Archive | September, 2015

State v. Larson

State v. Larson, 2015 MT 271 (Sept. 15, 2015) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in denying Larson’s motion to suppress statements made in police custody; and (2) whether Larson’s counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to present the video recording of the police interview at the suppression hearing.

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


Facts: Susie Casey was found dead in the Yellowstone River in the spring of 2008, several weeks after her family reported her missing. An autopsy determined she had died of strangulation and then been put in the water.

Larson and Susie married in 1993. Susie filed for divorce in 1997, which became final in February 1998. Larson did not want the divorce, and had no contact with the children for several years after the marriage ended.…

State v. Northcutt

State v. Northcutt, 2015 MT 267 (Sept. 8, 2015) (Baker, J.; McKinnon, J., concurring) (7-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court violated Northcutt’s right to be present and right to a public trial by asking the jury about the status of its deliberations without the defendant and the public present.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: The state charged Northcutt with three counts of assaulting a peace officer and one count of aggravated animal cruelty. On the third day of trial, the jury began deliberating around 4:30 p.m. At around 5:30 p.m., the jury sent a note to the court asking to see one of the demonstrative exhibits, which the court and the parties agreed to supply. The jury sent a second note around 7:30 p.m.…

State v. Robertson

State v. Robertson, 2015 MT 266 (Sept. 8, 2015) (McGrath, C.J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the probationary condition prohibiting Robertson from having contact with his son and daughter violates his statutory and constitutional rights.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Dustin Robertson was charged with kidnapping the mother of his young children, Chalsea Cady, by restraining her at their apartment in July 2011; misdemeanor endangering the welfare of children; and two counts of felony partner/family member assault. He pled guilty to one offense of criminal endangerment of Cady for physically assaulting her, and the state dropped the remaining charges.

The presentence investigation reported a history of physical and mental abuse of Cady by Robertson, and proposed a probationary condition prohibiting Robertson from having any contact with Cady unless she initiated it through the DOC.…

Davis v. DPHHS

Davis v. DPHHS, 2015 MT 264 (Sept. 8, 2015) (Cotter, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court properly held as a matter of law that Davis was properly terminated for good cause.

Short Answer: Yes.

Summary judgment affirmed

Facts: Donna Davis began working as an attorney for DPHHS in 2006, and was terminated in July 2011 after five years of employment. In January 2010, Davis’s superiors began receiving complaints about her work product, her manner toward coworkers, and her repeated violations of department policies. On April 19, 2011, via a late-night email to chief legal counsel for DPHHS Bernie Jacobs and the HR director for DPHHS, Kathy Bremer. Davis told Jacobs and Bremer she had been verbally assaulted by her supervisor and was fearful of going to work.…

Marriage of Clark

Marriage of Clark, 2015 MT 263 (Sept. 8, 2015) (Baker, J.) (5-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court abused its discretion in ordering Gordon to make an equalization payment within 120 days or be forced to sell or transfer the ranch; (2) whether the district court abused its discretion in failing to consider tax liabilities associated with selling the ranch; and (3) whether the district court erred in its valuation of the ranch.

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

Affirmed (1 & 3) and reversed (2) and remanded

Facts: Gordon and Nancy married in 1996 and separated in 2012. No children were born to the marriage. Nancy entered the marriage with property on the Stillwater River (the river house) and Gordon entered the marriage with ranch property.…

Scotts v. Metcalf Charitable Trust

Scotts v. Metcalf Charitable Trust, 2015 MT 265 (Sept. 8, 2015) (Wheat, J.), (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the Trust could enforce the Metcalf Restrictions against the Scotts; (2) Whether the Metcalf Restrictions were enforceable as anything other than a conservation easement; (3) whether the Metcalf Restrictions are void under the rule against perpetuities; (4) whether the district curt correctly held that the Metcalf Restrictions were not void for vagueness.

Short Answer: (1) Yes; (2) yes; (3) no; and (4) the Court declines to address this as a nonjusticiable controversy.


Facts: In January 1996, Donna Metcalf transferred a 40-acre parcel of land to Richard Thieltges by warranty deed. The deed included certain “covenants, restrictions, conditions and charges,” referred to as the Metcalf Restrictions.…

Christian v. Atlantic Richfield Co.

Christian v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 2015 MT 255 (Sept. 1, 2015) (McKinnon, J.; Baker, J., concurring (2, 3, 4); Wheat, J., concurring (1, 2, 3) & dissenting (4); Rice, J., concurring (4) & dissenting (1)) (aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the continuing tort doctrine requires evidence of the continued migration of contaminants; (2) whether genuine issues of material fact exist regarding the reasonableness of abating the contamination on Landowners’ properties; (3) whether the continuing tort doctrine applies to Landowners’ claims other than nuisance and trespass; and (4) whether the facts constituting Landowners’ claims were concealed or self-concealing, or whether ARCO took action to prevent Landowners from learning those facts.

Short Answer: (1) No, migration is not the dispositive factor; the key to whether an injury is temporary or permanent is whether further abatement is reasonable (McKinnon, Cotter, Wheat, Shea, Manley) (Rice dissents) (5-1); (2) yes, reasonable abatability must be decided by the trier of fact (McKinnon, Cotter, Baker concurs in the judgment, Wheat, Shea, Manley) (6-0); (3) yes for continuing injuries caused by strict liability, negligence, and wrongful occupation, but not for unjust enrichment (McKinnon, Cotter, Baker, Wheat, Shea, Manley) (6-0); (4) no, and Landowners’ claims for unjust enrichment and constructive fraud are therefore time-barred (McKinnon, Cotter, Baker, Rice) (Wheat dissents, Shea & Manley join) (4-3).…

Smith v. Smith

Smith v. Smith, 2015 MT 256 (Sept. 1, 2015) (Rice. J.) (5-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in ordering the division of Glenn’s social security benefits; (2) Whether the district court abused its discretion in ordering maintenance to Debora; (3) whether the district court abused its discretion in imposing conditions on the termination of maintenance; (4) whether the district court’s equalization payment was an abuse of discretion; and (5) whether the district court’s award to Debora of the SeaDoo was an abuse of discretion.

Short Answer: (1) Yes; (2) yes, as it made no findings to support her estimated expenses; (3) no; (4) no; and (5) no.

Affirmed and reversed and remanded for further proceedings

Facts: Glenn and Debora live in Polson.…

Sharbono v. Cole

Sharbono v. Cole, 2015 MT 257 (Sept. 1, 2015) (McGrath, C.J.; Baker, J., concurring) (5-0, rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court properly granted Coles’ motion in limine to exclude Sharbonos’ expert witnesses; and (2) whether the district court properly granted judgment to Coles and awarded them attorney fees.

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

Reversed and remanded

Facts: Sharbonos and Coles own adjoining parcels of land adjacent to Rock Creek in Carbon County. Sharbonos have a senior right to use water that arises on Coles’ property and flows or seeps into a pond on Sharbonos’ property. In 1994, Coles obtained a water use permit for a pond on their property, and in subsequent years engaged in development and construction activities, which Sharbonos contend greatly reduced or eliminated the flow of water onto their land.…

Montana Interventional & Diagnostic Radiology Specialists, PLLC v. St. Peter’s Hospital

Montana Interventional & Diagnostic Radiology Specialists, PLLC v. St. Peter’s Hospital, 2015 MT 258 (Sept. 1, 2015) (Cotter, J.) (5-0, rev’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in granting the hospital’s motion for judgment on the pleadings based on the primary complaint being barred by the statute of limitations.

Short Answer: Yes.

Reversed and remanded

Facts: MIDRS and St. Peter’s worked together for many years, with MIDRS physicians providing radiological services through the hospital. Before 2006, St. Peter’s had an “open” radiology department, meaning the hospital medical staff granted privileges to qualified non-employee radiologists to interpret images taken at the hospital.

In 2005, MIDRS announced its intent to open a separate imagining facility in Helena, which would compete with St.…