Ally Fin., Inc. v. Stevenson

Decision Date20 November 2018
Docket NumberDA 18-0205
Citation2018 MT 278,393 Mont. 332,430 P.3d 522
Parties ALLY FINANCIAL, INC., Plaintiff, v. Nan L. STEVENSON, Defendant, Third-Party Plaintiff and Appellant, v. Big Sky RV, Inc. ; Donavon Frederickson; and other unknown employees of Big Sky RV, Inc., Third-Party Defendants and Appellees.
CourtMontana Supreme Court

393 Mont. 332
430 P.3d 522
2018 MT 278

ALLY FINANCIAL, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
Nan L. STEVENSON, Defendant, Third-Party Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
Big Sky RV, Inc. ; Donavon Frederickson; and other unknown employees of Big Sky RV, Inc., Third-Party Defendants and Appellees.

DA 18-0205

Supreme Court of Montana.

Submitted on Briefs: September 19, 2018
Decided: November 20, 2018


For Appellant: Caitlin Boland Aarab, Samir F. Aarab, Boland Aarab PLLP, Great Falls, Montana.

For Appellees: John L. Wright, Nicholas A. Whitaker, Halvorson, Mahlen & Wright, P.C., Billings, Montana.

Chief Justice Mike McGrath delivered the Opinion of the Court.

393 Mont. 334

¶1 Defendant, Nan L. Stevenson, appeals from a Twelfth Judicial District order denying her motion to amend her answer, third-party complaint, and counterclaim, and the judgment entered in favor of third-party defendant, Big Sky RV, Inc.1 We reverse.

¶2 This Court restates the issues on appeal as follows:

1. Whether the District Court abused its discretion by denying Stevenson's motion to amend her third-party complaint.

2. Whether the District Court erroneously entered a judgment in favor of Big Sky RV.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

¶3 On July 31, 2014, Nan L. Stevenson (Stevenson) contracted with Big Sky RV in Billings, Montana, to buy a new Jayco 2014 Eagle Premier 375BHFS (fifth-wheel) for $72,595.00. After trade-in and a down payment, she financed the balance through Ally Financial, Inc. (Ally). Big Sky RV assigned the contract to Ally. The contract required Stevenson to pay Ally 180 monthly payments of $378.74. Big Sky RV delivered the fifth-wheel to Stevenson in Fort Benton, Montana, at the end of August 2014.

¶4 On October 3, 2014, Stevenson took the fifth-wheel to RV City, a Jayco Dealership in Huachuca City, Arizona, after experiencing two tire blowouts while driving at highway speeds. Less than two months after Big Sky RV delivered the fifth-wheel to Stevenson, the fifth-wheel required repairs that took more than seven months. RV City's customer work order detailed forty-one separate mechanical, structural, and aesthetic defects wrong with the fifth-wheel, including that its tires were not highway worthy. RV City completed the repairs on May 13, 2015, and returned the fifth-wheel to Stevenson in Fort

393 Mont. 335

Benton, Montana.

¶5 Following numerous exchanges between the parties, Stevenson stopped making payments to Ally in April 2015. On November 9, 2015, Ally filed a complaint in District Court seeking possession of the fifth-wheel based on Stevenson's default under the terms of the contract. Stevenson answered Ally's complaint, and filed counterclaims against Ally and third-party claims against Big Sky RV and its officer Donavon Frederickson. Specifically, Stevenson claimed: (1) breach of contract and violation of duty of good faith and fair dealing, (2) negligence, (3) violation of the Montana Consumer Protection Act, and sought punitive damages against Big Sky RV. Stevenson then incorporated these claims against Ally as Big Sky RV's principal. Ally filed a cross-claim against Big Sky RV for indemnification.

430 P.3d 525

¶6 On February 29, 2016, Big Sky RV moved for judgment on the pleadings. On February 16, 2017, almost one year later, the District Court denied the motion. On March 9, 2017, Big Sky RV filed an interlocutory appeal contesting the District Court's rulings on venue and subject matter jurisdiction. See Ally Fin., Inc. v. Stevenson , 2017 MT 190, 388 Mont. 246, 399 P.3d 899. On April 13, 2017, while Big Sky RV's interlocutory appeal was still pending, Ally moved for summary judgment. Stevenson and Big Sky RV both opposed. By May 19, 2017, Ally's motion was fully briefed and awaiting the District Court's ruling. On August 8, 2017, this Court affirmed the District Court's rulings on venue and subject matter jurisdiction. See Ally Fin., Inc. , ¶ 15.

¶7 On February 7, 2018, co-counsel for Stevenson filed an appearance. On February 15, 2018, before the District Court ruled on Ally's motion for summary judgment, Stevenson moved to amend her pleading. Her motion was within the September 11, 2018 deadline for filing pre-trial motions set by the scheduling order. Specifically, Stevenson sought to: (1) remove Donovan Frederickson as a third-party defendant, (2) clarify her general allegations of fact common to all counts, (3) dismiss all claims against Ally, except breach of contract, and (4) add a fifth claim against Big Sky RV for misrepresentation.

¶8 On March 9, 2018, eleven months after Ally moved for summary judgment, the District Court issued an order denying Stevenson's motion to amend her pleadings and an order partially granting Ally's motion for summary judgment. Left undecided was Ally's claim for indemnification against Big Sky RV. The District Court reasoned that amendment would unduly prejudice Ally and Big Sky RV and that Stevenson's misrepresentation claim was futile because "Stevenson [had] not provided any information, other than the allegations recited in her initial complaint that the RV required extensive repairs."

393 Mont. 336

¶9 Big Sky RV never filed a motion for summary judgment. Nevertheless, on March 20, 2018, Big Sky RV and Donavon Frederickson moved for entry of judgment on Stevenson's third-party claims based on the District Court's partial summary judgment order in favor of Ally. On March 23, 2018, Stevenson filed a brief in response to the motion. On April 2, 2018, the District Court entered judgment in favor of Big Sky RV and Donavon Frederickson. Stevenson appeals the District Court's entry of judgment in favor of Big Sky RV and the order denying her motion to amend. Stevenson is not appealing the summary judgment order in favor of Ally.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶10 A district court has discretion to grant or deny a motion to amend a pleading. This Court reviews a district court's decision to amend for an abuse of discretion. Farmers Coop. Ass'n v. Amsden , LLC, 2007 MT 286, ¶ 12, 339 Mont. 445, 171 P.3d 690.

DISCUSSION

¶11 1. Whether the District Court abused its discretion by denying Stevenson's motion to amend her third-party complaint.

¶12 The District Court denied Stevenson leave to amend, concluding that the proposed amendment unduly prejudiced Ally and Big Sky RV and that Stevenson's amendment was futile. The District Court concluded that Ally and Big Sky RV would be unduly...

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  • Watchtower Bible & Tract Soc'y of N.Y., Inc. v. Mont. Twentieth Judicial Dist. Court
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    • January 26, 2021
    ...grant or deny a motion to amend a pleading and we review a district court's decision to amend for an abuse of discretion. Ally Fin., Inc. v. Stevenson , 2018 MT 278, ¶ 10, 393 Mont. 332, 430 P.3d 522. Rule 15(a) provides for liberal amendment of pleadings, "but does not require amendments i......
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    ...the prejudice suffered by the opposing party against the sufficiency of the moving party's justification for the delay. Ally Fin., Inc. v. Stevenson , 2018 MT 278, ¶ 14, 393 Mont. 332, 430 P.3d 522. Prejudice may arise when the opposing party has already expended "substantial effort and exp......
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    ...$50,000 bond.STANDARD OF REVIEW ¶11 A district court has discretion to grant or deny a motion to amend a pleading. Ally Fin., Inc. v. Stevenson , 2018 MT 278, ¶ 10, 393 Mont. 332, 430 P.3d 522. We therefore review a district court's denial of a motion to amend a pleading for abuse of discre......
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