Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the water court that largely adopted the water master’s report dividing the four water rights for irrigation from Nevada Creek between James and Linda Quigley and Richard Beck based on a ratio of the irrigated acres owned by each party. The court held (1) the water court did not err in its interpretation of the 1909 Geary v. Raymond decree as decreeing water rights for irrigation to all of Finn Ranch, which was since divided into adjoining ranches owned by the Quigley and Beck; and (2) the water court did not err in applying the clear error standard to the water master’s findings of fact. View "Quigley v. Beck" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of the portion of Plaintiffs’ motion motion for partial summary judgment seeking an order compelling Defendants to immediately remove trespassing encroachments on Plaintiffs’ property an to restore the property to its prior condition subject to Plaintiffs’ right to do so at Defendants’ expense if they failed to timely act. The court further affirmed the district court’s underlying grant of summary judgment declaring Defendants’ shop building and underground septic system to be trespassing encroachments on Plaintiffs’ property. Specifically, the court held that, at this stage in the proceedings, the district court’s interlocutory denial of preliminary or final mandatory injunctive relief was neither irreconcilable with its summary judgment declaring a trespass nor a manifest abuse of discretion. View "Davis v. Westphal" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Water Compact, holding that Mont. Const. art. II, section 18 did not require the Montana Legislature to approve the Compact or its administrative provisions. The Compact, negotiated between the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, provided a unified system for the administration of water rights and the resolution of disputes on the reservation. The Compact was approved by the Montana Legislature in 2015. The Flathead Board of Joint Control brought suit against the State seeking to invalidate the Compact. The district court ruled (1) the challenged section of the Compact did not contravene Article II, Section 18 because it did not enact any new immunities from suit; but (2) the challenged section of the administrative provision provided new immunity to the State and, therefore, was covered by Article II, Section 18, and because the provision did not pass by a two-thirds majority of each house, it is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) none of the Compact’s provisions grant any state governmental agency new immunities from a potential lawsuit; and (2) the Legislature’s majority vote to approve and adopt the contract was consistent with subject provisions of the Montana Constitution. View "Flathead Joint Board of Control v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order granting HSBC Bank USA’s two motions for summary judgment and motion to exclude Richard Anderson’s expert in this judicial foreclosure action against Anderson and Limegrove Overseas, Ltd. Specifically, the court held that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion in excluding Anderson’s expert witness; (2) did not err when it concluded that Montana law governs HSBC’s underlying foreclosure and that New York law governs any defenses and counterclaims; (3) did not err in granting HSBC summary judgment to foreclose; and (4) did not err in granting HSBC summary judgment on Anderson’s counterclaims. View "HSBC Bank USA, N.A. v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the Water Court’s order regarding Danreuther Ranches Water Right Claims. Specifically, the court held (1) the Water Court did not err in its orders regarding Danreuther Claim Nos. 41O 156802-00, a right to water stock directly from the Teton River; 41O 156804-00, which represents a claim to the right to divert water from the Teton River for irrigation; and 41O 156805-00, a right to irrigate on certain property north of the Teton River; but (2) the Water Court erred in its orders regarding Danreuther Claim No. 41O 156804-00, the right to irrigate from the Teton River based on certain appropriations. View "Danreuther Ranches v. Farmers Cooperative Canal Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the water court’s denial of Scott Ranch LLC’s petition for adjudication of existing water rights appurtenant to Indian allotment lands it acquired that were previously held in trust by the United States for the benefit of a member of the Apsaalooke (Crow) Tribe. After that member died and the lands were converted to fee status, Scott Ranch filed its petition. In denying the petition, the water court ruled that the lands were part of the Tribal Water Right established by the Crow Water Rights Compact and did not require a separate adjudication. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the water court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate Scott Ranch’s claims and erroneously proceeded to address the merits of the petition. View "Scott Ranch, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court ruling that while Herman Fox had existing and historical ditch and water rights across Billings Hotel & Convention Center’s (BHCC) property, as well as an established secondary easement, BHCC was not unreasonably infringing on Fox’s easement rights. The court held that the district court (1) did not err when it determined that BHCC did not unreasonably interfere with Fox’s secondary ditch easement by planting and maintaining trees and shrubs along the ditch; (2) did not err by imposing a duty on BHCC to clean and maintain the ditch located on its property; and (3) did not err by awarding BHCC reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. View "Fox v. BHCC II, Inc." on Justia Law

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Todd Carlson, who began construction on a detached garage on his property in a subdivision without first obtaining a zoning compliance permit, requested a variance from the Yellowstone County Board of Adjustment. The board denied the variance request, noting that Carlson had not done his due diligence and had carelessly disregarded zoning regulations. The district court upheld the Board’s decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court properly declined to second-guess the Board’s discretionary determinations and did not abuse its discretion in affirming the Board’s denial of Carlson’s variance request. View "Carlson v. Yellowstone County Board of Adjustment" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the partial summary judgment entered by the district court in favor of Defendant in this boundary dispute involving three adjacent properties. Plaintiffs initiated this action for declaratory judgment and quiet title against Defendant. The district court granted partial summary judgment in favor of Defendant on Plaintiffs’ claims, directed that a decree of quiet title be entered, and certified the order as final. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding that genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment, and therefore, Defendant was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. View "Sacrison v. Evjene" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and remanded in part the district court’s denial of Bryan Sandrock’s motion to set aside a default and a subsequent default judgment entered against him. The clerk of the district court entered Sandrock’s default after Sandrock failed to answer a complaint within the designated time. Sandrock, through counsel, filed a motion to set aside default and default judgment based upon an alleged fraud upon the court committed by the other party and counsel’s own failure to pay sufficient attention to the matter. The court denied the motion, concluding that the “good cause” standard set forth in Mont. R. Civ. P. 55(c) was not satisfied and that Sandrock’s brief did not support his argument of a fraud upon the court. Sandrock appealed the denial of his motion to set aside default judgment and the district court’s calculation of damages. While it affirmed the denial of Defendant’s motion to set aside default and default judgment, the Supreme Court remanded the matter for a recalculation of damages and identification of evidence supporting the recalculation, as the court was unable to discern how the various sources used by the district court established the amount of damages awarded. View "DeTienne v. Sandrock" on Justia Law