Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Alone v. C. Brunsch, Inc.

Supreme Court of South Dakota

July 10, 2019

JENNIFER CHASE ALONE, as the Personal Representative of ELFREDA ANN TAKES WAR BONNETT, Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
C. BRUNSCH, INC., a South Dakota Corporation, doing business as Lakota Plains Propane, Inc., Defendant, Third-Party Plaintiff, and Appellant, and WESTERN COOPERATIVE COMPANY, INC., a Nebraska corporation, Defendant and Third-Party Plaintiff,
v.
Oglala Sioux Lakota Housing Authority, Richard Hill, Derek Janis, Wes Cottier, William White, Ben Plenty Arrows, Renaldo Two Bulls, Brandon Wes, Derek Slim, Robin T. (last name unknown), and John and Jane Doe 1-100, Third-Party Defendants and Appellees.

          ARGUED ON MARCH 27, 2019

          APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SEVENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT OGLALA LAKOTA COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE JEFFREY R. CONNOLLY Judge

          ROBERT J. GALBRAITH JOHN K. NOONEY of Nooney & Solay, LLP Rapid City, South Dakota Attorneys for defendant, thirdparty plaintiff, and appellant.

          EVAN THOMPSON of Browning, Kaleczyc, Berry & Hoven, P.C. Helena, Montana

          MARK F. MARSHALL of Bangs, McCullen, Butler, Foye & Simmons, LLP Rapid City, South Dakota Attorneys for appellees.

          KERN, JUSTICE

         [¶1.] Third-party defendants, who are enrolled tribal members and a tribal housing authority, moved to dismiss a complaint filed against them for tortious conduct occurring exclusively on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. After a limited evidentiary hearing, the circuit court concluded it lacked jurisdiction and granted the motion pursuant to SDCL 15-6-12(b)(1). Third-party plaintiff appeals. We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2.] On October 6, 2016, a duplex in Pine Ridge exploded after propane entered a joint crawl space between Units 157 and 158 through an uncapped gas line. A spark from the water heater pilot flame in Unit 158 most likely caused the catastrophic explosion, which demolished the duplex and killed four people, including Elfreda Ann Takes War Bonnet. Jennifer Chase Alone, her mother and the personal representative of her Estate, filed an action in state court against the building's propane suppliers, Lakota Propane and Western Cooperative Company, Inc. (Western Co-op), on May 31, 2017. She alleged negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty.

         [¶3.] In the early stages of the litigation, the Oglala Sioux Housing Authority (Housing Authority) was not a party to the lawsuit. At some point, however, Lakota Propane discovered that the Housing Authority had, in 2013, employed individuals to remove debris from Unit 157 after a fire damaged it. As part of the Housing Authority's cleanup work, they shut off Lakota Propane's gas services and removed a propane water heater.

         [¶4.] Until the spring of 2016, the Unit remained vacant while the Housing Authority replaced several propane appliances in Unit 157 with electrical appliances. When installing the appliances, the employees of the Housing Authority allegedly did not check the gas lines from the previously removed propane appliances to ensure that they were capped. On March 18, 2016, Lakota Propane sold propane to the Housing Authority for the duplex. Gas from the uncapped lines eventually filled the crawl space beneath the units which led to the tragic explosion on October 6, 2016.

         [¶5.] Lakota Propane requested and received information from the Housing Authority regarding the nature of the work done on the units and the names of the employees involved with maintaining it. Lakota Propane and Western Co-op then filed a third-party complaint against the Housing Authority and several tribal members in their individual capacities, [1] alleging they caused the explosion by failing to cap one or more propane lines that had previously supplied gas to the propane appliances. Eventually, the court granted Western Co-op's motion for summary judgment, dismissing it from the case after concluding it owed Takes War Bonnet no duty because it did not supply the propane that caused the explosion.

         [¶6.] On September 12, 2017, Lakota Propane served the Housing Authority with its first set of interrogatories and requests for production of documents. In the interrogatories, it asked the Housing Authority to provide general information regarding the renovations but did not include questions aimed at determining subject matter jurisdiction, such as the tribal enrollment status of the individuals or the Housing Authority's relationship with the Tribe. Lakota Propane did not seek discovery from any of the individually named defendants.

         [¶7.] The Housing Authority refused to answer the discovery requests, asserting the defense of sovereign immunity in response to every inquiry. For the same reason, it moved for a protective order when Lakota Propane served it with a notice of deposition. The Housing Authority and Richard Hill, one of the defendants, moved to dismiss the third-party complaint pursuant to SDCL 15-6-12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. In support of its motion, the Housing Authority attached an affidavit from Doyle Pipe On Head, an employee ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.