Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court awarding $2,353,463 in damages to Junkermier, Clark, Campanella, Stevens, P.C. (JCCS), a Montana accounting firm, after a bench trial on remand, holding that the district court did not err by awarding prejudgment interest but erred with regards to the date interest began accruing.Appellants, five of six shareholders in JCCS' Bozeman office, were employed under the terms of an Employment Agreement that contained a covenant restricting competition (Covenant). Appellants later began working at a newly formed accounting firm and solicited clients from JCCS' Bozeman client list. JCCS filed a complaint against Appellants to declare the Covenant enforceable and to recover damages. On remand, the district court determined that the Covenant was reasonable, Appellants were jointly and severally liable for damages arising out of the Covenant's breach, and JCCS was entitled to prejudgment interest. The Supreme Court largely affirmed, holding that the district court did not err by (1) concluding that Appellants were jointly and severally liable for JCCS' damages; (2) concluding that the Covenant was reasonable; (3) awarding prejudgment interest but erred with regards to the date interest began accruing; and (4) by denying Appellants' motion for discovery sanctions. View "Junkermier, Clark, Campanella, Stevens, P.C. v. Alborn" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that service is not required when the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, Employment Relations Division (DLI) files an application for enforcement of judgment when it seeks enforcement of a final agency decision in a wage claim action.DLI applied to the district court for enforcement of judgment against a Billings restaurant on behalf of Jordan Carillo for unpaid wages pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 39-3-212(1). DLI did not serve the restaurant under Mont. R. Civ. P. 4. The district court concluded that the filing of an application for enforcement of judgment initiates as lawsuit that that due process requires service of process. DLI petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of supervisory control. After considering DLI's petition as one of a declaratory judgment, the Supreme Court held (1) DLI need not follow Mont. R. Civ. P. 4 service of process requirements when applying for enforcement of judgment in Montana's district courts in wage claim matters pursuant to section 39-3-212(1); but (2) the statutes do not exempt DLI from compliance with Mont. R. Civ. P. 5. View "Montana Department of Labor & Industry v. Montana Thirteenth Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Appellant's petition for judicial review for failure to exhaust Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) employee grievance remedies, holding that Appellant failed to exhaust administrative remedies.After Appellant, who worked for FWP, was reassigned to a different position, Appellant petitioned for judicial review. The district judge dismissed the petition with prejudice, determining that Appellant had not exhausted all available administrative remedies by filing a grievance regarding his reassignment. Appellant then filed a grievance, which was denied as untimely. Appellant did not file exceptions. Instead, Appellant filed a second petition for judicial review in the district court. The district court granted FWP's motion to dismiss, determining that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Appellant's petition based on his failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that Appellant's failure to file exceptions barred his petition for judicial review. View "Flowers v. Board of Personnel Appeals, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court declining to dismiss Plaintiff's wrongful discharge claim, holding that Plaintiff failed timely to file his complaint in the district court within the applicable statute of limitations.Plaintiff filed a claim against the City of Dillon and the Dillon Mayor (collectively, Defendants) alleging violation of the Wrongful Discharge of Employment Act (WDEA), Mont. Code Ann. 39-2-905. The City moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that Plaintiff's claims were barred by the statute of limitations. The district court denied the claim. The City then sought dismissal of the action as time barred by a way of summary judgment, which the district court denied. The jury ultimately found that Plaintiff was discharged without good cause and awarded damages of $75,612. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff failed to timely file his complaint within the one-year limitation period, as required by the WDEA. View "Turner v. City of Dillon" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court allowed hundreds of former employees of W.R. Grace & Company's Zonolite Division in Libby (Grace) to continue their asbestos-related personal injury claims against Maryland Casualty Company (MCC), Grace's former workers' compensation insurance provider, holding that MCC owed Grace workers a direct common law duty under Restatement (Second) of Torts 324A(b)-(c) to use reasonable care under the circumstances to warn them of the known risk of exposure to airborne asbestos in certain Grace workplaces.The Supreme Court assumed supervisory control over proceedings pending before the Montana Asbestos Claims Court. Here the Court addressed on extraordinary review MCC's assertion that the district court erred in concluding that MCC owed a duty of care to warn third-party employees of Grace of a known risk of airborne asbestos exposure in or about Grace facilities in and about Libby, Montana between 1963 and 1970. The Supreme Court held that, based on MCC's affirmative assumption of employee-specific medical monitoring and Grace's reliance on MCC to perform that function, MCC owed Grace workers a legal duty to use reasonable care to warn them of the risk of airborne asbestos. View "Maryland Casualty Co. v. Asbestos Claims Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Central Montana Medical Center (CCMC) and dismissing Plaintiff's complaint alleging wrongful termination and violation of Mont. Code Ann. 39-2-904(1)(b) and (c) of the Wrongful Discharge from Employment Act, holding that the district court did not err.In granting summary judgment in favor of CCMC and denying Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, the district court determined that CMMC terminated Plaintiff's employment for good cause and that CMMC did not violate its express written policies when it terminated Plaintiff. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there were no genuine issues of material fact in this case, and CMMC was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. View "Putnam v. Central Montana Medical Center" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for the Montana Department of Corrections (DOC) and dismissing Plaintiff's claims for wrongful discharge from employment, violation of Montana constitutional and administrative rights to privacy, and tortious defamation, holding that the district court did not err.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) no genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether DOC discharged Plaintiff for good cause, and therefore, the district court properly granted summary judgment on Plaintiff's wrongful discharge claim; (2) no genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether DOC discharged Plaintiff in violation of its written personnel policy, and therefore, the district court properly granted summary judgment on Plaintiff's wrongful discharge claim; (3) the district court did not err in granting summary judgment on Plaintiff's claim that DOC violated her right to privacy under Mont. Const. art. II, 10 and Admin. R. M. 2.21.6615; and (4) the district court did not err in concluding that derogatory statements made by DOC to the Montana Peace Officer Standards and Training Council were privileged under Mont. Code Ann. 27-1-804(2). View "Speer v. State, Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Roseburg Forest Products Company's motion to set aside default judgment, holding that the district court did not slightly abuse its discretion in denying Roseburg's motion to set aside default judgment.Jerome Frye, a former employee at Roseburg, filed a complaint alleging violations of the Wrongful Discharge from Employment Act. The clerk of court entered default against Roseburg after Roseburg did not file an appearance or an answer to the complaint with the district court. Roseburg later moved to set aside the entry of default judgment. The district court denied the motion, determining that Roseburg failed to proceed with diligence and that Roseburg's neglect was not excusable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Roseburg's neglect in answering the complaint was not excusable. View "Frye v. Roseburg Forest Products Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court holding that Montana law precluded a jury trial on Plaintiff's federal discrimination claims even though federal law allows a jury trial for federal claims, holding that the district court erred when it concluded that Montana procedural law applied under the Montana Human Rights Act (MHRA) and denied Plaintiff a jury trial on his federal claims.Plaintiff, who has a visual disability, brought claims alleging that the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services engaged in intentional employment discrimination on the basis of his sex and/or disability, in violation of state and federal anti discrimination statutes. The district court concluded that state law precluded a jury trial on Plaintiff's federal discrimination claims because Montana's antidiscrimination statutes do not provide for a trial by jury and because state procedural rules govern procedures in state courts. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff's claims were separate and distinct from his state law claims and that Plaintiff had a right to a jury trial on his federal claims in state district court. View "Spillers v. Third Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the Workers' Compensation Court (WCC) reversing in part and affirming in part the order of the Montana Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) directing Petitioner to attend a medical examination for a diagnostic update of Petitioner's medical problems attributable to his industrial injury, holding that the WCC erred.Specifically, the WCC held that New Hampshire must first authorize Petitioner to see a psychiatrist or psychologist before it could obtain a psychiatric examination pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 39-71-605. New Hampshire provided workers' compensation insurance for Petitioner's employer. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the WCC correctly held that Petitioner should not be compelled to attend a psychiatric examination before it was established that his complaints of insomnia and anxiety were causally related to his workers' compensation claim; but (2) the WCC erred in concluding that New Hampshire must pay for a medical examination and treatment of Petitioner's complaints before New Hampshire could obtain a section 605 exam. View "Neisinger v. New Hampshire Insurance Co." on Justia Law