Archive | October, 2015

Cruson v. Missoula Elec. Cooperative, Inc.

Cruson v. Missoula Elec. Cooperative, Inc., 2015 MT 309 (Oct. 27, 2015) (Baker, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in affirming the Board of labor Appeals’ conclusion that Cruson was disqualified for unemployment benefits because his voluntary termination did not constitute good cause attributable to his employment.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Missoula Electric Cooperative employed Cruson as a master electrician from October 2001 until May 2013. In 2009, shortly after Mark Hayden became general manager for MEC, Cruson complained that unqualified employees were doing work that only an electrician could perform, jeopardizing his license. In response, Hayden implemented a computer system that allowed employees like Cruson to review whether work orders were being assigned properly. MEC contacted the state electrical board in 2012 for guidance regarding the scope of practice of a lineman versus an electrician, and received an email from the board’s attorney confirming that certain electrical work exceeds the scope of a lineman’s practice.…

State v. Root

State v. Root, 2015 MT 310 (Oct. 27, 2015) (McGrath, C.J.; Cotter, J., dissenting) (4-3, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether Root’s attorney was ineffective for not requesting an accomplice instruction; and (2) whether the district court erred in denying Root’s motion to dismiss based on the prosecution’s failure to disclose a video statement of a witness.

Short Answer: (1) No; and (2) no, with Justices Cotter, McKinnon, and Shea dissenting on (2).


Facts: Lawrence Lee was stabbed in the arm and neck while in his pickup truck with Root and juvenile S.R. Lee and S.R. testified that Root stabbed Lee, after which S.R. jumped out of the truck and Lee pushed Root out of the truck. S.R. testified that after Lee left, S.R.…

State v. Barrett

State v. Barrett, 2015 MT 303 (Oct. 20, 2015) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether Barrett was properly sentenced as a fourth DUI offender when one of his predicate DUIs was reduced in Idaho from a third to a second DUI pursuant to a plea agreement.

Short Answer: Yes.


Facts: Barrett, an Idaho resident, was stopped in Dillon on Jan. 27, 2014, for failing to stop at an intersection. Noting the smell of alcohol, slurred speech, and red eyes, the officer administered field sobriety tests, which Barrett failed. A preliminary breath test revealed a .14 BAC. Barrett was charged with DUI, fourth or subsequent offense, a felony.

Procedural Posture & Holding: Barrett moved to dismiss the felony charge, arguing it was only his third DUI.…

Mlekush v. Farmers Insur. Exchange

Mlekush v. Farmers Insur. Exchange, 2015 MT 302 (Oct. 20, 2015) (Shea, J.) (7-0, rev’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in determining Mlekush could not recover attorney fees and costs from Farmers.

Short Answer: Yes.

Reversed and remanded

Facts: Mlekush was in a car accident with another driver, Shaunaugh McGoldrick, in January 2011. McGoldrick admitted liability and Mlekush recovered McGoldrick’s $50,000 policy limits for bodily injuries. At the time, Mlekush was insured with Farmers Insurance under a policy that included underinsured motorist coverage with a $200,000 policy limit. Mlekush entered into a contingency fee agreement with Doubek, Pyfer & Fox, LLP to represent her on her UIM claim. In August 2012, Mlekush’s attorneys sent Farmers a letter of representation and asked Farmers to open a medical payments claim.…

Bardsley v. Pluger

Bardsley v. Pluger, 2015 MT 301 (Oct. 20, 2015) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court abused its discretion by issuing an amended order of protection; (2) whether the district court abused its discretion by denying the Plaintiffs’ motion to amend their complaint; (3) whether the district court erred by granting Defendants’ motion for summary judgment; and (4) whether the district court abused its discretion by awarding Defendants attorney’s fees.

Short Answer: (1) Yes; (2) no; (3) no; and (4) no.

Affirmed (2, 3, 4) and reversed (1)

Facts: Scott Bardsley owns property in Troy where he lives with his partner, Dora. Defendants Earnest Anderson and Lizann Pluger live on the adjacent property, owned by Lizann’s uncle, Edwin Pluger.…

State v. Hala

State v. Hala, 2015 MT 300 (Oct. 20, 2015) (Rice, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether a blood test drawn more than eight hours after the act of driving was taken within a reasonable time under the circumstances; and (2) whether the district court erred by holding certain evidence was admissible under the inevitable discovery rule when the state made that argument for the first time at the suppression hearing.

Short Answer: (1) Yes, and (2) the Court declines to reach this issue after affirming on the first issue.


Facts: Hala’s truck drifted off the road and crashed early one morning in November 2013. Because he was injured and could not call for assistance, the accident went unreported until about 5 am.…

Public Land/Water Access Assoc., Inc. v. Jones

Public Land/Water Access Assoc., Inc. v. Jones, 2015 MT 299 (Oct. 15, 2015) (Cotter, J.; Rice, J., concurring & dissenting) (4-1, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in awarding money damages as supplemental declaratory relief; (2) whether the district court erred in failing to consider ownership of the railroad car bridge or its suitability as a bridge in violation of PLWA IV; and on cross-appeal, (3) whether the district court erred by not awarding PLWA reasonable attorney fees and costs.

Short Answer: (1) No; (2) no; and (3) yes.

Affirmed (1 & 2), reversed (3) and remanded for attorney fees

Facts: Roger Jones bought Boadle Ranch in 2000, a 4,900-acre ranch in Teton County. Since then, he has prohibited public use of the two main roads transecting the ranch, Boadle Road and Canal Road.…

Siebken v. Voderberg

Siebken v. Voderberg, 2015 MT 296 (Oct. 13, 2015) (Baker, J.; Cotter, J., concurring) (6-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether Siebken is entitled to a new trial based on the district court’s admission of a letter regarding Siebken’s medical history and diagnosis; (2) whether Siebken is entitled to a new trial because the district court erroneously instructed the jury on the statute of limitations; and (3) whether substantial evidence supported the jury verdict.

Short Answer: (1) No; (2) the Court declines to review this issue because Siebken did not preserve the issue for appeal; and (3) yes.


Facts: In Siebken I, this Court reversed summary judgment for Voderberg on statute of limitations grounds. On remand, the primary factual dispute at trial was when the three-year statute began to run on Siebken’s negligence claim.…

State v. Montana Second Judicial District

State v. Montana Second Judicial District, 2015 MT 294 (Oct. 13, 2015) (Baker, J.) (5-0, writ granted, rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the Court will accept review of the state’s petition for supervisory control, and (2) whether the district court erred in holding that the limitations period for unlawful possession of wildlife begins to run on the date a person gains control or ownership of the unlawfully taken wildlife.

Short Answer: (1) Yes, and (2) yes. A violation of § 87-6-202(1), MCA, is continuous conduct for statute of limitations purposes.

Writ of supervisory control granted; district court’s dismissal of counts I & V reversed

Facts: The state charged Joseph McGrath with several offenses under Title 87, MCA, including four counts of unlawful possession of wildlife under § 87-6-202(1).…

Reese v. Stanton

Reese v. Stanton, 2015 MT 293 (Oct. 13, 2015) (Rice. J.) (5-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court abused its discretion in admitting into evidence opinions and reports of doctors who did not testify at trial; (2) whether the district court abused its discretion when it excluded evidence of the original charges billed by medical providers; and (3) whether the district court abused its discretion in striking portions of a video deposition as previously undisclosed expert opinion.

Short Answer: (1) yes, and the error affected the outcome of trial; (2) yes, as held in Meek; and (3) no.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for a new trial

Facts: In November 2009, while working for Montana Coffee Traders, Inc.,…