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Montanore Minerals Corp. v. Easements and Rights of Way Under

United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division

August 12, 2014

MONTANORE MINERALS CORP., Plaintiff,
v.
Easements and Rights of Way under, through and across those certain unpatented lode mining claims located in the NE 1/4 and the N.W. 1/4 of Section 15, Township 27 North, Range 31 West, Lincoln County, Montana, and identified as POPS 12, POPS 13, POPS 14 and POPS 15; ARNOLD BAKIE; UNKNOWN OWNERS; and all other persons, unknown, claiming or who might claim any right, title, estate, or interest in or lien or encumbrance the unpatented lode mining claims described above or any cloud upon title thereto, whether such claim or possible claim be present or contingent, Defendants.

ORDER

DANA L. CHRISTENSEN, District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendant Arnold Bakie's statement of claim, Plaintiff Montanore Minerals Corporation's motion to strike Bakie's statement of claim, and Plaintiff's unopposed motion for a scheduling conference. For the reasons explained, the Court denies Plaintiff's motion to strike and grants the parties' motion for a scheduling conference.

Background

Montanore Minerals Corporation ("Montanore") brought this diversity action in condemnation pursuant to Rule 71.1 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Montana Code Annotated § 70-30-101 to condemn easements and rights of way across certain unpatented lode mining claims in which Defendant Bakie claims an interest. The Court granted Montanore's motion for a preliminary condemnation order and motion for preliminary injunction on April 29, 2014. The Court's Order stated that Montanore "may proceed in accordance with the provisions provided in Title 70, Chapter 30 of Montana Code Annotated." (Doc. 46 at 22.)

On May 29, 2014, Defendant Arnold Bakie ("Bakie"), joined by the unnamed party Optima, Inc. ("Optima")[1], filed a statement of claim of just compensation pursuant to Montana Code Annotated § 70-30-207(1), asserting that the value of Bakie's interest in the four unpatented mining claims is ten million dollars ($10, 000, 000), plus interest at the rate of 10% per year from the date of service of summons, plus an award of necessary expenses of litigation.

Bakie's ten million dollar valuation of the unpatented mining claims is based on the fact that the ore body that Montanore wishes to access is valued at $8 billion, and access through the unpatented mining claims is "the only feasible access to the ore body." (Doc. 47 at 3.) Bakie also notes that access to the ore body from another location would cost Montanore in excess of $40, 000, 000.00, plus additional delays in obtaining permits. In the statement of claim, Bakie concedes that he does not currently know whether the subject claims contain any valuable and developable mineral deposits. Bakie asserts, however, that $10 million "is a reasonable, if not conservative, estimate of the value" of his claimed interest in the unpatented mining claims. Id. at 4.

Montanore moves to strike the statement of claim pursuant to Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Montanore contends that federal procedural rules govern this case, and that Bakie's statement of claim is not a pleading recognized by Rule 71.1 Fed.R.Civ.P. Montanore also contends that the statement of claim employs a standard of compensation that has been universally rejected by both federal and state courts. Finally, Montanore contends that the claim misrepresents Bakie's rights in the subject claims, which consists of nothing more than unpatented mining claims and neither equitable nor legal title to the land.

Bakie opposes the motion. Bakie contends the statement of claim is substantive rather than procedural because it serves to fulfill his substantive right to a deposit pending a final condemnation award. Bakie also contends the statement of claim is not a pleading that is subject to a Rule 12(f) motion.

Discussion

I. Motion to Strike

Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a court to "strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Rule 12(f) motions are directed to pleadings only. Rule 12(f) is designed is to avoid the time, effort, and expense required to litigate spurious issues. Whittlestone, Inc. v. Handi-Craft Co., 618 F.3d 970, 973 (9th Cir. 2010). "Rule 12(f) does not authorize district courts to strike claims for damages on the ground that such claims are precluded as a matter of law." Id. at 974.

The Court concludes that the statement of claim, which is essentially a claim for damages, is a pleading and subject to being stricken pursuant to Rule 12(f). The Court rejects Bakie's argument to the contrary.

However, the Court further concludes that the motion to strike must be denied. Montanore contends the statement of claim must be stricken on the ground that it is "immaterial and impertinent to the matter" before the Court. (Doc. 49 at 4.) The Ninth Circuit's decision in Whittlestone, however, makes clear that, the merits of Bakie's statement of claim notwithstanding, the statement of claim is material and pertinent.

"Immaterial matter is that which has no essential or important relationship to the claim for relief or the defenses being pled." Id. (quoting Fantasy, Inc. v. Fogerty, 984 F.2d 1524, 1527 (9th Cir. 1993), rev'd on other grounds by Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc., 510 U.S. 517 (1994)). Bakie's statement of claim is essentially a claim for damages, which "is not immaterial, because ...


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