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Della Yeager, Individually and On Behalf of Her v. Michael Morris

February 27, 2013

DELLA YEAGER, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF HER MINOR DAUGHTER, VERONICA RIPHENBURG, PLAINTIFFS AND APPELLANTS,
v.
MICHAEL MORRIS, JR., MICHAEL MORRIS, SR., AND DOES 1-50 INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS AND APPELLEES.



APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Eighth Judicial District, In and For the County of Cascade, Cause No. BCV-11-0694 Honorable Julie Macek, Presiding Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Patricia O. Cotter

Submitted on Briefs: November 14, 2012

Decided: February 26, 2013

Filed:

Clerk

Justice Patricia O. Cotter delivered the Opinion of the Court.

¶1 Della Yeager and her minor daughter, Veronica Riphenburg, were injured when their vehicle was involved in a collision with a pickup truck driven by Michael Morris, Jr. (Morris, Jr.), a Glacier County resident. The pickup truck was owned by Michael Morris, Sr. (Morris, Sr.), a Teton County resident. The collision occurred in Teton County but Yeager's vehicle was then propelled across the county line and came to rest in Cascade County. Yeager filed a complaint in Cascade County against both men claiming Morris, Jr. was negligent in his operation of the vehicle and that Morris, Sr. negligently entrusted his son with the pickup truck. Morris, Jr., acting as a self-represented litigant, moved to change the venue to Glacier or Teton counties asserting Cascade County was not a proper venue. The Eighth Judicial District Court agreed and granted the motion, moving the proceeding to Glacier County. Yeager appeals. We affirm.

ISSUE

¶2 Did the District Court err in determining Cascade County was an improper place for trial?

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

¶3 On March 19, 2011, Yeager and her daughter were traveling just inside the Teton County line when their vehicle was struck by a pickup truck driven by Morris, Jr., who had failed to stop at a stop sign. It is undisputed that the collision occurred in Teton County, and that Yeager's car came to rest in Cascade County. Yeager and her young daughter were injured in the accident.

¶4 On August 3, 2011, Yeager filed a complaint in the Eighth Judicial District Court in Cascade County asserting that Morris, Jr.'s negligent driving caused the accident. She also asserted that based upon Morris, Jr.'s "poor driving record," Morris, Sr. negligently entrusted his son with the truck. Yeager demanded a jury trial and sought damages for medical expenses, past and future emotional distress, and for mental and physical pain, among other claims of injury.

¶5 On October 24, 2011, Morris, Jr., acting without counsel, filed an Answer, a Motion to Dismiss with a brief in support, and a Motion to Change Venue with a brief in support. The court clerk date-stamped and filed each document. The time of entry for all five documents was 12:40 p.m. Morris, Jr. later asserted that he presented his pleadings to the court clerk in a specific order with the Motion to Change Venue first, followed by the brief in support, the Motion to Dismiss, its brief in support, and the Answer. The Motion to Change Venue asked that the matter be transferred to either Teton County where defendant Morris, Sr. resided and where the accident occurred, or to Glacier County where defendant Morris, Jr. resided. Morris, Jr. argued that Cascade County was not a proper venue for the proceeding, and that the District Court must therefore grant his motion to change the place of trial to a designated county, as required under § 25-2-201, MCA.

¶6 Yeager opposed the motions to change venue and to dismiss.*fn1 She first argued that Morris, Jr. waived his right to have venue changed because he did not file his Motion to Change Venue before he filed his Answer as required by applicable statutes. Moreover, she claimed that Morris, Jr.'s Answer did not raise venue as a defense. Yeager further argued that the injuries resulting from Morris, ...


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