Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Landowners' petition for writ of review asserting that the Ravalli County Board of County Commissioners exceeded its jurisdiction to grant or deny Landowners' petition for abandonment, holding that Landowners failed to meet the statutory requirement for issuance of a writ of review. Landowners erected a gate that obstructed a portion of a county road. Landowners petitioned the Board to abandon that portion of the road, but the Board denied the petition for abandonment and ordered the gate removed. Landowners later filed their petition for a writ of review. The district court denied Landowners' petition for a writ of review and accompanying application for preliminary injunction on the basis that the Board did not exceed its jurisdiction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Landowners failed to show that the Board exceeded its jurisdiction. View "Bugli v. Ravalli County" on Justia Law

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In this case challenging the approval of a permit to build a bridge on certain property the Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court entering judgment in favor of Community Association for North Shore Conservation, Inc. (CANSC) and the order denying CANSC's request for attorney fees, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion. Intervenor Jolene Dugan, who owned a peninsula-shaped parcel of land on the shore of Flathead Lake, sought to build a bridge on her property to connect what was sometimes an intermittent island to the mainland. The Flathead County Board of County Commissioners approved the permit, and Dugan built the bridge. CANSC sought to overturn the approval of Dugan's permit. The district court entered an order requiring Dugan to take down the bridge and restore the area. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) CANSC had standing to bring this lawsuit; (2) the Board's approval of the bridge permit was arbitrary and capricious; (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it ordered Dugan to restore the lake to its original state; and (4) the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing CANSC's request for attorney fees. View "Community Ass'n for North Shore Conservation, Inc. v. Flathead County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court denying Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment in this case alleging a violation of Article 9A of Montana's adopted version of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), holding that the district court erred when it concluded that Article 9 no longer applied to the agreement between the parties. Plaintiffs and Defendants entered into an installment sale contract and security agreement to buy a mobile home. When Plaintiffs continually missed payments on the mobile home Defendants sent a notice of default and then demanded the outstanding balance on the agreement. Plaintiffs moved out of the mobile home and voluntarily returned it to Defendants. After Defendants sold the mobile home to a new buyer Plaintiffs brought suit alleging that Defendants violated provision of Article 9A. The district court denied Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and entered judgment in favor of Defendants. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there were no genuine issues of material fact as to Defendants' UCC violations, and Plaintiffs were entitled to judgment as a matter of law on that issue. View "Christman v. Clause" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Montana Water Court holding that Appellants failed to prove a long period of continuous nonuse and therefore failed to show Claimant or his predecessors' presumed intent to abandon the water rights, holding that the Water Court did not err. Specifically, the Court held (1) the Water Court did not err in concluding that Appellants failed to establish a continuous period of nonuse; (2) the failure to assert water rights through the water commissioner is not the equivalent of nonuse; (3) the Water Court did not commit clear error in not addressing the issue of partial abandonment; and (4) the Water Court did not err in concluding that the appropriate remedy for Appellants would be to file a dissatisfied water use complaint or pursue contempt proceedings. View "Klamert v. Iverson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the district court granting summary judgment to the State of Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Birk Engineering and Bret A. Birk (Birks) and Flathead County on Amber Norbeck and Andrew Norbeck's complaint asserting violations of the Montana Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act, negligence, negligent misrepresentation, continuing nuisance, and constructive fraud, holding that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to Defendants. After the Norbecks built a home in a subdivision they experienced flooding and ongoing water quality issues. When the Norbecks could not sell their home using conventional financing due to DEQ violation notices the Norbecks brought this suit. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly determined that the Norbecks' claims were not commenced within the applicable statutes of limitation. View "Norbeck v. Flathead County" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning a boundary realignment agreement entered into between the parties in this case, the Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting specific performance of a contract to Plaintiff, holding that the district court correctly determined that the cause of action was timely prosecuted by Plaintiff and that Plaintiff was entitled to specific performance of a contract. The district court ruled that Plaintiff was entitled to specific performance and dismissed Defendants' trespass claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err by concluding that Plaintiff's breach of contract claim was not barred by the relevant statute of limitation; (2) did not err by determining that Plaintiff was entitled to specific performance of the contract; and (3) properly dismissed Defendants' trespass claim. View "Miller v. Kleppen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court, which concluded that Soup Creek Road was an extinguished prescriptive easement across the parcel of land owned by Plaintiffs - Soup Creek, LLC, Dewey Skelton, and Rosana Skelton - holding that the district court erred in concluding that Soup Creek Road was not a public highway. Soup Creek Road had been used as a public travel way for more than 150 years. In 2010, Defendants’ predecessor-in-interest successfully petitioned to abandon only that portion of Soup Creek Road that crosses over what is now Defendants’ parcel. In 2009, the Skeltons asked the district court to declare the portion of Soup Creek Road that traverses their land to be a private road over which Defendants had no easement to reach their parcel. Defendants counterclaimed that the road is a public highway established prior to 1895 through prescriptive use. The district court found no right-of-way or easement on Soup Creek Road and that any public prescriptive easement had been extinguished. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that only the part of Soup Creek Road that passed through Defendants’ parcel was abandoned and that the remainder of Soup Creek Road, including the portion crossing the Skeltons’ lot, continues to be a public highway. View "Soup Creek LLC v. Gibson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting a preliminary injunction in favor of Defendants in this dispute over certain property, holding that the district court did not err by granting the preliminary injunction in favor of Defendants even where they did not show they would suffer irreparable injury. Plaintiff brought a quiet action seeking to resolve the question of property ownership of disputed area between the parties. Defendants counterclaimed for a prescriptively acquired easement permitting them to use an access route to their property pending the outcome of the litigation. The district court determined that Defendants had made a prima facie showing of their claim for prescriptive easement and granted them a preliminary injunction pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 27-19-201(1). Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the district court erred by granting the preliminary injunction because Defendants did not show they would suffer irreparable injury. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendants established that they would suffer continuing harm by not being able to access their property while the litigation was pending and, therefore, the purpose of equitable injunctive relief was fulfilled. View "BAM Ventures, LLC v. Schifferman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court assumed original jurisdiction over the issue presented in this case and held that the plain and ordinary meaning of “land acquisition” per Mont. Code Ann. 87-1-209(1) does not encompass conservation easement acquisition and that the statute does not require the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) to finalize its conservation easement transactions with the Board of Land Commissioners (Land Board). Steve Bullock, in his official capacity as Governor of Montana, and Martha Williams, in her official capacity as Director of the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, invoked the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction to declare whether section 87-1-209(1) requires FWP to bring conservation easement transactions of more than 100 acres or $100,000 in value before the Board of Land Commissioners for final approval. The Supreme Court held (1) the issue presented is justiciable; (2) the Governor and FWP Director have standing to petition the Court; (3) the Court is within the sphere of its constitutional authority to interpret the statutory meaning of section 87-1-209(1); and (4) acquisitions of interests in land do not require Land Board approval, and therefore, FWP is not statutorily required to take its conservation easement transactions before the Land Board. View "Bullock v. Fox" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Anaconda-Deer Lodge County in this dispute over the status of a road, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that the County’s use of the upper branch of the road did not amount to a taking but that Letica Land Company, LLC was not constitutionally entitled to litigation expenses and that both Letica and the County were responsible for their individual trial costs. At issue was the status of Modesty Creek Road, located near the boundary between Anaconda-Deer Lodge County (the County) and Powell County. Letica filed a complaint and sought a preliminary injunction barring public use of the road until a judgment established the existence of a right-of-way over either or both the upper and lower branches. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the County and dismissed Letica’s takings claims. The Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in the County’s favor; (2) because a taking did not occur, Letica was not constitutionally entitled to compensation or litigation expenses; and (3) the district court erred in holding Letica accountable for the County’s trial costs. View "Letica Land Co., LLC v. Anaconda-Deer Lodge County" on Justia Law