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News & Press: Montana Lawyer

Court to hear two oral arguments in November

Wednesday, November 1, 2017   (0 Comments)
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All arguments scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Helena

Wednesday, Nov. 8: Stokke v. American Colloid

A former employee of a company contracted at a bentonite mine on the Montana-Wyoming border is seeking damages for injuries she suffered in a fall.

Denice Stokke worked for a trucking company that provided contracted services at American Colloid’s bentonite mine. Stokke was injured when she fell while crossing boards to access a water well at the mine,
The District Court granted American Colloid summary judgment, ruling that it owed no legal duty to Stokke because general contractors are not liable to the employees of their subcontractors.

Stokke appeals, arguing that American Colloid is liable for her damages under her separate premises liability claim. She also argues that the company is liable for her injuries under three exceptions to the general rule of no liability for injuries to a subcontractor’s employees: where the general contractor negligently exercises retained control over a subcontractor’s work; where the activity is inherently dangerous; or where there is a non-delegable duty based upon contract.

American Colloid argues that none of the three exceptions apply under the facts of this case, and that a determination that there is no duty under the owner-independent contractor liability analysis also results in a finding of no duty under a premises liability theory.

The Honorable Amy Eddy, Kalispell, will sit for Justice Michael E. Wheat, who is retiring on Dec. 31.

Wednesday, Nov. 29: Bassett v. Lamantia, City of Billings

Robert T. Bassett filed a federal law suit for damages from injuries he suffered when Billings police officer Paul Lamantia tackled him, in a case of mistaken identity, while the officer was pursuing a criminal suspect.

Under the public duty doctrine as recognized in Montana, law enforcement officers are protected from claims of negligence based on their unique status as public servants. In this case, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has asked the Montana Supreme Court to answer the following question:
Under Montana law, does the public duty doctrine shield a law enforcement officer from liability for negligence where the officer is the direct and sole cause of the harm suffered by the plaintiff?

The Montana Trial Lawyers Association has filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Bassett’s behalf. The Montana County Attorneys Association, Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, the Montana Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Montana Police Protective Association, and the Montana League of Cities and Towns, the International Municipal Lawyers Association, and the Montana Association of Counties have filed friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of Lamantia and the City of Billings.

The Honorable Nickolas C. Murnion, Forsyth, will sit for Justice Wheat.