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Calvin Wahl and Laurie Wahl v. Northern Improvement Company A/K/A Mccormick Incorporated and United Rentals

July 18, 2011

CALVIN WAHL AND LAURIE WAHL,
PLAINTIFFS AND APPELLANTS
v.
NORTHERN IMPROVEMENT COMPANY A/K/A MCCORMICK INCORPORATED AND UNITED RENTALS HIGHWAY TECHNOLOGIES, INC.,
DEFENDANTS AND APPELLEES



Appeal from the District Court of Stark County, Southwest Judicial District, the Honorable Zane Anderson, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Crothers, Justice.

N.D. Supreme CourtWahl v. Northern Improvement Company,

2011 ND 146

This opinion is subject to petition for rehearing. [Go to Documents]

[Download as WordPerfect]

AFFIRMED IN PART AND REMANDED.

Opinion of the Court by Crothers, Justice.

[¶1] Calvin and Laurie Wahl ("the Wahls") appeal the district court's amended judgment entered after a jury found Northern Improvement Company and United Rentals Highway Technologies, Incorporated were not liable for injuries the Wahls sustained in a motorcycle accident. The Wahls argue the district court abused its discretion by scheduling the trial for four days, by allowing the jury to separate for twelve days before hearing closing arguments and deliberating and by awarding Northern Improvement's expert witness fees. We affirm the portion of the district court's amended judgment entered after the jury's verdict finding Northern Improvement and United Rentals were not liable for the Wahl's injuries and remand for determination whether Northern Improvement's expert fees for Thomas Alcorn are reasonable.

I

[¶2] On March 19, 2008, the Wahls filed a complaint alleging that Northern Improvement left an improper road grade between two lanes on the highway and that Northern Improvement and United Rentals negligently placed road signage in a construction area causing Calvin Wahl's motorcycle accident. Northern Improvement and United Rentals denied the allegations.

[¶3] On October 3, 2008, the district court issued a scheduling order estimating a four- to five-day trial. A pre-trial conference was held. At the conference, the district court stated the trial was scheduled for four days, Tuesday through Friday. The Wahls did not object to scheduling the trial for four days. The trial was continued due to the Wahl's attorney's illness and again was scheduled for four days.

[¶4] The jury trial began on Tuesday, April 13, 2010. On Friday, April 16, 2010, the trial was not finished, and it was apparent the trial would not be completed before the end of the day. The parties and the judge met in chambers. The in-chambers conversation was not recorded, but the parties agree the judge informed them that he was not available the following week. The trial was continued to April 28, 2010, and closing arguments and jury deliberations were completed that day. The jury returned a verdict finding Northern Improvement and United Rentals not liable for the Wahl's injuries.

[ΒΆ5] Northern Improvement and United Rentals filed their statement of costs. The amended final judgment on the jury verdict awarding Northern Improvement and United Rentals their costs was filed on July 22, 2010. The Wahl's objected to Northern Improvement's statement of costs. The district court held a hearing about the costs and disbursements. After the hearing, the district court issued an ...


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