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Hudson v. Irwin

Hudson v. Irwin, 2018 MT 8 (Jan. 8, 2018) (McGrath, C.J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in concluding Hudsons were not entitled to access an easement on the Irwin property; (2) whether the owner of real property who is establishing a general plan development can create an easement upon the owner’s own parcel; and (3) whether the prevailing party award of attorney fees should be vacated.

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

Affirmed and remanded for determination of fees on appeal

Facts: Hudsons and Irwin own real property adjacent to one another. Before being subdivided by a previous owner, the properties were one parcel. A privately owned public airport is on the Irwin property.…

City of Libby v. Hubbard

City of Libby v. Hubbard, 2018 MT 2 (Jan. 2, 2018) (Rice, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether Hubbard’s conviction should be reversed because of ineffective assistance of counsel.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Hubbard and her cousin went to a Libby casino to gamble. Hubbard presented a fake ID to obtain a gambling coupon. An employee recognized her and called police. Upon investigation, the officers confirmed that Hubbard had no outstanding warrants, but that her Oregon driver’s license was suspended. She was not cited for using the fake identification.

Shortly after, the officers were on patrol when they saw Hubbard driving. Knowing her license was suspended, they initiated a traffic stop, and arrested her.…

Moreau v. Transportation Insur. Co.

Moreau v. Transportation Insur. Co., 2018 MT 1 (Jan. 2, 2018) (McGrath, C.J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the Workers’ Compensation Court erred in granting summary judgment to Transportation Insurance Company.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Moreau’s husband, Edwin, worked for W.R. Grace in Libby from 1963-1992. In 2009, Edwin died from asbestos-related lung cancer.

In 2000, Grace established the Libby Medical Plan to pay medical expenses for employees injured by asbestos. The Plan paid about $95,000 of Edwin’s medical expenses. In September 2012, as part of Grace’s bankruptcy, certain rights and duties of the Plan were transferred to the Libby Medical Plan Trust. Grace remained responsible for the Plan’s ongoing obligations incurred before that time.

In 2010, Moreau, as PR of Edwin’s estate, filed a work comp claim for occupational disease benefits.…

Zirkelbach Construction, Inc. v. DOWL, LLC

Zirkelbach Construction, Inc. v. DOWL, LLC, 2017 MT 238 (Sept. 26, 2017) (Wheat, J.) (7-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in granting DOWL’s motion for partial summary judgment.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: SunCap owns real property in Billings on which a FedEx Ground facility was to be built. SunCap hired Zirkelbach, a company with extensive experience building FedEx facilities, as the general contractor. Zirkelbach hired DOWL, an experienced design company, to design the facility.

Zirkelbach and DOWL entered into an agreement under which Zirkelbach would pay DOWL $122,967 for services. The parties later added addenda to the agreement, which raised the final fee to DOWL to $655,000. The agreement included a provision under which both parties waived an special, incidental or consequential damages, and agreed that DOWL’s liability to Zirkelbach would be limited to $50,000.…

State v. Nelson

State v. Nelson, 2017 MT 237 (Sept. 26, 2017) (Wheat, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in denying Nelson’s motion to suppress.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: In July 2015, a waitress and a coworker called 911 to report a drunk person driving away from the restaurant where they worked. MHP Officer Burson was on patrol when he received the report from dispatch. Eleven minutes after the initial report, he located the vehicle in a hotel parking lot, where he observed it drive from the check-in area to a parking spot. The officer activated his lights and made contact with the driver, Nelson. After conducting a DUI investigation, he arrested Nelson for DUI.…

State v. Hoover

State v. Hoover, 2017 MT 236 (Sept. 21, 2017) (Sandefur, J.; McKinnon, J., dissenting) (4-1, rev’d)

Issue: Whether the Justice Court erred in denying Hoover’s motion to suppress.

Short Answer: Yes.


Facts: On a warm summer night in 2013. Steven Hoover and an adult female acquaintance drove into an ungated, 24-hour private mini-storage complex near Kalispell, and parked in a secluded spot near the back to engage in consensual intimacy. A deputy sheriff patrolling the adjacent automobile dealership noticed the truck parked in the dark. He stopped and turned off his lights, and saw the silhouettes of two people in the truck. Based on his experience, he suspected a storage unit break-in and summoned other law enforcement officers to assist him.…

Buckles v. Continental Resources, Inc.

Buckles v. Continental Resources, Inc., 2017 MT 235 (Sept. 21, 2017) (Shea, J.; McKinnon, J., dissenting) (6-1, rev’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred by dismissing Buckles’ Complaint on the grounds that Continental Resources is not subject to personal jurisdiction in Montana.

Short Answer: Yes.

Reversed & remanded for an evidentiary hearing on jurisdiction

Facts: On April 28, 2014, Zachary died in North Dakota of exposure to high levels of hydrocarbon vapors while manually gauging crude oil production tanks on Continental’s Columbus Federal 2-16H well site near Alexander, North Dakota. Continental oversees operation of the Columbus Federal 2-16H well site from its corporate office in Sidney, Montana.…

Marriage of Broesder

Marriage of Broesder, 2017 MT 223 (Sept. 12, 2017) (Rice, J.) (5-0, rev’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred by failing to consider the tax consequences of the distribution of the marital estate, resulting in an inequitable distribution.

Short Answer: Yes.

Reversed and remanded

Facts: Donald and Sandra married in 1976, and lived and worked on Donald’s family ranch for about 35 years. They own the ranch in a close corporation with their sons, Seth and Shane, and their daughter-in-law, Sarah. The corporation has restrictions on the sale of stock.…

Bitterrooters for Planning, Inc. v. Mont. Dept. of Envtl. Quality

Bitterrooters for Planning, Inc. v. Mont. Dept. of Envtl. Quality, 2017 MT 222 (Sept. 5, 2017) (Sandefur, J.) (7-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether MEPA requires DEQ to consider non-water-quality-related environmental impacts of the construction and operation of a retail store as secondary impacts of a groundwater discharge permit for an onsite wastewater treatment system; and (2) whether MEPA requires DEQ to identify the actual owner or operator of a wastewater treatment facility prior to issuing a groundwater discharge permit.

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

Affirmed and reversed

Facts: In April 2014, DEQ received an application for a Montana groundwater pollution control system permit to discharge wastewater into groundwater on the site of a contemplated commercial development near Hamilton.…

Watters v. City of Billings

Watters v. City of Billings, 2017 MT 211 (Aug. 28, 2017) (Rice, J.; Wheat, J., dissenting) (5-2, rev’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred by holding the CBAs were unambiguous and excluding extrinsic evidence concerning their interpretation.

Short Answer: Yes.

Reversed and remanded

Facts: Officers are current and retired police officers and members of the union, which collectively bargains with the city. The central dispute in this case is the correct interpretation of the longevity pay provisions in the 2000-2003, 2003-2006, and 2006-2009 CBAs.…