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Kingman v. Weightman

Supreme Court of Montana

September 12, 2017

MILES KINGMAN, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
THOMAS WEIGHTMAN, Defendant and Appellee.

          Submitted on Briefs: August 9, 2017

         APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Eighteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Gallatin, Cause No. DV 15-529B Honorable Mike Salvagni, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Miles Kingman, Self-Represented, Shelby, Montana

          For Appellee: Michael J. Lilly, Berg, Lilly & Tollefsen, P.C., Bozeman, Montana

          OPINION

          Jim Rice, Justice

         ¶1 Miles Kingman (Kingman) appeals the summary judgment entered by the Eighteenth Judicial District Court, Gallatin County, in favor of Thomas Weightman (Weightman). We affirm, and address the following issue:

         Did the District Court err by holding that the statute of limitations had run on Kingman's claim for conversion of property?

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶2 On September 17, 2008, Kingman inflicted serious injuries upon another man in a drunken altercation outside a bar in Bozeman. Kingman fled the scene, but was arrested later that day. Bozeman City Police took Kingman to the Bozeman Deaconess Hospital, where photos were taken, apparently showing him wearing a wristwatch. Police took Kingman's personal property into custody, including the watch.

         ¶3 Kingman was charged with attempted deliberate homicide and convicted of aggravated assault, a lesser included offense, following a jury trial. The District Court sentenced Kingman to twenty years in Montana State Prison, imposed $183, 115.45 in restitution, and ordered Kingman to register as a violent offender. On November 1, 2011, this Court upheld Kingman's conviction. State v. Kingman, 2011 MT 269, 362 Mont. 330, 264 P.3d 1104.

         ¶4 On December 19, 2013, Weightman, the senior evidence technician for the Bozeman Police Department, sent a letter informing Kingman his personal property was authorized to be released and that Kingman could arrange to have it picked up. The letter listed several items, including a watch. Kingman arranged for his aunt to have the watch shipped to her home. On March 13, 2014, Weightman sent another letter, which advised Kingman that the watch was not his. Kingman alleged that his public defender had contacted Weightman to arrange return of the watch, but that Weightman had told Kingman's public defender that he was not inclined to return the watch due to a nasty letter he received from Kingman.

         ¶5 On July 9, 2015, Kingman initiated this action against Weightman, alleging that Weightman had failed to return Kingman's blue faced titanium Citizens wristwatch, which, according to the complaint, was valued at $800. The final Amended Complaint sought damages for "theft" and "malicious intent." The District Court, with the approval of the parties, deemed the theft claim as one for conversion of property.

         ¶6 Weightman moved for Summary Judgment, arguing the two-year statute of limitations for conversion had expired and that malicious intent was not a recognized cause of action in Montana. Reasoning that Kingman had six months after the completion of his criminal proceedings to request return of his property, pursuant to § 46-5-305, MCA, and that he "should have been aware" of any wrongful act by that time, the District Court held that the two-year limitation period on the conversion claim had expired prior to the filing of the suit, and entered judgment in favor of Weightman. Kingman appeals, arguing only the statute of limitation issue.

         STANDARD ...


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