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Mines Management, Inc. v. Fus

Supreme Court of Montana

January 7, 2014

MINES MANAGEMENT, INC., NEWHI, INC and MONTANORE MINERALS CORP., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
TRACIE FUS, LUCILLE PENNEY, DESIREE HAHN, WALTER LINDSEY, MERLIN ROGERS, ROCKY BAKIE, LOUISE VOVES, FRANK WALL, ARNOLD BAKIE, and LIBBY CREEK VENTURES, L.L.C., Defendants and Appellees.

ORDER

The Appellants Mines Management, Inc., Newhi Inc., and Montanore Minerals Corp., by counsel (hereinafter MMC), have appealed from an order of the District Court granting Defendant Walter Lindsey's request for injunctive relief and precluding MMC from trespass across Libby Creek Ventures' non-patented mining claims. For the reasons set forth below, we remand this matter to the District Court for further proceedings.

As the caption indicates, there are multiple parties to this proceeding. There are also multiple claims and counterclaims asserted by the parties, only some of which have been resolved. Pursuant to M. R. App. P. 6(5), orders entered in cases involving multiple parties and claims for relief are not appealable if they adjudicate fewer than all claims as to all parties. However, M. R. App. P. 6(3)(e) does permit an appeal from an order granting an injunction. Thus, the sole issue before us on appeal is whether the District Court erred when it granted the motion of defendant Walter Lindsey for injunctive relief.

The order of the District Court before us is the court's "Orders on Pending Motions, " dated March 12, 2013. The order contains extensive discussion of the claims and counterclaims, but pertinent here is the following language: "Defendant Lindsey's motion for summary judgment requesting injunctive relief on trespass across Libby Creek Ventures' non-patented mining claims is granted. The appropriate parties will prepare judgments." It does not appear from the record that the court actually signed a judgment. The foregoing being the sole language in the order with respect to the entry of an injunction, it is not evident whether the injunction is intended to be preliminary or permanent.

MMC argues on appeal that the injunction must be vacated because the District Court upon granting the injunction failed to include findings of fact or conclusions of law, as required under M. R. Civ. P. 52(a)(2). It further argues that granting an injunction through summary judgment without separately entering findings of fact and conclusions of law is reversible error, citing Suavely v. St. John ex re I. Estate of Suavely, 2006 MT 175, ¶ 8, 333 Mont. 16, 140 P.3d 492. In Suavely, we noted that while failure to state findings and conclusions in the recommended form is not substantial error, the determining factor is "whether a district court's order sets forth reasoning, based upon its findings of fact and conclusions of law, in a manner sufficient to allow informed appellate review." Suavely, ¶ 11 (citations omitted). We further observed that the District Court's order on appeal wholly failed to make reference to § 27-19-201, MCA, which is the relevant statute setting forth the criteria by which a district court may issue a preliminary injunction. We concluded that without factual findings combined with a logical and reasoned analysis under the governing statutes and interpretive case law, it was impossible for us to evaluate the parties' arguments on appeal. Suavely, ¶ 18.

The order before us suffers from the same deficits underlying the preliminary injunction order in Suavely. The injunction order is perfunctory and contains no findings and conclusions analyzing the request for injunction in the context of Montana's injunction statutes. Further, in entering the injunction the District Court failed to address the contention that there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the Tunnel in question in fact overlaps Lindsey's claims, nor did it cite any evidence in the record of a trespass such as would justify the imposition of an injunction. In addition, the court's order by its terms extends to the mining claims of Libby Creek Ventures, which not only failed to move for an injunction but also does not appear to own any claims in the path of the Tunnel. Finally, the court's reliance upon the 1989 mining lease as dispositive of Lindsay's interests in the non-patented mining claims at issue is confusing and appears from a review of the provisions of the lease to be misplaced. For these reasons, the injunction must be vacated.

As a final matter, we take note of the contention raised in MMC's reply brief that Lindsey is no longer the owner of the subject unpatented mining claims, having quit-claimed all interest in such claims to Optima, Inc. in August 2013. MMC therefore argues that Lindsey lacks standing to further litigate this matter. In response to these assertions, on December 16, 2013, Lindsey filed a motion for substitution of a party, asking this Court to substitute Optima as the appellee in this matter. MMC objects to the motion for substitution and asks that we remand to the District Court for determination of the effect of the transfer to Optima upon these proceedings. We conclude that such a determination should be made in the first instance in the District Court. Accordingly,

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that this matter is remanded with instructions that the District Court vacate the subject injunction, and for further proceedings.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that upon remand, the District Court shall also consider the motion for substitution of Optima for Lindsey and MMC's objections thereto.

The Clerk of this Court is directed to provide notice hereof to all counsel of record and to the Honorable James B. Wheelis, Montana Nineteenth Judicial District Court.


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