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Anderson v. Baker

Supreme Court of North Dakota

December 1, 2015

Kim Anderson, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Biron Baker, Defendant and Appellant and State of North Dakota, Statutory Real Party in Interest

Appeal from the District Court of Morton County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable David E. Reich, Judge.

Daniel J. Nagle (argued) and Todd D. Kranda (on brief), for plaintiff and appellee.

Scott A. Hager, for defendant and appellant.

OPINION

VandeWalle, Chief Justice.

[¶ 1] Biron Baker appealed from a district court order denying his motion for reconsideration following an earlier order that held Baker in contempt of court for failing to reimburse Kim Anderson for their child's medical expenses and awarding Anderson attorney's fees. We affirm, concluding the court did not abuse its discretion in denying Baker's motion.

I

[¶ 2] Anderson and Baker have a child together, born in 2010. Under a stipulated judgment entered in June 2011, Baker was required to provide health insurance for the child or reimburse Anderson for her monthly costs to provide health insurance for the child. Baker was also required to reimburse Anderson for 50 percent of any medical expenses not covered by insurance within 30 days of a reimbursement request from Anderson.

[¶ 3] In July 2013, Anderson requested Baker to reimburse her for the child's monthly health insurance costs and 50 percent of the uncovered medical expenses Anderson incurred since entry of the judgment. In January 2014, Anderson filed a contempt motion, alleging that since entry of the judgment, Baker had not reimbursed her for the child's monthly health insurance costs and 50 percent of the uncovered medical expenses as required under the judgment. In February 2014, Baker reimbursed Anderson for the uncovered medical expenses and a portion of the monthly health insurance costs.

[¶ 4] After a hearing, the district court issued an order holding Baker in contempt of court for violating the terms of the judgment by not timely reimbursing Anderson for the child's health insurance and his share of the uncovered medical expenses. The court ordered a money judgment in favor of Anderson and also awarded Anderson $1, 750 in attorney's fees.

[¶ 5] Baker subsequently filed a motion seeking relief under N.D.R.Civ.P. 60, requesting the district court to reconsider its earlier order holding him in contempt of court. A new judge was assigned, and Baker's motion was denied.

II

[¶ 6] Baker argues the district court erred in failing to reconsider and reverse its order holding Baker in contempt of court and awarding attorney's fees to Anderson.

[¶ 7] On appeal from a district court's denial of a motion for relief from a final judgment or order under N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b), a party must show the district court abused its discretion. Shull v. Walcker, 2009 ND 142, ¶ 13, 770 N.W.2d 274. A district court abuses its discretion if it acts in an arbitrary, unconscionable, or unreasonable manner, if its decision is not the product of a rational mental process leading to a reasonable determination, or if it misinterprets or misapplies the law. Hartleib v. Simes, 2009 ND 205, ¶ 15, 776 N.W.2d 217. An abuse of discretion is never assumed and must be affirmatively established, and this Court will not reverse a district court's decision merely because it is not the one it would have made had it been deciding the motion. Shull, at ¶ 13.

[¶ 8] Baker appealed from the district court's order denying his motion for reconsideration; he did not appeal from the earlier order holding him in contempt of court. "An appeal from a trial court's refusal to vacate an order under Rule 60(b), N.D.R.Civ.P., does not permit the appellant to attack the underlying order from which an appeal could have been, but was not, brought." Sturdevant v. SAE Warehouse, Inc., 310 N.W.2d 749, 752 (N.D. 1981). Because the order holding Baker in contempt was not appealed, Baker cannot challenge whether that order was appropriate. The ...


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