Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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Nan Stevenson purchased a fifth wheel trailer at the Billings, Montana location of Big Sky RV, Inc., a Montana corporation with its principal office registered in Bozeman, Gallatin County, Montana. Stevenson provided a down payment and financed the remainder of the purchase price through Ally Bank. Ally later initiated this complaint against Stevenson in Chouteau County, claiming that Stevenson had defaulted on her payment obligations under the loan agreement. Steven filed a third-party complaint against Big Sky, alleging damages for breach of contract, violation of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, negligence, and violations of the Montana Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). Big Sky filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings and for change of venue, arguing that, under Mont. Code Ann. 30-14-133(1), venue was improper in Chouteau County and that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the MCPA claim. The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in determining that it had subject matter jurisdiction and that venue was proper in Chouteau County. View "Ally Financial, Inc. v. Stevenson" on Justia Law

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In 2005, Martha Guthrie, Richard Guthrie, and Richard Guthrie, as custodian for Taylor Guthrie (collectively, Guthrie), took out a loan for the purchase of real property. Capital One eventually took over as successor to the mortgage. In 2010, Capital initiated a foreclosure action against Guthrie. Capital moved for summary judgment seeking the right to foreclose on the property. Ultimately, the trial judge granted Capital’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that Guthrie had failed to put any material fact in dispute. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the retired district court judge had jurisdiction over the proceedings; (2) the district court did not err in granting partial summary judgment to Capital One on the equitable estoppel claim; and (3) the district court properly relied on an affidavit when it granted Capital One’s summary judgment motion. View "Capital One, NA v. Guthrie" on Justia Law

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After securing two loans with deeds of trust on the same property, Appellants paid off the smaller loan. A title agent filed a deed of reconveyance containing a scrivener’s error that mistakenly released Appellants’ interest in their property from the larger lien. Although the error was later corrected, Appellants argued that U.S. Bank, the beneficiary to the larger loan, did not have a valid, perfected lien prior to commencement of Appellants’ Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings. The district court granted U.S. Bank’s motion for judgment on the pleadings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the lien at issue survived Appellants’ bankruptcy proceedings because the lien was unaffected by the scrivener’s error contained within the deed of reconveyance. View "Reeves v. US Bank National Ass’n" on Justia Law

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In a period of approximately three years, Masonry by Muller, Inc. (Masonry) and Flathead Bank entered into four promissory notes. William Muller signed the promissory notes individually and as president of Masonry and personally guaranteed three of the loans. Flathead Bank later filed a complaint alleging that Muller and Masonry had defaulted on all four loans and that it was entitled to the outstanding balance of the loans. The district court granted Flathead Bank’s motion for summary judgment. Muller appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err (1) in finding that Flathead Bank’s filing of an IRS Form 1099-C did not extinguish Muller’s debt, as the issuance of an IRS Form 1099-C is not prima facie evidence of a creditor’s intent to discharge a debt; and (2) in finding that Muller could only represent himself personally and could not appear on behalf of Masonry. View "Flathead Bank of Bigfork, Montana v. Masonry by Muller, Inc." on Justia Law

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Facing more than $40,000 in unsecured debt that she owed to Discover Bank and other banks, Susan Ossello enrolled in a debt reduction program and signed a contract with Global Client Solutions. Ossello subsequently stopped making payments on her credit card debt, and Discover Bank brought a collection action against her. Ossello filed a third-party complaint against Global, alleging that Global used deceptive and fraudulent representations to solicit her participation in an illegal debt settlement plan. Global filed a motion to compel arbitration and to dismiss the third-party complaint for lack of jurisdiction. The district court concluded that the arbitration clause in Global’s contract was unconscionable and not unenforceable and therefore denied Global’s motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in (1) reserving to itself the determination of arbitrability, and (2) declaring that the arbitration provision was unconscionable and therefore not enforceable against Ossello. View "Discover Bank v. Ossello" on Justia Law

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JAS, Inc. purchased certain property at a trustee’s sale. JAS later filed a quiet title action, naming several defendants, including Mortgage Electronic Systems, Inc. (MERS), Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., and OneWest Bank, FSB. Bank of America, N.A. (BOA), the successor to Countrywide, later intervened. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of BOA, concluding that the trustee’s sale of the property was void ab initio for failure to strictly follow Montana’s foreclosure laws. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court properly voided the sale on the basis of failure of strict compliance with the Small Tract Financing Act of Montana; and (2) the issue of JAS’s recovery of the funds it paid to OneWest Bank at the trustee’s sale was not properly before the Court. View "JAS, Inc. v. Eisele" on Justia Law

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Defendants acquired real property by borrowing more than $2 million from Whitefish Credit Union (WCU) and signing a promissory note to WCU, secured by mortgages on the property. Defendants later defaulted on that note, owing a principal balance of $1,951,670. WCU filed this action for foreclosure and collection of the debt. The property was sold at a sheriff’s sale to WCU for $1,100,000. Thereafter, WCU filed a request for entry of a deficiency judgment against Defendants for the amount of $745,365. Defendants opposed the request, arguing that the fair market value of the property exceeded the loan balance. After a hearing, the district court found the property was worth $2,366,667 as of the date of the sheriff’s sale and that no deficiency was owed to WCU. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion by proceeding in equity to determine the fair value of the property for purposes of entering a deficiency judgment; but (2) evidentiary errors clearly affected the outcome of the proceeding to the prejudice of WCU. Remanded for further proceedings on the evidentiary issues and the applicable standard. View "Whitefish Credit Union v. Prindiville" on Justia Law

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A trust (Trust) purchased lots in an RV park. The purchase agreement for the lots granted Trust an easement for access to a lake over and across lakefront property. At the time of the purchase, the lake property was encumbered by a deed of trust issued by Bank. After the owners of the lake property became delinquent on their loan obligations, Bank attempted to foreclose on the lake property by way of a trustee's sale, at which it purchased the property. Because Bank failed to provide Trust with notice of the sale, Bank subsequently noticed a second trustee's sale of the lake property, this time providing notice to Trust. Trust filed a complaint against Bank, claiming the Bank was precluded from holding the second sale and that it therefore could not extinguish its easement via the second sale. Bank subsequently purchased the property at the second trustees sale. The district court concluded (1) the first trustee's sale was invalid, but the second trustee's sale was valid; and (2) Trust's easement claims were therefore subordinate to Bank's interests in the lake property. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly concluded that Bank effectively foreclosed on Trust's easement through the second trustee's sale. View "Terry L. Bell Generations Trust v. Flathead Bank of Bigfork" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of several business transactions entered into by parties involved in the development of condominiums on Hauser Lake. Cherrad, Merritt & Marie, and Max & V (the Hale interests) were limited liability companies owned by Conrad and Cheryl Hale. Craig Kinnaman was sole proprietor of a business called CK Design. Merritt & Marie purchased the Hauser Lake property. Subsequently, the Hales and Kinnaman agreed to develop a portion of the property. Cherrad was the developer, and Mountain West Bank (MWB) made three loans to Cherrad to develop the project. CK Design suffered delays in the project and later left the project. In 2007, Kinnaman committed suicide, and the Estate recorded a $3.3 million construction lien on the condominiums. MWB brought this action 2008 against the Hale interests and the Estate seeking foreclosure on the three secured loans. The Hale interests and the Estate cross-claimed against each other. The district court (1) declared the Estate's construction lien invalid; and (2) determined Cherrad owed the Estate $76,278 for work that CK Design performed on the project. Finding no error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Mountain West Bank, N.A. v. Cherrad, LLC" on Justia Law

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To help finance her purchase of a condominium (condo) for $395,000, Mary McCulley sought a residential loan from Heritage Bank (Bank) for $300,000. American Land Title Company (ALTC) provided a commitment for title insurance. McCulley signed a promissory note and signed a deed of trust as collateral. Subsequently, ALTC changed the designated use of the condo in the deed from residential to commercial. After closing, McCulley discovered the Bank had issued her an eighteen-month, $300,000 commercial property loan rather than the thirty-year residential property loan for which she applied. When she was unable to obtain long-term refinancing on the property, McCulley signed a warranty deed transferring ownership of the condo to the Central Asia Institute and used the proceeds to pay off the loan. McCulley then sued ALTC and the Bank (collectively, Defendants) for, inter alia, negligence, breach of contract, slander of title, and fraud. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the district court's order of summary judgment in favor of the Bank on the issue of fraud, as genuine issues of material fact existed relative to McCulley's claim of fraud on the part of the Bank; and (2) otherwise affirmed. View "McCulley v. Am. Land Title Co." on Justia Law