Justia Government Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
Newfield Exploration Company, et al. v. North Dakota, et al.
The State of North Dakota, ex rel. the North Dakota Board of University and School Lands, and the Office of the Commissioner of University and School Lands, a/k/a the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands appealed a judgment dismissing its claim against Newfield Exploration Company relating to the underpayment of gas royalties. The North Dakota Supreme Court found that the district court concluded the State did not establish a legal obligation owed by Newfield. However, the State pled N.D.C.C. § 47-16-39.1 in its counterclaim, which the court recognized at trial. Because the State satisfied both the pleading and the proof requirements of N.D.C.C. § 47-16-39.1, the Supreme Court held the district court erred in concluding the State did not prove Newfield owed it a legal obligation to pay additional royalties. Rather, as the well operator, Newfield owed the State an obligation under N.D.C.C. § 47-16-39.1 to pay royalties according to the State’s leases. The court failed to recognize Newfield’s legal obligations as a well operator under N.D.C.C. § 47-16-39.1. The Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in dismissing the State's counterclaim; therefore, judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for findings related to the State's damages and Newfield's affirmative defenses. View "Newfield Exploration Company, et al. v. North Dakota, et al." on Justia Law
Young v. Burleigh Morton Detention Center, et al.
Laron Young appealed summary judgment entered in favor of Burleigh Morton Detention Center (“BMDC”). Young was an inmate at BMDC. Reliance Telephone of Grand Forks, Inc. (“Reliance”) contracted with BMDC to operate its inmate telephone system. Every call that was not listed as “private” within the Reliance system was automatically recorded. It was undisputed that the telephone number for Young’s attorney was not on the list of private numbers and various calls between himself and his attorney were recorded. Young sued BMDC and Reliance arguing his Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated and that BMDC had not complied with N.D.C.C. 12- 44.1-14(1), which required correctional facilities to ensure inmates have confidential access to their attorneys. The district court dismissed the claims against Reliance for lack of jurisdiction, and granted summary judgment in favor of BMDC, concluding Young had not alleged facts to support a finding that he was prejudiced by the recordings and therefore his right to counsel was not violated. The court also concluded Young had not alleged facts to support a finding that BMDC violated N.D.C.C. 12-44.1-14(1). The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, that to the extent relief might be available for Young’s claim, he did not allege facts to support a finding that BMDC knowingly intruded into the communications he had with his attorney or that prejudice or a substantial threat of prejudice existed. Therefore, the district court did not err when it granted BMDC summary judgment on Young’s Sixth Amendment claim. With respect to Young's statutory claim, the Court found the plain language of the statute did not require correctional facilities to affirmatively identify an inmate's attorney's telephone number as Young argued. Rather, by its own language, N.D.C.C. 12-44.1-14 was “subject to reasonable . . . correctional facility administration requirements.” The Court thus concluded BMDC’s policy allowing inmates or their attorneys to register attorney telephone numbers as confidential numbers not to be monitored did not constitute a violation of N.D.C.C. 12- 44.1-14(1). View "Young v. Burleigh Morton Detention Center, et al." on Justia Law
Woodrock, Inc. et al. v. McKenzie Cty.
Woodrock, Inc. appealed the grant of summary judgment dismissing its negligence and other claims against McKenzie County, North Dakota. In September 2018, Woodrock sued the County for violations of N.D.C.C. ch. 48-01.2 and negligence. Woodrock alleged the County hired Edwards Gravel & Trucking, LLC to supply aggregate to aggregate stockpiles, the County did not obtain a payment bond from Edwards Gravel, Woodrock furnished materials for use in the project, and Edwards Gravel did not pay Woodrock for the materials. Woodrock claimed that the County violated N.D.C.C. section 48-01.2-10 and was negligent by failing to obtain a bond from Edwards Gravel and that the County was liable to the subcontractors and material suppliers who worked on the project. Woodrock requested damages in the amount of $298,629.54. On appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court, Woodrick argued the district court erred in concluding a project to stockpile aggregate materials was not a public improvement and the bond requirement under N.D.C.C. 48-01.2-10 did not apply. The Supreme Court concluded supplying aggregate materials to stockpiles for general use in maintaining and repairing county roads did not constitute “construction of a public improvement.” Therefore, the Court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Woodrock, Inc. et al. v. McKenzie Cty." on Justia Law
Traynor Law Firm v. North Dakota, et al.
Dustin Irwin died in 2014, in the Ward County, North Dakota jail. The circumstances of his death led to an investigation and criminal charges against Ward County Sheriff Steven Kukowski. Initially, Divide County State’s Attorney Seymour Jordan was appointed to handle the criminal proceeding. Jordan determined the circumstances justified a petition for removal of Sheriff Kukowski from office. Governor Jack Dalrymple appointed Jordan as the special prosecutor for the removal. Ultimately, Jordan requested to withdraw and Governor Burgum appointed attorney Daniel Traynor as the special prosecutor. After completion of the removal proceedings, Traynor submitted his bill to the State on May 1, 2017. The State forwarded the bill to Ward County. Ward County refused to pay the bill. Traynor sued the State and Ward County to recover the unpaid fees. The State responded to Traynor’s complaint by filing a motion to dismiss. Ward County answered Traynor’s complaint and cross-claimed against the State. The State moved to dismiss Ward County’s cross-claim. Traynor moved for judgment on the pleadings. The district court entered judgment in Traynor’s favor against the State, and awarded interest at 6% per annum. The State argued Ward County had to pay Traynor’s bill because Chapter 44-11, N.D.C.C., failed to address who should pay for the special prosecutor fees in a county official’s removal proceeding, and therefore the catch-all provision in N.D.C.C. 54-12-03 applied. Ward County argues neither Chapter 44-11, N.D.C.C., nor Chapter 54- 12, N.D.C.C., imposes an obligation upon a county to pay the fees of an attorney appointed by the Governor for proceedings for the removal of a public official. The North Dakota Supreme Court concurred with the district court that Chapter 44-11, N.D.C.C., was silent regarding the payment of special prosecutor fees in a removal proceeding, and it was not necessary or required to import N.D.C.C. 54-12-03 into Chapter 44-11. Based on these facts, the Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in finding a contract existed for legal services between Traynor and the State. The Court agreed with Traynor that the district court erred by awarding 6% per annum interest instead of the 1.5% monthly interest rate stated on its bill. The Supreme Court therefore affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded for further proceedings. View "Traynor Law Firm v. North Dakota, et al." on Justia Law
Lakeview Excavating, Inc. v. Dickey County, et al.
Lakeview Excavating appealed a district court judgment dismissing its complaint against Dickey County and German Township (Defendants) for breach of contract, intentional fraud, and misrepresentation. In spring 2012, the Defendants awarded to Lakeview three road construction project contracts funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The parties executed three identical contracts, one for each project. The contracts required Lakeview to provide the necessary documents to satisfy FEMA requirements for funding. Lakeview had to use more material than was listed in the bid documents to complete the projects. Some of the material used by Lakeview was taken from private property without permission and resulted in litigation against Lakeview. Lakeview completed the road construction projects in August 2012. In October 2016, Lakeview sued the Defendants for breach of contract, fraud, misrepresentation, and unlawful interference with business. The court ruled Lakeview breached its contracts with the Defendants, and held Lakeview’s tort claims against the Defendants were barred by the statute of limitations. Lakeview appealed, but finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Lakeview Excavating, Inc. v. Dickey County, et al." on Justia Law
Taszarek v. Welken
Brian Welken appealed after a jury returned a verdict in favor of Eugene Taszarek, Marlys Taszarek, Trina Schilling, Steven Taszarek, and Michael Taszarek ("Taszareks") and against Lakeview Excavating, Inc., ("Lakeview") and Welken. Lakeview was a corporation primarily involved in flood control projects, and Welken was Lakeview's president and sole shareholder. In the spring of 2012, German Township in Dickey County solicited bids for road construction projects to repair and raise the grade of a road near the Taszareks' property. Lakeview, acting through Welken, successfully bid and was selected as the contractor for the road projects. Lakeview obtained most of its field rock for the project from area farmers and ranchers with rock piles on their properties. Lakeview arranged with landowners to harvest rocks from their fields and reclaim the ground so it could again be farmed, and landowners allowed Lakeview to remove rock piles. Herb Buerkley owned land adjacent to land owned by the Taszareks, and Buerkley permitted Lakeview to enter his family's property to harvest field rock. While harvesting the rock piles from Buerkley's land, Lakeview's employees crossed into the Taszareks' land and harvested field rock. The Taszareks brought an action against both Lakeview and Welken, asserting claims of intentional trespass, conversion, and unjust enrichment arising from Lakeview's work on the German Township road-raising project. The district court held a jury trial on the Taszareks' trespass and conversion claims against Lakeview and Welken. During trial, the Taszareks' attorney asked the court to instruct the jury on the theory that Lakeview was the "alter ego" of Welken and that Welken should therefore be personally liable for any judgment. Over the objection of Welken's attorney, the court gave an instruction regarding the alter ego doctrine. After review, the Supreme Court concluded Welken failed to preserve whether the district court misapplied the law by allowing the jury to resolve whether Lakeview was the alter ego of Welken. Furthermore, the Court concluded that the trial court erred as a matter of law in inadequately instructing the jury regarding the alter ego doctrine. The Court therefore reversed the judgment and remanded for a new trial. View "Taszarek v. Welken" on Justia Law