BLUE v. BLUE, 2018 SD 58: Plaintiff and Defendant inherited two parcels of land as tenants in common.  Ten years later, Plaintiff commenced an action to partition one of the parcels.  Defendant counterclaimed for partition; for the value of the purported improvements; and for restitution for the time he spent caring for both properties.  The circuit court partitioned the land equally, awarded Defendant owelty, and denied Defendant’s claims for improvements and restitution.  Defendant thereby appealed.

Defendant argued that, based on the principles of quantum meruit and unjust enrichment, he was entitled to compensation for his time and services spent in caring for both parcels of land for over 10 years.  The Supreme Court of South Dakota first denied Defendant’s quantum meruit claim as there was neither an express agreement nor any evidence that established any sort of implied contract between Plaintiff and Defendant for payment of services.  The evidence supported the circuit court’s findings that Plaintiff did not expect or necessarily want Defendant’s services; that Defendant never requested compensation until the falling out; and that no real expectation of payment by Defendant existed.  As such, the facts did not suggest the existence of an implied contract and Defendant’s quantum meruit claim was rightfully denied.

As to Defendant’s unjust enrichment claim, the South Dakota Supreme Court found that Defendant’s services were provided in his own self-interest because of his passion for the land.  The Court also reiterated that Defendant never expected nor requested compensation until the commencement of litigation.  Defendant, “without mistake, coercion, or request” unconditionally conferred a benefit to Plaintiff and was not entitled to restitution.  Thus, the circuit court’s denial of Plaintiff’s unjust enrichment claim was also upheld.

THOMPSON v. BEAR RUNNER, 2018 SD 57: Petitioner filed a petition for a protection order against the Respondent for stalking.  After a hearing, the circuit court granted the petition for a protection order on the grounds that Respondent’s actions and Facebook posts concerning Petitioner amounted to stalking.  Respondent appealed that decision.

The South Dakota Supreme Court agreed with Respondent, holding that the circuit court failed to state what activities or speech it found to be harassing and, thus, inadequate findings were made.  The circuit court’s findings merely parroted the relevant statutory text without further elaboration as to what conduct it considered to constitute stalking—specifically, what it found to be considered harassment.  As such, the circuit court’s decision was reversed and remanded to permit the circuit court to identify which of Respondent’s acts or conduct constituted stalking.