Submitted on Briefs: June 14, 2017
FROM District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, In and
For the County of Missoula, Cause No. DV-14-379 Honorable
Leslie Halligan, Presiding Judge.
Appellant: W. Scott Green, Daniel L. Snedigar, Patten,
Peterman, Bekkdahl & Green, PLLC, Billings, Montana.
Appellee Missoula County: Kirsten H. Pabst, Missoula County
Attorney, Matt Jennings, Deputy County Attorney, Missoula,
McGrath Chief Justice.
Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court
Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum
opinion and shall not be cited and does not serve as
precedent. Its case title, cause number, and disposition
shall be included in this Court's quarterly list of
noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and
Zinvest, LLC (Zinvest) appeals from a July 18, 2016 District
Court order granting defendant's motion for summary
judgment. We affirm.
Stella Van Ostrand and Roy Van Ostrand (Van Ostrand) own real
property in Missoula County. The 2009 and 2010 property taxes
became delinquent. Following a tax lien sale, the tax liens
attached to the property. Missoula County was the purchaser.
The tax liens were then assigned to Zinvest.
On June 7, 2013, Zinvest sent Van Ostrand a Notice That a Tax
Deed May Be Issued (Notice). The Notice stated the county
treasurer would issue a tax deed to Zinvest if Van Ostrand
did not pay all taxes, penalties, interest, and costs on or
prior to August 13, or "on or prior to the date on which
the County Treasurer will otherwise issue a tax deed."
On August 13, Zinvest sent Missoula County Treasurer
(Treasurer) three blank checks with reference numbers for tax
deeds on the memo line. On August 15, Zinvest called the
Treasurer inquiring about the blank checks; the Treasurer did
not receive the checks until August 16. The Treasurer
informed Zinvest that Van Ostrand paid the overdue taxes and
redeemed the property.
Meanwhile, Van Ostrand's attorney attempted to pay the
tax lien by credit card on August 14, 2013. The Treasurer did
not get Van Ostrand's attorney's message until August
15. On August 15, Roy Van Ostrand appeared at the
Treasurer's office to pay off the tax lien. The Treasurer
called Van Ostrand's attorney, received payment by credit
card, and recorded a Certificate of Redemption of Property
Sold for Taxes.
Zinvest sued the Treasurer for damages based on the alleged
improper redemption; Van Ostrand was later joined as a party.
On April 16, 2015, Zinvest moved for summary judgment. The
Treasurer and Van Ostrand responded and filed a cross-motion
for summary judgment. On July 18, 2016, the District Court
granted the Treasurer and Van Ostrand's summary judgment
We review de novo a district court's grant or denial of
summary judgment, applying the same criteria of M. R. Civ. P.
56 as a district court. Pilgeram v. GreenPoint Mortg.
Funding, Inc., 2013 MT 354, ¶ 9, 373 Mont. 1, 313
P.3d 839. We review a district court's conclusions of law
to determine whether they are correct and its findings of
fact to determine whether they are clearly erroneous.
Pilgeram, ¶ 9. Summary judgment should be
granted when the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, show there is an
absence of any genuine issues of material fact and the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. M. R. Civ.
Zinvest argues the Treasurer improperly issued a Certificate
of Redemption of Property Sold for Taxes to Van Ostrand after
the 60-day notice period expired. In Montana when a property
owner becomes delinquent on their taxes, the taxes may become
a lien on the property. Section 15-17-122, MCA. Once a lien
is placed on real property, the county or a purchaser of the
tax lien must notify the property owner that a tax deed may
be issued if the delinquent taxes are not paid. For a private
(or non-county) purchaser, the statutes provide for issuance
of a tax deed if redemption has not occurred by the time the
redemption period has expired, which must be stated in the
notice to the property owner. Section 15-18-212(1)(b), MCA.
Here, Zinvest utilized the statutory form notice in §
15-18-215, MCA. Its Notice stated the county treasurer would
issue a tax deed to Zinvest if Van Ostrand did not pay all
taxes, penalties, interest, and costs on or prior to August
13, or "on or prior to the date on which the County
Treasurer will otherwise issue a tax deed." This Notice
provided Van Ostrand additional time to complete redemption.
Van Ostrand could redeem the property at any time prior to
the Treasurer issuing a tax deed. No tax deed had been issued
at the time Van Ostrand's attorney left a message for the
Treasurer or by the time Roy Van Ostrand came to the
Treasurer's office to arrange payment ...