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Hutzenbiler v. RJC Investment, Inc.

Supreme Court of Montana

April 9, 2019

CHARLENE HUTZENBILER, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
RJC INVESTMENT, INC., Defendant and Appellee.

          Submitted on Briefs: February 6,

          APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Thirteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Yellowstone, Cause No. DV-17-1933 Honorable Gregory R. Todd, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: D. Michael Eakin, Eakin, Berry & Grygiel, PLLC, Billings, Montana

          For Appellee: Christopher T. Sweeney, Peter M. Damrow, Moulton Bellingham PC, Billings, Montana

          OPINION

          BETH BAKER JUSTICE

         ¶1 Charlene Hutzenbiler appeals an order of the Thirteenth Judicial District Court, Yellowstone County, granting RJC Investment, Inc. ("RJC") summary judgment on Hutzenbiler's claim to an accounting and recovery of surplus proceeds on the resale of her mobile home after she returned it to RJC. We restate the dispositive issues as follows:

1. Did the Release between Hutzenbiler and RJC terminate application of the Uniform Commercial Code's requirement for an accounting and surplus after RJC sold the collateral?
2. Did the District Court err in determining that the Release constituted an acceptance of the collateral in full satisfaction of Hutzenbiler's secured obligation?
3. Is RJC entitled to summary judgment on other statutory or equitable grounds?

         We reverse the District Court's summary judgment order and remand for further proceedings.

         PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         ¶2 Hutzenbiler entered into an Installment Sale Contract and Security Agreement (the "Contract") with Cherry Creek Development, Inc. ("Cherry Creek") to purchase a mobile home in March 2010. The purchase price of the mobile home was $47, 500. Cherry Creek retained a security interest in the mobile home to secure Hutzenbiler's payment obligations. Hutzenbiler paid $3, 800 down and agreed to pay $483 per month for fifteen years to pay off the remaining $43, 700 balance, with payments due on the 19th of each month. The Contract provided that a late fee would be charged for any payment that was five days past the due date. Cherry Creek assigned the Contract to its parent company, RJC.

         ¶3 Hutzenbiler acknowledges that she made some of her payments late but disputes that she "missed" payments or was in default. On December 10, 2015, Hutzenbiler vacated the mobile home and allowed RJC to take possession of it. Hutzenbiler signed a Full Release of Contract (the "Release"), under which she relinquished all rights to the mobile home. The Release reads in its entirety as follows:

I/We Charlene L. Hutzenbiler herby [sic] release all rights to the manufactured home located at 8 Lapin St. N, Billings, MT 59105 described by serial number HY12485 am [sic] releasing myself and removing my name off of the contract currently in place with RJC Investment, Inc. and Cherry Creek Development, Inc. I am fully aware that by signing this I am completely removing my rights to all aspects of the home and I will not be entitled to any rights of this home or refund of all money applied to the home including but not limited to the down payment, and all payments made on the home and the lot up to this day.

(Emphasis in original). The Release was executed by Hutzenbiler and by Roy Clause, as President of Cherry Creek and RJC. When the Release was executed, Hutzenbiler owed $34, 499.01 under the Contract.

         ¶4 RJC resold the mobile home in February 2016, without notice to Hutzenbiler, for $45, 500. Hutzenbiler's counsel requested an accounting of the sale from RJC, but RJC failed to provide one. RJC did not refund any surplus to Hutzenbiler and claims none was owed. Hutzenbiler sued RJC for failing to provide for an accounting of the results of the resale of the mobile home pursuant to § 30-9A-616(2)(a)(ii), MCA; for failing to pay her the surplus proceeds of the mobile home's resale pursuant to § 30-9A-615(4)(a), MCA; and alleging that the trial court should apply all her ...


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