Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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A former agent appointed under a power of attorney, successfully defended an accounting of his actions, expenditures, and fees against objections and counterclaims by his former principal. At issue in this appeal was whether the former agent was entitled to reimbursement from his former principal for reasonable attorney’s fees incurred in maintaining that defense. The superior court denied the agent’s request for attorney’s fees because the dispute occurred in the context of a guardianship proceeding and because the request did not meet the requirements of AS 13.26.291, which governed cost-shifting in guardianship proceedings. The agent appealed, arguing: (1) AS 13.26.291 did not apply; (2) that he was entitled to attorney’s fees based on his authority as an agent to hire an attorney under AS 13.26.665(m); and (3) he was entitled to attorney’s fees based on common law principles, equity, and considerations of public policy. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded neither statute applied, but that the agent could be entitled to reimbursement of his attorney’s fees under the common law of agency and as a matter of equity. The Court therefore reversed the superior court’s order and remanded for further proceedings. View "Cottini v. Berggren" on Justia Law

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In issuing a divorce decree between Terrace Solomon and Wendy Barnes (formerly Solomon), the issue of custody was reserved to be decided at a later trial. Before the custody trial could be held, Terrace was arrested and held in a United States Army prison outside Alaska. The superior court repeatedly continued the custody trial to allow Terrace’s counsel to get in contact with Terrace and arrange for his telephonic appearance at trial. But after about a year had passed, the court refused to further continue the matter. A short custody trial was held; Terrace was absent but represented by counsel. The court awarded sole legal custody and sole physical custody to Wendy. The court determined, among other things, that Terrace had a history of perpetrating domestic violence, triggering a presumption against awarding him custody. On appeal Terrace claimed the superior court abused its discretion when it refused to further continue the custody trial. Terrace also claimed the court erred in concluding he had a history of domestic violence: he contended the record was inadequate to support that conclusion and the court did not make the requisite findings to support it. The Alaska Supreme Court agreed the superior court’s domestic violence findings were insufficient and thus vacated the court’s determination concerning the domestic violence presumption. The Court otherwise affirmed the superior court’s judgment. View "Solomon v. Solomon" on Justia Law

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In issuing a divorce decree between Terrace Solomon and Wendy Barnes (formerly Solomon), the issue of custody was reserved to be decided at a later trial. Before the custody trial could be held, Terrace was arrested and held in a United States Army prison outside Alaska. The superior court repeatedly continued the custody trial to allow Terrace’s counsel to get in contact with Terrace and arrange for his telephonic appearance at trial. But after about a year had passed, the court refused to further continue the matter. A short custody trial was held; Terrace was absent but represented by counsel. The court awarded sole legal custody and sole physical custody to Wendy. The court determined, among other things, that Terrace had a history of perpetrating domestic violence, triggering a presumption against awarding him custody. On appeal Terrace claimed the superior court abused its discretion when it refused to further continue the custody trial. Terrace also claimed the court erred in concluding he had a history of domestic violence: he contended the record was inadequate to support that conclusion and the court did not make the requisite findings to support it. The Alaska Supreme Court agreed the superior court’s domestic violence findings were insufficient and thus vacated the court’s determination concerning the domestic violence presumption. The Court otherwise affirmed the superior court’s judgment. View "Solomon v. Solomon" on Justia Law

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A husband and wife divorced after 40 years of marriage. The wife appealed the superior court’s decision to equally divide their marital property, which consisted primarily of retirement benefits and debt. The superior court declined to consider how the couple’s Social Security benefits affected a fair distribution, believing that Alaska Supreme Court case law precluded it from doing so. But the Supreme Court held that although federal law prohibited any allocation of the parties’ Social Security benefits, the court could consider them as evidence of the parties’ financial condition in crafting an equitable division of the marital property. The wife raised a number of other challenges to the property division, but the Supreme Court concluded they lacked merit. The Court vacated the order dividing the marital property and remanded for further consideration in light of the parties’ Social Security benefits. View "Dunmore v. Dunmore" on Justia Law

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A couple divorced after nearly 30 years of marriage. The husband appealed the superior court’s valuation of his corporate stock and its characterization of the wife’s retirement health benefits as non-marital property. The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the court’s stock valuation, but reversed its characterization of the retirement health benefits as non-marital. The Court therefore remanded for valuation of the health benefits and reconsideration of the equitable distribution of the marital estate. View "Wiegers v. Richards-Wiegers" on Justia Law

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The City of Juneau kept a campground open through the winter to accommodate the local homeless population. A campground resident was shot and severely injured. He sued the municipality for damages, arguing primarily that the municipality did not do enough to prevent alcohol-related violence at the campground. He also argued that the campground’s caretaker performed his duties negligently, that this negligence precipitated the shooting, and that the municipality was vicariously liable for the caretaker’s actions. The superior court granted summary judgment for the municipality on all claims, concluding the municipality could not, under the doctrine of discretionary function immunity, be liable for any decision requiring “deliberation” and “judgment.” It also concluded that the municipality was not vicariously liable for the caretaker’s alleged negligence because his challenged actions were outside the scope of his employment. The shooting victim appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the application of discretionary function immunity to bar some of his claims was error, as they related to “operational” rather than “planning” decisions. Furthermore, the Court found genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment on the shooting victim’s claims for negligent supervision and vicarious liability. Therefore, the Court affirmed the superior court’s judgment in part, reversed it in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Lane v. City & Borough of Juneau" on Justia Law

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The City of Juneau kept a campground open through the winter to accommodate the local homeless population. A campground resident was shot and severely injured. He sued the municipality for damages, arguing primarily that the municipality did not do enough to prevent alcohol-related violence at the campground. He also argued that the campground’s caretaker performed his duties negligently, that this negligence precipitated the shooting, and that the municipality was vicariously liable for the caretaker’s actions. The superior court granted summary judgment for the municipality on all claims, concluding the municipality could not, under the doctrine of discretionary function immunity, be liable for any decision requiring “deliberation” and “judgment.” It also concluded that the municipality was not vicariously liable for the caretaker’s alleged negligence because his challenged actions were outside the scope of his employment. The shooting victim appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the application of discretionary function immunity to bar some of his claims was error, as they related to “operational” rather than “planning” decisions. Furthermore, the Court found genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment on the shooting victim’s claims for negligent supervision and vicarious liability. Therefore, the Court affirmed the superior court’s judgment in part, reversed it in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Lane v. City & Borough of Juneau" on Justia Law

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A corporate shareholder sought a shareholder list to mail proxy solicitations for an annual director election. The corporation required a signed confidentiality agreement in exchange for releasing the list. After obtaining and using the list, the shareholder later declared the agreement unenforceable, and refused to return or destroy the list. The corporation sued, seeking to that the shareholder had breached the confidentiality agreement and that the corporation was not obligated to provide the shareholder access to its confidential information for two years. After the superior court refused to continue trial or issue written rulings on the shareholder’s two pending summary judgment motions, the shareholder declined to participate in the trial. The court proceeded, ruled in favor of the corporation, and denied the shareholder’s subsequent disqualification motion. The shareholder appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court determined the superior court did not err in determining the shareholder had materially breached a valid, enforceable contract and did not err or abuse its discretion in its pretrial decisions or in denying the post-trial disqualification motion. But because the declaratory relief granted by the superior court regarding the shareholder’s statutory right to seek corporate information no longer pertained to a live controversy, the Court vacated it as moot without considering the merits. View "Pederson v. Arctic Slope Regional Corporation" on Justia Law

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An asphalt plant operator threw a can at a driver waiting outside his truck to get his attention, striking him in the back. The driver dropped to his hands and knees after being struck, and went to an emergency room for medical treatment. The driver brought negligence and battery claims against the plant operator and his employer, but was awarded minimal damages after trial. The driver appealed, challenging several of the superior court’s decisions regarding jury instructions, evidentiary rulings, and pre- and post-trial orders. But because the Alaska Supreme Court found no error in the superior court’s decisions, it affirmed. View "Lindbo v. Colaska, Inc." on Justia Law

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A family rushed to the scene of a car accident, only to discover that it had been caused by a family member, who soon thereafter died from her traumatic injuries. The family brought a bystander claim against the deceased family member’s estate for negligent infliction of emotional distress, making the novel argument that, even though the family member was also the tortfeasor, the family could recover for its resulting emotional distress. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of the estate, reasoning that the family’s claim had no basis in current Alaska law. The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed, concurring that the family’s claim had no basis in Alaska law and also failed to satisfy the test set forth in D.S.W. v. Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, 628 P.2d 554, 555 (Alaska 1981) regarding expanding tort liability. View "Schack v. Schack" on Justia Law