Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court

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Traill Rural Water District ("TRWD") appealed a judgment that granted damages for overdue rent to Daniel and Marlene Motter ("the Motters"). In 2006 Melba Motter, through her estate's conservator Alerus Financial, leased approximately forty acres of land in rural Steele County to TRWD at $250 per acre for ninety-nine years. Attorneys for both Melba's estate and TRWD negotiated the leases. In January 2011 Daniel Motter, grandson of Melba, and Daniel's wife Marlene acquired title to the land, including the leases. Daniel received offers from TRWD to renegotiate the leases during the period from 2006 to 2011, when he farmed the land but did not own it. Daniel reviewed the TRWD leases in 2014 and claimed back rent of $10,000 per year for the full forty acres from 2011 through 2014. TRWD offered $4,500 compared to Motter's initial calculation of $31,300. The district court acknowledged the mathematical error and adjusted to $51,500 for the five years from 2011 to 2015. The parties' different interpretations led to this lawsuit. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in denying reformation of two leases on the Motters' land and did not abuse its discretion in granting a new trial. View "Motter v. Traill Rural Water District" on Justia Law

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Hess Corporation ("Hess") appealed the grant of summary judgment which held Sundance Oil and Gas, LLC ("Sundance") held the superior leasehold mineral interest in a property located in Mountrail County. Sundance and Hess both moved for summary judgment, each arguing they had a superior claim to the mineral interests. The district court determined the trust action was res judicata and granted partial summary judgment in favor of Sundance, quieting title to the leasehold interest. Although the district court entered an order for partial summary judgment, the parties stipulated to the remaining issues related to revenues and expenses, and the district court later entered a final judgment. On appeal, Hess argued: (1) the district court erred in applying res judicata to determine Sundance was a good-faith purchaser for value; (2) the district court erred in granting summary judgment in Sundance's favor because genuine disputes of material fact existed; and (3) the district court erred by concluding Sundance could obtain a superior lease for the same property without providing Hess actual notice of the trust action proceedings. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court determined the district court improperly applied res judicata and failed to consider the factual issues raised by Hess: a district court may not use the findings in an unlocatable mineral owner trust action as res judicata in a subsequent quiet title action to resolve all factual disputes regarding whether a later purchaser was a good-faith purchaser for value. The judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Sundance Oil and Gas, LLC v. Hess Corporation" on Justia Law

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United Fire & Casualty Company appealed a district court judgment awarding Carol Forsman $249,554.30 in her garnishment action against United Fire, commenced after she settled claims in the underlying suit against Blues, Brews and Bar-B-Ques, Inc., d.b.a. Muddy Rivers. Muddy Rivers was a bar in Grand Forks that was insured by United Fire under a commercial general liability ("CGL") policy. In 2010, Forsman sued Muddy Rivers and Amanda Espinoza seeking damages for injuries to her leg allegedly sustained while a guest at a February 2010 private party at Muddy Rivers. Muddy Rivers notified United Fire of the suit and requested coverage. United Fire denied defense and indemnification based on the policy's exclusions for assault and battery and liquor liability. However, after appeals and reconsideration, the court ruled in Forsman's favor, finding the settlement amount was reasonable. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the court erred in granting summary judgment because material fact issues existed on whether exclusions for "assault and battery" and "liquor liability" in the CGL policy excluded coverage of Forsman's negligence claim against Muddy Rivers. Furthermore, the Court concluded further conclude the court properly granted summary judgment to Forsman holding United Fire had a duty to defend Muddy Rivers under the CGL policy in the underlying suit. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Forsman v. Blues, Brews & Bar-B-Ques Inc." on Justia Law

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Keith Candee appealed the grant of summary judgment to his parents, Lyla and Douglas Candee, awarding them an $884,508.83 deficiency judgment following foreclosure of properties in California and North Dakota. Keith and his parents executed a settlement agreement and mutual release of claims in 2013 relating to earlier disputes between the parties about the management of their family assets. Under the settlement agreement, Keith agreed to pay $2.2 million to Lyla and Douglas. The $2.2 million settlement amount was secured by real property in California and North Dakota. A deed of trust in favor of Lyla and Douglas secured the California property, and a mortgage secured the property in North Dakota. The deed of trust securing the California property included a power of sale provision allowing Lyla and Douglas to foreclose the property in a nonjudicial manner via a trustee's sale. After Keith failed to make payments under the settlement agreement, Lyla and Douglas foreclosed the California property. They proceeded with a nonjudicial foreclosure and in January 2014 purchased the property at a trustee's sale for a credit bid of $200,000. Lyla and Douglas foreclosed the North Dakota property and purchased the property for $975,000 at a July 2015 sheriff's sale. In September 2015, Lyla and Douglas sued Keith in North Dakota for a deficiency judgment for the difference between the amount Keith owed under the settlement agreement and the amount Lyla and Douglas obtained through foreclosure of the properties. Keith argued a deficiency judgment was not available under the agreement because California law applied and a deficiency judgment was prohibited under California law. The district court concluded California law applied only to the California property and granted summary judgment to Lyla and Douglas. The court entered an $884,508.83 deficiency judgment against Keith. On appeal, Keith maintained the California anti-deficiency statutes applied to the settlement agreement, and those statutes barred a deficiency judgment in this case. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed and remanded, concluding California law barred a deficiency judgment in this case as a matter of law. View "Candee v. Candee" on Justia Law

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Shannon Evans appealed an order granting Gerald Feldmann ownership of certain property from Leonhard Feldmann's estate. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the district court did not err in finding an inter vivos gift and did not err in finding the proceeds of the standing crop passed with the devise of real property. β€œThe appellate court does not reweigh evidence, reassess witness credibility, or substitute its judgment for the trial court's decision merely because it would have reached a different result. Standing crops at the time of death pass with the real estate to which they are attached unless otherwise specified in a will.” View "Estate of Feldmann" on Justia Law

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Joan Hallin, John Hallin and Susan Bradford (collectively Hallin and Bradford) appeal from a judgment in favor of Inland Oil & Gas Corporation. In 2007, Hallin and Bradford each leased to Inland mineral interests they owned in 160 acres of land in Mountrail County. The leases provided Hallin and Bradford leased to Inland "all that certain tract of land situated in Mountrail County." Hallin and Bradford, along with members of their extended family, owned a fraction of the minerals in the entire 160 acres. On the basis of irregularities in the chain of title, it was unclear whether Hallin and Bradford collectively owned sixty net mineral acres or eighty net mineral acres when the parties executed the leases. Hallin and Bradford believed they owned sixty net mineral acres and their relatives owned sixty acres. When Hallin and Bradford executed the leases, they also received payment drafts for a rental bonus showing they each leased thirty acres to Inland. The leases provide royalty compensation based upon the number of net mineral acres. The North Dakota Supreme Court decided Hallin and Bradford collectively owned eighty net mineral acres and their relatives owned forty net mineral acres. Inland and Hallin and Bradford disagreed whether the leases covered all of Hallin and Bradford's mineral interests. Hallin and Bradford sued Inland, arguing they leased sixty acres and the remaining twenty acres were not leased. Inland argued Hallin and Bradford leased eighty acres because the leases cover all of their mineral interests. The district court granted summary judgment to Inland, concluding the leases were unambiguous and that "as a matter of law, the Hallins and Bradford leased to Inland whatever interest they had in the subject property at the time the leases were executed." Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hallin v. Inland Oil & Gas Corporation" on Justia Law

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In 2015, Beach Railport, LLC commenced this action against the Donnell and Jeanne Michels, for the partition of real property in Golden Valley County. Beach Railport and the Michels each owned an undivided one-half interest in the subject property, consisting of two tracts of land totaling eighty acres: the "North Forty" and the "South Forty." Donnell Michels used the property for agricultural purposes. Beach Railport acquired its interest in the North Forty and various other tracts of land around the subject property as part of its planned construction of a rail trans-load facility. It sought and obtained changes in zoning for certain property parcels. Beach Railport's construction plan did not include development on the South Forty acres. The Michels appealed the ultimate judgment partitioning real property between the Michels and Beach Railport. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court erred by applying an incorrect legal standard to review and adopt the partition referee's report, and that the court erred by not holding an evidentiary hearing. The Court therefore reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Beach Railport, LLC v. Michels" on Justia Law

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William Wilkinson and the other plaintiffs appeal and Statoil & Gas, LP and EOG Resources, Inc. cross-appeal from a summary judgment determining the Board of University and School Lands of the State of North Dakota ("Land Board") owns certain property below the ordinary high watermark of the Missouri River. Wilkinson argues the district court erred in determining ownership of the mineral interests. Chapter 61-33.1, N.D.C.C., became effective on April 21, 2017. The proceedings in this case began in 2012, and the trial court granted summary judgment in May 2016. Chapter 61-33.1, N.D.C.C., only applied to this case if it applied retroactively. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded N.D.C.C. ch. 61-33.1 applied retroactively, and that the district court did not have an opportunity to consider this statutory provisions when it decided ownership of the disputed minerals. The Supreme Court, therefore, remanded this case for the district court to determine whether N.D.C.C. ch. 61-33.1 applied and governs ownership of the minerals at issue in this case. View "Wilkinson v. Board of University and School Lands of the State of N.D." on Justia Law

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Connie Welker and Vicki Ostrem appealed a district court judgment deciding ownership of mineral interests in Mountrail County. Welker and Ostrem argued the court erred in finding that a resulting trust exists and that the trust was not repudiated. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in finding a resulting trust existed, and Welker and Ostrem failed to establish the trustee's repudiation of the trust. View "Markgraf v. Welker" on Justia Law

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William and Rhonda Kulczyk appealed a district court judgment dismissing their complaint seeking to foreclose a mortgage against Tioga Ready Mix Co. The court held res judicata barred the Kulczyks' foreclosure action on the basis of previous litigation between the parties. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed and remanded, concluding res judicata did not bar the Kulczyks' foreclosure action against Tioga Ready Mix. View "Kulczyk v. Tioga Ready Mix Co." on Justia Law