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Lone Moose Meadows, LLC v. Boyne USA, Inc.

Supreme Court of Montana

June 13, 2017

LONE MOOSE MEADOWS, LLC, Plaintiff, Counter-Claim Defendant and Appellant,
v.
BOYNE USA, INC., a Michigan corporation, d/b/a Big Sky Ski & Summer Resort, Defendant, Counter-Claimant and Appellee,

          Submitted on Briefs: April 26, 2017

         APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Fifth Judicial District, In and For the County of Madison, Cause No. DV-29-09-104 Honorable Loren Tucker, Presiding Judge.

          For Appellant: Quentin M. Rhoades, Robert Erickson, Rhoades Siefert & Erickson, PLLC, Missoula, Montana

          For Appellee: David M. Wagner, Griffin B. Stevens, Crowley Fleck PLLP, Bozeman, Montana

          OPINION

          Mike McGrath Chief Justice.

         ¶1 Lone Moose Meadows, LLC appeals from a summary judgment ruling in favor of Boyne USA, Inc. We affirm.

         ¶2 We restate the issue on appeal as follows:

Did the District Court properly allow Boyne to pursue successive claims for breach of contract?

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶3 Lone Moose Meadows, LLC (LMM) and Boyne USA, Inc. (Boyne) are corporations operating in Big Sky, Montana. Boyne is the owner and operator of Big Sky Resort. LMM is a housing development at the base of Big Sky Resort. In 2002, the parties entered into an operations agreement where LMM would construct a ski lift and pay Boyne to operate it. LMM agreed to pay annual maintenance and operating expenses, as well as a $50, 000 yearly depreciation expense. The agreement stated "[LMM] shall not be required to pay any depreciation dollar component of the operating expenses until the 2002-2003 ski season" and "replacement lifts will be constructed and owned by Boyne." In December 2002, Boyne sent LMM a notice of lift operation expenses for the 2002-2003 ski season, which included $50, 000 for depreciation expenses. LMM refused to pay, stating it was not required to pay depreciation expenses until Boyne owned the ski lift. Despite non-payment, Boyne continued operating the ski lift, electing to treat the contract as continuing.

         ¶4 In February 2008, Boyne filed suit for breach of contract. Boyne asserted LMM failed to make depreciation payments and demanded payment under the contract for the seven years of past due payments: 2002-03, 2003-04, 2004-05, 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09. LMM contended it was not obligated to make depreciation payments until Boyne owned the lift. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Boyne, concluding LMM was obligated to pay $50, 000 annually beginning with the 2002-03 ski season. LMM appealed. This Court upheld the District Court's ruling (Boyne I).[1] In October 2012, the District Court entered a restated judgment against LMM for seven years of depreciation expenses plus costs, fees, and interest. LMM paid $634, 328.19 to Boyne, satisfying the judgment.

         ¶5 In December 2009, while the above appeal was pending, LMM filed an action against Boyne alleging it had engaged in wrongful collection efforts with respect to the first judgment.[2] Boyne counterclaimed for breach of contract asserting LMM now owed depreciation expenses for the 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12 ski seasons. Boyne's counterclaim also included claims for abuse of process, malicious prosecution, and punitive damages, as well as a third-party claim against LMM's owner James Dolan, Sr. The parties settled these claims. LMM voluntarily moved to dismiss the wrongful collection claim and the District Court dismissed it. The only remaining issue was Boyne's breach of contract counterclaim. Boyne moved for summary judgment.

         ¶6 In October 2015, the District Court held a hearing on Boyne's summary judgment motion. LMM agreed it had not made any payments, but argued that this breach of contract claim was barred under the doctrine of claim preclusion, thus eliminating Boyne's entitlement to a new judgment. The District Court granted Boyne's summary judgment motion. The District Court found that the second suit arose from facts not in existence at the time of the first suit and that Boyne had the right to maintain successive actions for each new breach of the contract as they arose. Boyne was not required to sue for future payments even though LMM's breach was material, and the District Court held LMM's refusal to pay depreciation costs did not amount to anticipatory repudiation of the terms of the agreement. On October 7, 2015, the District Court entered judgment in favor of Boyne for $150, 000, plus fees and interest. LMM appeals.

         STANDARD ...


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