Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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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 in part and reversed in part a district court order granting in part and denying in part judicial review of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) fair hearing proposed decision that DPHHS overpaid IMS under the Medicaid program and was entitled to reimbursement in the amount of $670,152 from Independence Medical Supply, Inc. (IMS). IMS appealed, and DPHHS cross appealed the district court’s order. The Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion by affirming the hearing officer’s determination that physician affidavits introduced by IMS did not cure technical violations of the supply orders submitted to DPHHS; and (2) the district court erred in holding that a letter sent by DPHHS on January 8, 2014 commenced an action for recovery of the overpayment because DPHHS did not commence an action within the meaning of Mont. Code Ann. 27-2-102(1)(b) and Mont. R. Civ. P. 3. View "Independence Medical Supply, Inc. v. Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the City of Billings (City) and the Montana Municipal Interlocal Authority (MMIA) (collectively, Defendants) in this “Petition for Release of Documents” seeking documents related to a civil judgment MMIA paid on behalf of the City. Defendants released to Plaintiff all non-privileged documents and provided privilege logs describing those documents withheld on the ground of attorney-client or attorney-work-product privilege. In his petition, Plaintiff asked for the release of “everything related to” the civil judgment. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismissed the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the privileged documents were not subject to disclosure under the Montana Constitution. View "Nelson v. City of Billings" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the City of Billings (City) and the Montana Municipal Interlocal Authority (MMIA) (collectively, Defendants) in this “Petition for Release of Documents” seeking documents related to a civil judgment MMIA paid on behalf of the City. Defendants released to Plaintiff all non-privileged documents and provided privilege logs describing those documents withheld on the ground of attorney-client or attorney-work-product privilege. In his petition, Plaintiff asked for the release of “everything related to” the civil judgment. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismissed the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the privileged documents were not subject to disclosure under the Montana Constitution. View "Nelson v. City of Billings" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Petitioner Rimrock Chrysler Inc.’s petition for judicial review of its request to establish Rimrock as an additional Chrysler-Jeep franchise in the Billings community. Rimrock was awarded a letter of intent by Chrysler Group, LLC to establish a Chrysler-Jeep franchise in Billings that was less than a mile from Lithia of Billings, Inc.’s existing Chrysler-Jeep dealership. Lithia protested Rimrock’s proposed new dealership. The Department of Justice Motor Vehicle Division entered a notice of adoption of final decision finding that good cause did not exist to establish Rimrock as a Chrysler-Jeep franchise in Billings. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err by denying Rimrock’s petition for judicial review. View "Rimrock Chrysler, Inc. v. State Department of Justice, Motor Vehicle Division" on Justia Law

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Christita Moreau appealed a Workers’ Compensation Court (WCC) order denying her motion for summary judgment and granting summary judgment to Transportation Insurance Company. Moreau’s husband Edwin worked at the W.R. Grace mine near Libby. In 2009, he died from asbestos-related lung cancer. In 2010 Moreau, as personal representative of Edwin’s estate, filed a workers’ compensation claim for occupational disease benefits. Transportation Insurance Company (Transportation) was W.R. Grace’s workers’ compensation insurer, and it denied liability for the claim. Edwin’s employer, W.R. Grace, established and funded the Libby Medical Plan (LMP) to pay the medical expenses of its employees who were injured by exposure to asbestos. LMP paid approximately $95,000 of Edwin’s medical expenses. In 2012, as part of Grace’s bankruptcy, “certain rights and duties of the LMP” were transferred to the Libby Medical Plan Trust. Grace remained responsible for LMP’s “ongoing payment obligations” incurred before that time. In 2013, Transportation accepted liability for the workers’ compensation claim and entered a settlement with Moreau. Transportation agreed to reimburse Medicaid, other providers, and Moreau personally for medical expenses each had paid for Edwin’s care. The parties stipulated that Transportation paid all of Edwin’s medical bills or reimbursed the other persons or entities that had paid them. Transportation did not reimburse the LMP for the $95,846 of Edwin’s medical bills it had previously paid because the LMP refused to accept it. After the LMP refused to accept reimbursement from Transportation, Moreau demanded that Transportation pay the $95,000 either to Edwin’s Estate, to the LMP or its successor, or to a charity selected by the Estate. Transportation refused and Moreau filed a second petition with the WCC to resolve the issue. The WCC determined that all of Edwin’s medical care costs had been paid; that Edwin had no liability to any health care provider; and that he had no right to claim any further payment from Transportation. The WCC determined that if the Estate were to receive the $95,000 from Transportation it would represent a double recovery because Edwin had already received the medical benefits themselves. The Court concluded that Moreau therefore lacked standing to proceed Moreau’s petition. The WCC also found that Moreau’s attorneys also represented the LMP Trust “for purposes of recovering the disputed $95,846” for the LMP Trust. At the time of the WCC order, the LMP Trust was not a party to this action and had not advanced a claim in the WCC for reimbursement of the amount paid by its predecessor LMP. The WCC therefore granted summary judgment to Transportation. Finding no reversible error in that WCC decision, the Montana Supreme Court affirmed. View "Moreau v. Transportation Ins." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the determination of the district court to quiet title in certain property to Zinvest, LLC, holding that the Department of Revenue’s defective property tax assessment voided the tax lien sale that resulted in Zinvest acquiring the Gallatin County’s interest. Gunnersfield Enterprises Inc. purchased five condominium units and an adjoining vacant lot in 2008. The deed was properly recorded, and a realty transfer certificate was submitted to the Department of Revenue, but the Department did not correctly update its ownership records for the vacant lot. While Gunnersfield paid the tax assessments for the condominium units yearly, the County Treasurer continued to send the tax bills for the vacant lot to the previous owner. The Treasurer eventually sold the lot for delinquent taxes and assigned its tax lien interest in the property to Zinvest. After Zinvest acquired a tax deed on the property Gunnersfield objected. The district court granted summary judgment for Zinvest and issued a final judgment quieting title to Zinvest. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for entry of judgment quieting title in Gunnersfield, holding that the tax assessment on the vacant lot was void, and therefore, the subsequent tax lien sale and issuance of a tax deed were also void. View "Zinvest v. Gunnersfield" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of this putative class action for lack of standing. Taxpayers, owners of real property and payers of property taxes in Glacier County, paid their taxes under protest 2015 in response to an independent audit that revealed deficiencies in the County’s budgeting and accounting practices. Taxpayers sued the County and the State, alleging that both entities failed to comply with budgeting and accounting laws. The district court denied class certification and dismissed the case for lack of standing, concluding that Taxpayers failed to demonstrate that they had suffered a concrete injury. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly determined that Taxpayers lacked standing to sue either the County or the State. View "Mitchell v. Glacier County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision affirming the decision by the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board denying Joyce Crouse’s claim for unemployment benefits. The district court affirmed the Board’s conclusion that Crouse did not qualify for unemployment benefits because her voluntary termination did not constitute “good cause” pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 39-51-2302. The Supreme Court agreed with the lower court, holding (1) the findings of the Board were supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the district court correctly affirmed the Board’s decision to deny Crouse’s claim for benefits because she voluntarily resigned her position. View "Crouse v. State, Department of Labor" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment to Plaintiffs that the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) violated the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) by issuing a wastewater discharge permit for a “big box” retail merchandise store. DEQ appealed. Intervenors and current owners of the site (Landowners) joined the appeal and also appealed the district court’s summary judgment that MEPA requires DEQ to identify the owner or operator of the contemplated retail store. The Supreme Court held (1) the district court erred in concluding that DEQ violated MPEA, in contravention of Admin. R. M. 17.4.609(3)(d) and (e), by failing to further consider the environmental impacts of the construction and operation of the facility other than water quality impacts and impacts of the related construction of the required wastewater treatment system; and (2) the district court correctly concluded that DEQ must identify and disclose the actual contemplated owner or operator of the facility for which the applicant seeks the subject wastewater discharge permit. View "Bitterrooters for Planning, Inc. v. Montana Department of Environmental Quality" on Justia Law