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A commercial tenant breached its lease and owed unpaid rent. The landlord sued and obtained a writ of attachment against any funds owed the tenant from Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). DHSS replied to the writ by stating it owed nothing to the tenant because a recent audit showed the tenant owed DHSS $1.4 million. Without responding to DHSS’s reply the landlord moved for a writ of execution against DHSS, which the superior court denied after finding there were no funds to attach. The court denied the landlord’s motion for reconsideration, as well as its request for a hearing to examine DHSS. The landlord appealed the denial of its motion for reconsideration and sought a remand for a hearing to examine DHSS. In affirming the superior court, the Alaska Supreme Court concluded the superior court was correct in denying reconsideration of its order regarding the writ of execution. View "Arcticorp v. C Care Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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A man asserted in a probate proceeding that he was the decedent’s son and requested a paternity determination. The personal representative opposed the request, arguing that a paternity determination could not be made in a probate proceeding and that this particular paternity determination was barred by a statute of limitations. The superior court agreed that probate proceedings were not appropriate for paternity determinations and rejected the man’s request, but it did not rule on the statute of limitations issue. The court later determined that the man was not an interested person to the probate proceeding and barred him from further participation. On appeal, the Alaska Supreme Court disagreed a probate hearing was not appropriate for a paternity determination, and a request for one during a probate proceeding was not barred by any statute of limitations. Therefore, the Court reversed the probate court and remanded for further proceedings. View "Estate of Seward" on Justia Law

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Landowners sued their neighbors over use of a well and an access easement, and the neighbors counterclaimed for damages caused by interference with their water rights and loss of access to their cabin. The superior court ruled in favor of the neighbors following trial and awarded them compensatory loss-of-use damages, as well as full attorney’s fees based in part on a finding that the landowners had engaged in vexatious and bad faith conduct. The landowners appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the superior court did not clearly err in the findings underlying its damages award, and it did not abuse its discretion in its award of full attorney’s fees to the neighbors. View "Keenan v. Meyer" on Justia Law

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Property Owners appealed special assessments that the Anchorage Municipal Assembly levied on their lots to pay for recently constructed road, water, and sewer improvement projects benefiting the lots. The Property Owners claimed the special assessments improperly included nearly $1 million in costs from another municipal utility project unrelated to the improvements built for the benefit of their lots. They also claimed the special assessments exceeded limits set by ordinance and that the assessed costs were disproportionate to the benefits provided by the improvements, violating municipal ordinance, charter, and state law. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court concluded the Assembly’s allocation of costs among these projects was supported by substantial evidence and that the ordinance limit the Property Owners relied on did not apply to these assessments. Furthermore, the Court concluded the Property Owners did not rebut the presumption of correctness that attached to the Assembly’s proportionality decisions. Therefore, the Court affirmed the superior court’s decision affirming the Assembly’s special assessment determinations. View "Fink v. Municipality of Anchorage" on Justia Law

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The North Slope Borough discharged employee Tom Nicolos after he made statements that Borough employees interpreted as threats. Nicolos appealed the superior court’s order approving the Borough Personnel Board’s decision affirming his discharge. He claimed his statements did not constitute threats or other misconduct under the Borough’s personnel rules and that the Borough failed to conduct an adequate investigation into his alleged misconduct before terminating him. Nicolos also claimed that his purportedly threatening statements were manifestations of a disability and that his discharge violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Alaska Human Rights Act (AHRA). We reject Nicolos’s claims of error and affirm the judgment of the superior court approving the Personnel Board’s decision. Th Alaska Supreme Court found substantial evidence supporting the Board’s finding that Nicolos told a counselor that he had a premeditated plan to kill his supervisor, coworker, and others. This finding, combined with the undisputed evidence about Nicolos’s earlier conversation with his supervisor, justified the Board’s conclusion that Nicolos had violated the personnel rules on workplace violence. These violations were the basis for Nicolos’s discharge. The Board found that Nicolos was not terminated on the basis of prejudice: Nicolos did not argue, and has not shown, that he was terminated due to prejudice against him as a disabled person. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's approval of the Personnel Board's discharge decision. View "Nicolos v. North Slope Borough" on Justia Law

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A father requested primary physical custody of his daughter, modifying a previous shared custody arrangement. The mother opposed the change, arguing there had not been a substantial change in circumstances. The superior court ordered a limited custody investigation to resolve a factual dispute related to the change in circumstances, promising a second hearing on the daughter’s best interests. But after the custody investigator reported that the daughter wanted to live with the father, the court granted the father primary physical custody without holding a second hearing. The mother appealed, arguing solely that her due process rights were violated by the failure to hold the second hearing. The Alaska Supreme Court vacated the custody modification and remanded for further proceedings because the failure to hold the second hearing denied the mother due process. View "Laura B. v. Wade B." on Justia Law

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In 2009 Calvin Miller purchased from June Fowler by warranty deed an eight-unit, three-story apartment building located in Anchorage. Miller filed suit to bar the seller’s attempt to foreclose on the property after he stopped making payments. Miller also alleged that the seller had misrepresented the condition of the building’s sewer lines at the time of sale. The superior court granted summary judgment in the seller’s favor on all of the misrepresentation claims on the basis that they were barred by the statute of limitations. During the trial, the superior court denied the purchaser leave to amend his complaint. After a bench trial on the remaining claims, the superior court concluded that the seller did not wrongfully foreclose on the building because the purchaser was in default. Miller appealed these three decisions. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court reversed the grant of summary judgment because the seller failed to establish an absence of material fact issues regarding when the purchaser’s causes of action accrued. The Court vacated the order denying the wrongful foreclosure claim because the superior court erred when it found the purchaser in default. The Court affirmed the denial of the purchaser’s motion to amend. View "Miller v. Fowler" on Justia Law

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Aurora Landau was a dancer at the Showboat Show Club in Anchorage. She filed a complaint against Showboat Show Club Anchorage, LLC, seeking to recover unpaid wages, overtime compensation, and impermissible deductions from her earnings. Her suit also named the LLC’s two members and managers, Terry Stahlman and James Goard. Stahlman, also the LLC’s registered agent, was personally served a summons and complaint for all three defendants at his Anchorage residence, which was listed in the LLC’s state licensing reports as the entity’s principal office and both Stahlman’s and Goard’s member address. One of the owners died while the suit was pending, and Landau substituted the owner’s estate in the proceedings. Judgment was eventually entered in favor of the former employee. A year later the deceased owner’s widow moved for relief from the judgment as the sole beneficiary of his estate, arguing that neither her husband nor the estate had been properly served with notice of the suit. The former employee responded that service had been proper and that, in any case, the widow did not have authority to file a motion on behalf of the estate. The court denied the motion on the ground that the widow had not shown good cause for relief from the judgment. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed on the alternate ground that the widow did not have authority to act on the estate’s behalf. View "Hester v. Landau" on Justia Law

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The Alaska Supreme Court granted this petition for review to consider how the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) affected Alaska personal injury case law allowing a defendant ex parte contact with a plaintiff’s doctors as a method of informal discovery. The issue the Court requested the parties specifically brief was whether the federal law preempted Alaska case law, or, if not, whether federal law otherwise required us to overrule or modify our case law. After review, the Court concluded the federal law did not preempt existing Alaska case law. But the Court also concluded it should overrule the case law because its foundations "have been eroded by a cultural shift in views on medical privacy and new federal procedural requirements undermining the use of ex parte contact as an informal discovery measure." The Court therefore held that - absent voluntary agreement - a defendant may not make ex parte contact with a plaintiff’s treating physicians without a court order, which generally should not be issued absent extraordinary circumstances. "We believe that formal discovery methods are more likely to comply with the federal law and promote justice and that such court orders rarely, if ever, will be necessary." View "Jones v. Drury" on Justia Law

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This appeal was one in a series of successive appeals brought by Kenneth Manning challenging the moose and caribou subsistence hunt regulations that governed a portion of southcentral Alaska. Manning filed this lawsuit in 2013 challenging the eligibility criteria for subsistence hunt permits, the point system for allocating Tier II subsistence permits, and the criteria for establishing nonsubsistence hunting areas. While these claims were pending, the Alaska Supreme Court issued a 2015 decision resolving similar claims brought by Manning in an earlier suit. Manning then moved to amend his complaint in this case and to add an individual official as a defendant. The superior court denied both motions, concluding that amendment would be futile because all of Manning’s claims would fail under Supreme Court precedent. The superior court also denied the State’s motion for attorney’s fees, concluding that Manning was exempt from an adverse attorney’s fees award under the constitutional litigant exception. Manning appealed the denial of his motion to amend; he also raised various allegations of deprivation of due process. The State cross-appeals the denial of its motion for attorney’s fees. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of the motion to amend because Manning failed to adequately brief (thus forfeiting) his arguments on some of the counts, and the remaining counts would have been futile. And the Court affirmed the denial of attorney’s fees to the State because none of Manning’s claims were frivolous. View "Manning v. Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game" on Justia Law