Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court

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Branden Wilkens appealed a district court judgment and order dismissing his complaint against Tarin Westby without prejudice, concluding service under N.D.C.C. 39-01-11 was improper. Wilkens and Westby were involved in a car accident in North Dakota, resulting in Westby’s death. In February 2018, Wilkens served a summons and complaint asserting a claim of negligence against Westby upon the director of the Department of Transportation (“the Department”) under N.D.C.C. 39-01-11, which allowed residents to serve legal process upon the director of the Department when the party being served was: (1) a resident absent from the state continuously for at least six months following an accident, or (2) a nonresident. In March 2018, an attorney answered on Westby’s behalf, moving to dismiss the complaint, arguing personal jurisdiction was lacking and service under the statute was improper, because Westby, a deceased person, did not fit into the definition of “nonresident,” under the statute and was not “absent from the state” by virtue of his death. The district court concluded Westby was neither a “nonresident,” nor “absent from the state” by virtue of his death for purposes of service. The court granted Westby’s motion to dismiss without prejudice, basing its decision on lack of jurisdiction, but recognized the practical effect, based on the statute of limitations, would be a dismissal with prejudice. Wilkens appealed from the court’s order dismissing his claim. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Wilkens v. Westby" on Justia Law

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The North Dakota Department of Transportation appealed a district court judgment reversing a hearing officer's decision, imposing a 91-day suspension of Benjamin French's driving privileges, and awarding him attorney fees. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the court erred in holding French's driving record did not establish his operator's license had previously been revoked within seven years preceding the date of his June 2018 arrest, and the court erred in concluding the appropriate suspension for his then-current offense was 91 days. The court also erred in awarding attorney fees. The Supreme Court reversed judgment, reinstated the Department's decision suspending French's driving privileges for 365 days. View "French v. N.D. Dep't of Transportation" on Justia Law

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In 2005, near the end of a five-year sentence for conviction of corruption or solicitation of a minor, the State successfully petitioned to commit T.A.G. as a sexually dangerous individual. He appealed, arguing the findings were insufficient to demonstrate he had serious difficulty controlling his behavior. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed denial of T.A.G.'s petition for discharge because it concurred the findings were insufficient to conclude process requirement had been met under Kansas v. Crane, 534 U.S. 407 (2002). View "Interest of T.A.G." on Justia Law

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The North Dakota Department of Transportation appealed a district court judgment reversing an administrative hearing officer’s decision to suspend Andrew Bridgeford’s driving privileges for 91 days. The Department maintained the district court erred in finding a law enforcement officer was not within a recognized exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment when the officer entered Bridgeford’s vehicle after he failed to respond to the officer’s actions outside the vehicle. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed, finding the community caretaker exception applied and allowed the warrantless entry into Bridgeford’s vehicle. The suspension was reinstated. View "Bridgeford v. Sorel" on Justia Law

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Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. (“MDU”) appealed, and Lavern Behm cross-appealed a judgment dismissing MDU’s eminent domain action. Because the North Dakota Supreme Court determined the district court misapplied North Dakota law in concluding a taking was not necessary for a public use, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for trial on eminent domain damages to be awarded to Behm. View "Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. v. Behm" on Justia Law

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Drew Sutton appealed a district court judgment affirming the Department of Transportation hearing officer’s decision revoking Sutton’s driver’s license for 180 days. Sutton argued the Report and Notice did not include a statement of reasonable grounds for why the police officer believed Sutton was driving under the influence of alcohol or why he believed Sutton’s body contained alcohol. Sutton argued both alleged failures fall below the statutory requirements. He also argued there was no evidence that he affirmatively refused the onsite screening test. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court judgment affirming the hearing officer’s decision. View "Sutton v. N.D. Dept. of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Williams County appealed a the district court’s determination that its oil and gas leases with Twin City Technical LLC, Three Horns Energy, LLC, Prairie of the South LLC, and Irish Oil & Gas Inc. (“Lessees”), were void because the County failed to comply with the public advertising requirements for the lease of public land as provided in N.D.C.C. ch. 38-09. The Lessees sued the County in September 2015, about three and a half years after executing the leases. The North Dakota Supreme Court found record showed the Lessees received a June 2013 letter informing them of potential issues with the County’s mineral ownership. The Lessees contacted the County about the ownership issues by letter in April 2015. The County submitted an affidavit from its auditor stating bonus payments had already been spent and repayment would cause great hardship. Viewing the evidence and reasonable inferences drawn from the evidence in a light favorable to the County, the Supreme Court concluded there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether laches applied to bar the Lessees’ claim for repayment of the bonuses. The Supreme Court reversed that part of the judgment and remand for proceedings related to whether the Lessees’ delay in bringing their lawsuit was unreasonable, and whether the County was prejudiced by the delay. The Court affirmed as to all other issues. View "Twin City Technical LLC, et al. v. Williams County, et al." on Justia Law

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J.M. appealed a district court order denying his petition for discharge and continuing his commitment as a sexually dangerous individual. J.M. was civilly committed as a sexually dangerous individual in October 2005 at the end of his incarceration for a 2001 conviction for gross sexual imposition involving a nine-year-old victim. J.M. unsuccessfully petitioned for discharge several times and has appealed his commitment on four prior occasions. He argued this time the State did not prove by clear and convincing evidence his antisocial personality disorder and sexual disorder were likely to result in a serious difficulty in controlling his behavior. Based on this record, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the State did not establish clear and convincing evidence of a nexus between J.M.’s disorder and his sexual dangerousness to others, and reversed. View "Matter of J.M." on Justia Law

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T.A.G. appeals from an order denying discharge from commitment as a sexually dangerous individual. T.A.G. argues the district court did not make sufficient findings or meet its burden of clear and convincing evidence on the elements of “likely to reoffend” and “serious difficulty controlling behavior.” The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the findings of fact were not sufficient to permit appellate review. The Court retained jurisdiction under N.D.R.App.P. 35(a)(3) and remanded the case with instructions that, within thirty days from the filing of this opinion, the district court make specific findings of fact on whether T.A.G. was “likely to reoffend” and whether T.A.G. has “serious difficulty controlling behavior” beyond that of a dangerous but ordinary criminal recidivist. View "Interest of T.A.G." on Justia Law

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Eight Ball Trucking, Inc., and David and Laurie Horrocks (collectively “defendants”) appealed from an order entered after the district court denied their motion under N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b) for relief from a summary judgment. The Horrocks are officers of Eight Ball, a Utah trucking company doing business in North Dakota during the relevant time period. A dispute arose over Eight Ball’s allocation of employees between North Dakota and Utah and Eight Ball’s obligation to procure North Dakota workers compensation insurance for its North Dakota employees. In late March and early April 2016, Workforce Safety & Insurance (“WSI”) commenced an action against the defendants by serving them with a summons and complaint to enjoin them from employing individuals in North Dakota and to collect $802,689.84 in unpaid workers compensation insurance premiums, penalties, and interest. The complaint alleged that WSI had issued an August 28, 2015 notice of an administrative decision finding the Horrocks personally liable for unpaid premiums and penalties owed by Eight Ball, that the Horrocks did not request reconsideration nor appeal from that decision, and that the administrative decision was res judicata. WSI filed the pending lawsuit in district court and moved for summary judgment. According to the Horrocks, they did not respond to the summary judgment motion because they thought they had submitted necessary documentation to WSI to resolve the issue. The district court ultimately granted WSI’s motion for summary judgment, awarding WSI $812,702.79 in premiums, penalties, and costs and disbursements and enjoining Eight Ball from engaging in employment in North Dakota. On December 19, 2016, WSI sent the Horrocks a letter, informing them the judgment had been entered against them on December 15, 2016, and requesting payment. The defendants did not appeal the summary judgment. Defendants moved to set aside the summary judgment on grounds of mistake, inadvertence, surprise or excusable neglect. The district court denied the motion, determining the defendants’ disregard and neglect of the legal process was not excusable neglect and failed to establish extraordinary circumstances necessary to set aside the judgment under N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b). After review of the district court record, the North Dakota Supreme Court concurred and affirmed judgment. View "WSI v. Eight Ball Trucking, Inc., et al." on Justia Law