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Gould Ranch Cattle Co. v. Irish Black Cattle Association

Supreme Court of Montana

November 12, 2019

GOULD RANCH CATTLE COMPANY, a Colorado corporation, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
IRISH BLACK CATTLE ASSOCIATION, a Montana non-profit corporation, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: August 21, 2019

          District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, In and For the County of Missoula, Cause No. DV 17-684 Honorable John W. Larson, Presiding Judge.

          For Appellant: Richard A. Reep, Cory R. Laird, Seamus M. Molloy, Reep, Bell, Laird & Jasper, P.C., Missoula, Montana

          For Appellee: Jeffrey M. Roth, Jeffrey R. Kuchel, Crowley Fleck PLLP, Missoula, Montana

          OPINION

          Jim Rice, 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 Irish Black Cattle Association (IBCA) challenges the preliminary injunction entered by the Fourth Judicial District Court, Missoula County, enjoining IBCA from making any efforts to terminate or negatively impact the membership of Gould Ranch Cattle Company (GRCC) within the IBCA during the pendency of these proceedings.

         ¶3 The preliminary injunction was entered after this Court reversed the District Court's earlier entry of a permanent injunction against IBCA in favor of GRCC, and remanded the matter "for consideration of Gould Ranch's request for a preliminary injunction and the appropriateness of injunctive relief, and for the District Court to make sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law." Gould Ranch Cattle Co. v. Irish Black Cattle Ass'n, 2018 MT 80N, ¶ 9, 392 Mont. 551, 414 P.3d 1248 (Gould I). The background of the dispute leading to this proceeding is set forth in Gould I and will not be repeated here. Gould I, ¶¶ 2-6. Simply, "[t]o prevent [IBCA] from adversely affecting its membership in [IBCA], . . . [GRCC] filed suit under the Montana Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act §§ 27-8-101 to -313, MCA; a request for preliminary and permanent injunctive relief; and a violation of § 35-2-520, MCA, on the basis that [IBCA's] decisions were allegedly contrary to its bylaws." Gould I, ¶ 6.

         ¶4 Upon remand, the District Court conducted a hearing and granted a preliminary injunction, entering an extensive order upon numerous findings of fact and conclusions of law. It found GRCC had, at least, been threatened with irreparable damage by IBCA's 22-month delay in issuing registration certificates for sales of GRCC's cattle, and by IBCA's advisement that it had already determined GRCC's issuance of placeholder documentation to cattle buyers constituted 3 incurable violations of the prior settlement agreement of the organization, including that a hearing would be convened to determine if GRCC's membership would be terminated.

         ¶5 "'[M]anifest abuse of discretion' is the appropriate standard for reviewing the granting of a preliminary or permanent injunction. A 'manifest' abuse of discretion is one that is obvious, evident or unmistakable." Shammel v. Canyon Res. Corp., 2003 MT 372, ¶ 12, 319 Mont. 132, 82 P.3d 912. The District Court granted preliminary injunction based on § 27-19-201(1)-(3), MCA, although the statute provides a disjunctive test for relief, and only one subsection must be met to issue the injunction. Sweet Grass Farms, Ltd. v. Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs, 2000 MT 147, ¶ 27, 300 Mont. 66, 2 P.3d 825. Section 27-19-201, MCA, provides in relevant part:

         An injunction order may be granted in the following cases:

(1) when it appears that the applicant is entitled to the relief demanded and the relief or any part of the relief consists in restraining the commission or continuance of the act complained of, either for a limited period or perpetually;
(2) when it appears that the commission or continuance of some act during the litigation would produce a great or irreparable injury to the applicant;
(3) when it appears during the litigation that the adverse party is doing or threatens or is about to do or is procuring or suffering to be done some act in violation of the applicant's rights, respecting the subject of the ...

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