Stern Oil, Inc. v. Brown, 2018 SD 15. This is the second time this case has been appealed to the Supreme Court. In the first trial, Stern Oil was awarded over $900,000.00 in lost profits related to the breach of fuel supply contracts. However, that verdict was appealed, reversed, and remanded relating to the trial court’s errors in granting summary judgment as to Stern Oil’s breach of contract claims against Brown and the trial court’s denial of Brown’s fraud claims against Stern Oil. Another jury trial was held, which found in favor of Stern Oil in the amount of $260,464.00 plus $143,708.00 in prejudgment interest. After the verdict, Stern Oil submitted a request for attorneys’ fees as there was a provision in the contract between Stern Oil and Brown that the prevailing party would be awarded attorney’s fees. The trial court held that Stern Oil was not the prevailing party and its request for attorneys’ fees was denied. This decision, along with certain issues at trial, were appealed to the Supreme Court of South Dakota
Ultimately, the Supreme Court of South Dakota reversed and remanded for a new trial on Stern Oil’s damages for lost profits. The trial court had erred when it instructed the jury on consequential damages and the foreseeability of Stern Oil’s lost profits to Brown at the time of contracting. The trial court also erred by excluding Stern Oil’s evidence on certain damage scenarios. However, the Supreme Court of South Dakota did uphold the jury’s decision awarding BIP contract damages (reimbursements under the Motor Fuel Supply Agreements) to Stern Oil in the amount of $22,659.00 and denying Stern Oil’s lost profits claim for diesel fuel. As it relates to the request for attorneys’ fees, the Supreme Court of South Dakota reversed Judge Long’s decision that Stern Oil was not the prevailing party, finding that Stern Oil was the party “whose favor the decision or verdict is or should be rendered and judgment entered” based on the jury verdict of $260,464.00 and the jury’s findings in favor of Stern Oil’s breach of contract claim. Therefore, Stern Oil was entitled to attorneys’ fees.
Matter of M.M.W. & Wilkie, 2018 SD 16. This case involved a “son” who was charged with domestic assault of “granddaughter” in Minnesota. In pursuit of prosecution in Minnesota, the Minnesota authorities sought to compel the attendance of “grandfather” and “granddaughter” (the alleged victim), both who resided in South Dakota. The Minnesota trial court made appropriate findings and certified the matter which was then handled by the Moody County State’s Attorney, who filed a motion requesting the South Dakota Circuit Court enter an order summoning granddaughter and grandfather to appear and testify in the Minnesota criminal proceeding. The South Dakota Circuit Court ruled for the state, ordering both grandfather and granddaughter to appear in Minnesota. The Supreme Court of South Dakota affirmed as to the grandfather but reversed and remanded as to the granddaughter, holding that the failure of the circuit court to make adequate findings in considering the hardship issue raised by the granddaughter was an abuse of discretion. The Supreme Court of South Dakota directed the trial court to allow granddaughter to testify so that the record could be further developed, and adequate findings of facts made as it regarded granddaughter’s claim of hardship.