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Ally Financial Inc. v. Stevenson

Supreme Court of Montana

August 8, 2017

ALLY FINANCIAL, INC. Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
NAN STEVENSON, Defendant, Third-Party Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
BIG SKY RV, INC., DONAVON FREDERICKSON and other unknown employees of Big Sky RV, Inc., Third-Party Defendants and Appellants.

          Submitted on Briefs: June 7, 2017

         Appeal From District Court of the Twelfth Judicial District, In and For the County of Chouteau, Cause No. DV-15-39 Honorable Daniel A. Boucher, Presiding Judge

          For Appellants: John L. Wright, Halverson, Mahlen & Wright, P.C., Billings, Montana.

          For Appellee Nan L. Stevenson: Stuart F. Lewin, Attorney at Law, Great Falls, Montana.

          OPINION

          MICHAEL E WHEAT JUSTICE.

         ¶1 Big Sky RV, Inc., Donavon Frederickson and other unknown employees of Big Sky RV, Inc. (collectively Big Sky) appeal from the order of the Twelfth Judicial District Court, Chouteau County, denying their motion for judgment on the pleadings to dismiss and for change of venue. We affirm.

         ¶2 We restate the issue on appeal as follows:

Did the District Court err in determining that it had subject matter jurisdiction in this case and that, under § 30-14-133(1), MCA, venue was proper in Chouteau County?

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶3 On July 31, 2014, Stevenson visited the Billings, Montana, location of Big Sky RV, Inc., a Montana corporation with its principal office registered in Bozeman, Gallatin County, Montana. Stevenson purchased a fifth wheel trailer for $72, 595 at the Billings location, trading in her previous trailer, valued at $8, 000. She also provided a down payment of $21, 773 and financed the remainder of the purchase price through Ally Bank (Ally). In August 2014, Big Sky RV delivered the new trailer to Stevenson's home in Fort Benton, Chouteau County, Montana, picking up her trade-in trailer on the same day.

         ¶4 On November 4, 2015, Ally filed a Complaint for Claim and Delivery against Stevenson in the Twelfth Judicial District Court, Chouteau County, Montana, claiming that Stevenson had defaulted on her payment obligations under the loan agreement. Ally demanded payment due under the agreement or possession of the fifth wheel. On January 11, 2016, Stevenson filed a revised answer to Ally's complaint and a third-party complaint against Big Sky, alleging damages for breach of contract, violation of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, negligence, and violations of the Montana Consumer Protection Act (MCPA).

         ¶5 Stevenson's third-party complaint asserted that both subject matter jurisdiction and venue were proper because Ally initiated this action in Chouteau County and because Big Sky RV delivered possession of the new trailer, and picked up the trade-in trailer, in Chouteau County. On February 1, 2016, Big Sky filed a motion to dismiss Stevenson's third-party complaint for failure to state a claim. On February 10, 2016, the District Court denied Big Sky's motion for failure to file the required brief. On February 29, 2016, Big Sky filed both its answer to Stevenson's third-party complaint and a separate motion and brief for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that under § 30-14-133(1), MCA, venue was improper in Chouteau County and the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the MCPA claim. On February 16, 2017, the District Court denied Big Sky's motion. Big Sky filed a timely notice of appeal with this Court. We affirm.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶6 We review de novo a district court's ruling on a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. In re Estate of Big Spring, 2011 MT 109, ¶ 20, 360 Mont. 370, 255 P.3d 121 (citation omitted). A district court must determine whether the complaint states facts that, if true, would vest the court with subject matter jurisdiction. Big Spring, ΒΆ 20 (citation omitted). This determination ...


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