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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.…

Clark Fork Coalition v. Tubbs

Clark Fork Coalition v. Tubbs, 2017 MT 184 (July 25, 2017) (Baker, J.; McKinnon, J., specially concurring) (5-0, rev’d)

Issue: Whether the Coalition was entitled to attorney fees under the private attorney general doctrine following it successful challenge to the DNRC’s exempt-well rule.

Short Answer: No.

Reversed

Facts: The Clark Fork Coalition and other plaintiffs challenged a DNRC rule regarding groundwater appropriations exempt from permitting requirements (the exempt-well rule). The district court invalidated the rule and this Court affirmed. Clark Fork I, 2016 MT 229.

Prior to this Court’s decision in Clark Fork I, the Coalition had moved for fees under the PAG doctrine and the district court had granted the motion. The court held that the DNRC’s promulgation of the 1993 rule was not a quasi0judicial function, and reasoning that the litigation implicated constitutional interests.…

Matter of Estate of Edwards, 2017 MT 93 (April 25, 2017) (Baker, J.) (5-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in appointing a neutral personal representative; (2) whether the district court abused its discretion in evidentiary rulings at trial; (3) whether substantial credible evidence supported the jury’s findings that the 2012 will and the 2012 trust were procured by undue influence, fraud, or duress; (4) whether the district court erred in refusing to admit the 2010 will to probate or to enforce the 2010 trust after the jury’s verdict; and (5) whether the district court erred in refusing to award Verone attorney fees and certain costs.

Short Answer: (1) No; (2) no; (3) yes; (4) yes; and (5) yes.…

Hill County High School v. Dick Anderson Construction, Inc.

Hill County High School v. Dick Anderson Construction, Inc., 2017 MT 20 (March 21, 2017) (Baker, J.; Wheat, J., dissenting) (5-1, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court correctly held that the statute of repose barred the school district’s claims; (2) whether the district court correctly held that the period of repose could not be tolled; and (3) whether the district court properly awarded Springer attorney fees under the contract.

Short Answer: (1) Yes; (2) yes; and (3) yes.

Affirmed

Facts: The school district entered into a contract with Springer in 1996 to design a new roof for the Havre High School, and contracted with Anderson to build the roof in 1997. A final walk through was held in January 1998, the school was in full use by April 1998, and the school district issued final payment around that time.…

In re the Marriage of Wagenman

In re the Marriage of Wagenman, 2016 MT 176 (July 19, 2016) (Wheat, J.) (5-0, rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in denying Tammy’s Rule 60(b) motion to amend the final decree of dissolution, and (2) whether the district court erred in awarding attorney’s fees to Matt.

Short Answer: (1) Yes, and (2) yes.

Reversed and remanded 

Facts: Matt and Tammy Wagenman married in 1996, and jointly petitioned for dissolution in 2012, each appearing pro se. They have no children, and used the self-help dissolution forms approved by the Court. In the “real property” section of the petition, they indicated they own their marital home in Shepherd. In another section of the petition, they stated the real property should be distributed as described in Exhibit A, which was attached to the petition.…

Low v. Reick

Low v. Reick, 2016 MT 167 (July 12, 2016) (Cotter, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in holding that Reicks’ lot is encumbered by a single easement, the existing road, measured 10 feet from each side of the road’s centerline; (2) whether the district court erred by holding Low lacked authority to sign an application for a permit to improve Reicks’ lakeshore property; (3) whether the district court erred by concluding the maintenance agreement is unenforceable against Reicks for lack of consideration; (4) whether the district court erred in holding that Reicks did not breach the maintenance agreement; (5) whether the district court erred by concluding Low breached the road detour agreement, and awarding damages to Reicks; (6) whether the district court erred by concluding Reicks did not convert Low’s fill material; and (7) whether the district court erred in ordering Low to pay Reicks’ attorney’s fees and costs arising from their counterclaim.…

In the Matter of Parenting ZDL-B

In the Matter of Parenting ZDL-B, 2016 MT 164 (July 12, 2016) (Rice, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred by modifying the parenting plan because changed circumstances did not exist; (2) whether the district court’s findings regarding the child’s best interests were clearly erroneous; and (3) whether the district court erred in denying mother’s request for attorney fees and costs.

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

Affirmed

Facts: Z was born in 2003 to Jessica and Daniel, both of whom were in high school. Jessica was Z’s primary provider, with help from Daniel and their families. Jessica and Daniel did not marry, and parented Z without significant court intervention. Jessica petitioned for a parenting plan in 2005, and the court adopted a stipulated plan.…

Petaja v. Montana Public Employees’ Association (MPEA)

Petaja v. Montana Public Employees’ Association (MPEA), 2016 MT 143 (June 8, 2016) (Rice, J.; McGrath, C.J., concurring) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether substantial evidence supported the jury verdict finding MPEA breached its duty of fair representation; (2) whether the jury verdict was contrary to the instructions and the law; (3) whether Petaja’s claim was barred by res judicata; and (4) whether the district court had authority to award attorney fees. 

Short Answer: (1) Yes; (2) no; (3) this claim was waived for purposes of appellate review; and (4) no.

Affirmed

Facts: Petaja was terminated from her position with Lewis and Clark County as the clinic coordinator of the WIC program. The county claimed Petaja was terminated due to reorganization; she claims she was terminated because of her age, 59.…

Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance v. Bullock

Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance v. Bullock, 2016 MT 104 (May 10, 2016) (Cotter, J.; Baker, J., concurring) (7-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in holding that MIJA has standing to challenge LR 121; (2) whether the district court erred in concluding that LR 121 is preempted by federal law; and (3) whether the district court erred in awarding attorney’s fees to MIJA.

Short Answer: (1) No; (2) no, except for its holding that one section of the law was not preempted; and (3) yes.

Affirmed in part and reversed in part

Facts: During the 2011 legislative session, the Montana Legislature passed House Bill 638, denying certain state-funded services to “illegal aliens,” and submitted the act to Montana voters as a legislative referendum.…

Jacobson v. Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC

Jacobson v. Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC, 2016 MT 101 (May 4, 2016) (Wheat, J.; Rice, J., concurring) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in holding that Bayview violated the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act; (2) whether the district court erred in holding that Bayview violated the Montana Consumer Protection Act; (3) whether the district court erred in awarding damages to the Jacobsons; and (4) whether the Jacobsons should be awarded costs and fees on appeal.

Short Answer: (1) No; (2) no; (3) no; and (4) yes.

Affirmed

Facts: Jacobsons borrowed money and bought a home in October 2007, executing a promissory note and trust indenture for $391,400 as security. The original lender was CitiMortgage, Inc. and the “nominee” beneficiary of the trust indenture was Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc.…