December 30, 2013
COMERICA BANK, Petitioner,
MONTANA SECOND JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, SILVER-BOW COUNTY, AND THE HONORABLE KURT KRUEGER, PRESIDING JUDGE, Respondent.
On December 27, 2013, Comerica Bank (Comerica) filed an emergency petition for writ of supervisory control. This is the second petition for writ of supervisory control filed by Comerica in this case, Comerica is a third-party defendant in an action pending in the Second Judicial District Court, Silver Bow County, denominated Butte Local Dev, Corp. v. Masters Group Int'l, Inc., et al. Cause No. DV 2011-372. A jury trial in the matter is scheduled for January 6, 2014.
Comerica takes issue with the District Court's resolution of particular issues in its order of December 24, 2013. Specifically, Comerica asks this Court to determine that the District Court erred in applying the substantive law of Montana to the impending trial, and in refusing to dismiss a separate dispute between Masters and the Butte Local Development Commission. Comerica also asks that the jury trial of January 6, 2014, be stayed. For the reasons set forth below, we deny Comerica's petition.
The first issue raised by Comerica is its contention that the District Court erred in applying the substantive law of Montana rather than that of Michigan to the matters to be determined at trial. It maintains that all of the agreements between it and Masters were negotiated, executed, performed, and breached in Michigan, and that the District Court erred in failing to conduct an analysis of the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws "most significant relationship" standard in determining which state law should apply. It argues that the court instead summarily concluded that Montana has the most significant relationship to the injuries claimed by Masters.
A determination of choice of law requires a fact-driven analysis. A court must determine which state has the most significant relationship to the occurrence, considering among other facts, the place where the injury occurred, the place where the conduct causing the injury occurred, the place of business of the parties, and the place where the relationship between the parties is centered. Phillips v. GMC, 2000 MT 55, ¶ 29, 298 Mont. 438, 995 P.2d 1002. As we stated in Phillips, "[t]hese contacts are to be evaluated according to their relative importance with respect to the particular issue." Phillips, ¶ 29.
Supervisory control is an extraordinary remedy which is sometimes justified when emergency factors exist making the normal appeal process inadequate, and when the case involves "purely legal questions." M. R. App. P. 14(3). Because a determination of the appropriate choice of law involves a weighing of the facts and contacts between and among the parties, it does not present a "purely legal question." We take no position with respect to the merits of the court's choice of law determination; we simply conclude that the question is not one that can be resolved on supervisory control and without a factual record.
We likewise conclude that the second issue presented by Comerica-whether the court erred in refusing to dismiss the dispute between Masters and the Butte Local Development Commission-is inappropriate for resolution on supervisory control. While Comerica asserts that no matters are in dispute between these parties, the District Court determined in its December 24, 2013 order that there are matters in dispute between the parties that require resolution by the trier of fact. We have consistently held that supervisory control is not an appropriate remedy in those cases in which factual matters need to be decided by the factfinder. Lambert v. Fourth Jud. Dist. Court, 2011 Mont. LEXIS 275, ¶ 4, 361 Mont. 533, 264 P.3d 516.
We conclude that an appeal premised upon a full record is the appropriate remedy. Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Comerica's Emergency Petition for Writ of Supervisory Control and Stay of January 6, 2014 Jury Trial is DENIED.
The Clerk is directed to immediately provide copies of this Order to counsel for all parties in Silver Bow County Cause No. DV 2011-372, and to the Honorable Kurt Krueger, presiding District Judge.