State v. Quist, 2018 SD 30.  Defendant was at a bar in Aberdeen and drinking with his “self-described” best friend.  Defendant and his friend got into an argument about loaned money.  Surveillance video recorded Defendant leaving the bar to smoke a cigarette, with Defendant’s friend also leaving the bar and walking away from Defendant. 

State v. Dunkelberger, 2018 SD 22.  Defendant was indicted of first-degree robbery of a casino after being implicated by his accomplice, who testified against Defendant.  During the direct examination at trial of the detective in the case, the State moved to introduce surveillance video, which Defendant objected to for lack of foundation.  The video

Howlett v. Stellingwerf, 2018 SD 19.  Biological Father appealed from an order granting primary physical custody of his minor child to minor child’s maternal Grandmother.  At the initial custody trial, the trial court found that minor child’s mother had turned over her authority to Grandmother and that the case was really “between Father and

Wyman v. Bruckner, 2018 SD 17.  This case involved a dispute between sisters related to the handling of the financial affairs of their now-deceased Mother.  Plaintiff, as personal representative of the estate, brought this action against Defendant, her sister, premised upon alleged “self-dealing in her capacity as [Mother’s] attorney-in-fact,” and alleging that Defendant improperly

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

Laska v. Barr, 2016 SD 6.  This is the second appeal regarding the interpretation of an agreement titled as a “right of first refusal.”  Through the years, the Laskas executed multiple agreements with Jerry Bar, Pat Cole, and Gerrit Juffer involving real estate in Charles Mix County.  This case involved an agreement entered into on February 3, 2005.  Although the agreement was titled as a “Right of First Refusal,” it also contained a fixed price option.  It also provided a provision that allowed the Barr Partners an opportunity to purchase the property if the Laskas received a bona fide third party offer to purchase all or a portion of the property at issue.  When the Laskas asked the Barr Partners to release their interest in the property, the Barr Partners refused, and a lawsuit was brought.  After a court trial, the trial court found that the language of the agreement unambiguously granted the Barr Partners a right of first refusal that terminated upon the deaths of the Laskas.  The Barr Partners appealed, and, on the first appeal, the Court concluded that the agreement was ambiguous as to whether it created a right of first refusal, an option, or a dual option and directed the court on remand to consider the parol evidence previously received during the court trial.  The Court also directed the trial court to consider whether the 2005 agreement constituted an unreasonable restraint on alienation.  After considering the parol evidence, and after briefing on the question whether the 2005 agreement was an unreasonable restraint on alienation, the trial court concluded that the agreement was a right of first refusal, but that it was void as an unreasonable restraint on alienation.  On the second appeal, the Court, per Retired Justice Wilbur, affirmed.

Continue Reading January 25, 2018, Case Summaries

McDowell v. Sapienza, 2018 S.D. 1.  Property owners constructed a new home on property located within a historic district.  The adjacent owners alleged that the new home violated state regulations on new construction in historic districts as well as a local ordinance governing chimneys.  The adjacent owners sought a mandatory injunction requiring modification or reconstruction of the new home.  The adjacent owners also sued the City of Sioux Falls, alleging negligence in issuing a building permit and failing to enforce the regulations.  The circuit court granted the injunction, and it concluded that the City owed the adjacent owners a duty to properly enforce building codes.  On appeal, the Court, per Justice Zinter, affirmed the issuance of an injunction, concluding that the new construction standards found in ARSD 24:52:07:04 apply to the new home, and that the circuit court therefore did not abuse its discretion in granting an injunction with respect to historic-district regulations.  The circuit court did, however, err in concluding that the new home violated the chimney ordinance, and that the City owed a duty to the adjacent property owners, and, as to that issue, the Court therefore reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

Continue Reading January 4, 2018, Case Summaries

Schott v. S.D. Wheat Growers, 2017 S.D. 91.  Schott, the owner of Corson County Feeders, Inc., sued the South Dakota Wheat Growers Association, alleging that its agronomist incorrectly prescribed a herbicide that Schott sprayed on his 2014 sunflower crop.  The herbicide was not labeled for use on all of Schott’s sunflowers, and 1,200 acres were destroyed.  The circuit court granted the Wheat Growers summary judgment, ruling that Schott assumed the risk.  On appeal, the Court, per Justice Zinter, reversed and remanded, concluding that genuine issues of material fact existed concerning Schott’s knowledge and appreciation of the risk.

Continue Reading December 28, 2017, Case Summaries

Berggren v. Schonebaum, 2017 S.D. 89.  This case involves a motion to disqualify opposing counsel for a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.  Meendering alleged that he had met with the opposing counsel and discussed the money he loaned Schonebaum, and that, during the meeting, Fischer failed to disclose that he represented Berggren in a lawsuit against Schonebaum.  After the meeting, the opposing counsel sent Meendering a letter, explaining that he was currently involved in a lawsuit against Schonebaum and requested that Meendering contact him by phone to speak about Schonebaum.  Schonebaum and Meendering claim Meendering and Fischer later spoke over the phone.  Two months later, Berggren amended his complaint against Schonebaum to include Meendering as a defendant.  Meendering filed a motion to disqualify opposing counsel for an alleged violation of the South Dakota Rules of Professional Conduct.  Meendering also sought attorneys’ fees from opposing counsel for costs incurred in bringing the motion.  The circuit court, citing Jacobson v. Leisinger, 2008 S.D. 19, 746 N.W.2d 739 (Leisinger II), granted the motion.  In imposing fees, the court reasoned that the sanctions were appropriate because the motion to disqualify was “other litigation” resulting from opposing counsel’s alleged ethical violation.  On appeal, the Court, per Justice Kern, reversed, holding that opposing counsel’s alleged violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct did not result in “other litigation” comprehended by Leisinger II or the precedent on which it relies, and his conduct did not necessitate further litigation to protect a property right. It was a component of the same, not other, litigation. Further, the procedural requirements for Rule 11 sanctions were not met, and the Court therefore declined to address whether a sanction was proper under Rule 11.

Continue Reading December 21, 2017, Case Summaries

Streff v. State Farm Mut’l Auto. Ins. Co., 2017 SD 83.  SDCL 58-11-9.4 requires underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage in “motor vehicle liability polic[ies]” of insurance.  The Streffs purchased a motor vehicle liability policy from one insurer and also purchased a personal liability umbrella policy from a separate but related insurer.  Both policies provided UIM coverage, but both excluded coverage for accidents caused by government vehicles.  When Jody was injured in an accident involving a government vehicle, a dispute arose concerning the enforceability of the exclusions.  The circuit court ruled that the exclusion was not enforceable in the motor vehicle liability policy but was enforceable in the umbrella policy.  The Streffs appealed, and the Court, per Justice Severson (on reassignment), reversed, holding that the South Dakota UIM statute is not limited to primary insurance policies, and that the statute contemplates additional coverage.  Thus, by extension, umbrella policies that include UIM coverage are subject to the same public policy prohibitions on the exception of government vehicles from UIM coverage.  Justices Zinter and Kern dissented.

Continue Reading December 14, 2017, Case Summaries