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Ally Financial, Inc. v. Stevenson

Supreme Court of Montana

November 20, 2018

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

          Submitted on Briefs: September 19, 2018

          APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Twelfth Judicial District, In and For the County of Chouteau, Cause No. DV-2015-039 Honorable Daniel A. Boucher, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Caitlin Boland Aarab, Samir F. Aarab, Boland Aarab PLLP, Great Falls, Montana

          For Appellees: John L. Wright, Nicholas A. Whitaker, Halvorson, Mahlen & Wright, P.C., Billings, Montana

          OPINION

          Mike McGrath Chief Justice

         ¶1 Defendant, Nan L. Stevenson, appeals from a Twelfth Judicial District order denying her motion to amend her answer, third-party complaint, and counterclaim, and the judgment entered in favor of third-party defendant, Big Sky RV, Inc.[1] We reverse.

         ¶2 This Court restates the issues on appeal as follows:

1. Whether the District Court abused its discretion by denying Stevenson's motion to amend her third-party complaint.
2. Whether the District Court erroneously entered a judgment in favor of Big Sky RV.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶3 On July 31, 2014, Nan L. Stevenson (Stevenson) contracted with Big Sky RV in Billings, Montana, to buy a new Jayco 2014 Eagle Premier 375BHFS (fifth-wheel) for $72, 595.00. After trade-in and a down payment, she financed the balance through Ally Financial, Inc. (Ally). Big Sky RV assigned the contract to Ally. The contract required Stevenson to pay Ally 180 monthly payments of $378.74. Big Sky RV delivered the fifth-wheel to Stevenson in Fort Benton, Montana, at the end of August 2014.

         ¶4 On October 3, 2014, Stevenson took the fifth-wheel to RV City, a Jayco Dealership in Huachuca City, Arizona, after experiencing two tire blowouts while driving at highway speeds. Less than two months after Big Sky RV delivered the fifth-wheel to Stevenson, the fifth-wheel required repairs that took more than seven months. RV City's customer work order detailed forty-one separate mechanical, structural, and aesthetic defects wrong with the fifth-wheel, including that its tires were not highway worthy. RV City completed the repairs on May 13, 2015, and returned the fifth-wheel to Stevenson in Fort Benton, Montana.

         ¶5 Following numerous exchanges between the parties, Stevenson stopped making payments to Ally in April 2015. On November 9, 2015, Ally filed a complaint in District Court seeking possession of the fifth-wheel based on Stevenson's default under the terms of the contract. Stevenson answered Ally's complaint, and filed counterclaims against Ally and third-party claims against Big Sky RV and its officer Donavon Frederickson. Specifically, Stevenson claimed: (1) breach of contract and violation of duty of good faith and fair dealing, (2) negligence, (3) violation of the Montana Consumer Protection Act, and sought punitive damages against Big Sky RV. Stevenson then incorporated these claims against Ally as Big Sky RV's principal. Ally filed a cross-claim against Big Sky RV for indemnification.

         ¶6 On February 29, 2016, Big Sky RV moved for judgment on the pleadings. On February 16, 2017, almost one year later, the District Court denied the motion. On March 9, 2017, Big Sky RV filed an interlocutory appeal contesting the District Court's rulings on venue and subject matter jurisdiction. See Ally Fin., Inc. v. Stevenson, 2017 MT 190, 388 Mont. 246, 399 P.3d 899. On April 13, 2017, while Big Sky RV's interlocutory appeal was still pending, Ally moved for summary judgment. Stevenson and Big Sky RV both opposed. By May 19, 2017, Ally's motion was fully briefed and awaiting the District ...


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