IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF: TIMOTHY D. SCRANTOM, Petitioner and Appellant, and LILA S. MASTERS, Respondent and Appellee.
Submitted on Briefs: April 24, 2019
FROM: District Court of the Eighteenth Judicial District, In
and For the County of Gallatin, Cause No. DR-09-318A
Honorable Holly Brown, Presiding Judge
Appellant: Timothy D. Scrantom, Self-Represented, Charleston,
Appellee: James K. Lubing, Lubing Law Group, LLC, Jackson,
McGrath, Chief Justice
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
Timothy Scrantom appeals from an order of the Eighteenth
Judicial District Court, Gallatin County, denying his motion
for indemnification from Lila Masters. We affirm.
The marriage between Timothy and Lila was dissolved in April
2012. The parties entered into a Property Settlement
Agreement (Agreement) which was incorporated by reference
into the dissolution decree. The Agreement provides:
Lila shall indemnify and hold and save Timothy and the Trusts
(as defined in Section 8 hereof) harmless from and against
any and all debts, liabilities and expenses, including
reasonable attorney's fees, costs, and interest, relating
to the assets allocated to her and, all debts incurred by
Lila and any and all liabilities in her name incurred on or
after October 1, 2008, except as provided herein.
To fund her costs associated with the dissolution, Lila
contracted with Balance Point Divorce Funding, LLC (Balance
Point). Following entry of the dissolution decree, Balance
Point sued Lila in a separate case alleging, in part, breach
of her obligation to pay Balance Point pursuant to the terms
of their funding agreement. The case eventually settled. In
February 2013, Balance Point sued Timothy individually in New
York Federal District Court, alleging tortious interference
with contract, tortious interference with business relations,
and misappropriation of trade secrets-Balance Point later
voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit.
On January 16, 2015, Timothy filed a motion to enforce the
dissolution decree, seeking indemnification for
attorney's fees and costs he incurred in defending the
New York lawsuit. The District Court denied the motion and
Timothy now appeals.
Two standards of review are relevant in a case involving both
a standing master and the district court: the standard the
district court applies to the master's report and the
standard we apply to the district court's decision.
In re Marriage of Kostelnik, 2015 MT 283, ¶ 15,
381 Mont. 182, 357 P.3d 912. This Court reviews a district
court's decision de novo to determine whether it applied
the correct standard of review to a standing master's
findings of fact and conclusions of law. Kostelnik,
¶ 15. A district court reviews a standing master's
findings of fact for clear error, and its conclusions of law
to determine if they are correct. Kostelnik, ¶
15. Our standard of review in equity cases is set forth in
§ 3-2-204(5), MCA. Under that provision, we have a
"duty to determine all of the issues of [the] case and
to do complete justice." Glacier Park Co. v.
Mountain, Inc., 285 Mont. 420, 427, 949 P.2d 229, 233
(1997) (citation omitted). In reviewing a district
court's exercise of its equitable powers, this Court is
required to review "all questions of fact arising upon
evidence presented in the record" to determine if the
court's findings are clearly erroneous.
Kauffman-Harmon v. Kauffman, 2001 MT 238, ¶ 11,
307 Mont. 45, 36 P.3d 408 (citation omitted). We determine if
the court's interpretation of the law is correct.
Kauffman, ¶ 11.
Timothy first alleges that Lila fraudulently failed to
disclose her financial obligations with Balance Point during
the divorce proceedings. Timothy initially presented this
argument in a motion for sanctions, penalties, and
injunctions in April 2013. The District Court denied the
motion on July 11, 2017, finding the claim flawed for failure
to first file a timely M. R. Civ. P. 60 motion to set aside
the final decree of dissolution. The final decree of
dissolution was entered on April 19, 2012. Timothy did not
object to the final decree, as approved by the standing
master, nor did he file an appeal. While M. R. Civ. P. 60
allows for relief from a final judgment or order, it does so
only if the motion is made within a reasonable time or no
more than one year after the entry of judgment. M. R. Civ. P.
60(c)(1). Timothy did not file a timely Rule 60 motion to set
aside the final decree of dissolution. Timothy also
requests relief pursuant to § 40-4-253(5), MCA, which
provides: "the court may set aside the judgment, or part
of the judgment, if the court discovers, within 5 years from
the date of entry of judgment, that a party has committed
perjury in the final declaration of disclosure." Timothy
did not present this argument in the April 2013 motion for
sanctions, nor did he specifically request relief pursuant to
§ 40-4-253(5), MCA, before the expiration of the
five-year deadline enunciated in the statute. For these
reasons, Timothy is not entitled to the relief he requests
under § 40-4-253(5), MCA, or M. R. Civ. P 60.
Timothy reasserts that pursuant to the Agreement's
indemnification clause, Lila is responsible for the $467,
208.71 he incurred in defending the New York lawsuit because,
as he characterizes it, the litigation was a collection
action for Lila's debt to Balance Point. The Agreement is
a contract between Timothy and Lila. Section 40-4-201(5),
MCA. The interpretation and construction of a contract is a
question of law. Krajacich v. Great Falls Clinic,
LLP, 2012 MT 82, ¶ 13, 364 Mont. 455, 276 P.3d 922.
Whether an ambiguity exists is also a question of law for the
court to decide. Doble v. Bernhard, 1998 MT 124,
¶ 19, 959 P.2d 488, 289 Mont. 80. Where the language of
an agreement is clear and unambiguous, the duty of the court
is to apply the language as written. Doble, ¶
19. Contract provisions of indemnity are valid under Montana
law. Sweet v. Colborn School Supply, 196 ...