Oral Argument Schedule
The majority of cases before the Montana Supreme Court are decided based upon the written briefs submitted by the parties. However, the Court may decide that a case requires further discussion, in addition to what the parties have argued in their written briefs. In such cases, oral arguments are scheduled in open session before the Court. Approximately 30 cases a year are scheduled for oral argument.
Oral arguments are tightly structured and timed. The counsel for each party is allowed limited time to make an argument. The times typically range from 20 to 40 minutes and are set forth by the Court in the order setting oral argument.
While this format allows the counsel brief opportunity to further develop their arguments, it also gives the Court an opportunity to ask questions of the attorneys on points which the Court needs clarification.
A majority of oral arguments take place in the Montana Supreme Court Courtroom, located at 215 N. Sanders, Helena, Montana. The Court does schedule a few arguments to be heard in different cities around the State.
All of the oral arguments are open to the public.
--DA 17-0020 DENICE A. STOKKE, a single woman, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. AMERICAN COLLOID COMPANY, a Delaware Corporation; G.K. CONSTRUCTION, INC., a Wyoming Corporation; and JOHN DOES, I-III, Defendants and Appellees. Oral Argument is set for Wednesday, November 8, 2017, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.
Appellant Denise Stokke worked for a company that provided contracted services, including watering roads for dust control, at American Colloid’s (ACC) large bentonite mine on the Montana/Wyoming border. In this action, Stokke seeks damages from ACC for injuries she suffered when she fell while crossing boards to access a water well at the mine. The District Court granted ACC summary judgment, ruling that ACC owed no legal duty to Stokke because general contractors are not liable to the employees of their subcontractors.
On appeal, Stokke argues that ACC is liable for her damages under her separate premises liability claim. She also argues that ACC is liable for her injuries under 3 exceptions to the general rule of no liability for injuries to a subcontractors’ employees: where the general contractor negligently exercises retained control over a subcontractor's work; where the activity is inherently dangerous; or where there is a non-delegable duty based upon contract. ACC argues that none of the three exceptions apply under the facts of this case, and that a determination that there is no duty under the owner-independent contractor liability analysis also results in a finding of no duty under a premises liability theory.
--OP 17-0322 ROBERT D. BASSETT, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. PAUL LAMANTIA; CITY OF BILLINGS, Defendants and Appellees. Oral Argument is set for Wednesday, November 29, 2017, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.
Bassett has filed a federal law suit for damages from injuries he suffered when Billings police officer Lamantia tackled him, in a case of mistaken identity, while the officer was pursuing a criminal suspect.
Under the public duty doctrine as recognized in Montana, law enforcement officers are protected from claims of negligence based on their unique status as public servants. In this case, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has asked the Montana Supreme Court to answer the following question:
Under Montana law, does the public duty doctrine shield a law enforcement officer from liability for negligence where the officer is the direct and sole cause of the harm suffered by the plaintiff?
The Montana Trial Lawyers Association has filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Bassett’s behalf. The Montana County Attorneys Association, Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, the Montana Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Montana Police Protective Association, and the Montana League of Cities and Towns, the International Municipal Lawyers Association, and the Montana Association of Counties have filed friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of Defendants Lamantia and the City of Billings.