than damages for failure to pay benefits before considering punitive damages; (3) whether the district court erred by failing to direct a verdict against Central United for violating the UTPA; (4) whether the district erred in not dismissing the UTPA claim because Central United had a reasonable basis in law for denying the claims; (5) whether the district court erred in determining the date from which the statute of limitations was applied; (6) whether the district court erred in allowing the parties to present evidence of other cases in and out of Montana; (7) whether the district court properly awarded trial costs to Central United; (8) whether the district court erred in awarding attorneys’ fees to the estate.…

Kent v. City of Columbia Falls

Kent v. City of Columbia Falls, 2015 MT 139 (May 19, 2015) (Cotter, J.; Cotter, J., concurring; Baker, J., dissenting) (4-3, rev’d)

Issue: Whether the district court properly applied the public duty doctrine in granting summary judgment to the city.

Short Answer: No.

Reversed and remanded

Facts: Casey Kent, 35, died June 14, 2008, from a head injury he suffered from a fall while skateboarding in a planned unit development (PUD) in Columbia Falls, Cedar Pointe Estates. His wife Sara sued the city of Columbia Falls and various other entities that designed, developed and constructed Cedar Pointe Estates. Sara alleged the path where Casey was skating was built at a 24% grade, and the steepness of this grade caused Casey’s fall and fatal head injury.…

State v. Schowengerdt

State v. Schowengerdt, 2015 MT 133 (May 19, 2015) (Rice, J.) (5-0, rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court adequately inquired into Schowengerdt’s complaint of ineffective assistance of counsel, and (2) whether Schowengert received ineffective assistance of counsel.

Short Answer: (1) No, and (2) the Court does not reach this issue as it remands for inquiry into Schowengerdt’s complaints.

Reversed

Facts: Schowengerdt was charged with one count of deliberate homicide for the stabbing death of his wife. The morning after the murder, Schowengerdt provided a full confession.

Schowengerdt was assigned counsel from OPD, Steven Scott. Scott filed a notice that Schowengerdt intended to plead not guilty and assert the affirmative defense of justifiable use of force. However, a few months later, Schowengerdt agreed to plead guilty to deliberate homicide without the benefit of a plea agreement.…