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Satterfield v. Maciel

Supreme Court of Montana

September 10, 2019

MARY SATTERFIELD, Plaintiff, Counterclaim Defendant, and Appellee,
v.
MARTY MACIEL and RICHARD WRIGHT, d/b/a CENTRAL MONTANA BAIL BONDS, Defendants, Counterclaim Plaintiffs, and Appellants.

          Submitted on Briefs: August 21, 2019

          APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Tenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Fergus, Cause No. DV 13-18 Honorable Jon A. Oldenburg, Presiding Judge

          For Appellants: Marybeth M. Sampsel, Measure Law, P.C., Kalispell, Montana

          For Appellee: Torger Oaas, Oaas Law Offices, Lewistown, Montana

          OPINION

          INGRID GUSTAFSON, 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 Defendant, Counterclaim Plaintiff, and Appellant Marty Maciel (Maciel) appeals the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, as well as the accompanying Judgment, issued by the Tenth Judicial District Court, Fergus County, on May 21, 2014, following a bench trial which found in favor of Plaintiff, Counterclaim Defendant, and Appellee Mary Satterfield (Satterfield). We affirm.

         ¶3 In approximately 2008, Satterfield and Richard Wright (Wright) began a bail bonds business known as Central Montana Bail Bonds (CMBB). Satterfield and Wright were equal partners in the business. In February 2012, Satterfield sold her stake in CMBB to Maciel for $83, 600, plus interest, through a written Sales Agreement. Maciel was to pay Satterfield $1500 per month over a period of 60 months, or until all principal and interest due were paid in full. After selling her ownership stake to Maciel, Satterfield continued to work at CMBB as a non-liable sub-producer. Pursuant to the terms of the Sales Agreement, Satterfield was to be paid a 20% commission for all bonds posted and money collected from bonds she wrote. Satterfield was also to be paid a 25% commission on accounts receivable-bonds written prior to Satterfield selling her stake in CMBB through the Sales Agreement.

         ¶4 Maciel did not make the required payments to Satterfield under the terms of the Sales Agreement, and Satterfield filed suit for breach of contract against Maciel and Wright in February 2013. In April 2013, Satterfield amended her complaint to include a claim of unjust enrichment if the Sales Agreement was found to be unenforceable. Attached to both the Complaint and Amended Complaint was a copy of the Sales Agreement-a three-page document which listed the terms of the sale and also contained the terms of Satterfield's exclusive non-liable sub-producer position at CMBB until Maciel's purchase was paid in full. Maciel and Wright filed a counterclaim against Satterfield, alleging numerous counts against Satterfield stemming from bonds she wrote in her non-liable sub-producer role.

         ¶5 On March 26, 2014, the District Court held a bench trial. Relevant to the present appeal, the District Court admitted Plaintiff's Exhibit 3, a copy of the Sales Agreement which was identical to the previously-produced copies of that agreement attached to both Satterfield's Complaint and Amended Complaint. Exhibit 3 was listed as an exhibit for the Plaintiff in the pretrial order. Counsel for the Defendants objected to the admission of Plaintiff's Exhibit 3 at trial, alleging that the Sales Agreement was actually a four-page document that contained a fourth page titled "Letters of Underwriting Authority and Instructions for Appearance Bond" (underwriting terms). Satterfield testified that the Sales Agreement did not contain a fourth page of underwriting terms when she signed it, and the District Court admitted Plaintiff's Exhibit 3 over objection. Later in the trial, counsel for the Defendants repeatedly attempted to admit Defendants' Exhibit T, a copy of the underwriting terms which the Defendants claim was attached to the Sales Agreement. The District Court repeatedly denied the Defendants' attempts to admit Exhibit T, finding that it was not listed on the pretrial order. On May 21, 2014, the District Court issued its Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, which found in favor of Satterfield on her breach of contract claim and dismissed the Defendants' counterclaims. Also on May 21, 2014, the District Court entered its Judgment, ordering the Defendants to pay Satterfield damages from both the sale and commissions from bonds she wrote.

         ¶6 The Defendants appealed the District Court's Judgment to this Court in 2014. After filing their opening brief, Wright filed for bankruptcy and the matter was stayed pending the completion of those proceedings. In 2019, this Court received notice that Wright's bankruptcy proceedings had concluded. We ordered the parties to provide a status report as to whether they intended to proceed with the appeal. Counsel for the Appellants filed a status report on June 12, 2019, which informed the Court that Wright had agreed not to proceed with this matter and would file a signed consent to voluntarily dismiss the appeal as it relates to him, [1] but that Maciel intended to proceed with the appeal.

         ¶7 We review a district court's decision to admit or exclude evidence for an abuse of discretion. Cleveland v. Ward, 2016 MT 10, ¶ 9, 382 Mont. 118, 364 P.3d 1250. A district court abuses its discretion when it acts arbitrarily without conscientious judgment or exceeds the bounds of reason. Seltzer v. Morton, 2007 MT 62, ¶ 65, 336 Mont. 225, 154 P.3d 561 (citation omitted).

         ¶8 Maciel argues that the District Court erred by refusing to admit Defendants' Exhibit T at trial. Exhibit T purported to contain a copy of the underwriting terms, which Maciel argues were attached as the fourth page of the Sales Agreement with Satterfield. Satterfield objected to the admission of Exhibit T, and the District Court did not admit the exhibit because it was not listed on either the exhibit list or the pretrial order.

         ¶9 The purpose of pretrial orders is to simplify issues, prevent surprise and allow counsel to prepare their cases for trial based on the pretrial order. Travelers Indem. Co. v.Andersen, 1999 MT 201, ¶ 34, 295 Mont. 438, 983 P.2d 999 (citing State ex rel. StateComp. Mut. Ins. Fund v. Berg, 279 Mont. 161, 180, 927 P.2d 975, 986 (1996)). "[W]e often have held that parties may not assert issues or other matters which were not included in the pretrial order." Travelers, ΒΆ 34 (citations omitted). "More specifically, we previously have held that a district court erred in admitting evidence not listed as an exhibit ...


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