Wednesday, January 1, 2014

McCormick v. Brevig case brief

McCormick v. Brevig case brief summary
96 P.3d 697 (2004)

Cross-appeals were taken from a judgment from the District Court of the Tenth Judicial District, in and for the County of Fergus (Montana), which, in a bench trial, dissolved the parties' ranching partnership under Mont. Code Ann. § 35-10-624(5) and ordered its business wound up.


  • Joan McCormick (P) and Clark Brevig (D), brother and sister, were 50/50 partners in a ranching partnership. 
  • Their relationship of the parties deteriorated over time, ultimately becoming impossible for them to cooperate on business matters. 
  • McCormick sued Brevig, alleging that he had taken property of the partnership for his own use, and seeking an accounting. 
  • McCormick further requested an order mandating the dissolution and winding up of the partnership business. 
  • The trial court ordered that the partnership be dissolved and wound up. 
  • It determined McCormick’s share in the partnership to be worth $1,107,672, and ordered Brevig to pay McCormick that amount. 
  • McCormick refused to accept the payment and appealed the order.
  • He argued that the partnership assets must be sold and the proceeds distributed.
Although the trial court recognized that Mont. Code Ann. § 35-10-629 required distribution of assets in cash, the trial court found that liquidation would be inequitable. In the interest of preserving the family ranch, the trial court ordered the sister to sell her partnership interest to her brother following an appraisal.


  • The court reversed that order, holding that when dissolution was ordered pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. § 35-10-624(5), the statute required that the partnership assets be reduced to cash. 
  • The trial court did not err in accepting a special master's report under Montana R. Civ. P. 53, although the master's determinations were not stated as findings of fact and conclusions of law. 
  • The evidence supported a ruling that the brother did not dissociate from the partnership pursuant to Montana Code Ann. § 35-10-616. 
  • Although certain cattle owned by the brother and his sons had been included in the partnership's tax returns, this did not rebut the presumption under Montana Code §35-10-203 that the cattle were not partnership assets. 
  • An altered tape recording was properly excluded for lack of authentication under Montana R. Evid. 901.
The court reversed the order that had required the sister to sell her interest to her brother, reversed the ruling that the brother's cattle were partnership assets, affirmed the trial court's determinations in other respects, and remanded for an accounting and liquidation.

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