Submitted on Briefs: February 20, 2013
APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Eighteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Gallatin, Cause No. DV 09-1235B Honorable Mike Salvagni, Presiding Judge.
For Appellant: Herman A. Watson, III, Attorney at Law, Bozeman, Montana
For Appellee: Rhett B. Nemelka, Nemelka & Restum, P.C., Bozeman, Montana
Mike McGrath Chief Justice
¶1 Dave and Cathy McDunn (the McDunns) sued Diana Arnold (Arnold) in Gallatin County Justice Court, alleging negligence, negligence per se, and breach of contract. The Justice Court found for the McDunns, and Arnold appealed to the Eighteenth Judicial District Court, Gallatin County. Following a bench trial, the District Court found for the McDunns on their breach of contract claim and awarded them damages, costs, and attorney's fees. Arnold appeals from the Final Order and Judgment entered against her in District Court. We affirm.
¶2 Arnold presents the following issues for review:
¶3 Issue One: Whether the District Court abused its discretion when it allowed the McDunns to amend their Complaint to add a claim that had not been pled during the Justice Court proceedings.
¶4 Issue Two: Whether the District Court abused its discretion when it denied Arnold's Motion in Limine to prohibit any reference to the testimony and evidence presented during the Justice Court proceedings.
¶5 Issue Three: Whether Arnold was denied her right to a trial de novo.
PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
¶6 In the spring of 2008, the McDunns agreed to lease an apartment from Arnold for thirteen months beginning on June 1, 2008. Before the lease term expired, a dispute arose between the parties, and the McDunns vacated the apartment on January 31, 2009.
¶7 The McDunns filed a complaint against Arnold in the Gallatin County Justice Court, which is not a court-of-record, on August 3, 2009. The McDunns, alleging breach of the terms of the lease, negligence, and negligence per se, sought $1, 300 in damages. The Justice Court conducted a bench trial on November 19, 2009. The McDunns were represented by counsel; Arnold represented herself. After the trial, the Justice Court entered a written judgment in the McDunns' favor, and awarded them $7, 059.26 for damages, costs, and attorney's fees.
¶8 Arnold appealed to the District Court on December 22, 2009, seeking a trial de novo. Through newly enlisted counsel, Arnold filed an Amended Answer and Counterclaims on April 8, 2010, in which, among other things, she added counterclaims that she had not pled during the Justice Court proceedings. O n April 9, 2010, the McDunns filed a motion seeking leave to amend their complaint. After the court granted their ...