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Stafford v. Fockaert

Stafford v. Fockaert, 2016 MT 28 (Feb. 9, 2016) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court abused its discretion by entering default judgment for Stafford as a sanction for Fockaert’s failure to comply with the court’s order requiring mediation, and (2) whether the district court properly awarded prejudgment interest.

Short Answer: (1) No, and (2) yes.


Facts: Stafford sued Fockaert in 2012, alleging he defrauded her of $100,000. The parties agree that Stafford transferred $100,000 to Fockaert in July 2010 for him to invest, and that he refused to return the money when she asked him to a month later.…

Hall v. Hall

Hall v. Hall, 2015 MT 226 (Aug. 4, 2015) (McKinnon, J.; Rice. J., dissenting) (4-1, rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether this Court will grant an out-of-time appeal; and (2) whether the district court erred in granting a default judgment against Don Hall.

Short Answer: (1) Yes, to avoid a gross miscarriage of justice, and (2) yes.


Facts: Gregory Hall hired Don Hall (not related) to inspect a home Gregory purchased in 2006. This case arises from a dispute over that inspection.

Gregory filed suit against Don, the home seller John Heinlein, real estate broker Donna Hall (Don’s wife), and real estate broker Debra Cernick. Gregory alleges the defendants failed to disclose material effects in the property.

Gregory filed his complaint on March 5, 2007, and requested substitution of the judge.…

Ginn v. Smurfit Stone Container Enterp., Inc.

Ginn v. Smurfit Stone Container Enterp., Inc., 2015 MT 81 (March 17, 2015) (Wheat, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether district court properly held that mill failed to show its default was not willful and that the plaintiff would not be prejudiced by setting aside default judgment.

Short Answer: Yes.


Facts: Allen Ginn was a log truck driver for Ginn Trucking. In July 2008, Ginn drove to a mill owned by Smurfit to deliver a load of logs, and was severely injured when he released the logs and several fell on him.

In January 2009, Smurfit filed voluntary petitions for bankruptcy, and the bankruptcy court set a claim bar date of August 2009 for claims accruing prior to the petition.

In October 2011, Ginn and his wife moved the bankruptcy court for leave to file a late claim, relief from the plan injunction, and for the bankruptcy court to abstain from hearing the claim under 28 USC § 1334(c) so that Ginns could file in Montana.…

Wittich Law Firm, P.C. v. O’Connell

Wittich Law Firm, P.C. v. O’Connell, 2013 MT 122 (May 7, 2013) (4-1) (Wheat, J., for the majority; Baker, J. concurs; Cotter, J., dissents)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court slightly abused its discretion in denying O’Connells’ motion to vacate the default judgment, and (2) whether the law firm was properly awarded attorneys’ fees.

Short Answer: (1) No, as it was untimely under the 2009 Rules of Civil Procedure, and (2) yes, as the contract allowed them.