Thieltges v. Royal Alliance Associates, Inc.

Thieltges v. Royal Alliance Associates, Inc., 2014 MT 247 (Sept. 16, 2014) (5-0) McKinnon, J.

Issue: Whether the status of Royal Alliance’s agent as a registered securities salesperson was a self-concealing fact supporting a delay in the running of the statute of limitations.

Short Answer: No.

Affirmed

Facts: Thieltges, Chevallier, and Schindler met with Ray Petersen in 2003 and 2004, seeking advice about seeling their farm and ranch properties. Petersen, a CPA, was a shareholder in Anderson ZurMuehlen and worked with Acquiron, a real estate brokerage firm founded by AZ and real estate broker Rick Ahmann. Petersen was also a licensed securities salesperson registered with Royal Alliance from 2002-2005.

Plaintiffs invested in properties on Petersen’s advice in 2004 and 2005. In October 2008, payments to investors ceased. In April and May, 2011, Plaintiffs filed individual complaints against Anderson ZurMuehlen, Petersen, Acquiron, Ahmann, and Ahmann ‘s real estate brokerage firm, alleging a variety of tort claims.

On Feb. 2, 2012, Petersen was deposed. He stated that he had been registered as a securities salesperson with Royal Alliance until late 2005. Plaintiffs amended their complaints to name Royal Alliance as a defendant.

Procedural Posture & Holding: Royal Alliance moved for summary judgment on statute of limitations grounds, arguing the claims were subject to a three-year statute and it had not been named as a defendant until three and a half years after the injuries were known. The district courts granted summary judgment to Royal Alliance, and all Plaintiffs appealed. The Supreme Court consolidated the appeals, and affirms.

Reasoning: The Court has held injuries to be self-concealing when they involve complex transactions with accountants or lawyers. In those cases, the plaintiffs were unaware they had been injured. Here, in contrast, the plaintiffs knew they had been injured but were unaware of potential claims against an additional defendant. Appellants could have discovered through public records that Petersen was registered as a securities salesperson with Royal Alliance.