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Gerhart v. Kalvig & Leduc, P.C.

Supreme Court of Montana

December 28, 2017

ALLAN J. GERHART, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
KALVIG & LEDUC, P.C., KALVIG LAW FIRM, P.C., BRUCE FREDERICKSON, ANGELA LEDUC, and LAKE COUNTY, a political subdivision, Defendants and Appellees.

          Submitted on Briefs: December 13, 2017

          APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Eleventh Judicial District, In and For the County of Flathead, Cause No. DV-14-914(D) Honorable Dan Wilson, Presiding Judge COUNSEL OF RECORD:

          For Appellant:

          Kim T. Christopherson, Christopherson Law Office, P.C., Kalispell, Montana

          For Appellees Kalvig & LeDuc, P.C., Kalvig Law Firm, P.C., Bruce Fredrickson, and Angela LeDuc:

          Mikel L. Moore, Katherine A. Matic, Moore, Cockrell, Goicoechea & Johnson, P.C., Kalispell, Montana

          For Appellee Lake County:

         Walter E. Congdon, Civil Deputy Lake County Attorney, Polson, Montana

          OPINION

          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 Allan Gerhart appeals from the District Court's order granting summary judgment to the defendants and denying summary judgment to Gerhart. We affirm.

         ¶3 This case arises from Gerhart's effort in 2007 to secure a road approach permit from Lake County. When the County denied the permit, Gerhart sued the County in United States District Court, claiming a right to damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The United States District Court dismissed Gerhart's complaint. He secured new attorneys (the Kalvig defendants) and successfully appealed the dismissal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Just before the scheduled trial in 2011, Gerhart's attorneys learned that an adjacent landowner had offered him an alternate and possibly superior easement to his property. The attorneys advised Gerhart that this information greatly diminished the value of his claim against the County, and advised him to settle. Gerhart subsequently agreed to settle that claim for $100, 000 and the County's approval of his road approach permit.

         ¶4 The County tendered the settlement amount and Gerhart signed a settlement document acknowledging the terms. In December 2011 Gerhart's attorneys distributed the settlement proceeds, withholding their unpaid fees, the cost of the prior mediation, and $20, 000 to account for a lien for fees asserted by his original attorneys. Gerhart received slightly over $38, 000. Shortly thereafter Gerhart terminated his relationship with the Kalvig defendants.

         ¶5 Over two years later, in 2014, Gerhart appeared through his present attorney demanding that the Kalvig defendants pay over to him the $20, 000 they had retained from the settlement amount to account for the asserted attorney fee lien. The Kalvig defendants paid the money to Gerhart. In August 2014 Gerhart filed the current action in the Eleventh ...


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