United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division
P. WATTERS United States District Judge.
the Court are United States Magistrate Judge Timothy
Cavan's findings and recommendation filed July 6, 2018.
(Doc. 53). Judge Cavan recommends this Court grant
Third-Party Defendant Riverstone Health's motion for
judgment on the pleadings and deny Third-Party Defendant
Billings Clinic's motion to dismiss. (Doc. 53 at 2).
Standard of review
County and Billings Clinic filed timely objections to the
findings and recommendation. (Docs. 58 and 59). Yellowstone
County and Billings Clinic are entitled to de novo review of
those portions of Judge Cavan's findings and
recommendation to which they properly object. 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3).
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is governed by
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss,
"a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic
Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
"A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded
factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
12(c) provides that "[a]fter the pleadings are closed -
but early enough not to delay trial - a party may move for
judgment on the pleadings." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A Rule
12(c) motion is "functionally identical" to a Rule
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted. Cafasso, United States ex
rel. v. General Dynamics C4 Systems, Inc., 637 F.3d
1047, 1054 n.4 (9th Cir. 2011). Thus, the same legal standard
"applies to motions brought under either rule."
Cafasso, 637 F.3d at 1054.
procedural and factual history contained in Judge Cavan's
findings and recommendation is not objected to, apart from a
minor and immaterial contention by Billings Clinic, and is
adopted in full.
County objects to Judge Cavan's conclusion that
Riverstone's settlement with the Plaintiff requires
judgment on the pleadings of the third-party complaint
against Riverstone. Billings Clinic objects to Judge
Cavan's conclusion that Billings Clinic's settlement
with the Plaintiff does not require dismissing the third
party-complaint against Billings Clinic.
Plaintiff, the estate of Michael Ostby, filed a complaint
against Yellowstone County, Riverstone, and Billings Clinic,
alleging, among other things, that they had negligently
caused Michael Ostby's death. (Doc. 6 at 1-19). Ostby was
an inmate held at Yellowstone County Detention Facility.
(Doc. 6 at 2). Riverstone and Billings Clinic contracted with
Yellowstone County to provide healthcare for inmates at
Yellowstone County Detention Facility. (Doc. 6 at 2-3).
Yellowstone County filed third-party complaints against
Riverstone and Billings Clinic, alleging they were
responsible for the death of Ostby. (Docs. 3 and 4).
Riverstone and Billings Clinic settled with Ostby and filed
the present motions, arguing Yellowstone cannot seek
contribution or indemnity from them under Burden v. Hydro
Flame Corp., 983 P.2d 943, 949 (Mont. 1999), which
provides that "a settlement by one tortfeasor precludes
claims for both contribution and indemnity against the
settling tortfeasor, irrespective of the nature of the
underlying tort claim."
County argues Durden does not bar its claim against
Riverstone because the claim is for breach of contract, not
contribution or indemnity. Riverstone responds the claim, for
all practical purposes, is for contribution or indemnity.
Judge Cavan recommended Durden barred Yellowstone
County's claim because it was, at its core, a claim for
contribution. The Court agrees with Judge Cavan.
County argues that when a claim can sound in either tort or
contract, the claimant can choose which claim to pursue. As a
general proposition, Yellowstone County is correct. See
Dewey v. Stringer\325 P.3d 1236, 1239 (Mont. 2014).
However, this case presents an exception to the general
proposition for a few reasons. First, Yellowstone County is
incorrect that Riverstone owed Yellowstone County no legal
duty absent the contract. By statute, any party to a
negligence action "has the right of contribution from
any other person whose negligence may have contributed as a
proximate cause to the injury complained of." Mont. Code
Ann. § 27-1-703; Dewey, 325 P.3d at 1239
(citation omitted). Even if Riverstone and Yellowstone County
had no contract, a claim they allegedly jointly caused an
injury gives rise to a tort claim between the
Second, Yellowstone County's alleged damages are the
damages Riverstone caused Ostby, with whom Riverstone has
settled. Yellowstone seeks to have Riverstone pay for what it
has already paid. Third, and most importantly, allowing
Yellowstone County's claim to proceed would undermine the
strong public policy behind Durden. In
Burden, the Montana Supreme ...