Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court

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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

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Blume Construction, Inc. appealed a district court judgment affirming a Job Service North Dakota decision, finding Blume did not file a valid appeal and the agency's determination assigning Blume a final penalty tax rate. Blume received a notice of determination from Job Service informing Blume that it would be assigned a penalty tax rate for unemployment insurance. The notice stated the agency conducted an audit and concluded there was a transfer of ownership and payroll between Blume and another company that was knowingly done to obtain a lower tax rate for unemployment insurance. The notice informed Blume it would be assigned the highest tax rate assignable for the next three years. The notice advised Blume the determination would become final unless a written appeal was made to Job Service within fifteen days. Job Service received an electronic appeal request for Blume signed by Craig Fidler. Fidler was identified as a licensed attorney from Colorado. Fidler was not licensed to practice law in North Dakota. In approximately May 2014, Fidler notified the referee he was unable to secure a sponsoring attorney licensed in North Dakota. During that same time period, the referee was informed a North Dakota attorney would be representing Blume. Blume argued the referee erred in finding Blume's attorney engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and the appealed request the attorney filed was void. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Blume Construction, Inc. v. North Dakota" on Justia Law

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Lori Yahna appealed from a summary judgment dismissing her complaint against Altru Health System for age discrimination and for wrongful termination of employment. In 1984, Yahna began working for the Grand Forks Clinic, the predecessor to Altru, as a licensed practical nurse. She received additional training in vascular technology to work with Dr. Rolf Paulson in the ultrasound department and by 1986 she was working solely as a vascular technologist. According to Yahna, she was the technical director of the vascular lab, she developed the vascular medicine practice at Altru. She initially worked full time as a vascular technologist with on-call responsibilities, but she received approval to work three days per week in 2001 with no on-call responsibility. According to Yahna, she became coordinator and technical director of the vascular lab in 2006. In February 2012, Altru created a new position for an education and quality assurance coordinator, and hired Derek Todd for that full-time position. According to Yahna, she did not apply for that position because it was full time. She claimed, however, she maintained her position as technical director of the vascular lab and understood she would still be doing quality assurance and reviewing other technologists' films. Yahna claimed Altru required her to work full time with on-call responsibilities in July 2012, and she was terminated on July 2, 2012, after she informed Altru "she would not be able to take call at this time." Yahna was forty-eight years old when she was terminated. The district court granted Altru's motion for summary judgment, concluding there were no disputed issues of material fact that Altru's employment policies and procedures did not abrogate Yahna's at-will employment status with Altru and that her termination did not constitute age discrimination. The court explained the provisions in Altru's employment policy manual unambiguously preserved the presumption of at-will employment and did not evidence an intent that the manual created a contractual right to employment. In rejecting Yahna's age discrimination claim, the court cited the requirements for a prima facie age discrimination claim and said that because Yahna refused to take required on-call responsibilities for an ultrasound technologist she failed to satisfactorily perform the duties of her position and she failed to establish employees outside her protected age class were treated more favorably than her. The court ruled Altru established it terminated Yahna because she refused to take on-call responsibilities for her job and granted summary judgment dismissing her complaint. On appeal, Yahna argued there were disputed issues of material fact on her claims that her termination constituted age discrimination and violated Altru's employment policies and procedures. Finding no error in the district court's decision, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Yahna v. Altru Health System" on Justia Law