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Kangrga v. Gjorev

Supreme Court of Montana

September 26, 2017

MILAN KANGRGA, Plaintiff and Appellant,

          Submitted on Briefs: August 30, 2017

         APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, In and For the County of Missoula, Cause No. DV-14-940 Honorable John W. Larson, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant Joseph D. Houston, Kevin S. Jones, Christian, Samson & Jones, PLLC, Missoula, Montana

          For Appellee Blazo Gjorev Quentin M. Rhoades, Robert Erickson, Rhoades Siefert & Erickson, PLLC, Missoula, Montana

          For Appellee Transportation Equipment Corporation Brian J. Smith, Tessa A. Keller, Garlington, Lohn & Robinson, PLLP, Missoula, Montana

          Mike McGrath Chief Justice

         ¶1 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 Montana Reports.

         ¶2 Milan Kangrga (Kangrga) appeals from a jury verdict and subsequent July 25, 2016 District Court order in which each of Kangrga's claims were denied. We affirm.

         ¶3 On August 25, 2014, Kangrga filed a civil action in the Fourth Judicial District Court, asserting eight claims against Gjorev and Transportation Equipment Corporation (TEC). Only four are at issue on appeal. The counterclaims brought by Gjorev are not at issue here. The claims at issue include tortious interference with business opportunity or prospective economic advantage, breach of contract, civil conspiracy, and intentional interference with contractual or business relations. On July 14, 2016, a jury rendered its verdict in favor of Gjorev and TEC on all accounts. The jury also awarded Gjorev $1, 890, 000 in punitive damages that were later waived by Gjorev.

         ¶4 In November 2009, Kangrga and Gjorev purchased Jim Palmer Trucking, Jim Palmer Equipment, Inc., Jim Palmer Equipment II, LLC, and Jim Palmer Logistics, LLC (Palmer entities). Kangrga and Gjorev each held fifty percent of the Palmer entities shares.

         ¶5 Palmer entities had financial difficulties. The parties agreed that Gjorev would purchase Kangrga's fifty percent interest in Palmer entities for $1, 000, 000 in a written contract signed on April 26, 2011. The agreement provided that Kangrga's shares could not be transferred until the purchase price was paid in full. Gjorev's last monthly payment was on February 28, 2014. No subsequent payments were made.

         ¶6 Financial problems continued and in March 2014, Gjorev signed an agreement for the sale of a controlling interest of the Palmer entities to TEC, an asset holding company for an affiliated trucking company, which became effective on March 31, 2014. The TEC funds were then put into the business. However, Kangrga did not have knowledge of the signed agreement between Gjorev and TEC. At the time, the unpaid principal balance due to Kangrga was $595, 000.

         ¶7 On June 30, 2016, the District Court granted Kangrga's Motion for Summary Judgement for breach of contract. However, the issue of damages was left to be determined by a jury. At trial, the jury did not award damages for Kangrga's breach of contract claim, nor did they find in favor of Kangrga with respect to any of his other claims. Kangrga appeals, arguing the jury's findings were not supported by substantial credible evidence.

         ¶8 When reviewing a jury verdict for purposes of determining whether it is supported by substantial credible evidence, the Court "must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the prevailing party." Hansen v. Hansen, 254 Mont. 152, 157, 835 P.2d 748, 751 (1992). "Substantial credible evidence is such evidence which a reasonable mind could accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Evidence is considered substantial even if it is contradicted by other evidence, somewhat less than a preponderance, or inherently weak." D.R. Four Beat Alliance, LLC v. Sierra Prod. Co., 2009 MT 319, ¶ 23, 352 Mont. 435, 218 P.3d 827. It is within the jury's domain to determine the weight and credibility of contradicting evidence. Hansen, 254 Mont. at 157, 835 P.2d at 751. It is not our duty to "decide whether the verdict was correct or ...

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