Edie v. Gray, 04-222.

Docket NºNo. 04-222.
Citation121 P.3d 516, 2005 MT 224, 328 Mont. 354
Case DateOctober 11, 2005
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Montana
121 P.3d 516
2005 MT 224
328 Mont. 354
Brenda EDIE and Glen Edie, Plaintiffs and Appellants,
Sally GRAY, Defendant and Respondent.
No. 04-222.
Supreme Court of Montana.
Submitted on Briefs January 11, 2005.
Decided September 13, 2005.
Rehearing Denied October 11, 2005.

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Page 518

For Appellants: John C. Doubek, Doubek & Pyfer, LLP, Helena, Montana.

For Respondent: Richard J. Briski, Attorney at Law, Helena, Montana.

Justice PATRICIA O. COTTER delivered the Opinion of the Court.

¶ 1 Brenda and Glen Edie (Edies), appeal from a jury verdict rendered in favor of Sally Gray (Gray) and from the denial of their Motion for Partial Summary Judgment by the First Judicial District Court, Lewis and Clark County. We reverse and remand.


¶ 2 The dispositive issues on appeal are whether the District Court erred in failing to grant partial summary judgment to Edies and whether it abused its discretion in submitting a jury instruction on comparative negligence.


¶ 3 The Edies rented a house from Gray in November 2000. At the time Edies entered into a lease agreement, a stairwell light located on a landing between the upstairs and the basement was not functional. Edies maintain that as a result of diminished lighting, on March 10, 2001, Brenda Edie (Edie), thinking she was at the bottom of the stairs, missed the last step and fell. She suffered a severely broken ankle, which she asserts forced her to quit her job and, which at the time of trial in March 2004, continued to cause her pain.

¶ 4 After Edie fell, Edies filed suit against Gray seeking damages. They asserted Gray was aware the light did not work, but failed to fix it. They argued in their Complaint that Gray had a duty to provide "safe and habitable premises;" that she breached that duty; and the breach was the proximate cause of Edie's fall and damages. Gray in turn filed an answer denying liability by asserting that Edies had agreed to repair the light and had failed to do so. She also filed a third-party complaint against her premises manager Nancy Fuller (Fuller) asserting Fuller was liable for any damages that might have been sustained by Edie.

¶ 5 Edies filed a motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of liability claiming that Gray was negligent as a matter of law. Edies argued that Gray admitted in her third-party Complaint against Fuller that Fuller was Gray's agent and that Fuller "had carelessly and negligently" failed to properly maintain the premises being rented by Edies. They asserted that Gray was liable for the negligent actions of her agent, and as a result of Gray's admission of Fuller's negligence, they were entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law.

¶ 6 The District Court denied Edies' partial summary judgment motion on July 8, 2003, citing the existence of material issues of genuine fact, including Gray's allegation that Edies had agreed to repair the light, but failed to do so, and the fact that Fuller had not yet filed an answer to Gray's third-party complaint, leaving open the question of whether she was Gray's agent, and thus potentially liable.

¶ 7 Subsequently, Edies filed a Motion in Limine requesting an order precluding Gray from "stating, inferring or insinuating that [Edies] had any duty to fix the involved light/light switch." Edies, relying on § 70-24-303(4)(a), MCA, of the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (RLTA), argued that any agreement under which Edies would be required to undertake such repair must be in "a separate writing signed by the parties."

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They asserted that no such written agreement existed.

¶ 8 Gray countered that such a written document did exist. She also argued that Edies should not be allowed to argue the applicability of the RLTA since they had not pled a violation of the Act in their Complaint.

¶ 9 The District Court, in its Order on Motions in Limine, found that the documents presented by Gray purporting to be written evidence of Edies' agreement to perform some maintenance and repair activities either did not indicate that the Edies agreed to repair the light/light switch or were unsigned by all the parties, and therefore were inapplicable. The District Court concluded that the parole evidence rule precluded the admission of the unsigned agreement. Lastly, the court held that Edies' Complaint alleged that Gray "had a duty to provide safe and habitable premises," and that this duty derived directly from § 70-24-303(1)(c), MCA, of the RLTA. The court concluded that "[b]ecause the duty allegedly breached by Gray was imposed by the Act, Gray was given notice that the cause was brought under the Act."

¶ 10 During trial, Edies moved for judgment as a matter of law on liability, which the court denied. Subsequently, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Gray and against Edies. Edies now appeal from the decision of the District Court.


¶ 11 This Court's review of a district court's grant of summary judgment is de novo. Our evaluation is the same as that of the trial court. We apply the criteria contained in Rule 56, M.R.Civ.P. According to this Rule, "the moving party must establish both the absence of a...

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  • Giambra v. Kelsey, 05-335.
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • June 26, 2007
    ...of both parties in reaching its verdict." Reed, 209 Mont. at 207, 680 P.2d at 941. ¶ 50 We reaffirmed this holding in Edie v. Gray, 2005 MT 224, 328 Mont. 354, 121 P.3d 516. In Edie, this Court addressed plaintiffs' claim that a finding of negligence per se bars the defense of contributory ......
  • Olson v. Shumaker Truck. and Excav. Contr., DA 07-0226.
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    ...to prevent plaintiff's injury; and (5) the Legislature intended the statute to regulate a member of defendant's class. Edie v. Gray, 2005 MT 224, ¶ 16, 328 Mont. 354, ¶ 16, 121 P.3d 516, ¶ 16. The District Court concluded that Shumaker's breach of its nondelegable duty under the Montana Saf......
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    ...the sort the statute was enacted to prevent; and (5) the statute was intended to regulate a member of defendant's class. Edie v. Gray , 328 Mont. 354, 121 P.3d 516, 520 (2005). Common law negligence, on the other hand, is the failure to use the degree of care that an ordinarily prudent pers......
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