Justia South Dakota Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court dismissed this consolidated appeal brought by the State as to each of three jointly indicted defendants from a trial court order dismissing certain counts of the indictment against them, holding that the State has no right of appeal from the dismissal of counts of an indictment or information. Defendants moved to dismiss several counts of the joint indictment on the grounds of multiplicity. The trial court granted the motion as to counts three through sixteen, leaving some counts of the indictment for further proceedings. The State appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeals, holding that S.D. Codified Laws 23A-32-4 does not authorize an appeal of right from a dismissal of individual counts, and therefore, this Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the State's appeals. View "State v. Steffensen" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's award of employee benefits to Plaintiff, holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to employee benefits under the City of Edgemont's Personnel Manual. Plaintiff sued the City of Edgemont alleging that he was owed employee benefits under the Manual. The circuit court found that Plaintiff was a City employee as of December 3, 2012 but only awarded employee benefits under the Manual after Plaintiff was appointed City Engineer/Code Officer on May 6, 2014. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court correctly denied Plaintiff any additional employee benefits under the Manual from December 3, 2012 to May 6, 2014; (2) the circuit court erred in granting benefits under the Manual from May 6, 2014 through May 5, 2015 because, as a temporary or seasonal employee, Plaintiff did not qualify for the benefits afforded to regular full-time or part-time employees; and (3) Plaintiff was not entitled to attorney fees because he did not prevail on his wage claim. View "Koopman v. City Of Edgemont" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court granting a motion to dismiss this action brought by a group of investors in the federal EB5 immigrant investment program against various agencies that implemented the program in South Dakota, holding that sovereign immunity barred this action. In this case arising from implementation of the EB5 immigration investment program in South Dakota, a group of investors (Claimants) filed an amended complaint against several agencies that implemented the program, alleging fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and aiding and abetting breach and requesting to pierce the corporate veil. The circuit court held that Claimants' suit was barred by sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Claimants failed to show that an express waiver of sovereign immunity applied to the State's activities with the EB5 Program; and (2) therefore, the circuit court properly granted the State's motion to dismiss. View "LP6 Claimants, LLC v. S.D. Department of Tourism & State Development" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court in favor of Appellee in this workers' compensation case, holding that an error led to the exclusion of relevant evidence and incorrect jury instructions that impacted the jury's verdict, which prejudiced Appellants. Fern Johnson sued her former employer and its workers' compensation carrier (collectively, Appellants) alleging bad faith and conversion based on their denial of previously ordered workers' compensation medical benefits. A jury returned a verdict for Johnson. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial, holding (1) the circuit court did not err when it concluded that Appellants' legal obligation to pay Johnson's benefits was not fairly debatable; but (2) the circuit court erred when it determined that the lack of a reasonable basis to deny benefits necessarily impacted the jury's consideration of the separate bad faith element concerning Appellants' knowledge. View "Johnson v. United Parcel Service, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment to Defendant in this breach of contract case, holding that the evidence was sufficient to refute Defendant's argument that the alleged agreement was unenforceable. In granting summary judgment, the circuit court concluded that the alleged agreement relating to the transfer of real property was unenforceable because it was for an unlawful purpose, violated the statute of frauds, and lacked consideration. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the parties' writings sufficiently set forth the substance of the parties' agreement to satisfy the statute of frauds; (2) the circuit court erred when it summarily concluded that the only reason Plaintiff transferred the property was to defraud the IRS; and (3) the evidence was sufficient to refute Defendant's argument that the alleged agreement failed as a matter of law for lack of consideration. View "Hanna v. Landsman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment for Hospital on Nurse's claims for wrongful discharge, breach of contract, and defamation, holding that summary judgment was proper. Hospital terminated Nurse after it discovered errors in Nurse's documentation of controlled substances and Nurse's inability to account for controlled substances revamped from the dispensing system. Nurse brought suit against Hospital alleging several claims. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Hospital on all claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment was properly granted in favor of Hospital. View "Henning v. Avera McKennan Hospital" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's the order of the circuit court granting Defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of Defendant's arrest, holding that the circuit court erred when it refused to consider the application of the attenuation doctrine and suppressed the evidence. Defendant was charged with possession of methamphetamine and false impersonation. Before trial, Defendant moved to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of her interaction with police officers on the grounds that the officers lacked reasonable suspicion to detain her. The circuit court granted the motion to suppress. Despite the State's argument that the attenuation doctrine applied, the circuit court did not analyze the applicability of the attenuation doctrine. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the connection between Defendant's detention and the subsequent search was interrupted by the discovery of the existence of a valid, preexisting and unrelated warrant, the attenuation factors weighed in favor of the State. View "State v. Mousseaux" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying Plaintiff's request for attorney fees under S.D. Codified Laws 60-11-24 after Plaintiff prevailed in an action seeking unpaid wages, holding that because this case was removed for a bench trial section 60-11-24 did not apply and Plaintiff was not entitled to recover attorney fees. After Defendant fired Plaintiff, Plaintiff brought an action in small claims court for unpaid wages. Defendant removed the action to circuit court, which ruled in favor of Plaintiff. Plaintiff requested attorney fees under section 60-11-24. The circuit court denied the request because the removal statute referenced in section 60-11-24 had been repealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in concluding that it could not award reasonable attorney fees under section 60-11-24 because of the repeal of S.D. Codified Laws 15-39-59; and (2) while attorney fees remain recoverable under section 60-11-24 for small claims cases removed to circuit court for a jury trial, this case was removed for a bench trial. View "Goin v. Houdashelt" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's judgment declining to declare that the City of Rapid City unlawfully bargained away its police power when it entered into a settlement agreement with Epic Outdoor Advertising under which the City agreed to amend certain sign ordinances and grant Epic two sign permits, holding that the circuit court did not err. Lamar Advertising brought this appeal. By notice of review, Epic asserted that the circuit court erred in denying its request that the court declare invalid a similar settlement agreement executed between Lamar and the City. The Supreme Court affirmed in all respects, holding (1) because the City did not contract away its police powers by agreeing to amend the sign code, and because Lamar did not establish that the City acted unreasonably or arbitrarily when it amended the sign code, the circuit court did not err in denying Lamar's motion for summary judgment requesting a declaration that the settlement agreement and the ordinance agreements were invalid; (2) challenges to the granting of permits, such as those brought by Lamar, must be pursued through the administrative process; and (3) the circuit court did not err in failing to find the settlement agreement previously entered into between Lamar and the City invalid. View "Lamar Advertising Of South Dakota, LLC v. City of Rapid City" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's judgment summarily dismissing Petitioners' request that the court declare an original trust and its first amendment valid, holding that the circuit court erred. After the settlor of the trust died, Petitioners filed a petition requesting judicial supervision of the trust under S.D. Codified Laws 21-22-9. Petitioners further requested a declaration of the validity of the original trust and its first amendment, arguing that subsequent amendments were invalid. The circuit court granted a successor trustee's motion for judgment on the pleadings, concluding that a challenge to the validity of a trust cannot be asserted in a petition for judicial supervision but could only be commenced via service of summons within one year after the settlor's death. The circuit court granted the successor trustee's motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a circuit court may consider the validity of a trust in a petition for judicial supervision, and therefore, Petitioners' petition, which included a request that the circuit court determine the validity of the trust amendments, property commenced a judicial proceeding; and (2) the trust challenge was timely because Petitioners filed their petition within the one-year timeframe after the settlor's death. View "In re Carver Revocable Trust" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates