Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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JEM Contracting, Inc. (JEM) and Ohio Farmers Insurance Company (OFIC) executed two indemnity agreements so that JEM could obtain bonding from OFIC for construction projects. Thereafter, OFIC executed and delivered two surety bonds on behalf of JEM for two construction projects. JEM hired a subcontractor, Hollow Contracting (Hollow), to furnish labor and equipment for both projects. After a dispute arose between JEM and Hollow regarding payment for the work performed, Hollow filed a complaint against JEM and OFIC. The lawsuit was resolved, and the district court dismissed the litigation. Thereafter, OFIC filed a complaint seeking indemnification from JEM for attorney fees and costs incurred in the underlying litigation. In its answer, JEM alleged that the fees and costs OFIC incurred in the litigation were not covered under the indemnity agreements. The district court granted partial summary judgment on the pleadings in favor of OFIC, concluding that JEM was required to indemnify OFIC for “appropriate expenses.” The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in granting partial summary judgment on the pleadings to OFIC on the limited issue of whether OFIC may seek indemnification from JEF pursuant to the indemnification agreements. View "Ohio Farmers Insurance Co. v. JEM Contracting, Inc." on Justia Law

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The State brought a complaint against BNSF Railway Co. ("BNSF") in November 2009 seeking a declaratory judgment requiring BNSF to abide by the terms of a 1984 agreement between them and a declaration that BNSF was in violation of that agreement; specific performance by BNSF of the agreement, and damages for BNSF's alleged breach of the agreement. The State subsequently filed an application for a preliminary injunction in June 2010 to prohibit BNSF from terminating the payment to the State and its short line operator per loaded car for each car handled in interchanges as required by Section 9 of the agreement. At issue was whether the district court's order granting the preliminary injunction was an abuse of discretion. The court held that the district court manifestly abused its discretion in issuing the preliminary injunction where it went beyond the State's requested relief and effectively ordered specific performance on the agreement under new terms substantially different than the prior agreed upon terms which severely limited termination of the new interchange agreement and was never part of the 1984 or 1986 agreements. Accordingly, the court reversed the order and resolved the injunction, remanding for further proceedings.

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The Missoula City Counsel, the City of Missoula, and the Mayor, (collectively "City") and Muth-Hilberry, LLC ("developer") appealed a district court determination that found that the City was arbitrary and capricious in approving a zoning and preliminary plat for a subdivision known as Sonata Park located in Rattlesnake Valley, Montana. At issue was whether neighbors, several parties opposed to the subdivision, and the North Duncan Drive Neighborhood Association, Inc. ("Association") had standing. Also at issue was whether the district court erred in striking affidavits filed by the developer and the City in connection with their motions for summary judgment. Further at issue was whether the 1989 Sunshine Agreement between the City and the developer's predecessor in interest superseded the City's growth policy. Finally at issue was whether the City's decision in Sonata Park was arbitrary, capricious, or unlawful. The court held that the neighbors had standing to sue in their own right and that the Association had associational standing to proceed on behalf of its members. The court also held that any error made by the district court in granting the neighbor's motion to strike the developer's affidavit was harmless. The court further held that the Sunlight Agreement did not supersede the City's growth policy where the Sunlight Agreement could be void ab initio and did not appear to guarantee certain density. The court finally held that substantial compliance was still valid and that a government body must substantially comply with its growth policy in making zoning decisions and that the City's decision to approve Sonata Park was arbitrary, capricious, and unlawful.