Articles Posted in South Dakota Supreme Court

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Three individuals (the Conservators) were appointed guardians and conservators of Mary Novotny. The Conservators established the Mary D. Novotny Trust. Catherine Novotny was a beneficiary of the Trust, and the conservators were the trustees. When a dispute over the Trust arose between the trustees and Catherine, the circuit court granted reimbursement of expenses to the trustees. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the Conservators and awarded them reimbursement and future expenses. Catherine appealed. The Supreme Court remanded, holding that there was no evidence in the record that supported the basis for reimbursement under S.D. Codified Laws 55-3-13, and therefore, the circuit court erred in granting the Conservators’ motions for expenses. View "In re Guardianship of Novotny" on Justia Law

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Appellant, a forty-eight-year-old who lived independently for two decades, had "borderline intellectual functioning," an expressive language disorder, and a learning disorder. Appellant applied for Home and Community Based Services (HCBS), a federal-state Medicaid Waiver program that provides assistance to individuals with developmental disabilities. The South Dakota Department of Human Services (the Department) denied Appellant's application, determining that Appellant was not eligible for HCBS. After a hearing, an ALJ affirmed the Department's denial. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court also affirmed, holding that the ALJ did not clearly err in finding that Appellant did not qualify for benefits, as the evidence indicated that Appellant was a generally independent client who was able to function with little supervision or in the absence of a continuous active treatment program. View "Nelson v. Dep't of Social Servs." on Justia Law

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Shirley Murphy (Mrs. Murphy), who was ninety years old at the time of this action, had four adult daughters, Dee, Shirley, Claudia, and Mary (collectively, Daughters). In May 2012, Claudia obtained an appointment as Mrs. Murphy's temporary guardian and conservator. Both Claudia and Shirley petitioned to serve as permanent guardian and conservator. After a trial, the circuit court appointed Claudia permanent guardian and conservator. On September 5, 2012, notice of entry of the order appointing Claudia was served on Daughters. On October 10, 2012, Shirley served notice of her appeal by mail on Mrs. Murphy and Daughters. Claudia moved to dismiss Shirley's appeal as untimely. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that Shirley failed to timely serve her notice of appeal on all the parties to the action, and her appeal must be dismissed. View "In re Guardianship of Murphy" on Justia Law

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When Peggy Nelson was ninety-one years old, she executed a durable power of attorney giving John Rice numerous powers over her personal and financial affairs. When Peggy was ninety-four years old, her niece and nephew petitioned the circuit court to appoint a guardian and conservator for Peggy and her estate, alleging that Rice was plundering Peggy's estate by misuse of the power of attorney. The circuit court subsequently appointed a temporary emergency guardian and conservator for Peggy to protect her personal and financial interests. After the circuit court extended the appointment of the temporary emergency guardian and conservator, Rice requested the court to set aside its previous orders as void due to the court's failure to follow regular procedures in the proceeding. The court denied Rice's petition. Rice appealed, contending that the court's failure to follow the mandates of the South Dakota Guardianship and Conservatorship Act extinguished the court's jurisdiction to appoint the guardian and conservator. The Supreme Court affirmed but remanded the matter for the court to fulfill the requirements of the Act, including its continued administration of the guardianship and conservatorship. View "In re Guardianship of Nelson" on Justia Law

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After undergoing surgery for a heart valve replacement, Kathy Young died. Kathy's husband, Greg Oury, brought this medical malpractice suit on behalf of Kathy's estate, alleging that the doctor who performed the surgery (Doctor) (1) was negligent in recommending the specific procedure that he used in the surgery, the Ross procedure; and (2) failed to obtain Kathy's informed consent because he did not tell her that the Ross procedure was controversial and that Kathy was not a good candidate for the procedure. During the trial, Doctor displayed a chart indicating patient survival rates of various valve replacement surgeries. The court later deemed inadmissible the chart and Doctor's related testimony because the chart had not been disclosed before trial and because the admission lacked foundational support. The jury returned a verdict for Doctor. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial, holding that the circuit court's erroneous admission of Doctor's chart and testimony allowed the jury to hear unsupported and surprise evidence directly related to the issue of informed consent, and there being no clear and timely curative instruction, the evidence in all probability prejudicially influenced the jury in its decision. View "Young v. Oury" on Justia Law

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The parties in this case signed an arbitration agreement providing that arbitration would occur in accordance with the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) Code of Procedure, but the NAF became unavailable to administer its Code and the arbitration. Defendants moved the circuit court to appoint a substitute arbitrator under Section 5 of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). The circuit court concluded that a substitute arbitrator could not be appointed under Section 5 because the NAF Code of Procedure was integral to the parties' agreement to arbitrate and the NAF was unavailable to administer its Code. The Supreme Court reversed after considering the language of the arbitration agreement, the language of the NAF Code, and the federal policy expressed in the FAA, holding that Section 5 applied, and that absent some other defense, Section 5 required the appointment of a substitute arbitrator.

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Employee received workers' compensation benefits for a neck and back injury he suffered in 2002 while working for Employer. After his benefits were discontinued in 2004, Employee sought treatment for a low back condition and petitioned the Department of Labor for workers' compensation benefits. The Department denied the petition, ruling that Employee did not prove his low back condition was related to his original 2002 work injury. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Department correctly denied workers' compensation benefits where Employee failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the 2002 injury was a major contributing cause of his current low back condition.

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Denise Estes filed suit against Dr. David Lonbaken, a podiatrist, for medical malpractice, alleging that Lonbaken negligently treated a neuroma on her foot and seeking damages. Estes filed the complaint in Buffalo County. Lonbaken moved to change venue to Hughes County, claiming Hughes County was the proper venue because Estes' surgery and follow-up treatment took place in Hughes County. The trial court granted Lonbaken's motion to change venue. At issue on appeal was whether Buffalo County was a proper venue for the action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the facts creating the necessity for bringing the action took place exclusively in Hughes County, and as such, the proper venue was Hughes County.

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After self-insured Employer filed for bankruptcy, it continued to take payroll deductions from Employees for medical coverage but stopped paying the provider hospital for the covered charges. The hospital then directly billed Employees for services that should have been paid by Employer. Employees filed suit to stop the hospital's attempts to collect payment, seeking relief under the theories of declaratory judgment, injunction, breach of contract, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and bad faith breach of contract. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the hospital on all of Employees' claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Employees had standing as third party beneficiaries to enforce the provisions of the hospital agreement and payer agreement; and (2) Employees were not obligated to pay for covered medical services under the agreements. Remanded.

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Carlin Jewett was employed as a welder by Real Tuff where Jewett often worked on his knees. In 2006, Jewett suffered a right knee injury. Jewett received arthroscopic surgery, during which the surgeon found pre-existing bilateral osteoarthritis in Jewett's knee. Jewett subsequently filed a petition with the state Department of Labor, seeking workers' compensation for a right knee replacement. Two years later, Jewett suffered a second work-related injury to his left knee. Jewett added a workers' compensation claim for diagnostic treatment of his left knee. The Department and the circuit court ruled that Jewell failed to sustain his burden of proof on the alternate theories that (1) work-related injuries to both knees were a major contributing cause of the need for medical treatment, and (2) the cumulative effect of Jewett's work-related activities was a major contributing cause of the osteoarthritis. On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed, holding the Department and circuit court did not err in finding (1) Jewett's first injury was not a major contributing cause of Jewett's need for a right knee replacement, and (2) Jewett did not prove that working on his knees was a major contributing cause of his osteoarthritis.