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Locke v. Estate of Davis

Supreme Court of Montana

May 26, 2015

AMY LOCKE, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
ESTATE OF MARIAN DAVIS, Defendant and Appellant

Submitted on Briefs: February 18, 2015.

Released for Publication June 11, 2015.

APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Eighteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Gallatin, Cause No. DV 12-624A. Honorable Mike Salvagni, Presiding Judge.

For Appellant: Paul N. Tranel, Katie C. Guffin, Bohyer, Erickson, Beudette & Tranel, PC, Missoula, Montana.

For Appellee: Daniel B. Bidegaray, Bert J. Certain, Bidegaray Law Firm, LLC, Bozeman, Montana.

For Intervenor: Brooke B. Murphy, Adrianna Potts, Matovich, Keller & Murphy, P.C., Billings, Montana.

PATRICIA COTTER. We Concur: MIKE McGRATH, BETH BAKER, JIM RICE, LAURIE McKINNON. Justice Patricia Cotter delivered the Opinion of the Court.

OPINION

Page 34

[379 Mont. 257] Patricia Cotter, Justice.

[¶1] This case arises out of a motor vehicle accident that occurred in May 2011, in Three Forks, Montana. Marian Davis lost control of her vehicle and struck the vehicle driven by Amy Locke. Davis suffered fatal injuries in the collision and died several hours later. Locke also sustained injuries as well as post-traumatic stress disorder.

[¶2] At the time of the accident, Davis was insured by Safeco Insurance Company under a policy with a $100,000 per person coverage. In August 2012, Locke filed a claim for damages against Davis's estate in the Eighteenth Judicial District Court. Prior to trial, Safeco paid Locke $16,306.40 for her past medical expenses. Following a three-day trial conducted in February 2014 and addressing damages only, the jury returned a verdict awarding Locke $400,000 in compensation for her injuries and the District Court awarded her approximately $1,800 in costs. The Estate sought amendment of or relief from the judgment. The District Court denied the motion. The Estate appeals. Safeco intervenes. We affirm in part and vacate and remand in part.

ISSUES

[¶3] The Estate presents the following restated issue:

[¶4] Did the District Court abuse its discretion in denying the Estate's motion to alter or amend the judgment?

[¶5] Safeco, as intervenor, presents the following issue:

Page 35

[¶6] Did the District Court abuse its discretion when it made findings and conclusions that effectively bind Safeco to a judgment in a case in which Safeco was not a named party, was not represented by counsel, and did not appear?

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

[¶7] On May 26, 2011, at approximately 6:15 p.m., Marian Davis was driving south on Main Street, heading into Three Forks. Amy Locke was driving north on the same road. Davis lost control of her car and traveled into the oncoming lane, striking Locke's vehicle. Both vehicles came to rest on the side of the road in a gravel lot. Davis sustained life threatening injuries and died later that night. Locke suffered multiple physical and emotional injuries. In July 2011, the Estate of Marian Davis (Estate) was opened. As required under § 72-3-801, MCA, notice [379 Mont. 258] to creditors was published notifying all persons with claims against Davis to present their claims within four months of publication of notice.

[¶8] In August 2012, Locke filed a complaint against the Estate alleging negligence and negligence per se on the part of Davis. In October 2012, she filed a Statement of Damages in which she described her injuries including a broken left hand and soft tissue injuries to her thoracic, cervical, and left shoulder areas. She also claimed that she suffered from anxiety, depression, irritability, and insomnia as a result of the accident. She asserted damages in excess of $250,000. Safeco paid Locke the sum of $16,306.40 for medical expenses. Prior to trial and on more ...


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