Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court

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North Dakota, by the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's Youth Correctional Center, petitioned for a supervisory writ directing a district court to vacate its July 18, 2017 order denying the State's motion for summary judgment on Delmar Markel's negligence claim. Markel cross-petitioned for a supervisory writ directing the district court to vacate its January 21, 2016 order dismissing Markel's claim for constructive and retaliatory discharge. Markel worked at the North Dakota Youth Correctional Center on December 9, 2012, when several inmates broke out of their locked rooms. The inmates injured Markel during their escape. In 2015, Markel brought a complaint against the State alleging one count of negligence for failure to fix faulty locks permitting the inmates to escape and one count of constructive and retaliatory discharge. The State argued that the Workforce Safety and Insurance ("WSI") Act in N.D.C.C. Title 65 barred Markel's negligence claim and that Markel failed to exhaust administrative remedies regarding his discharge claim. On January 21, 2016, the district court dismissed the discharge claim for failure to pursue available administrative remedies. The district court also denied the State's motion to dismiss Markel's negligence claim. The North Dakota Supreme Court exercised its original jurisdiction by granting the State's petition and denying Markel's cross-petition. The district court erred as a matter of law in denying the State's motion to dismiss Markel's negligence claim. Markel failed to allege and support at least an "intentional act done with the conscious purpose of inflicting the injury" to overcome the State's immunity. The State had no adequate remedy to avoid defending a suit from which it has immunity. View "North Dakota v. Haskell" on Justia Law

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Marqus Welch appealed, and Workforce Safety and Insurance ("WSI") cross-appealed a judgment affirming an administrative law judge's ("ALJ") decision that affirmed a WSI order ending Welch's vocational rehabilitation benefits and disability benefits and that reversed a WSI order finding Welch committed fraud and requiring him to repay benefits. To trigger the civil penalties for making a false statement in connection with a claim for WSI benefits, WSI must prove: (1) there is a false claim or statement; (2) the false claim or statement is willfully made; and (3) the false claim or statement is made in connection with any claim or application for benefits. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the ALJ did not err in affirming WSI's disability benefits order because a reasoning mind could reasonably conclude Welch could return to work. The Court concluded, however, the ALJ misapplied the law in failing to apply the proper definition of "work" and in analyzing whether Welch had "willfully" made false statements. View "Welch v. Workforce Safety & Insurance" on Justia Law

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The United States District Court for the District of North Dakota certified questions of North Dakota law to the North Dakota Supreme Court involving Dawn Vail's right to bring a common law tort action against S/L Services, Inc., for personal injuries she sustained while working for S/L Services. The certified questions and the parties' arguments involved issues about employer immunity and an employee's exclusive or dual remedy for injuries occurring during the course of employment under North Dakota’s statutory provisions for workforce safety and insurance. The Supreme Court concluded the exclusive remedy provisions of North Dakota’s workers' compensation laws did not preclude Vail's tort action against S/L Services under provisions authorizing the action for willfully misrepresenting to Workforce Safety and Insurance ("WSI") the amount of payroll upon which a premium is based, or for willfully failing to secure workers' compensation coverage for employees. View "Vail v. S/L Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Under workers' compensation law, seasonal employment includes occupations that are not permanent or that do not customarily operate throughout the entire year and is determined by what is customary with respect to the employer at the time of injury. Industrial Contractors, Inc., appealed a judgment affirming a decision by an independent administrative law judge determining Leonard Taylor's employment with Industrial Contractors was not seasonal employment. Industrial Contractors argued the ALJ misapplied the law for determining seasonal employment. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the ALJ misapplied the law and the ALJ's decision was not supported by a preponderance of the evidence. View "Industrial Contractors Inc. v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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Arjuna Zerr appealed a judgment dismissing his action seeking declaratory relief against North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance ("WSI"). The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in dismissing his complaint based on a lack of subject matter jurisdiction because Zerr did not exhaust his statutory administrative remedies. View "Zerr v. Workforce Safety & Insurance" on Justia Law

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JB Construction, Inc. appealed the district court's judgment affirming Job Service's "Notice of Determination" stating Jesse Jahner's and Vance Jahner's services constituted employment under N.D.C.C. 52-01-01(17). On appeal, JB Construction argued the plain language of section 52-01-01(17)(a)(1) showed new corporate officers did not need to file for an exemption if an exemption was granted to prior officers and the current officers meeting all of the requirements under the statute. The Supreme Court found N.D.C.C. 52-01-01(17)(a)(1) unambiguously required corporate officers to file their own application for an exemption, and as such, affirmed the lower court's judgment. "The exemption of certain officers from 'employment' under the unemployment compensation law is granted to an officer as an individual, not to the officer's position. Under the unemployment compensation law, if an exempt officer transfers his interest and position in a corporation to another individual, the individual must apply for his own exemption." View "J B Construction, Inc. v. Job Service" on Justia Law

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Penny Bartholomay, individually for herself and the heirs of her deceased husband, Jon Bartholomay, appealed a judgment dismissing her wrongful death action against Jon Bartholomay's former employer, Plains Grain & Agronomy, LLC. On January 18, 2013, Jon was loading grain into railcars at the Sheldon Grain Elevator as an employee of Plains, which was an insured employer under the Workforce Safety and Insurance Act, N.D.C.C. tit. 65. Jon fell from the top of a railcar he was loading and suffered serious injuries. Plains had no safety equipment in place to protect against falls, but intended to install a fall protection system. Jon never regained consciousness and died as a result of his injuries approximately one month after the . Penny Bartholomay sued Plains for wrongful death damages alleging it intentionally exposed Jon to unsafe working conditions. Plains answered and claimed the lawsuit was barred by the exclusive remedy provisions of the Act. The district court granted summary judgment dismissing the lawsuit because, as a matter of law, Plains' alleged conduct did not rise to the level of an intentional act done with the conscious purpose of inflicting the injury. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, because the facts alleged did not provide a genuine issue of material fact to avoid the exclusive remedy provisions of the Workforce Safety and Insurance Act. View "Bartholomay v. Plains Grain & Agronomy, LLC" on Justia Law

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Lori Jury appealed a district court's order denying her motion to vacate a summary judgment. Jury argued the district court should have provided notice of the summary judgment hearing independent of the notice provided by the Barnes County Municipal Airport Authority ("BCMAA"). Jury had sued BCMAA pro se after she was terminated from her at-will employment. Jury worked as a part-time clerk for the Airport under the direction of its board and manager. In 2012, Jury applied for the vacant manager position. The BCMAA board of directors did not hire Jury for the manager position and shortly thereafter the BCMAA terminated her, citing a lack of trust. Jury filed a charge with the North Dakota Department of Labor alleging, among other things, that the BCMAA discriminated against her based on her gender. The Department found no probable cause to substantiate Jury's allegations and dismissed her charge. Jury subsequently sued the BCMAA alleging workplace discrimination, wrongful termination, defamation of character, harassment, emotional distress, loss of income, and retaliation. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Jury v. Barnes County Municipal Airport Authority" on Justia Law

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The Williston Education Association ("WEA") sued the Williston Public School District No. 1 ("District") on behalf of Williston middle school teachers. The WEA claimed the District owed teachers compensation for extra classes they taught during the 2012-2013 school year. The underlying dispute was whether prime time constituted a "class period" under the terms of the Agreement. If the court interpreted "class period" to include prime time, the District would owe teachers additional compensation because they taught six or more class periods plus prime time during the 2012-2013 school year. If prime time was not a "class period," the majority of teachers only taught six class periods; the District would not owe them extra compensation. The district court interpreted "class period" to include prime time. It awarded summary judgment in favor of the WEA and ordered the District pay damages to the teachers. The District filed a timely appeal. When a trial court can reasonably draw conflicting inferences from undisputed facts, summary judgment is improper. The Supreme Court concluded the district court erred when it granted the WEA's motion for summary judgment, finding there were multiple issues of fact from which "differing reasonable inferences could be drawn." The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for the trial court to resolve these issues of fact. View "Williston Education Association v. Williston Public School Dist. No. 1" on Justia Law

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Friends of Duane Sand 2012 was a political campaign committee formed for the 2012 election of Duane Sand as a United States Senator from North Dakota. Friends of Duane Sand ceased operation in June 2012, when Sand was defeated in the state primary election. In 2013, the Job Service received an interstate request to investigate whether Friends of Duane Sand was required to pay unemployment insurance for Joe Meyer, a campaign worker who filed a claim for unemployment benefits in Minnesota. Friends of Duane Sand claimed its campaign workers were either independent contractors or volunteers and it was not subject to charges for unemployment insurance. After an investigation and a hearing, an administrative law judge determined Friends of Duane Sand was an employing unit, Meyer was an independent contractor and not an employee, and another campaign worker, Sarah Mohler, was an employee. Job Service declined to review the administrative law judge's decision. Friends of Duane Sand 2012 appealed a district court order denying a motion for reconsideration of a judgment affirming a Job Service decision that Friends of Duane Sand was an employing unit and that Sarah Mohler was an employee. The Supreme Court dismissed, finding that post-judgment motions under N.D.R.Civ.P. 59 and 60 were not applicable to a district court's review of an appeal from a Job Service decision. Further, the Court found Friends of Duane Sand 2012 did not timely appeal the judgment affirming Job Service's decision. View "Sand v. Job Service" on Justia Law