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Bates v. Anderson

Supreme Court of Montana

January 13, 2014

GARY BATES, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
SCOTT ANDERSON, MICHAEL BLIVEN, and ANDERSON LAW OFFICE, PLLC, and ANDERSON and BLIVEN, PLLC, Defendants and Appellees.

Submitted on Briefs: November 20, 2013

District Court of the Eleventh Judicial District, In and For the County of Flathead, Cause No. DV 08-1498C Honorable Heidi Ulbricht, Presiding Judge.

For Appellant: Larry Jent; Williams & Jent, PLLP;

For Appellees: J. Daniel Hoven, W. John Tietz; Browning, Kaleczyc, Berry & Hoven, P.C.;

OPINION

Patricia Cotter Justice

¶1 Gary Bates (Bates) appeals from the orders of the Eleventh Judicial District Court, Flathead County, denying his motion to withdraw or amend his admissions and granting the defendants' motion for summary judgment. We reverse and remand.

¶2 A restatement of the dispositive issue on appeal is:

¶3 Did the District Court abuse its discretion in denying Bates's motion to withdraw or amend his deemed admissions under Rule 36(b), Montana Rules of Civil Procedure?

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

¶4 In September 1999, Bates, a Michigan resident, visited Montana for a hunting trip organized by Koocanusa Outfitters. Koocanusa Outfitters was owned by Neven and Debrah Zugg. On September 18, 1999, Bates was injured in a one-vehicle accident near Libby, Montana. George Hogan, one of the Zuggs' employees, was the driver of the vehicle. Hogan was legally intoxicated at the time of the accident and ultimately pleaded guilty to reckless driving.

¶5 On September 25, 1999, Bates entered into a fee agreement with the Anderson Law Office, PLLC[1] (Anderson Law Firm) to represent him for injuries arising out of the accident. On May 5, 2000, upon advice of counsel, Bates entered into a settlement with Hogan's insurer and signed a release with the following provision:

I release and forever discharge George Hogan [and] their [sic] principals, agents and representatives from any and all rights, claims, demands and damages of any kind, known or unknown, existing or arising in the future, resulting from or related to bodily injury arising from an accident that occurred on or about the 18 day of September, 1999, at or near Libby, MT.

¶6 On August 22, 2002, the Anderson Law Firm filed a complaint on behalf of Bates against Neven Zugg, Debrah Zugg, Koocanusa Outfitters, and a number of the Zuggs' other business entities and insurers (Zugg Defendants). On July 27, 2005, the Anderson Law Firm filed a second amended complaint. The second amended complaint set forth nine claims, including claims for negligence, vicarious liability, joint and several liability/corporate veil, loss of consortium, breach of contract and bad faith, and a claim under the Montana Dram Shop Act against the bar that had served Hogan. The bar was owned by the Zuggs.

ΒΆ7 The Zugg Defendants filed a motion to dismiss five of the nine claims based on the language of the release signed by Bates, and on December 22, 2005, the Nineteenth Judicial Court, Lincoln County, entered an order dismissing the five claims. Bates's dram shop claim and claims for loss of consortium and joint and several liability/corporate veil were ...


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