Alaska Supreme Court Decisions 2016

In Re Estate of Baker  
Date: December 30, 2016
Citation: 386 P.3d 1228
Docket Number: S-15971

Justia Opinion Summary: The sole question on appeal in this matter was whether the decedent's handwritten name at the beginning of the document was a "signature" as contemplated by AS 13.12.502(b). This was an issue of first impression, and the...

Hudson v. Citibank (South Dakota) NA
Date: December 16, 2016
Docket Numbers: S-14740, S-14826
Long v. Arnold
Date: December 16, 2016
Docket Number: S-15669
Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. State, Dept. of Revenue
Date: December 16, 2016
Docket Number: S-15891
In Re Stepovich
Date: December 16, 2016
Docket Numbers: S-15945, S-15961
Hudson v. Citibank (South Dakota) NA  
Date: December 9, 2016
Docket Numbers: S-14740, S-14826

Justia Opinion Summary: Two credit card holders defaulted on their accounts, and the issuing bank elected to litigate debt-collection actions. After courts entered default judgments against both card holders, the card holders filed new and sepa...

Long v. Arnold  
Date: December 9, 2016
Docket Number: S-15669

Justia Opinion Summary: In July 2012 Erin Long was driving toward Sitka when Robert Arnold turned his truck onto the road, cutting her off and forcing her into a ditch. Long was traveling approximately ten miles per hour when she drove off the...

Bachner Company Incorporated v. State, Dept. of Administration  
Date: December 9, 2016
Citation: 387 P.3d 16
Docket Number: S-15860

Justia Opinion Summary: In September 2003, Bachner Company Inc. entered into a contract with the Alaska Department of Administration, to lease portions of the Denali Building in Fairbanks. After a ten-year lease term and a one-year renewal, Bac...

Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Dept. of Revenue  
Date: December 9, 2016
Docket Number: S-15891

Justia Opinion Summary: Oil producers (the Producers) challenged an administrative decision (the Decision) in which the Alaska Department of Revenue (DOR) decided to treat separate oil and gas fields operated by common working interest owners a...

In Re Stepovich
Date: December 9, 2016
Docket Numbers: S-15945, S-15961
Thomas v. Archer  
Date: December 2, 2016
Citation: 384 P.3d 791
Docket Number: S-15372

Justia Opinion Summary: A woman was admitted to a hospital emergency room with pregnancy-related complications. The attending physician recommended that she be transported by medivac to a different facility. The woman and her husband informed t...

Bockus v. First Student Services  
Date: December 2, 2016
Citation: 384 P.3d 801
Docket Number: S-15784

Justia Opinion Summary: School bus driver and appellant Jonathan Bockus injured his back moving a gate. He had two spinal surgeries, and his surgeon ultimately recommended a third. About the same time, the driver’s employer scheduled a medical...

Brandner v. Providence Health & Services - Washington  
Date: November 25, 2016
Citation: 384 P.3d 773
Docket Number: S-15933

Justia Opinion Summary: Providence Alaska Medical Center terminated Dr. Michael Brandner’s hospital privileges without notice and an opportunity to be heard after determining he had violated hospital policy by failing to report an Alaska State...

Small v. Sayre  
Date: November 25, 2016
Citation: 384 P.3d 785
Docket Number: S-15983

Justia Opinion Summary: A driver and his passengers sued another driver for injuries arising from an accident. After a trial, the jury returned an award of past pain and suffering damages for the driver, and past medical expenses and pain and s...

In Re Necessity for the Hospitalization of Jacob S.  
Date: November 18, 2016
Citation: 384 P.3d 758
Docket Numbers: S-15847, S-15868

Justia Opinion Summary: The respondent in involuntary commitment and medication proceedings, Jacob S., appealed a few issues related to findings that he was mentally ill and posed a risk of harm to others. The superior court ordered both 30-and...

Metcalfe v. Alaska  
Date: November 4, 2016
Citation: 382 P.3d 1168
Docket Number: S-15528

Justia Opinion Summary: Peter Metcalfe was employed briefly by the State in the early 1970s and contributed to the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS). In 1981, Metcalfe took a refund of his PERS contributions. Under a statute in effect...

Joy B. v. Alaska Dept. of Health & Soc. Svcs.  
Date: October 26, 2016
Citation: 382 P.3d 1154
Docket Number: S-16152

Justia Opinion Summary: A mother and her eight children were routinely severely abused by the father of the younger children while living in another state. The mother fled to Alaska with four of her daughters in 2013. After the Office of Childr...

Dept. of Trans. & Public Facilities v. Alaska Laser Wash, Inc.  
Date: October 21, 2016
Citation: 382 P.3d 1143
Docket Numbers: S-15380, S-15649

Justia Opinion Summary: The State of Alaska and the owner of a car wash reached an agreement for the State to acquire the car wash site as part of a highway improvement project. After the State acquired the site, the owner elected not to reloca...

Eder v. M-K Rivers  
Date: October 21, 2016
Citation: 382 P.3d 1137
Docket Number: S-15871

Justia Opinion Summary: A worker whose Alaska workers’ compensation case was closed in 1977 filed a new claim in 2012 related to his injury from the 1970s. The Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board dismissed the new claim, and he appealed to the A...

Windel v. Carnahan  
Date: September 23, 2016
Citation: 379 P.3d 971
Docket Number: S-15801

Justia Opinion Summary: At issue in this case was the validity of an easement that Thomas Carnahan claimed extended over property owned by Keven and Marlene Windel. In addition, there were issues surrounding damage allegedly caused by improveme...

Jones v. Westbrook  
Date: September 23, 2016
Citation: 379 P.3d 963
Docket Number: S-15951

Justia Opinion Summary: A client personally financed the sale of his business corporation. His attorney drafted documents that secured the buyer’s debt with corporate stock and an interest in the buyer’s home. Over seven years later the governm...

Fink v. Municipality of Anchorage  
Date: September 16, 2016
Citation: 379 P.3d 183
Docket Number: S-15614

Justia Opinion Summary: A narrow strip of land in the Turnagain area of Anchorage, immediately west of Lynn Ary Park and bordering Knik Arm, is at the center of the parties' dispute in this matter. The land is in the shape of a parallelogram; i...

Abby D. v. Sue Y.  
Date: September 2, 2016
Citation: 378 P.3d 388
Docket Number: S-16049

Justia Opinion Summary: The superior court granted sole legal and primary physical custody of a child to her grandparents, after a trial at which the court found by clear and convincing evidence that leaving the child in her mother’s custody wo...

Thomas v. Dept. of Environmental Conservation  
Date: August 26, 2016
Citation: 377 P.3d 939
Docket Number: S-15371

Justia Opinion Summary: The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (the Department or the State) terminated the employment of seafood inspector Ernest Thomas following a contentious airport inspection that resulted in complaints by a s...

Flint Hills Resources Alaska, LLC v. Williams Alaska Petroleum, Inc.  
Date: August 26, 2016
Citation: 377 P.3d 959
Docket Number: S-15654

Justia Opinion Summary: Williams Alaska Petroleum owned the North Pole refinery until 2004. Williams knew that the then-unregulated chemical sulfolane was present in refinery property groundwater, but it did not know that the sulfolane had migr...

del Rosario v. Clare  
Date: August 26, 2016
Citation: 378 P.3d 380
Docket Number: S-15955

Justia Opinion Summary: The superior court modified a child custody decree, granting sole legal custody and primary physical custody to the child’s father and setting a visitation schedule. The mother picked the child up for summer visitation b...

Johnson v. Dept. of Corrections  
Date: August 26, 2016
Citation: 380 P.3d 653
Docket Number: S-15965

Justia Opinion Summary: In a prison discipline proceeding, prisoner William Johnson was found guilty of possessing contraband. He appealed his punishment to a discipline committee, which affirmed the decision. Represented by counsel, Johnson ap...

Marshall v. Peter  
Date: August 26, 2016
Citation: 377 P.3d 952
Docket Number: S-16017

Justia Opinion Summary: Mid-afternoon on an icy early March day, plaintiff Michele Marshall was stopped at a stoplight preparing to turn left from the outside turn lane. Defendant Matthew Peter testified that he came to a complete stop about on...

Cornelison v. TIG Insurance  
Date: August 12, 2016
Citation: 376 P.3d 1255
Docket Number: S-15647

Justia Opinion Summary: Floyd Cornelison injured his back at work in 1996 while shoveling dirt. He had back surgery later that year, but it did little to improve his condition. The Board found he was permanently and totally disabled (PTD) in 20...

Sellers v. Kurdilla  
Date: August 12, 2016
Citation: 377 P.3d 1
Docket Number: S-15685

Justia Opinion Summary: Several men were in a car that rear-ended the plaintiff Linda Sellers' vehicle. She sued the car’s owner, believing he had been driving. The car’s owner moved to dismiss the lawsuit on the basis of an affidavit from a se...

Collier v. Harris  
Date: August 12, 2016
Citation: 377 P.3d 15
Docket Number: S-15748

Justia Opinion Summary: A mother and father shared joint legal and physical custody of their daughter. The mother moved for sole legal and primary physical custody, alleging that a sustained lack of cooperation between the parents and other cha...

Bingman v. City of Dillingham  
Date: August 12, 2016
Citation: 376 P.3d 1245
Docket Number: S-16041

Justia Opinion Summary: Appellant James Bingman, Sr. sought to redeem his foreclosed property by offering the City of Dillingham a promissory note for the amount due, without interest, that would mature 20 years later. The taxpayer asserted tha...

Jackson v. Municipality of Anchorage  
Date: August 5, 2016
Citation: 375 P.3d 1166
Docket Number: S-15722

Justia Opinion Summary: The Anchorage Police Department seized some of appellant Willie Jackson's personal property when he was arrested. He would be charged with several state-law felonies, which were later dropped after he was indicted on fed...

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest v. Alaska  
Date: July 22, 2016
Citation: 375 P.3d 1122
Docket Numbers: S-15010, S-15030, S-15039

Justia Opinion Summary: In a 2007 ruling, the Alaska Supreme Court recognized that the State had "compelling interests" in aiding parents to help their minor children make informed and mature pregnancy-related decisions, and at that time, the C...

In Re Necessity for the Hospitalization of Mark V.  
Date: July 1, 2016
Citation: 375 P.3d 51
Docket Number: S-15536

Justia Opinion Summary: The superior court issued a 30-day involuntary commitment order after finding that Mark V. was gravely disabled and “entirely unable to fend for himself independently in the community.” Mark argued that there was insuffi...

Lee-Magana v. Carpenter  
Date: July 1, 2016
Citation: 375 P.3d 60
Docket Number: S-15854

Justia Opinion Summary: This appeal involved two petitions for long-term domestic violence protective orders. Olivia Lee-Magana prevailed both on a petition she brought against her ex-boyfriend Jacob Carpenter and on a petition he brought again...

Huit v. Ashwater Burns, Inc.  
Date: June 17, 2016
Citation: 372 P.3d 904
Docket Number: S-15514

Justia Opinion Summary: Before the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission was created, an Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board decision could be appealed to the superior court, and a party dissatisfied with the superior court’s final res...

Law Offices of Steven D. Smith, P.C. v. Ceccarelli  
Date: June 17, 2016
Citation: 385 P.3d 841
Docket Number: S-15615

Justia Opinion Summary: A superior court ordered the Child Support Services Division (CSSD) to audit the child support and spousal support accounts of a divorced couple. The audits revealed that the agency had collected too much child support f...

Young v. Alaska  
Date: June 17, 2016
Citation: 374 P.3d 395
Docket Number: S-15665

Justia Opinion Summary: Defendant Aaron Young was accused of involvement in a shooting and convicted at trial, in part on the strength of three eyewitness identifications. He challenged the admissibility of two of the identifications on due pro...

Clementine F. v. Dept. of Health & Social Services  
Date: June 17, 2016
Citation: 375 P.3d 39
Docket Number: S-15948

Justia Opinion Summary: Jasmine was born in February 2009 to Clementine and Jermaine. The Office of Children’s Services (OCS) took emergency custody of the child after receiving reports that her mother’s conduct had placed her at risk of harm....

Jerry B. v. Sally B.  
Date: June 10, 2016
Citation: 377 P.3d 916
Docket Number: S-15684

Justia Opinion Summary: A husband and wife separated after the husband was charged with sexually abusing their minor daughter. The husband eventually pleaded guilty to first degree indecent exposure. In the civil divorce suit, the superior cour...

In Re Ivy
Date: May 20, 2016
Docket Number: S-15450
Lingley v. Alaska Airlines, Inc.  
Date: May 13, 2016
Citation: 373 P.3d 506
Docket Number: S-15529

Justia Opinion Summary: In February 2012, Alaska Airlines terminated Helen Lingley, a longtime employee, for violating company rules and polices after she allegedly took earbuds from a left-on-board box, made contradictory statements during the...

Luther v. Lander  
Date: May 13, 2016
Citation: 373 P.3d 495
Docket Number: S-15588

Justia Opinion Summary: In November 2010, Stevie Lander was driving on an icy road. Her vehicle slid into a Bonnie Luther's car. Although Luther reported no injuries at the scene of the accident, that evening she went to the emergency room for...

Sherrill v. Sherrill  
Date: May 13, 2016
Citation: 373 P.3d 486
Docket Number: S-15844

Justia Opinion Summary: The superior court in this case divided the marital property, granted child custody and determined the child support obligation. On appeal of that order, the noncustodial, nonresident parent claimed the superior court la...

Herring v. Herring  
Date: May 13, 2016
Citation: 373 P.3d 521
Docket Number: S-15886

Justia Opinion Summary: The parties to this appeal reached a settlement in their divorce, providing that the qualified marital portion of the husband’s pension would be distributed to the wife and the nonqualified portion would be distributed t...

City of Kenai v. Cook Inlet Natural Gas Storage Alaska, LLC  
Date: May 6, 2016
Citation: 373 P.3d 473
Docket Number: S-15682

Justia Opinion Summary: The issue this case presented for the Alaska Supreme Court's review arose from competing claims of right to the pore space in a large limestone formation about a mile underground. Cook Inlet Natural Gas Storage Alaska, L...

Timothy G. v. Alaska Dept. of Health & Social Services  
Date: April 29, 2016
Citation: 372 P.3d 235
Docket Number: S-15725

Justia Opinion Summary: Timothy G. alleged he was abused by his stepfather repeatedly between 1997 and 2006. In 2006, Timothy reported the abuse to his mother. She took Timothy and his four siblings to a shelter, sought a protective order again...

City of Valdez v. Alaska  
Date: April 29, 2016
Citation: 372 P.3d 240
Docket Number: S-15840

Justia Opinion Summary: Under an Alaska Department of Revenue regulation, all appeals of oil and gas property tax valuation must be heard by the State Assessment Review Board (SARB), while appeals of oil and gas property taxability must be hear...

Alaska Office of Public Advocacy v. Estate of Jean R.  
Date: April 22, 2016
Citation: 371 P.3d 614
Docket Numbers: S-15326, S-15356

Justia Opinion Summary: The State Office of Public Advocacy (OPA) filed a petition for an ex parte protective order on behalf of an elderly woman against her adult daughter and caregiver, after receiving allegations of financial abuse made by t...

Sweeney v. Organ  
Date: April 15, 2016
Citation: 371 P.3d 609
Docket Number: S-15746

Justia Opinion Summary: After the parties to this action divorced, they shared physical and legal custody of their only child. In 2013 the mother filed a motion to modify custody requesting primary physical custody to move with the child from F...

Vandenberg v. Dept. of Health & Social Services  
Date: April 8, 2016
Citation: 371 P.3d 602
Docket Number: S-15935

Justia Opinion Summary: After a work-related injury left appellant Laurie Vandenberg (a nurse) with a permanent partial impairment, she applied for reemployment benefits. The rehabilitation specialist assigned to her case used two job descripti...

Alaska v. Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska  
Date: March 25, 2016
Citation: 371 P.3d 255
Docket Number: S-14935

Justia Opinion Summary: A federally recognized Alaska Native tribe adopted a process for adjudicating the child support obligations of parents whose children are members of the tribe or are eligible for membership, and it operated a federally f...

Beeson v. City of Palmer  
Date: March 25, 2016
Citation: 370 P.3d 1084
Docket Number: S-15018

Justia Opinion Summary: John and Xong Chao Beeson owned and lived in the Palmer West Subdivision in the City of Palmer. Since they moved to the property in 1985, the Beesons have experienced several flooding incidents on their land, which they...

Attorneys Liability Protection Society, Inc. v. Ingaldson Fitzgerald, P.C.  
Date: March 25, 2016
Citation: 370 P.3d 1101
Docket Number: S-15683

Justia Opinion Summary: The Ninth Circuit federal Court of Appeals certified two questions of Alaska law to the State Supreme Court. Ingaldson Fitzgerald was an Alaska law firm. Attorneys Liability Protection Society, Inc. (ALPS) was a Montana...

Alaska v. Fyfe  
Date: March 25, 2016
Citation: 370 P.3d 1092
Docket Number: S-15687

Justia Opinion Summary: Linden Fyfe was stopped by police while driving on a stretch of highway designated as a "traffic safety corridor." He was charged and convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol. At sentencing the trial court imp...

Pursche v. Matanuska-Susitna Borough  
Date: March 25, 2016
Citation: 371 P.3d 251
Docket Number: S-15824

Justia Opinion Summary: Wasilla landowner, appellant Ray Pursche appealed the tax foreclosure against his property, arguing that the property was exempt from local property taxes because it was originally transferred to his predecessor by feder...

Richards v. University of Alaska  
Date: March 18, 2016
Citation: 370 P.3d 603
Docket Number: S-15245

Justia Opinion Summary: After a two-day hearing, the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) dismissed Qwynten Richards from her Ph.D. program for failing to respond to feedback from her professors. An Appeals Committee affirmed Richards’s dismiss...

In Re T.V.  
Date: March 18, 2016
Citation: 371 P.3d 599
Docket Number: S-15492

Justia Opinion Summary: T.V., a minor, was struck by a car in 2012. T.V.’s father, Jack Vinson, hired counsel and petitioned the superior court on T.V.’s behalf for approval of insurance settlements related to that accident. Jack advised the co...

Mitchell v. Mitchell  
Date: March 18, 2016
Citation: 370 P.3d 1070
Docket Number: S-15870

Justia Opinion Summary: A mother and father divorced, and the final decree granted them joint physical custody of their two minor children. Three years later, at age 47, the father quit his job, moved from Alaska to retire in Arizona, and withd...

Moira M. v. Office of Children's Services  
Date: March 18, 2016
Citation: 370 P.3d 595
Docket Number: S-15952

Justia Opinion Summary: In the early morning hours of August 29, 2013, Palmer police officer James Gipson noticed Moira M. walking alone along the road. After Moira declined Gipson’s offer of a ride, Gipson continued driving until he noticed a...

Trevor M. v. Alaska Dept. of Health & Social Services, Office of Children's Services  
Date: March 11, 2016
Citation: 368 P.3d 607
Docket Number: S-15913

Justia Opinion Summary: Maya S. was the three-year-old daughter of Sarah S. and Trevor M. Trevor’s criminal history included a number of assault charges and domestic violence restraining orders involving different victims; he has also struggled...

Alaska Trustee, LLC v. Ambridge  
Date: March 4, 2016
Citation: 372 P.3d 207
Docket Number: S-14915

Justia Opinion Summary: Brett and Josephine Ambridge defaulted on their home loan. Alaska Trustee, LLC sent the Ambridges a notice of default that failed to state the full amount due as required by the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act...

Alpine Energy, LLC v. Matanuska Electric Association  
Date: March 4, 2016
Citation: 369 P.3d 245
Docket Number: S-15696

Justia Opinion Summary: Federal law required electric utilities to purchase power generated by cogeneration facilities that met certain standards. A facility must be certified that it meets the standards. It may self-certify, by filing a form d...

Martinez-Morales v. Martens  
Date: February 19, 2016
Citation: 367 P.3d 1167
Docket Number: S-15805

Justia Opinion Summary: This appeal arose from an accident in a parking lot in which a vehicle driven by Ronda Martens struck pedestrian Juan Martinez-Morales as he crossed the lot. A jury found that Martens was not negligent, and the superior...

Limeres v. Limeres  
Date: February 12, 2016
Citation: 367 P.3d 683
Docket Number: S-15489

Justia Opinion Summary: A couple with three children divorced after 15 years of marriage. In 2012, the superior court ordered the father to pay roughly $1,500 per month in child support. That calculation relied on a finding that the father’s in...

Bernard v. Alaska Airlines, Inc.  
Date: February 12, 2016
Citation: 367 P.3d 1156
Docket Number: S-15592

Justia Opinion Summary: A former airline employee sued his former employer for wrongful termination without first attempting to arbitrate his claims under the provisions of a collective bargaining agreement subject to the federal Railway Labor...

Seybert v. Alsworth  
Date: February 5, 2016
Citation: 367 P.3d 32
Docket Number: S-15600

Justia Opinion Summary: A group of Lake and Peninsula Borough voters filed suit against two local elected officials, alleging various violations of state and local conflict of interest laws and the common law conflict of interest doctrine. The...

Gunn v. Gunn  
Date: February 5, 2016
Citation: 367 P.3d 1146
Docket Number: S-15648

Justia Opinion Summary: The parties in this case divorced. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on the nature of the parties' marital interest in a limited liability company. They eventually agreed that the husb...

In Re Necessity for the Hospitalization of Heather R.  
Date: January 29, 2016
Citation: 366 P.3d 530
Docket Number: S-15793

Justia Opinion Summary: In 2014, a petition was filed on behalf of the Seacliff Condominium Association for an order requiring Heather R., the owner of a condominium in Seacliff, to undergo an involuntary 72-hour psychiatric evaluation. The pet...

Botson v. Municipality of Anchorage  
Date: January 15, 2016
Citation: 367 P.3d 17
Docket Number: S-15671

Justia Opinion Summary: John Botson was arrested for driving under the influence. According to a breath test, his blood alcohol level was .141. The police officer informed Botson of his constitutional right to an independent chemical test, whic...

Denny M. v. Alaska  
Date: January 13, 2016
Citation: 365 P.3d 345
Docket Number: S-15880

Justia Opinion Summary: The Office of Children’s Services (OCS) filed a petition to terminate a mother’s parental rights to two of her daughters. The superior court granted the petition. The mother appealed the superior court’s finding that OCS...

Sharpe v. Sharpe  
Date: January 8, 2016
Citation: 366 P.3d 66
Docket Number: S-15262

Justia Opinion Summary: A non-custodial parent moved to modify a child support order after she quit her job in Anchorage, moved to a remote village, and adopted a subsistence lifestyle. Although the parent acknowledged that she was voluntarily...

Alaska v. Ketchikan Gateway Borough  
Date: January 8, 2016
Citation: 366 P.3d 86
Docket Numbers: S-15811, S-15841

Justia Opinion Summary: Article VII, section 1 of the Alaska Constitution required the state legislature to “establish and maintain a system of public schools” open to all children in the state. To fulfill this mandate, the legislature defined...

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