Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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The North Dakota Department of Transportation ("the DOT") took Rosie Glow, LLC's property through an eminent domain quick-take action. The DOT deposited $2,296,000.00 for the land and $940,860.00 for severance damages. Rosie Glow and the DOT disputed the value of the property taken. Rosie Glow's appraiser estimated the total compensation owed to Rosie Glow was $4,899,000.00, consisting of $3,788,400.00 for the land and $1,110,600.00 for severance damages. The jury awarded Rosie Glow $2,296,000.00 for property taken and $1,240,860.00 in severance damages, totaling $300,000.00 more than the DOT deposited. Rosie Glow appealed the district court's award of $32,400.00 in attorney fees and expert fees and litigation costs of $11,236.41. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. The Supreme Court determined the district court did not abuse its discretion in reducing the costs awarded for an appraisal because it adequately explained its reasoning. However, the Court found the district court abused its discretion in declining to award any costs for the appraiser's review of the DOT's appraisal because it did not explain its decision. The district court also misapplied the law by not awarding costs for the DOT's deposition of the appraiser. View "N.D. Dep't of Transportation v. Rosie Glow, LLC" on Justia Law

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The North Dakota Department of Transportation ("the DOT") took Rosie Glow, LLC's property through an eminent domain quick-take action. The DOT deposited $2,296,000.00 for the land and $940,860.00 for severance damages. Rosie Glow and the DOT disputed the value of the property taken. Rosie Glow's appraiser estimated the total compensation owed to Rosie Glow was $4,899,000.00, consisting of $3,788,400.00 for the land and $1,110,600.00 for severance damages. The jury awarded Rosie Glow $2,296,000.00 for property taken and $1,240,860.00 in severance damages, totaling $300,000.00 more than the DOT deposited. Rosie Glow appealed the district court's award of $32,400.00 in attorney fees and expert fees and litigation costs of $11,236.41. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. The Supreme Court determined the district court did not abuse its discretion in reducing the costs awarded for an appraisal because it adequately explained its reasoning. However, the Court found the district court abused its discretion in declining to award any costs for the appraiser's review of the DOT's appraisal because it did not explain its decision. The district court also misapplied the law by not awarding costs for the DOT's deposition of the appraiser. View "N.D. Dep't of Transportation v. Rosie Glow, LLC" on Justia Law

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Ewing Construction Co., Inc., appeals from a judgment denying its N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion to vacate a $951,191.62 default judgment entered in favor of Key Energy Services, LLC. Ewing began serving as the designer of and general contractor for Key's construction of the P3 Service Center project in Williston. Ewing voluntarily canceled its North Dakota contractor license in October 2014. In January 2015, Key sued Ewing and 22 others to invalidate construction liens filed against its property and claiming Ewing failed to pay numerous subcontractors for their work on the project in violation of its contractual obligations. After Ewing failed to answer the complaint, Key moved in June 2016 for a default judgment against Ewing. The district court granted the motion and entered default judgment against Ewing, awarding Key $951,191.62. The default judgment was entered on June 24, 2016, and Key served notice of entry of judgment on June 27, 2016. On May 12, 2017, after attempts were made to enforce the default judgment in Texas, Ewing brought a N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion to vacate the default judgment "because of insufficient service of process, and excusable neglect." Key responded by filing a corrected return of service which the district court accepted and considered. The corrected return of service was notarized and identified the documents served. On July 28, 2017, the court denied the N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion, concluding service of process was sufficient, the motion was untimely, and Ewing failed to establish excusable neglect. Because the district court did not err in ruling service of process was proper and did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to vacate, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Key Energy Services, LLC v. Ewing Construction Co., Inc., et. al." on Justia Law

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LeRoy Wheeler appeals a district court judgment granting Governor Doug Burgum's motion to dismiss and denying Wheeler's motion to appoint counsel. Wheeler was an inmate at the North Dakota State Penitentiary ("NDSP"), who filed a complaint alleging civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. 1983 by Governor Burgum in both his official capacity and his personal capacity. The complaint alleged Governor Burgum failed to supervise and govern officials and staff at the NDSP. Wheeler claims that NDSP officials and staff interfered with his mail, discriminated against him on the basis of race, denied him access to the courts, prevented him from challenging the conditions of his confinement, and retaliated against him for exercising his rights. Wheeler sent Governor Burgum two letters commenting on the conduct of these individuals. Governor Burgum did not respond to the letters. Wheeler sought injunctive relief against Governor Burgum in his official capacity for failing to supervise the actions of officials and staff at the NDSP. Wheeler also sought punitive damages for Governor Burgum's failure to respond to his letters or otherwise investigate the issues described in his letters. Additionally, Wheeler moved for appointed counsel. Governor Burgum moved to dismiss the complaint under N.D.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and opposed Wheeler's motion to appoint counsel. The district court granted Governor Burgum's motion to dismiss and denied Wheeler's motion for appointment of counsel. The North Dakota Supreme Court agreed Wheeler failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted, so the district court did not err by granting Governor Burgum's motion to dismiss. Further, the district court did not err by denying Wheeler's motion to appoint counsel. View "Wheeler v. Burgum" on Justia Law

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Steven Kelly and Spirit Energy LLC (collectively "Spirit") appealed a district court order holding them in contempt for failing to return leased vehicles to Kettle Butte Trucking ("KBT"). KBT sued Spirit, alleging Spirit failed to pay numerous lease payments for trucks they leased from KBT. Spirit challenged the district court's underlying order that was alleged to have been violated. Spirit also argued the court did not have jurisdiction to hold it in contempt. When a contempt order is appealed, challenges to the underlying order will not be considered unless the underlying order is also appealed. When a court has issued an allegedly erroneous order, the party to whom the order was issued must obey it as long as it remains in force or until it is reversed on appeal, and the failure to obey the order is punishable as a contempt of court. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court's order holding Spirit in contempt. View "Kettle Butte Trucking, LLC v. Kelly" on Justia Law

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Charles Erwin appeals from an amended judgment entered in favor of Alerus Financial, N.A., for $5,265,653.09. Starting in 2012 Alerus made a series of loans totaling more than $15 million to Diverse Energy Systems, LLC. The loan agreement specified "Events of Default," including the failure to pay the indebtedness, the insolvency of the borrower or guarantor or the commencement of bankruptcy proceedings. Erwin was Diverse's chief executive officer, and he signed multiple personal guaranties, promising to be personally responsible for payment of up to $4 million of Diverse's debt owed to Alerus. In September 2015 Diverse filed for bankruptcy. In May 2016 Alerus sued Erwin for breach of contract and unjust enrichment, alleging Diverse was in default under the loan agreement and Erwin failed to make payment on the amount due under the guaranties. Alerus alleged Diverse's indebtedness exceeded $12 million and under the guaranties Erwin was liable for at least $4 million in principal and interest. On September 6, 2016, Erwin filed an answer to Alerus' complaint. Alerus moved for summary judgment, arguing Diverse defaulted on its loan obligations and Erwin breached the guaranty contracts by failing to pay the amounts due under the guaranties. Alerus also filed an affidavit in support of its motion from an Alerus employee, which it claimed showed the total outstanding principal and interest on the loans to Diverse. Erwin argued on appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court the district court abused its discretion by failing to rule on his motion to amend his answer and entering judgment without allowing him to conduct discovery on Alerus' damage claims. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the amended judgment. View "Alerus Financial, N.A. v. Erwin" on Justia Law

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Glenn Solberg appealed an amended judgment dismissing his claims against the estate of his stepfather, Lyle Nelson ("Lyle Nelson Estate"). Solberg challenged the district court's dismissal of his claim seeking ownership of 100 mineral acres and seeking to enforce an option to purchase real property. The court determined that the mineral interests and real property alleged to be subject to the option were never within the Lyle Nelson Estate and that Solberg's claim was also untimely. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the amended judgment and granted the Lyle Nelson Estate's request for an award of costs and attorney fees for a frivolous appeal under N.D.R.App.P. 38. View "Estate of Nelson" on Justia Law

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Sandy Botteicher ("Botteicher") appeals from a judgment dismissing her claims against Pam and Darwin Becker (collectively "Beckers") and awarding the Beckers $5,000 for their attorney fees. Botteicher and Pam Becker are sisters and heirs to their mother's estate. Following the death of their father in January 2015, Pam Becker was appointed legal guardian for their mother who was residing in a nursing home. Their mother died in July 2015. A third party was appointed personal representative of their mother's estate ("the estate"). Following the filing of the closing documents by the personal representative, Botteicher filed a number of petitions or motions. In her petitions, Botteicher sought to set aside what the parties refer to as the "Warehouse" transaction, a real property transfer in Dickinson that occurred in 2010 and 2011. Botteicher also requested an evidentiary hearing, objected to the final accounting, sought formal testacy proceedings, sought the disqualification of the attorney representing the personal representative, moved for the appointment of herself as the personal representative and sought to keep the estate open by alleging that numerous items of her mother's personal property were missing from the inventory and appraisement. The probate court denied all of the petitions or motions filed by Botteicher. The court denied the petition seeking to set aside the Warehouse transfer after concluding the personal representative, not Botteicher, had "standing" to assert an action to challenge the Warehouse transfer in the probate proceedings, and that the request to set aside the property transfer was "not properly in front of the Court." In the probate proceedings, Botteicher was attempting to personally initiate an action against the Beckers to set aside a transfer made by the decedent. The probate court issued an order approving the inventory and appraisement as well as the final account and distribution. Botteicher did not appeal the final decree of distribution. Approximately one month after the probate proceedings were closed, Botteicher and her daughter, Alexandra Botteicher, brought this action against the Beckers, alleging multiple claims regarding the estate's transactions under the Beckers. Unsuccessful, Botteicher challenged the district court's determination that some of her claims were previously resolved in separate probate proceedings and were barred by res judicata, that her claim for interference with the right of burial and her claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress could be dismissed as a matter of law, and that the Beckers were entitled to an award of attorney fees. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. View "Botteicher v. Becker" on Justia Law

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Roland Riemers appealed a district court judgment awarding CHS Inc. attorney's fees and costs, and an order denying Riemers' motion to reopen the case and close judgment. Riemers also moved to vacate the district court's "Corrected Amended Judgment." In March 2016, CHS was awarded a money judgment against Riemers for $38,889. In April 2016, Riemers deposited $41,100 into a bank account, apparently to be used for garnishment by CHS. In May 2016, on the motion of CHS, the district court entered an amended judgment ("Amended Judgment") in for $41,793.72 to reflect the prejudgment interest accrued. The North Dakota Supreme Court summarily affirmed the Amended Judgment as modified, reducing the prejudgment interest amount by $70.07. CHS began collecting on the Amended Judgment by garnishing funds that Riemers held at the bank and another account held by a credit union. The Supreme Court determined the district court did not abuse its discretion by awarding CHS attorney's fees and costs on the basis of a frivolous motion, and affirmed the district court judgment. However, because the order denying Riemers' motion to reopen the case and close judgment reflected that the amount owing to CHS was $679.08, instead of the correct amount of $549.08, the Supreme Court modified the order, stating that $549.08 is the outstanding principal balance on the Amended Judgment. Because the district court lacked jurisdiction, the Supreme Court vacated the Corrected Amended Judgment. View "CHS Inc. v. Riemers" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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Rocky Mountain Steel Foundations, Inc. appealed a judgment invalidating its oil and gas construction liens and awarding attorney fees to Mitchell's Oil Field Services, Inc., also known as Wood Group, and Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America (collectively "Mitchell's"). Mitchell's, as general contractor, entered into a contract with Brockett Company, LLC, as subcontractor, and Amber Brockett, as personal guarantor (collectively "Brockett"), to purchase construction materials for installation on certain oil wells. Brockett purchased materials from Rocky Mountain to fulfill Brockett's contract with Mitchell's. Mitchell's paid Brockett in full. Rocky Mountain delivered the materials, and Mitchell's installed the materials. Rocky Mountain thereafter recorded two oil and gas well liens against the wells because Brockett had not paid Rocky Mountain. Mitchell's recorded lien release bonds, with the liens attached to the bonds. Mitchell's received payment in full, then Rocky Mountain filed to foreclose on the liens. The parties agreed Mitchell's paid Brockett in full before Rocky Mountain delivered the materials to the wells and before Mitchell's or the leaseholders received notice of the liens. The parties agreed Rocky Mountain timely and properly satisfied all statutory and other requirements to create, perfect, and foreclose on the liens. Rocky Mountain recorded the liens on well leaseholds by ConocoPhillips Company and Burlington Resources Oil & Gas Co. (the "owners"). Brockett did not answer or appear at any hearings and admitted to nonpayment, but asserted it has no assets with which to pay. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Rocky Mountain for its breach of contract claim against Brockett. The parties submitted their remaining claims to the district court solely on interpretation of the oil and gas construction liens provided by N.D.C.C. ch. 35-24. The court found N.D.C.C. 35-24-04 invalidated Rocky Mountain's liens after the owners paid Mitchell's. The primary issue before the North Dakota Supreme Court was whether N.D.C.C. 35-24-04 permitted a subcontractor's oil and gas construction lien when an owner fully paid the general contractor. Rocky Mountain argued the district court erred in finding Rocky Mountain's liens were invalidated when the owners fully paid Mitchell's. The Supreme Court agreed: Section 35-24-02, N.D.C.C., allowed contractors to file liens for unpaid materials furnished or services rendered "in the drilling or operating of any oil or gas well upon such leasehold." The district court erred in interpreting N.D.C.C. sections 35-24-04 and -07 to invalidate Rocky Mountain's liens, and also erred in awarding attorney fees to Mitchell's. View "Rocky Mountain Steel Foundations, Inc. v. Brockett Company, LLC" on Justia Law