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Great Falls Clinic v. Mont. Eighth Jud. Dist. Court

Great Falls Clinic v. Mont. Eighth Jud. Dist. Court, 2016 MT 245 (Oct. 4, 2016) (McGrath, C.J.) (7-0, petition granted, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the Wrongful Discharge from Employment Act (WDEA) applies to the parties’ relationship.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Lisa Warrington was offered a job at Great Falls Clinic on October 7, 2014, while she was employed by Benefis Hospital. Warrington accepted the offer and gave two weeks’ notice to Benefis. Warrington signed a written employment contract on October 10, with both parties agreeing her employment would begin October 27, 2014. On October 24, Warrington’s last day at Benefis, the clinic called and told Warrington it would not employ her after all.

Warrington sued the clinic for breach of contract, promissory estoppel and bad faith.…

Estate of Woody v. Big Horn County

Estate of Woody v. Big Horn County, 2016 MT 180 (July 26, 2016) (Baker, J.) (5-0, rev’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in holding that the estate’s claim was barred by the statute of limitations.

Short Answer: Yes.

Reversed and remanded

Facts: Kenneth Woody IV was killed on December 16, 2011 after the vehicle in which he was a passenger crashed, following a high-speed chase by a Big Horn County sheriff’s deputy. On September 11, 2014, Woody’s estate submitted a claim letter to the county, seeking $750,000 for wrongful death and survivorship damages. The letter informed the county it had 120 days to resolve the claim without litigation. The county commissioners acknowledged receipt on September 15, 2014, but never responded.…

City of Kalispell v. Omyer

City of Kalispell v. Omyer, 2016 MT 63 (March 15, 2016) (Wheat, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether § 61-5-212, MCA imposes absolute liability for driving with a suspended license; and (2) whether letters from the Motor Vehicle Department informing each appellant that their drivers’ licenses were suspended were improperly admitted testimonial hearsay or properly admitted copies of public records.

Short Answer: (1) Yes, and (2) the letters were properly admitted as copies of public records under Rules 803(8) and 902(4).


Facts: In this consolidated appeal, three defendants were charged with various traffic violations, including driving with a suspended license. In each of the three bench trials, the state introduced letters sent from the MVD to the defendant notifying him or her of the suspension.…

Fellows v. Saylor

Fellows v. Saylor, 2016 MT 45 (March 1, 2016) (Baker, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the water right claims in controversy were properly determined under Fellows I, 2012 MT 169; and (2) whether the district court erred in granting Fellows’ motion for substitution.

Short Answer: (1) Yes, and (2) the appeal of this issue is untimely.


Facts: Fellows owns several water rights in Spring Creek near Choteau. His rights were decreed in Sands Cattle & Land Co. v. Jackson (Mont. 10th Jud. Dist. Ct. 1892). Fellows claims that Spring Creek and the Teton Rover are hydrologically connected, and that maintaining the flow in Spring Creek requires maintaining water in the Springhill Reach, a subsurface aquifer from the Teton River.…

Kulko v. Davail, Inc.

Kulko v. Davail, Inc., 2015 MT 340 (Dec. 8, 2015) (Cotter, J.) (7-0, rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in concluding that corporate dissolution is an exclusive remedy under § 35-1-939, MCA; and (2) whether the district court erred in dismissing Kulko’s claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the basis that the corporate dissolution eliminated any case or controversy.

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

Reversed and remanded

Facts: Alex and Sharon Horn incorporated Davail, Inc. in Montana in 1982 for estate planning purposes. Their children – David Kulko, Ilsa Kaye, and Michael Horn – are Davail’s sole shareholders, officers, and directors. Kulko owns 46% of the shares and is a director and vice-president; Kaye owns 46% and is a director and president; and Horn owns the remaining 8%.…

In the Matter of JB

In the Matter of JB, 2015 MT 342 (Dec. 15, 2015) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in dismissing NL, and (2) whether the district court erred in denying NL’s request to appear at JB’s proceeding pursuant to § 41-3-422(9)(a), MCA.

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

Affirmed and reversed

Facts: NL and MH lived together for about seven years and have two biological children together, ages 6 and 8. MH is also the biological mother of JB, age 10. JB has no relationship with his biological father, who has not appeared in this case. NL acted as JB’s father and raised him from eight months old until June 2012, when JB and the other two children were removed from their home by DPHHS.…

State v. Robertson

State v. Robertson, 2015 MT 341 (Dec. 8, 2015) (Cotter, J.) (5-0, rev’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in dismissing the aggravated assault charge against Robertson based on the state’s failure to issue a fitness-to-proceed report within 90 days of Robertson’s commitment.

Short Answer: Yes, because Robertson waived the timeliness argument.

Reversed and remanded

Facts: Ross Robertson has been in and out of the state hospital at least seven times since 2004. Robertson attempted to rob a convenience store using a weapon in 2005. After a competency evaluation, he pled guilty but mentally ill and was sentenced to DPHHS’s custody for 15 years with 5 suspended.

In January 2012, Robertson violently attacked and seriously injured a nurse at MSH.…

Watterud v. Gilbraith

Watterud v. Gilbraith, 2015 MT 288 (Oct. 6, 2015) (Cotter, J.) (6-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in granting summary judgment to sellers’ real estate agent on the basis that the buyers’ negligence claim is premised on duties to inspect and discover, which do no exist under the statute.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Gilbraiths retained Amber Uhren to sell their home in September 2013. The GIlbraiths disclosed in the listing contract that the property had not been tested for mold nor treated or mitigated for mold.

Two days later, the Watteruds entered into a buy-sell with the Gilbraiths, and both couples signed a property disclosure statement and a mold disclosure form. The Gilbraiths disclosed that there had been leakage, flooding, moisture or evidence of water in the basement in 2005, and that the “issue has been handled & taken care of.”…

Commissioner of Political Practices v. Bannan

Commissioner of Political Practices v. Bannan, 2015 MT 220 (Aug. 4, 2015) (Cotter, J.) (7-0, appeal dismissed)

Issue: Whether the Lewis & Clark County District Court had subject matter jurisdiction over the commissioner’s enforcement action against Bannan.

Short Answer: Yes, the district court had subject matter jurisdiction. The real issue on appeal is an issue of statutory interpretation, and this appeal is premature.

Appeal dismissed

Facts: Terry Bannan was an unsuccessful candidate for the Montana Legislature in the 2010 primary. Commissioner Motl issued a decision in January 2014, concluding there was sufficient evidence to demonstrate Bannan had violated various campaign practices and finance law warranting civil adjudication.

The commissioner forwarded his decision to the Lewis and Clark county attorney for consideration of pursuing an action against Bannan.…

McDonald v. Ponderosa Enterprises, Inc.

McDonald v. Ponderosa Enterprises, Inc., 2015 MT 160 (June 16, 2015) (Wheat, J.; McKinnon, J., concurring & dissenting) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in holding the Montana Occupational Health and Safety Act did not create duty of safety running from an employer to an independent contractor; (2) whether the district court erred in prohibiting testimony related to “rules” on a construction site; and (3) whether RTK is entitled to costs and fees for being improperly joined as an appellee by Ponderosa.

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


Facts: Ponderosa is a framing company, and Matt Orrell is its principal. Cody McDonald is a construction worker doing business as Head First Construction. McDonald was approved as an independent contractor by the Department of Labor in April 2008.…