Justia Alaska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
by
A man’s condominium unit had the only access to a crawl space containing water pipes that served several other units. The condominium association’s president and a maintenance man entered the unit twice, with the owner’s permission, to address water-related maintenance issues in the crawl space, where they identified what they thought were serious problems of leaking and mold. But the unit owner denied their further requests for access to deal with these problems. The association brought suit against the unit owner, alleging that he had caused damage by concealing the leaking in the crawl space and making his own negligent repairs; it also asked for a declaratory judgment concerning its right of entry. The superior court, after an evidentiary hearing, granted a preliminary injunction allowing further inspections. After those inspections revealed that repairs were not needed after all, the association dropped its negligence claim. But it moved for summary judgment on its request for declaratory relief, which the superior court granted, deciding that the association’s declaration allowed reasonable entry for purposes of inspection and repair. The unit owner appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the superior court did not abuse its discretion in issuing the preliminary injunction or err in granting summary judgment on the claim for declaratory relief. Nor did the Court find any abuse of discretion in the superior court’s procedural rulings or its award of attorney’s fees to the association. View "Randle v. Bay Watch Condominium Association" on Justia Law

by
The superior court dismissed a subcontractor’s claims against the contractor because a venue provision in the subcontract required that litigation be conducted in another state. The superior court also dismissed the subcontractor’s unjust enrichment claim against the project owner for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The subcontractor appealed the dismissals; finding no reversible error, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s decisions. View "Resqsoft, Inc. v. Protech Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

by
An oil producer challenged an Alaska Department of Revenue advisory bulletin interpreting the oil tax code, arguing that the bulletin violated the Alaska Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and seeking a declaratory judgment that the interpretation was contrary to law. The Alaska Supreme Court determined the advisory bulletin could not be challenged under the APA because it was not a regulation, and that a declaratory judgment was not available because the tax dispute between the parties was not ripe. View "Exxon Mobil Corporation v. Alaska, Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

by
Nora D. was an 82-year-old woman residing in an assisted living facility. She suffered a stroke in April 2016, and she reportedly continued to suffer resulting physical and mental limitations. In 2017 Nora gave her son, Cliff, a general power of attorney. In 2018 Adult Protective Services petitioned for a conservatorship to protect Nora’s finances and property after the office received reports of harm alleging that Cliff had made decisions not in Nora’s best interests. The Office of Public Advocacy (OPA) was appointed as Nora’s conservator in 2018. In September 2019 Nora’s daughter Naomi petitioned for a full guardianship for Nora. Naomi alleged that a guardianship was necessary because Nora was unable to attend to her own physical needs and Cliff was unable to care for Nora. A day later Naomi’s son Kevin petitioned for review of the conservatorship, and sought appointment as Nora’s guardian, which could replace OPA’s conservatorship. The superior court ordered a Nora attend a psychiatric evaluation and answer all questions posed to her by Kevin’s retained expert. But the guardianship statute provided that a respondent may refuse to answer questions during examinations and evaluations. The only exception to that statute applied in an interview to determine whether the respondent has capacity to make informed decisions about care and treatment services. The Alaska Supreme Court granted the Nora’s petition for review to consider the scope of the statute’s protection, and the Supreme Court concluded that Nora could refuse to answer any questions other than those directed at determining her capacity to make personal medical decisions. The Supreme Court therefore vacated the superior court’s order and remanded for further proceedings. View "In the Matter of the Protective Proceeings of Nora D." on Justia Law

by
After two fishing boats collided at sea, the owner of one of the boats sued the other. Among his claims was an alleged violation of Alaska’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act (UTPA). After the case settled, he requested full attorney’s fees under the UTPA. The superior court instead awarded fees under Alaska Civil Rule 82. The owner appealed. Finding no reversible error in the award, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court. View "Cook v. Quashnick" on Justia Law

by
Two police officers retired from the Anchorage Police Department (APD) due to discrimination and retaliation. Years later, a jury found that they had been constructively discharged and awarded them lost past wages and benefits. The officers requested that the Anchorage Police and Fire Retirement System (APFRS) increase their retirement benefits based on the award of lost wages. When the APFRS Board denied their request, they appealed to the superior court. The superior court affirmed the Board’s decision and awarded it attorney’s fees. The officers appealed the court’s decision denying them an increase in retirement benefits, arguing that the Anchorage Municipal Code required a recalculation of benefits. They also appealed the attorney’s fee award as unreasonably high. Because the Anchorage Municipal Code did not permit the requested increase in retirement benefits, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s order denying the officers’ administrative appeal. Because the superior court did not abuse its discretion when it awarded fees, the attorney’s fee award was also affirmed. View "Kennedy et al. v. Anchorage Police & Fire Retirement System et al." on Justia Law

by
A homeowner sought to rescind a foreclosure sale, arguing the notices he received before the sale were deficient because they lacked information required under state and federal law. The notices were sent by a law firm acting on behalf of a bank, which by assignment was the beneficiary of the deed of trust. The superior court granted summary judgment to the bank, determining that the law firm’s communications on the bank’s behalf did not violate the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the Alaska Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act (UTPA), or the state nonjudicial foreclosure statute, and that the homeowner was not entitled to relief. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court concurred with the superior court and affirmed its judgment. View "Wendt v. Bank of New York Mellon Trust Company, N.A." on Justia Law

by
A cannery worker reported two injuries: one to his back and one to his shoulder. He suffered these injuries at different times but while working for the same employer. The employer paid some medical benefits for both injuries but eventually challenged its obligation to provide further care. The Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board denied the worker’s claim for more medical benefits, and the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission affirmed the Board’s decision. The worker appealed pro se. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the Commission properly affirmed the Board’s decision as to the back injury, but that the Board’s findings as to the shoulder injury lacked adequate support in the record. The Commission’s decision was therefore reversed in part and remanded for further proceedings. View "Espindola v. Peter Pan Seafoods, Inc." on Justia Law

by
An Alaskan superior court denied a father’s motion to modify a foreign court’s custody determination because it did not believe it had subject matter jurisdiction to modify the order under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The father appealed, arguing the superior court erred when it held that it did not have jurisdiction. Because the superior court correctly determined that it lacked jurisdiction to modify the custody order, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed. View "Christensen v. Seckin" on Justia Law

by
After the Department of Corrections (DOC) investigated an allegation that a probation officer was providing special treatment in return for sexual favors and found it to be unsubstantiated, the probation officer sought the investigation records. DOC denied his request and the probation officer appealed to the superior court, which reversed the denial and ordered the records released because the allegation had not been substantiated. DOC appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court reversed the superior court’s order because the records were shielded from disclosure by the invasion of privacy exemption to the Public Records Act. View "Alaska Department of Corrections v. Porche" on Justia Law