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Hackley v. Hackley

Supreme Court of Montana

April 23, 2019

PATRICK HACKLEY, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
WILLIAM HACKLEY, Defendant and Appellee.

          Submitted on Briefs: March 13, 2019

          Appeal From District Court of the Seventh Judicial District, In and For the County of Richland, Cause No. DV-17-44 Honorable Katherine M. Bidegaray, Presiding Judge.

          For Appellant Terry F. Schaplow, Terry F. Schaplow, P.C., Bozeman, Montana

          For Appellee Ben Sather, Sather Law PLLC, Billings, Montana

          OPINION

          Laurie McKinnon 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 Patrick Hackley (Patrick) appeals from an order of the Seventh Judicial District Court, Richland County, granting William Hackley (William) summary judgment. We affirm.

         ¶3 William owned 1, 535.23 acres of real property-cropland and pastureland-in Richland County, Montana. In 2009, William agreed to lease the property to his cousin's son, Ricky Hackley (Ricky), for four years, from 2009 to 2012, and William drafted a contract. The contract provided that William would lease the cropland to Ricky for a base rate, plus an additional amount that varied depending on the price of wheat. An initial payment for the cropland of $8, 500 was due April 15th, with the remainder due November 1st. Further, a payment of $1, 500 for the pastureland was due November 1st. All payments were subject to a late fee of $50 per day. William and Ricky signed the document. Patrick, Ricky's son, asserts he subsequently subleased the property from Ricky, but no party produced a written sublease for the property between 2009 and 2012.

         ¶4 In 2013, William and Ricky executed another four-year lease contract for the years 2013 to 2016, which was similar to the parties' 2009 contract. It provided variable prices for the cropland, with an initial payment of an unspecified amount due April 15th and another payment due November 30th. It also provided that the pastureland payment was $1, 500, with the payment due November 30th.

         ¶5 Patrick and Ricky also executed a contract in 2013. The contract was entitled "Lease Contract - Patrick J. Hackley and Ricky P. Hackley." The contract provided that "[t]he cropland will be leased" at varying prices, with $8, 500 due April 15th and the second payment due November 30th. The contract further provided that "pasture rent" was $300. The contract did not state a due date for the pasture rent but provided, "There will be a $50/day late fee after December 1st." The contract concluded, "This lease will be for 4 years, crop years 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016." While the contract between Patrick and Ricky did not specify what cropland or pastureland it was referring to, it undisputedly refers to the property William leased to Ricky.

         ¶6 In 2013 and 2014, Patrick paid William the lease fee directly-money did not pass through Ricky. In 2014, Patrick applied for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). William signed an Owners Certification, on which he named Patrick an "Applicant/Producer," and stated that Patrick would have control over the property until December 31, 2018. In 2015, Ricky started to pay William the lease fees instead of Patrick. On June 10, 2015, William notified Patrick that he was not allowed to run livestock on William's pastureland.

         ¶7 On April 9, 2016, William told Ricky that Patrick was not permitted to farm William's land. Ricky reported the news to Patrick. At that time, Patrick was farming 464 acres of William's cropland and Ricky was farming the remainder. That same spring, William stated he would not extend or renew the 2013 lease, set to expire that year. In a July 2016 letter, CSP notified Patrick that he had been removed as a farm operator of William's property. Patrick believed William wrongfully prohibited him from using the property.

         ¶8 On December 1, 2017, Patrick filed his First Amended Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial, naming William as the defendant and alleging breach of contract, breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing, negligence, negligent misrepresentation, infliction of mental distress, and constructive fraud. Patrick also requested punitive damages. Later that month, William filed an answer and counterclaim, alleging breach of contract. The District Court eventually granted summary judgment in William's favor and dismissed the case with prejudice. Patrick appeals.

         ¶9 We review a district court's summary judgment ruling de novo, using the same M. R. Civ. P. 56 criteria. Melton v. Speth, 2018 MT 212, ¶ 5, 392 Mont. 409, 425 P.3d 700. The moving party is entitled to summary judgment "if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." M. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(3). A material fact is one that involves the elements of the cause of action or defense at issue to such an extent that it requires resolution of the issue by a trier of fact. Williams v. Plum Creek Timber Co., 2011 MT 271, ¶ 14, 362 Mont. 368, 264 P.3d 1090; see also Contreras v. Fitzgerald, 2002 MT 208, ¶ 23, 311 Mont. 257, 54 P.3d 983 (explaining that summary judgement is an "extreme remedy" and, accordingly, "should never be substituted for trial if a material factual controversy exists" (internal quotations and citations omitted)). ...


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