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Contract Disputes and Property Disputes in Montana

Montana law authorizes the District Courts to hear most civil litigations involving contract and property disputes, and the Courts of Limited Jurisdiction (City, Justice, and Municipal courts) to hear some types of these cases. Usually, a contract or property claim is filed with the courts when alternative dispute resolution models, such as mediation or arbitration, and out-of-court negotiations fail to resolve a matter. Civil actions handled by the limited jurisdiction courts include small claims up to $7,000 in damages, cases that do not exceed $12,000 in damages, and landlord-tenant disputes, among others. Contract disputes occur because of contractual breaches or obligations whereas property disputes are a result of disagreements over real or personal properties.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What are Contract Disputes in Montana?

Contract disputes in Montana come up when two or more parties of a contract disagree on the terms or responsibilities of the contract. These parties include individuals, associations, corporations, firms, political subdivisions, government entities, and any other person or entity who is capable of entering a contract and does.

What are the Most Common Contract Disputes in Montana

Often, contract disputes in Montana happen because of a breach of contract. Other contract disputes may occur because of fraud, unjust enrichment, defective installations, unpaid invoices, mistakes, and more. Contracts or agreements that are commonly disputed within the state include:

  • Lease agreements
  • Supplier contacts
  • Construction contracts
  • Business/corporate agreements
  • Purchase and sale agreements
  • Commercial contracts
  • Employment contracts
  • Insurance contracts
  • Landlord/tenant

What is Montana Contract Law?

Per Montana’s law on contracts, Title 28, MCA, a contract is a legal agreement to do or not do something. This law guides the formation and execution of contracts, liability and obligations of parties, and limitations of actions arising from disputes. In Montana, a contract must include the following 4 elements before it can be valid and enforceable:

  • Competent parties who can contract
  • Consent, which according to 28–2–301, MCA, must be free, mutual, and communicated by both parties
  • A lawful object, as defined by 28–2–601, MCA et seq., to be a thing that can be done or not done and is not impossible. When an object is unlawful, that part is void in the eyes of the law, but not necessarily the entire contract if all other objects are lawful. However, when the object constitutes the whole contract, that contract is void under the law.
  • An adequate cause or consideration (28–2–801, MCA et seq.)

Under this law, claims that are to be brought before the court must be filed within 8 years of the cause of action for written contracts, and 5 years for oral contracts.

What is a Breach of Contract in Montana?

In Montana, a breach of contract is any conduct by parties of a contract that constitutes a failure to fulfill an agreed contractual term, condition, or duty. Upon a breach, an aggrieved party may file an action in court to recover damages and per 27–1–311, MCA, that party, on winning such action, will be compensated with an amount for the harm caused or as if the harm never took place.

What are the Remedies for a Breach of Contract in Montana?

Judicial remedies, as defined by 27–1–101, MCA, are awarded in breach of contract claims to restore the rights of non-liable parties, lost because of a breach. The law regarding civil liabilities and remedies is codified as Title 27 of the Montana Code Annotated. Per 27–1–107, MCA, these remedies may be compensatory damages or specific and preventive remedies.

  • Compensatory damages: A breaching party may be required to reimburse the other party for an injury or loss. When there is no loss or harm suffered by a person, the court may grant nominal damages, which is usually a small amount of money paid by the breaching party to the plaintiff. Punitive damages, that is monetary damages imposed to punish a defendant, are generally not granted in contract or breach of contract actions in Montana per 27–1–220, MCA
  • Specific and preventive relief: This type of relief is for a specific obligation of a contract (to compel a party to do or not do something), and is only awarded in certain civil cases following 27–1–401, MCA, et seq.

In some situations, for instance, when a breach occurred because of a mistake, or duress, fraud, undue influence, or menace, a party may have the right to rescind a contract under the provisions of 28–2–1701, MCA et seq. The court may also modify a contract upon discovery of a mutual mistake or fraud per 28–2–1611, MCA.

What Defenses Can Be Used Against a Breach of Contract Claim in Montana?

Defenses, generally, are statements or facts provided by defendants in response to civil claims to nullify, mitigate, or avoid civil liability, even if an allegation is true. These defenses can be standard or affirmative. Standard defenses are asserted by motion and focus on the circumstances surrounding a claim such as improper venue, insufficient process, and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted (Mont. R. Civ. Pro. 12 (4)(b)).. Meanwhile, affirmative defenses raise a question about the liability of a defendant. According to the Mont. R. Civ. Pro. 8(c), affirmative defenses include:

  • Assumption of risk
  • Duress
  • Failure of consideration
  • Statute of limitations
  • Accord and satisfaction
  • Arbitration and award
  • Fraud
  • Illegality
  • Comparative negligence
  • Waiver
  • Statute of frauds

What are Property Disputes in Montana?

Montana law defines property as any item or thing that can be privately owned. This includes:

  • Real or immovable properties (land, and land-affixed or incidental items), such as buildings, fences, minerals, timber, and mines; and
  • Personal or movable properties, such as stocks, money, goods, contracts, deeds, jewelry, furniture, patents, copyrights, software, trademarks, franchises, and livestock

In Montana, a property dispute refers to any disagreement occurring between persons or corporations, whether public or private, because of these possessions.

What Are Some Common Types of Property Disputes in Montana?

Some examples of property disputes commonly seen in Montana include:

  • Buy/sell agreements
  • Purchase/sale contracts
  • Breach of contract
  • Real estate commission disagreements
  • Commercial developments
  • Landlord/tenant disputes (residential and commercial)
  • Easements, encroachment, and boundary disputes
  • Construction (mechanic’s) liens
  • Foreclosures
  • Real property rights
  • Disputes involving Homeowners and Landowners Associations
  • Issues involving insurance coverage
  • Title disputes
  • Land use and zoning issues

How to Find Property Lines

Property or boundary lines are the sanctioned partitions between real properties. Not only do these lines separate one property from the other and inform homeowners on where they can put up home improvements (fences, pools, etc.), but they also prevent conflicts that may arise due to trespass, encroachment, or easement (right of way). Because disputes between homeowners, developers, and other parties with interest, can easily result in lawsuits, it is a good idea to know where these lines lie. To find property lines, an individual may check the property deed or survey received at the point of purchase for measurements and boundary lines, or use mapping tools offered by the county/local assessors. Also, in some Montana counties, individuals can access these tools online.

How do I Find a Property Dispute Lawyer Near me?

In Montana, members of the public can find competent property dispute lawyers with the Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) offered by the Montana State Bar Association. There are a few ways to obtain lawyer referrals from this service:

  • Searching by practice area: By clicking on a specific practice area, an individual may obtain the names, cities (lawyer location), and phone numbers of lawyers specialized in that area and who are available to handle that person’s case.
  • Searching by city and practice area
  • Using the County Map
  • Calling (406)449–6577

The State Bar also offers more resources to the public, including low-income persons, elderly persons, and veterans looking for legal services. Also, the Attorney Name Search can be used to check for attorneys licensed and authorized to practice law in the State of Montana.

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