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Jorgensen v. Trademark Woodworks, LLC

Supreme Court of Montana

December 4, 2018

TIMOTHY JORGENSEN and KIRI JORGENSEN, Plaintiffs, Counterclaim Defendants and Appellees,
v.
TRADEMARK WOODWORKS, LLC, Defendant, Counterclaimant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: September 26, 2018

          APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Fifth Judicial District, In and For the County of Beaverhead, Cause No. DV-15-13880 Honorable Luke Berger, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Laurence Stinson, Stinson Law Group, P.C., Bozeman, Montana

          For Appellees: Michael J. Lilly, Berg Lilly, PC, Bozeman, Montana

          OPINION

          Mike McGrath Chief Justice

         ¶1 Trademark Woodworks, LLC, appeals from an April 3, 2018 judgment of the Fifth Judicial District Court. The District Court held that the contract between the Jorgensens and Trademark Woodworks, LLC, had been rescinded and awarded the Jorgensens damages and attorney's fees. We affirm.

         ¶2 We restate the issues on appeal as follows:

Issue One: Did the District Court commit clear error when it found that the agreement had been rescinded?
Issue Two: Did the District Court abuse its discretion by awarding attorney's fees to the Jorgensens?

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶3 In September 2015, Tim and Kiri Jorgensen ("the Jorgensens") entered into a contract ("the Agreement") with Trademark Woodworks, LLC ("Trademark") for the construction of a home near Wisdom, Montana. The Agreement provided that Trademark would supply the labor and materials for the framing, roofing, and siding of the home.

         ¶4 Nathan Judd ("Judd"), a primary owner of Trademark and a contractor, is an acquaintance of the Jorgensens and submitted a bid on behalf of Trademark to acquire the job.

         ¶5 The Agreement was silent as to who would assume the role of general contractor. Both parties believed this role would fall to the Jorgensens, as Tim Jorgensen was an experienced contractor and Trademark was contracted for only specific aspects of the construction.

         ¶6 Early on, the relationship between Judd and the Jorgensens began to deteriorate. Judd felt that the Jorgensens were causing unnecessary delays in the project and that he was being forced to "assum[e] a role left vacant" by the Jorgensens, whom he expected would act as the general contractors on the site. The Jorgensens dispute that Judd was acting as general contractor and assert that Judd was responsible only for his subcontractors in accordance with the Agreement. The Jorgensens also maintain that Judd failed to adequately perform his obligations under the contract and charged excessively for his work.

         ¶7 On September 28, 2015, after a series of disagreements and miscommunications, Judd sent the Jorgensens an email: "If you feel like your [sic] being taken advantage of, mislead, or mistreated I apologize. I'll be happy to finish the framing phase and turn the reigns [sic] over if you'd like. Please let me know on how you'd like us to proceed."

         ¶8 In her response, Kiri inquired about Judd's on-site work schedule for the upcoming weeks and asked him to clarify exactly what he considered the "framing phase" of the job to entail. Judd responded: "The framing phase would be the erection of the structure. Myself and/or my crew ...


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