Ally Financial, Inc. v. Stevenson

Ally Financial, Inc. v. Stevenson, 2017 MT 190 (Aug. 8, 2017) (Wheat, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in determining it had subject matter jurisdiction, and (2) whether venue was proper in Chouteau County under § 30-14-133(1), MCA.

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

Affirmed

Facts: Stevenson bought a fifth wheel trailer from Big Sky RV, Inc. in 2014 for $72,595. She traded in her previous trailer for $8,000, provided a down payment of $21,773, and financed the remainder through Ally Bank. Big Sky delivered the new trailer to Stevenson’s home in Chouteau County in August 2014, and picked up her trade-in the same day.

In November 2015, Ally filed suit against Stevenson in Chouteau County for default of her loan agreement. Stevenson answered and filed a third-party complaint against Big Sky for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and violations fo the Montana Consumer Protection Act.

Procedural Posture & Holding: Big Sky answered and moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing venue was improper and the court lacked jurisdiction over the MCPA claim. The district court denied the motion, and Big Sky appeals. The Supreme Court affirms.

Reasoning: The MCPA states that a consumer may bring an action in the district court of the county in which the seller, lessor, or service provider resides or has its principal place of business. § 30-14-133(1), MCA. Big Sky argues this is either a venue limitation or a subject matter jurisdiction restriction. The Court holds this is a venue provision that has no impact on the district court’s jurisdiction.

Big Sky is a Montana corporation and cannot rely on cases interpreting the phrase “doing business” as applied to out-of-state corporations. Because there is sufficient evidence to show that Big Sky entered into a contract with Stevenson, a Chouteau County resident and delivered the purchased good to Stevenson there, the Court concludes that the district court did not err in holding that venue was proper in Chouteau County.