Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
Baker v. Autos, Inc., et al.
Darilyn Baker, individually and on behalf of a certified class, appealed an order denying her motion for a new trial after a jury returned a verdict in favor of RW Enterprises, Inc. and Randy Westby. This case has been before the North Dakota Supreme Court three times. Prior to the Baker III decision, the district court dismissed Baker’s claims after finding the defendants did not violate disclosure requirements of the North Dakota Retail Installment Sales Act (“RISA”). Baker appealed. In Baker III, the Supreme Court concluded the retail installment contracts did not comply with RISA’s disclosure requirements. The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s judgment and remanded for consideration of a willful violation of RISA and the remedies available for noncompliance with the disclosure requirements. On remand, Baker filed a motion requesting the district court to approve a settlement with Autos, Inc., Robert Opperude, and James Hendershot, dismiss all claims under RISA, and grant summary judgment on the usury claim against RW Enterprises and Westby. The court approved the settlement but denied the motions to dismiss and for summary judgment. At trial, Baker requested the jury be instructed on a partnership between the defendants. The district court declined to provide the partnership instruction, but provided an instruction on “acting in concert” in order for Baker to establish the defendants worked together. The jury found RW Enterprises and Westby did not violate RISA. By answering “no” to the RISA violation, the verdict form instructed the jury to stop answering other questions and return the form to the court. Had the jury found RW Enterprises and Westby in violation, the next question was whether the contract charged usurious interest and if so, what damages were suffered by the plaintiffs. Baker moved for a new trial arguing the district court provided an improper verdict form and jury instructions. The district court denied Baker’s motion. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Baker v. Autos, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Palmer, et al. v. Gentek Building Products, Inc.
Gentek Building Products, Inc. appealed after a jury awarded Richard and Angela Palmer damages of $10,791, plus interest. Gentek also appealed an order awarding attorney fees of $80,379 to the Palmers, and taxation of costs and disbursements. In 2003, the Palmers purchased and installed “Driftwood” steel siding from Gentek on their home in Williston. Gentek provided a lifetime limited warranty for the siding. In September 2011, the paint began to peel on the siding installed on the south side of the home. In January 2012, the Palmers submitted a warranty claim to Gentek. Gentek offered the Palmers the option of either a cash settlement or replacement with a substitute siding under the warranty, since Gentek had discontinued producing the type of siding originally installed. While the Palmers opted to have their siding replaced with a substitute, Gentek had difficulty finding a contractor willing to perform the warranty work due to the oil boom in the area. Thousands of others also experienced delaminated pain on their siding and filed warranty claims with Gentek, resulting in a class action lawsuit filed in federal district court in Ohio. The federal district court entered a final order and judgment approving a class action settlement. In 2014, the Palmers filed this suit against Gentek, alleging breach of warranty by failing to replace the defective siding. Gentek defended by arguing the Palmers were bound by the federal court's final class action settlement. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the North Dakota district court did not err in holding the Palmers were not bound by the federal district court’s final order and judgment approving a class action settlement. Furthermore, the Supreme Court concluded that the court erred in its award of attorney fees and in not ruling on Gentek’s objection to costs and disbursements. The order awarding attorney fees and taxation of costs and disbursements was reversed, however, and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Palmer, et al. v. Gentek Building Products, Inc." on Justia Law
Baker v. Autos, Inc., et al.
Darilyn Baker, individually and on behalf of a class of more than 500 persons similarly situated, appealed dismissal of her class action against Autos, Inc. d/b/a Global Autos, Robert Opperude, James Hendershot, RW Enterprises, Inc., and Randy Westby, for claimed violations of the North Dakota Retail Installment Sales Act, N.D.C.C. ch. 51-13, and state usury laws. Baker also appealed an order denying her motion to amend the judgment. Baker argued the retail sellers failed to make required disclosures of certain finance charges and late fees in retail installment contracts and they lost their regulated lender status and were subject to state usury laws. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the retail installment contracts failed to disclose loan fees as finance charges, and therefore reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Baker v. Autos, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Limberg v. Sanford Medical Center Fargo
According to the complaint, Dustin Limberg sought emergency department care and treatment at Sanford Medical Center Fargo. He did not have insurance and was asked to sign, and did sign, Sanford's "Statement of Financial Responsibility and Release of Information" form ("the contract"). After receiving his bill for the visit, Limberg filed a class action lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that Sanford's billing practices were unfair, unconscionable, or unreasonable because the contract contained an "open price" term. He claimed the term "all charges" as referenced in the Sanford contract was ambiguous and he and the class were liable to Sanford only for the reasonable value of the treatment and services provided to them. Sanford moved for dismissal, which the district court granted. Limberg appealed. On appeal, he argued the district court should not have dismissed the case. Because the district court appropriately dismissed the case, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. View "Limberg v. Sanford Medical Center Fargo" on Justia Law
Mills v. City of Grand Forks
Plaintiff Bruce Roger Mills, individually and on behalf of those similarly situated, appealed a judgment that dismissed his claims against the City of Grand Forks to recover the amount of fines and fees collected in the past for noncriminal traffic violations by the City exceeding the amount the City could legally impose under state law. The City cross-appealed that judgment. In 2004, a Grand Forks police officer cited Plaintiff with careless driving. Under Grand Forks City Code, the maximum fine for violation of a noncriminal offense was $1,000 "in the discretion of the court." Plaintiff pled not guilty and proceeded to trial in municipal court. Plaintiff was found guilty. The municipal court imposed against Plaintiff "a fine in the amount of $151 with $0 suspended" and a hearing fee of $15. Plaintiff appealed to district court for a new trial; the court affirmed the conviction and the fine and fees totaling $166. Plaintiff appealed to the Supreme Court, but on December 1, 2004, the Court dismissed the appeal because the district court judgment was "not appealable under N.D.C.C. 39-06.1-03(5)." On August 16, 2010, Plaintiff brought a "Class Action Complaint for Restitution" in state district court seeking the amount of monies paid to Grand Forks exceeding the state law limits for fines for similar state offenses. Plaintiff asserted the excess fines, fees and charges were "involuntary and void." The City argued Plaintiff's claims were precluded by both res judicata and collateral estoppel based on the prior federal court action, and by res judicata because Mills failed to challenge the City's fine scheme in the 2004 state court proceedings. Because the district court correctly ruled Plaintiff's claims were thus barred by res judicata, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. View "Mills v. City of Grand Forks" on Justia Law