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Christman v. Clause

Supreme Court of Montana

June 4, 2019

THAN EDWARD CHRISTMAN and TINA MARIE CHRISTMAN, Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
ROY CLAUSE and BETTY CLAUSE, Defendants and Appellees.

          Submitted on Briefs: February 20, 2019

          APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Thirteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Yellowstone, Cause No. DV-17-97 Honorable Rod Souza, Presiding Judge

          For Appellants: D. Michael Eakin, Eakin, Berry & Grygiel, PLLC

          For Appellees: Christopher T. Sweeney, Peter M. Damrow, Moulton Bellingham PC

          James Jeremiah Shea, Justice delivered the Opinion of the Court.

          OPINION

          James Jeremiah Shea, Justice.

         ¶1 Appellants Than Edward Christman and Tina Marie Christman (collectively "Christmans") appeal the Order of the Thirteenth Judicial District Court, Yellowstone County, denying their Motion for Summary Judgment. We address the following issue:

Whether the District Court erred in denying the Christmans' Motion for Summary Judgment.

         ¶2 We reverse.

         PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         ¶3 On October 14, 2009, the Christmans and Roy and Betty Clause (collectively "Clauses") entered into an Installment Sale Contract and Security Agreement (Agreement) to buy a mobile home in Cherry Creek Development.[1] The Christmans were to purchase the mobile home for $68, 900 from the Clauses. They paid $5, 512 down and financed the balance of $63, 388, to be paid in monthly installments of $701 for a period of fifteen years.

         ¶4 The Agreement gave the Clauses a security interest in the mobile home. The Agreement included the following provision regarding potential default by the Christmans:

Default. If [the Christmans] fail[] to perform any of the covenants or promises called for hereunder such failure shall, at the election of [the Clauses] constitute a default in the performance of this agreement. If [the Christmans] fail[] to cure any such default within [] THIRTY (30) days after written notice thereof to [the Christmans], [the Clauses] may, without further notice or period of grace, declare the entire unpaid balance of the purchase price, principal and accrued interest, immediately due and payable. Upon nonpayment thereof, after the same shall become due and payable, [the Clauses] may as an alternative to any other remedy provide [sic] at law or equity, terminate this agreement and retain all payments made as liquidated damages for breach of this agreement and rent for the use of the property. [The Christmans] and [the Clauses] agree that THIRTY (30) days notice is a reasonable time period for notice of termination of this agreement.

         ¶5 From 2009-2015, the Christmans continually missed payments on their mobile home, only to then make large lump sum payments to bring the loan current. The Clauses made accommodations, including adjusting the loan in November 2014 to put the delinquent amount at the end of the loan, but the Christmans again fell behind on payments. On August 21, 2015, the Clauses sent the Christmans a Notice of Default. On September 18, 2015, the Christmans paid $2, 900 in an attempt to become current. Four days later, the Clauses sent a notice that they were invoking the acceleration clause in the default provision of the Agreement and demanded the outstanding balance on the Agreement plus notice fees, a total of $57, 397.64, within thirty days. In December 2015, after receiving the acceleration notice, the Christmans moved out of the mobile home and voluntarily returned it to the Clauses. ...


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