Alaska Supreme Court Decisions 2017

Basey v. Alaska Dept. of Public Safety, Division of Alaska State Troopers  
Date: December 29, 2017
Citation: 408 P.3d 1173
Docket Number: S-16609

Justia Opinion Summary: Kaleb Basey was the subject of a joint criminal investigation conducted by the Alaska State Troopers (AST) and the Fort Wainwright Criminal Investigation Division. He was a party to two federal cases stemming from that…

Jordan v. Watson  
Date: December 8, 2017
Citation: 407 P.3d 497
Docket Number: S-16500

Justia Opinion Summary: Paternal grandparents sought a court order for visitation with their grandson. The superior court denied their request because they did not allege that the child suffered any detriment from a lack of court-ordered…

Merdes & Merdes, P.C. v. Leisnoi, Inc.  
Date: November 9, 2017
Citation: 410 P.3d 398
Docket Number: S-16048

Justia Opinion Summary: An attorney represented a Native corporation in litigation nearly three decades ago. The corporation disputed the attorney’s claim for fees, and in 1995, after the attorney’s death, the superior court entered judgment on…

Schaeffer-Mathis v. Mathis  
Date: October 27, 2017
Citation: 407 P.3d 485
Docket Number: S-15936

Justia Opinion Summary: Jacqualine Schaeffer and Linus Mathis married in April 2002, separated in March 2012, and divorced in April 2015. Two children were born of the marriage, one in September 2002 and the other in June 2004. The parties…

Rae v. Alaska Dept. of Corrections  
Date: October 27, 2017
Citation: 407 P.3d 474
Docket Number: S-16006

Justia Opinion Summary: Michael Rae was a prisoner in the custody of Alaska’s Department of Corrections (DOC). In January 2015, he filed a complaint (labeled a “petition”) alleging that DOC lacked the constitutional authority to hold him. In an…

Fredrickson v. Hackett  
Date: October 27, 2017
Citation: 407 P.3d 480
Docket Number: S-16298

Justia Opinion Summary: A married couple, with the help of an attorney-mediator, reached a settlement agreement and filed for divorce in January 2012. Under the agreement the marital home and primary physical custody of the couple’s three…

Hodari v. Alaska Dept. of Corrections  
Date: October 27, 2017
Citation: 407 P.3d 468
Docket Number: S-16347

Justia Opinion Summary: In May 2014, the Alaska Department of Corrections found inmate Sababu Hodari guilty of a disciplinary infraction. Hodari appealed the Department’s decision to the superior court, arguing that the Department violated his…

Yankee v. City & Borough of Juneau  
Date: October 20, 2017
Citation: 407 P.3d 460
Docket Number: S-16098

Justia Opinion Summary: An undeveloped greenbelt buffer runs between Bill Yankee’s property and the back of Chris and Ann Gilbertos’. The two properties are in different subdivisions and therefore subject to different covenants: Yankee’s…

Dixon v. Dixon  
Date: October 20, 2017
Citation: 407 P.3d 453
Docket Number: S-16182

Justia Opinion Summary: A mother and son disputed ownership of a house in Ketchikan. The son contended his mother gave him the property following her husband’s death, and that he spent years repairing and renovating it on the understanding that…

Kylie L. v. Alaska Dept. of Health & Social Services  
Date: October 13, 2017
Citation: 407 P.3d 442
Docket Number: S-16520

Justia Opinion Summary: A trial court determined the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) failed to demonstrate it made reasonable efforts to reunify a family. Nonetheless, the court terminated Kylie L.’s parental rights to her daughter, finding…

Bruce H. v. Jennifer L.  
Date: October 6, 2017
Citation: 407 P.3d 432
Docket Number: S-16360

Justia Opinion Summary: Divorced parents reached a custody settlement giving the mother sole legal and primary physical custody of their son; the father had visitation at the mother’s discretion. After the father later requested joint legal and…

Alaska v. Wright  
Date: September 22, 2017
Citation: 404 P.3d 166
Docket Number: S-15917

Justia Opinion Summary: In November 1999, Alaska filed a felony information charging Sean Wright with sexually abusing two young girls. Wright was not arrested or indicted on these charges until almost five years later. He moved to dismiss the…

Bibi v. Elfrink  
Date: September 22, 2017
Citation: 408 P.3d 809
Docket Number: S-15987

Justia Opinion Summary: Mariam Bibi and Javed Raja married and later bought a home in Anchorage with loans from IndyMac Bank, F.S.B. (IndyMac). IndyMac’s loans were secured by deeds of trust on their home. The couple later received an…

Whittenton v. Peter Pan Seafoods, Inc.  
Date: September 22, 2017
Docket Number: S-16285

Justia Opinion Summary: After a mother and daughter were involved in a car accident, they (and the father) sued the employer of the other vehicle’s driver. The employer made separate offers of judgment to the mother and daughter under Alaska…

Dara v. Gish  
Date: September 22, 2017
Citation: 404 P.3d 154
Docket Number: S-16414

Justia Opinion Summary: The superior court granted joint legal and primary physical custody of a child to his maternal grandmother and step-grandfather. The child’s mother, who retained joint legal custody and visitation rights, appealed,…

Jovanov v. Dept. of Corrections  
Date: September 15, 2017
Citation: 404 P.3d 140
Docket Number: S-15950

Justia Opinion Summary: In 2010, Corrections Officer Nelson Robinson was supervising a prison module of about 50 inmates at the Anchorage Correctional Complex, including Radenko Jovanov and Alando Modeste. Modeste approached Jovanov while he…

Douglas Indian Association v. Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Tribes of Alaska  
Date: September 8, 2017
Citation: 403 P.3d 1172
Docket Number: S-16235

Justia Opinion Summary: The superior court dismissed a complaint by Douglas Indian Association against Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and two Central Council officials on tribal sovereign immunity grounds. Douglas…

Harrell v. Calvin  
Date: September 8, 2017
Citation: 403 P.3d 1182
Docket Number: S-16320

Justia Opinion Summary: Two families shared a duplex in Ketchikan. Brian Calvin and his wife and child lived in the upper unit; Tracy Harrell, her husband, Klyn Kloxin, and her mother, Winnie Sue Willis, lived in the bottom unit. In 2013, the…

Government Employees Insurance Co. v. Gonzalez  
Date: August 25, 2017
Citation: 403 P.3d 1153
Docket Numbers: S-15637, S-15657

Justia Opinion Summary: An insured sued her auto insurer and one of its adjusters, alleging that the insurer breached the insurance contract and committed tortious bad faith by withholding underinsured motorist benefits and that the adjuster…

Hockema v. Hockema  
Date: August 25, 2017
Citation: 403 P.3d 1080
Docket Number: S-16096

Justia Opinion Summary: In 2012 John “Scott” Hockema filed for divorce from his wife, Janet. The superior court divided the marital estate equally and awarded Janet, who had been a homemaker throughout most of the marriage, spousal support for…

Alaska Airlines, Inc. v. Darrow  
Date: August 25, 2017
Citation: 403 P.3d 1116
Docket Numbers: S-16127, S-16143

Justia Opinion Summary: An employee continued to work for over ten years after a job-related knee injury but had multiple surgeries on her injured knee. Over time, her employer made several permanent partial impairment payments, and she was…

Timothy W. v. Julia M.  
Date: August 25, 2017
Citation: 403 P.3d 1095
Docket Number: S-16222

Justia Opinion Summary: Julia M. and Timothy W. married in 2005 and had three children, born in 2006, 2008, and 2010. The couple separated in 2011 and in April 2012 Julia filed for divorce. Julia and Timothy entered into an agreement concerning…

Alaska Building, Inc. v. Legislative Affairs Agency  
Date: August 25, 2017
Citation: 403 P.3d 1132
Docket Number: S-16371

Justia Opinion Summary: A building owner sued an agency of the Alaska Legislature and a private developer, alleging that the agency and developer had entered into an illegal lease for the building next door. The complaint sought both…

Wielechowski v. Alaska  
Date: August 25, 2017
Citation: 403 P.3d 1141
Docket Number: S-16558

Justia Opinion Summary: In the course of the 2016 budgetary process, the Alaska legislature appropriated a sum of money for dividend distributions. But the governor vetoed about half of the appropriation, and the legislature did not override…

Grove v. Grove  
Date: August 11, 2017
Citation: 400 P.3d 109
Docket Numbers: S-16056, S-16075

Justia Opinion Summary: Parties in a divorce disputed the value of the husband’s post-retirement military medical benefits. The superior court determined that the benefits were a marital asset, but declined to value them or account for their…

Odom v. Alaska Div. of Corporations, Bus. & Prof. Licensing  
Date: August 11, 2017
Docket Number: S-16151

Justia Opinion Summary: The Alaska professional licensing division brought an accusation of professional misconduct against doctor David Odom, M.D., alleging that he acted incompetently when he prescribed phentermine and thyroid hormone for one…

Prax v. Zalewski  
Date: August 11, 2017
Citation: 400 P.3d 116
Docket Number: S-16223

Justia Opinion Summary: In 1994, Victoria Zalewski purchased a 60 foot by 90 foot rectangle of land, Lot 8A. Just south of Lot 8A was a parking lot. Although the parking lot was recorded as being part of a larger adjacent lot known as Lot 9A,…

Barry H. v. Alaska Dept. of Health & Social Services  
Date: August 11, 2017
Citation: 404 P.3d 1231
Docket Number: S-16415

Justia Opinion Summary: Barry H., the father in a Child in Need of Aid (CINA) proceeding sought to dismiss his court-appointed counsel and represent himself. The Office of Children’s Services (OCS) took emergency custody of four of their…

Bob S. v. Dept. of Health & Social Services  
Date: July 28, 2017
Citation: 400 P.3d 99
Docket Number: S-16504

Justia Opinion Summary: A father's parental rights were terminated as to his daughter, an Indian child, diagnosed with sexualized, aggressive behavior. He appealed the termination, arguing he remedied his prior misconduct by completing…

Judd v. Judd  
Date: July 21, 2017
Citation: 400 P.3d 91
Docket Number: S-16064

Justia Opinion Summary: Divorced parents shared equal custody of their son pursuant to an agreement. The mother asked the superior court to modify the agreement to allow her to move with the child to Hawaii. Following a two-hour hearing the…

Judd v. Burns  
Date: July 7, 2017
Citation: 397 P.3d 331
Docket Number: S-16213

Justia Opinion Summary: Divorced parents shared custody of their son equally pursuant to a parenting agreement. The mother asked the superior court to modify the agreement to allow her to move with the child to Hawaii. The trial court modified…

McNally v. Thompson  
Date: June 23, 2017
Citation: 397 P.3d 322
Docket Number: S-15906

Justia Opinion Summary: The City of Houston, Alaska fired its police captain shortly before disbanding its police department. The captain claimed he was terminated in bad faith in order to stop ongoing investigations into city leaders. He…

Comsult LLC v. Girdwood Mining Company  
Date: June 23, 2017
Citation: 397 P.3d 318
Docket Number: S-16113

Justia Opinion Summary: Girdwood Mining Company transferred stock and mineral royalty interests to Comsult LLC pursuant to a contract between the parties. Girdwood Mining later refused to perform its obligations with respect to the stock and…

Daggett v. Feeney  
Date: June 16, 2017
Citation: 397 P.3d 297
Docket Numbers: S-15799, S-15819

Justia Opinion Summary: This case involved a cancelled contract between Richard Feeney and Alaskan Wind Industries (AWI), a renewable energy contractor, for the sale and installation of a wind turbine on Feeney’s property in Homer. Feeney…

Alaska Miners Association v. Holman  
Date: June 16, 2017
Citation: 397 P.3d 312
Docket Number: S-15885

Justia Opinion Summary: This appeal involved an attorney’s fees dispute following a superior court decision upholding Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell’s certification of the “Bristol Bay Forever” ballot initiative. The initiative was approved to be…

Caitlyn E. v. Alaska Dept. of Health & Social Svcs.  
Date: June 16, 2017
Citation: 399 P.3d 646
Docket Number: S-16306

Justia Opinion Summary: Caitlyn E., a Yupik woman, was the mother of Maggie and Bridget, ages nine and six at trial, who are Indian children within the meaning of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) based on their affiliation with the…

Radebaugh v. Dept. of Health & Social Services  
Date: June 9, 2017
Citation: 397 P.3d 285
Docket Number: S-15814

Justia Opinion Summary: Sunny Radebaugh contested both her inability to cross-examine the nurse who performed an annual assessment and the Department of Health and Social Services' reversal of an administrative law judge’s determination.…

Estate of Seward  
Date: June 2, 2017
Citation: 401 P.3d 976
Docket Number: S-15561

Justia Opinion Summary: The Alaska Supreme Court disagreed with the probate master and superior court’s underlying conclusion that a paternity determination could not be made in estate proceedings, or that a laches defense could apply in this…

Ivy v. Calais Company, Inc.  
Date: June 2, 2017
Citation: 397 P.3d 267
Docket Number: S-15967

Justia Opinion Summary: The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the appraisal panel’s valuation of Calais Company, Inc. (a closely held corporation), but reversed the superior court’s denial of shareholder Deborah Ivy’s request for post-judgment…

Matthew H. v. Dept. of Health & Social Services  
Date: June 2, 2017
Citation: 397 P.3d 279
Docket Number: S-16383

Justia Opinion Summary: The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the superior court did not clearly err in finding that the father did not remedy the mental health issues that were “the root cause” of his inability to safely parent his daughter. The…

Yuk v. Robertson  
Date: May 26, 2017
Citation: 397 P.3d 261
Docket Number: S-16242

Justia Opinion Summary: A surveyor discovered a discrepancy between the location of a longstanding fence and the boundary between two lots. The property owners sued to quiet title to the fenced-off section of their lot. But the owners of the…

Reasner v. Dept. of Health & Social Services  
Date: May 19, 2017
Citation: 394 P.3d 610
Docket Numbers: S-15900, S-15929

Justia Opinion Summary: Lisa Reasner suffered years of sexual abuse while in foster care and after the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) approved her adoption. Years later, Reasner sued OCS after discovering that OCS might have played a role…

Brandner v. Providence Health & Services  
Date: May 19, 2017
Docket Number: S-15933

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

Mattox v. Dept. of Corrections  
Date: May 19, 2017
Citation: 397 P.3d 250
Docket Number: S-16031

Justia Opinion Summary: In 2009, Richard Mattox sued the Department of Corrections (DOC) for injuries arising from an assault by another prisoner. Mattox alleged that DOC was negligent in failing to accommodate his requests for transfer to a…

Thomson v. Thomson  
Date: May 19, 2017
Citation: 394 P.3d 604
Docket Number: S-16155

Justia Opinion Summary: In this divorce matter, the parties agreed to divide the husband’s retirement benefit based on its present value and implemented the division with a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). In 2014, after the husband…

Johnson v. Johnson  
Date: May 19, 2017
Citation: 394 P.3d 598
Docket Number: S-16234

Justia Opinion Summary: In this divorce matter, at the conclusion of trial, the wife physically assaulted husband's attorney. The incident led to criminal charges, and the judge presiding over the divorce testified in the criminal case as a…

Todeschi v. Sumitomo Metal Mining Pogo, LLC  
Date: April 28, 2017
Citation: 394 P.3d 562
Docket Numbers: S-15542, S-15571

Justia Opinion Summary: The superior court found no inconsistency in the jury verdict, and denied appellant Todeschi’s motion for a new trial. Finding no error in the superior court judgement, the Supreme Court affirmed. Appellee, a mine…

Jude M. v. Alaska Dept. of Health & Social Svcs.  
Date: April 28, 2017
Citation: 394 P.3d 543
Docket Number: S-16233

Justia Opinion Summary: The superior court ordered a guardianship based in part on expert testimony that the father could not yet be left alone with his daughter, given the state of his progress with sex offender treatment, and in part because…

Alaska Dept. of Administration, Division of Retirement & Benefits v. Shea  
Date: April 21, 2017
Citation: 394 P.3d 524
Docket Number: S-15787

Justia Opinion Summary: State employee Shirley Shea suffered from chronic pain and has been unable to work. She applied for occupational disability benefits, claiming that prolonged sitting at work aggravated a preexisting medical condition.…

Easley v. Easley  
Date: April 7, 2017
Citation: 394 P.3d 517
Docket Numbers: S-16061, S-16131

Justia Opinion Summary: In a 2008 divorce decree based on a settlement agreement, an ex-husband was ordered to sell the marital home and pay his ex-wife her share of the estate. But by 2015, he had not yet done so. The superior court ordered…

Alaska Fur Gallery, Inc. v. Hwang  
Date: March 31, 2017
Citation: 394 P.3d 511
Docket Number: S-16132

Justia Opinion Summary: Tok Hwang owned a lessee interest in, and related improvements on, a commercial lot (the leasehold) near the Denali National Park entrance. Hwang leased the lot from a third party for $20,000 annually. Hwang subleased…

Recreational Data Services, Inc. v. Trimble Navigation Limited  
Date: March 24, 2017
Citations: 394 P.3d 491, 404 P.3d 120
Docket Number: S-15893

Justia Opinion Summary: Recreational Data Services, Inc. (RDS) attempted to develop and market a smartphone that would come preloaded with outdoor-oriented software. RDS pursued a partnership to advance the project with Trimble Navigation…

Haines v. Comfort Keepers, Inc.  
Date: March 24, 2017
Citation: 393 P.3d 422
Docket Number: S-16034

Justia Opinion Summary: Verna Haines hired an in-home care company to assist her with day-today living. The company provided an in-home assistant who was later discovered to have stolen the Haines’ jewelry and prescription medication. Haines…

Barber v. Alaska  
Date: March 17, 2017
Citation: 393 P.3d 412
Docket Numbers: S-15645, S-15655, S-15836

Justia Opinion Summary: In 2013, a number of pro se prisoners moved the superior court to enforce the terms of a 1990 Final Settlement Agreement and Order in "Cleary v. Smith," a class action by inmates regarding prison conditions. In 2014…

Dennis O. v. Stephanie O.  
Date: March 17, 2017
Citation: 393 P.3d 401
Docket Number: S-15802

Justia Opinion Summary: A father requested court-appointed counsel in a child custody modification proceeding after learning that the mother had hired a private attorney. The court denied the request. The father (supported in part by several…

Wright v. Anding  
Date: March 17, 2017
Citation: 390 P.3d 1162
Docket Number: S-15959

Justia Opinion Summary: Appellant Sean Wright, a former inmate of the Alaska Department of Corrections (DOC) who was incarcerated at an out-of-state correctional facility under contract with DOC, filed a medical malpractice and 42 U.S.C. 1983…

Burton v. Fountainhead Development, Inc.  
Date: March 17, 2017
Citation: 393 P.3d 387
Docket Number: S-15990

Justia Opinion Summary: A tour company hired an Ronald Burton ("employee") to work the tourist season as one of its representatives at a Fairbanks hotel where he had worked seasonally in the past. During training, hotel management recalled that…

In Re Adoption of Hannah L.  
Date: March 10, 2017
Citation: 390 P.3d 1153
Docket Number: S-15904

Justia Opinion Summary: Alleging that parenting failures waived the biological father’s consent, a stepfather petitioned to adopt his wife’s daughter over the biological father’s objection. The superior court determined that the proposed…

In Re District Court Judge  
Date: March 10, 2017
Citation: 392 P.3d 480
Docket Number: S-16032

Justia Opinion Summary: Following a disciplinary sanction, a judge was not recommended for retention by the Alaska Judicial Council. Although the judge chose not to campaign, an independent group supported his retention and campaigned on his…

Kocurek v. Wagner  
Date: March 3, 2017
Citation: 390 P.3d 1144
Docket Number: S-15829

Justia Opinion Summary: Marvin Kocurek, an artifact collector, appealed a superior court’s decision to deny his motion for a new trial and amendment of judgment where the jury found that a collection of artifacts from Zacatecas, Mexico, had…

Coulson v. Steiner  
Date: March 3, 2017
Citation: 390 P.3d 1139
Docket Number: S-16167

Justia Opinion Summary: Aaron Steiner began a romantic relationship with Juanita Omadlao in May 2013, while Omadlao was still married to David Coulson. Coulson learned about the affair and filed for divorce. After the divorce proceedings ended,…

Rice v. McDonald  
Date: March 3, 2017
Citation: 390 P.3d 1133
Docket Number: S-16218

Justia Opinion Summary: The father of three Indian children killed their mother. After the father’s arrest, the father’s relatives moved the children from Alaska to Texas and gained custody of the children through a Texas district court order.…

Horning v. Horning  
Date: February 17, 2017
Citation: 389 P.3d 61
Docket Number: S-16110

Justia Opinion Summary: Shanda Horning was eligible for healthcare from the Indian Health Service (IHS) because she was an Alaska Native. Donovan Horning had unvested post-retirement healthcare benefits through the military’s TRICARE program.…

Central Recycling Services, Inc. v. Municipality of Anchorage  
Date: February 10, 2017
Citation: 389 P.3d 54
Docket Number: S-16036

Justia Opinion Summary: Central Recycling Services, Inc. recovered post-consumer materials for reuse, mainly from construction and demolition waste. The company requested rebates under a municipal ordinance providing reduced fees for disposing…

Alex H. v. Dept. of Health & Social Services  
Date: February 10, 2017
Citation: 389 P.3d 35
Docket Number: S-16206

Justia Opinion Summary: Alex H., a prisoner, challenged the superior court’s denial of his request for transport to attend in person his parental rights termination trial, and, therefore, the ultimate termination of his parental rights. He…

Burnett v. Government Employee Ins. Co.  
Date: January 27, 2017
Citation: 389 P.3d 27
Docket Number: S-15715

Justia Opinion Summary: A driver lost control of his truck and crashed into a cabin, causing property damage and personal injuries to the cabin owner. The cabin owner brought suit against both the driver and the driver’s insurance company,…

Studley v. Alaska Public Offices Comm'n  
Date: January 27, 2017
Citation: 389 P.3d 18
Docket Number: S-15757

Justia Opinion Summary: A self-employed real estate broker, James Studley, ran as a candidate for local elective office. The broker sought a blanket exemption from Alaska’s financial disclosure requirements to avoid reporting his clients’…

Horner-Neufeld v. University of Alaska Fairbanks  
Date: January 20, 2017
Citation: 389 P.3d 6
Docket Number: S-15782

Justia Opinion Summary: A student was dismissed from a Ph.D. program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks after several years of poor performance and negative feedback. She claimed that her advisors discriminated and retaliated against her,…

Wagner v. Wagner  
Date: January 13, 2017
Citation: 386 P.3d 1249
Docket Number: S-15989

Justia Opinion Summary: A woman's premarital student loan was consolidated with other student loans incurred during marriage. Her husband argued at the couple's divorce trial that he should not be responsible for the consolidated loans because…

Hopper v. Estate of Goard  
Date: January 13, 2017
Citation: 386 P.3d 1245
Docket Number: S-16051

Justia Opinion Summary: Two co-conservators filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit involving their ward in order to seek relief from a judgment based on a settlement agreement. The superior court denied the motion, and the co-conservators…

Shanigan v. Shanigan  
Date: January 6, 2017
Citation: 386 P.3d 1238
Docket Number: S-15956

Justia Opinion Summary: A mother appealed an order reducing the amount of child support the father was required to pay. She argued that the superior court relied on incorrect income calculations from the Child Support Services Division (CSSD)…

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