Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the order of the district court dismissing Plaintiff’s claims under the Montana Residential Landlord and Tenant Act of 1977 (Landlord-Tenant Act) and alleging violations of restrictive covenants, holding that the district court erred by dismissing Plaintiff’s claims alleging violations of the property covenants’ business use restrictions. Specifically, the Court held (1) where Plaintiff did not allege he was a landlord, tenant or guest or that he otherwise suffered an injury on the premises, Plaintiff could prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief under the Landlord-Tenant Act; and (2) Plaintiff’s business use allegations satisfied notice pleading requirements, and Plaintiff pled sufficient facts to allege a violation of the covenants based on noxious or offensive activity. View "Cossitt v. Flathead Industries, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court in this case involving a dispute over a road easement. Quarter Circle JP Ranch, LLC sought declaratory relief that Barbara Jerde, in Counts I-III, (1) improperly deviated from the easement onto Quarter Circle’s unburdened property, (2) used the easement to access certain property not benefitted by the easement, and (3) used the easement for residential purposes that were not contemplated by the easement. The district court granted summary judgment for Quarter Circle on Counts I-II and granted summary judgment to Jerde on Count III of the complaint. On appeal, the Supreme Court held that the district court (1) erred by concluding the road easement “for the purpose of conducting farming and ranching operations and activities” was specific in nature and unambiguously included residential use; (2) did not err by concluding that the Jerde contract property was not subject to the easement; and (3) did not err by denying joinder of the owner of the after-acquired property to the litigation. View "Quarter Circle JP Ranch, LLC v. Jerde" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed three orders of the district court that directed Southwest Montana Building Industry Association (SWMBIA) to transfer funds from the impact fee payer class refund account (refund account) to the City of Bozeman, to submit an accounting of the refund account, and for contempt of court. The Court held (1) the district court did not exceed its authority when it ordered SWMBIA to transfer the funds remaining in the refund account to Bozeman; (2) the district court’s order regarding the transfer of the remaining refund account funds was enforceable; (3) the district court did not err when it did not dispose of the remaining refund account funds in accordance with Mont. R. Civ. P. 23(i)(3); (4) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it ordered SWMBIA to provide an accounting of the refund account; and (5) SWMBIA cannot obtain relief from the district court’s contempt order. View "Southwest Montana Building Industry Ass’n v. City of Bozeman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed three orders of the district court that directed Southwest Montana Building Industry Association (SWMBIA) to transfer funds from the impact fee payer class refund account (refund account) to the City of Bozeman, to submit an accounting of the refund account, and for contempt of court. The Court held (1) the district court did not exceed its authority when it ordered SWMBIA to transfer the funds remaining in the refund account to Bozeman; (2) the district court’s order regarding the transfer of the remaining refund account funds was enforceable; (3) the district court did not err when it did not dispose of the remaining refund account funds in accordance with Mont. R. Civ. P. 23(i)(3); (4) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it ordered SWMBIA to provide an accounting of the refund account; and (5) SWMBIA cannot obtain relief from the district court’s contempt order. View "Southwest Montana Building Industry Ass’n v. City of Bozeman" on Justia Law

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David Platt and Steven Held purchased a ranch together and formalized their arrangement by entering into an operating agreement. Later, Held, Platt, and Tim Welu decided to divide the property into three parts, with each party owning 2,000 acres. After the land sale, all the parties entered into a recorded agreement. Later, the relationships soured. When Held refused to grant an easement across his property to Platt, Platt initiated this lawsuit, alleging easement by express grant, prescription and implication, and praying for reformation of the contract due to mutual mistake and fraud. Welu intervened, seeking reformation and alleging that the recorded agreement did not express the intent of the parties regarding usage. The district court reformed the recorded agreement consistent with its determination that the parties intended to grant each other non-exclusive, non-transferrable licenses to use each other’s property. The court granted a written, express easement in favor of Welu and Platt. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err by (1) concluding that Platt and Welu’s mutual mistake claims were not barred by the statute of limitations; and (2) considering extrinsic evidence to interpret and reform the parties’ contract. View "Platt v. Held" on Justia Law

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David Platt and Steven Held purchased a ranch together and formalized their arrangement by entering into an operating agreement. Later, Held, Platt, and Tim Welu decided to divide the property into three parts, with each party owning 2,000 acres. After the land sale, all the parties entered into a recorded agreement. Later, the relationships soured. When Held refused to grant an easement across his property to Platt, Platt initiated this lawsuit, alleging easement by express grant, prescription and implication, and praying for reformation of the contract due to mutual mistake and fraud. Welu intervened, seeking reformation and alleging that the recorded agreement did not express the intent of the parties regarding usage. The district court reformed the recorded agreement consistent with its determination that the parties intended to grant each other non-exclusive, non-transferrable licenses to use each other’s property. The court granted a written, express easement in favor of Welu and Platt. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err by (1) concluding that Platt and Welu’s mutual mistake claims were not barred by the statute of limitations; and (2) considering extrinsic evidence to interpret and reform the parties’ contract. View "Platt v. Held" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Montana Water Court adjudicating Teton Cooperative Canal Company’s (Teton Canal) water rights on remand from an earlier decision of the Supreme Court. The court held that the Water Court did not commit clear error by (1) apportioning volume limits for Teton Canal’s 1890 water right claims and the junior 1936 Eureka Reservoir claims; (2) removing the Eureka Reservoir as storage under the 1890 notice while allowing the Glendora Reservoir’s storage capacity to be added to the volume limit under the 1890 notice; (3) permitting Teton Canal to store its 1890 direct flow water in the Eureka Reservoir during irrigation season; and (4) allowing Teton Canal a year-round period of diversion for the 1890 notice. View "Teton Coop Canal Co. v. Lower Teton Joint Reservoir Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants and concluding that Plaintiffs did not have an easement to access a nearby airstrip located on Defendants’ property. Plaintiffs filed a complaint for declaratory, quiet title, injunctive and other relief against Defendants, arguing that they were entitled to access and use the airstrip from their property pursuant to the terms of a 1981 easement grant. The district court concluded that Plaintiffs’ property was not benefitted by an easement that would give Plaintiffs access to the airstrip. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly determined that Plaintiffs were not entitled to access an easement on Defendants’ property. View "Hudson v. Irwin" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Atlantic Richfield Company (“ARCO”) petitioned the Montana Supreme Court seeking reversal of five district court orders. Relevant here, the underlying action concerned a claim for restoration damages brought by property owners in and around the town of Opportunity, Montana. As part of ARCO’s cleanup responsibility relating to the Anaconda Smelter, EPA required ARCO to remediate residential yards within the Smelter Site harboring levels of arsenic exceeding 250 parts per million in soil, and to remediate all wells used for drinking water with levels of arsenic in excess of ten parts per billion. The Property Owners, a group of ninety-eight landowners located within the bounds of the Smelter Site, sought the opinion of outside experts to determine what actions would be necessary to fully restore their properties to pre-contamination levels. The experts recommended the Property Owners remove the top two feet of soil from affected properties and install permeable walls to remove arsenic from the groundwater. Both remedies required restoration work in excess of what the EPA required of ARCO in its selected remedy. The Property Owners sued, seeking restoration damages. ARCO conceded that the Property Owners could move forward on their first four claims, but contended that the claim for restoration damages was preempted by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (“CERCLA”). The Supreme Court agreed with the district court that the Property Owners’ claims for restoration damages was barred by CERCLA. View "Atlantic Richfield v. 2nd Jud. Dist" on Justia Law

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In this case brought in connection with the sale of Plaintiffs’ home at a foreclosure sale, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiffs’ asserted negligence, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and Montana Consumer Protection Act (MCPA) claims against Bank of America, N.A. and ReconTrust Company, N.A. pursuant to Mont. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to sufficiently state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The court held (1) the district court correctly held that Plaintiffs’ amended complaint failed to state sufficient facts entitling them to relief on all essential elements of their asserted negligence, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and MCPA claims; and (2) the district court did not err by not sua sponte converting ReconTrusts’s Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Mont. R. Civ. P. 12(d) upon the filing of an affidavit in support of Plaintiffs’ brief in opposition. View "Anderson v. ReconTrust Co., N.A." on Justia Law