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Nolan v. Riverstone Health Care

Supreme Court of Montana

March 21, 2017

DONNIE DORRELL NOLAN, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
RIVERSTONE HEALTH CARE, Defendant and Appellee.

          Submitted on Briefs: February 15, 2017

         District Court of the Thirteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Yellowstone, Cause No. DV 13-0195 Honorable Gregory R. Todd, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Donnie Dorrell Nolan, self-represented, Shelby, Montana

          For Appellee: Stewart R. Kirkpatrick, Megan D. McCrae, Attorneys at Law, Billings, Montana

          OPINION

          Dirk M. Sandefur, Justice

         ¶1 Donnie Dorrell Nolan (Nolan) appeals the order of the Montana Thirteenth Judicial District Court, Yellowstone County, dismissing his complaint against RiverStone Health Care (RiverStone) for lack of timely service of process. We affirm.

         ISSUE

         ¶2 The dispositive issue in this matter is whether the District Court erred in dismissing Nolan's complaint for failure to comply with applicable Rules of Civil Procedure for service of process.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶3 From 2011 through September 30, 2016, RiverStone contracted with Yellowstone County to provide medical services for inmates at the Yellowstone County Detention Facility. Nolan was incarcerated at the facility for a period during that time.

         ¶4 On February 11, 2013, Nolan filed a pro se complaint against RiverStone asserting a crudely pled civil claim alleging that it violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution (prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment) by denying him access to a prescribed pain medication (Hydrocodone) while incarcerated. Nolan subsequently filed additional pro se documents and mailed some to RiverStone's general business address. On April 8, 2014, after obtaining issuance of a summons, Nolan mailed the summons to RiverStone along with purported amendments to his original complaint. The attempted mail service did not include his original complaint or an amended complaint.

         ¶5 On November 3, 2015, the clerk of court notified Nolan that more than a year had passed without any action in his case and that local court rules required dismissal for failure to prosecute absent a showing of good cause for the delay within 20 days. Nolan quickly responded by filing a motion, which indicated he expected the clerk of court to arrange for the sheriff to serve RiverStone on his behalf. In early December, Nolan filed two motions seeking to compel RiverStone to answer his complaint, and mailed a copy of the second motion to RiverStone. At Nolan's request, the clerk of court issued another summons on December 21, 2015.[1]

         ¶6 On August 31, 2016, RiverStone moved, pursuant to M. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(5), for dismissal of Nolan's complaint for failure to effect proper service of process within three years as required by M. R. Civ. P. 4(t). On September 2, 2016, Nolan filed, and served by mail, two pro se responses opposing dismissal on the asserted grounds that RiverStone had actual notice of the complaint and that pro se litigants are entitled to wide latitude with the technical pleading and practice requirements of the Rules of Civil ...


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