Oral Argument Schedule
The majority of cases before the Montana Supreme Court are decided based upon the written briefs submitted by the parties. However, the Court may decide that a case requires further discussion, in addition to what the parties have argued in their written briefs. In such cases, oral arguments are scheduled in open session before the Court. Approximately 30 cases a year are scheduled for oral argument.
Oral arguments are tightly structured and timed. The counsel for each party is allowed limited time to make an argument. The times typically range from 20 to 40 minutes and are set forth by the Court in the order setting oral argument.
While this format allows the counsel brief opportunity to further develop their arguments, it also gives the Court an opportunity to ask questions of the attorneys on points which the Court needs clarification.
A majority of oral arguments take place in the Montana Supreme Court Courtroom, located at 215 N. Sanders, Helena, Montana. The Court does schedule a few arguments to be heard in different cities around the State.
All of the oral arguments are open to the public.
DA 13-0241 ABRAHAM B. MORROW and BETTY JEAN MORROW, Plaintiffs and Appellants v. BANK OF AMERICA, N.A., BAC HOME LOANS SERVICING, LP, fka COUNTRYWIDE HOME LOANS SERVICING, LP, Defendants and Appellees. ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Wednesday, November 13, 2013, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Justice Building, Helena, Montana. Oral argument times shall be 40 minutes for the Appellant and 30 minutes for the Appellee.
This case presents the question of whether an alleged oral modification of a written real estate loan contract is actionable under tort law and the Montana Consumer Protection Act.
Bank of America (BOA) serviced the Morrows’ mortgage on their home in White Sulphur Springs, Montana. In this action, the Morrows argue BOA wronged them by (1) inducing them to skip a mortgage payment, thus placing them in default; (2) telling them that they received a modification with new, reduced terms, but then never honoring it; and (3) accepting their modified loan payments and treating them as partial payments. The Morrows filed claims against BOA under the Montana Consumer Protection Act, as well as for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, negligence, and breach of contract.
The First Judicial District Court granted summary judgment for BOA. The court accepted BOA’s argument that the Morrows’ claims were barred by the Statute of Frauds, which requires that real estate loans must be in writing.
Montana Legal Services and the Montana Banking Association have filed friend-of-the-court briefs.
DA 13-0127 NEW HOPE LUTHERAN MINISTRY, a non-profit corporation, and THE MINORITY MEMBERS OF THE CONGREGATION OF FAITH LUTHERAN CHURCH OF GREAT FALLS WHO VOTED TO REMAIN AFFILIATED WITH THE ELCA, an unincorporated association, Plaintiffs, Appellees and Cross-Appellants, v. FAITH LUTHERAN CHURCH OF GREAT FALLS, INC., and THE FOUNDATION FOR ENDOWMENT OF FAITH LUTHERN CHURCH, INC., and JOHN DOES 1-25, Defendants and Appellants. ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Wednesday, December 11, 2013, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Justice Building, Helena, Montana. Oral argument times shall be 40 minutes for the Appellants and 30 minutes for the Appellees.
A majority of the congregation of Faith Lutheran Church in Great Falls voted to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Synod. A minority of the congregation then renamed itself New Hope Lutheran and filed this action against the majority and the Foundation for Endowment of Faith Lutheran Church, seeking to be awarded church property, pursuant to church rules. The Eighth Judicial District Court entered summary judgment in which it determined that, under church rules, the New Hope group is entitled to the property.
Issues on appeal and cross-appeal include whether this dispute is one in which courts may intervene in church matters, whether the property owned by the Foundation is church property, whether the District Court erred in ruling that Foundation owes a fiduciary duty to the church, whether New Hope has standing and, on cross-appeal, whether New Hope is entitled to pre- and post-judgment interest and attorney fees. The Montana Attorney General has filed an amicus brief on the issue of transfer of assets from one nonprofit corporation to another.
OP 13-0430 ROBERT VAN ORDEN, Plaintiff, v. UNITED SERVICES AUTOMOBILE ASSOCIATION; USAA CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY; USAA GENERAL INDEMNITY COMPANY; and GARRISON PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants. ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Wednesday, December 11, 2013, at 1:30 p.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Justice Building, Helena, Montana. Oral argument times shall be 30 minutes for the Plaintiff and 25 minutes for the Defendants.
The United States District Court for the District of Montana has asked the Montana Supreme Court to clarify Montana law concerning subrogation and the “made whole” doctrine, for purposes of a class action now pending before the federal court.
Robert Van Orden suffered personal injuries and his vehicle was damaged in an accident for which he was not at fault. Van Orden’s insurer paid for repair of his vehicle under his collision coverage, and then sought subrogation for those payments from the insurer of the at-fault driver. In the federal court action, Van Orden maintains his insurer’s failure to wait until he had been “made whole” as to all of his damages, including his personal injuries, violated Montana’s Unfair Claim Settlement Practices Act, constitutes both a breach of contract and constructive fraud, and is cause for forfeiture of the insurer’s subrogation rights. The insurer argues that, because Van Orden has been made whole under his separately-elected collision coverage for his property damages, the insurer was entitled to assert its subrogation rights under Montana law.