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Mapston v. Joint School Dist. No. 8

Supreme Court of Montana
Jul 29, 1987
740 P.2d 676 (Mont. 1987)


No. 87-133.

Submitted on Briefs June 11, 1987.

Decided July 29, 1987.

Appeal from the District Court of Missoula County. Fourth Judicial District. Hon. Jack L. Green, Judge Presiding.

Victor F. Valgenti, Missoula, for plaintiffs and appellants.

Worden, Thane Haines; Sam Warren, Missoula, for defendants and respondents.

This is an appeal from the Fourth Judicial District, Missoula County, Montana, from an order granting defendant's motion for a change of venue from Missoula County to Lake County.

We affirm the District Court.

The sole issue raised on appeal is whether Lake County is the proper county of venue for this tort action.

The facts in this case are simple, but tragic. Raegan Ann Mapston and another female student were killed on December 29, 1983 when the tractor tire innertube which they were using as a sled, hit a tree. The sledding outing was a school sponsored event supervised by Glen Paulson, a teacher at the Arlee High School. The accident occurred on a steep snow covered hill in the Jocko Canyon area of Lake County, Montana. Raegan was a 15 year old freshman at Arlee High School at the time of her death. She lived with her parents in Missoula County and was bused to high school in Arlee, which is located in Lake County.

Joint School District No. 8 services Lake, Missoula and Sanders counties. Approximately two thirds of the students who attend school within the district reside in Lake County. The principal offices of the school district are located in the Arlee High School. All permanent physical facilities of the school district are located in Lake County. The sledding accident occurred in Lake County.

Appellant agrees that defendant, Glen Paulson, resides in Lake County. Appellant also acknowledges that the alleged tort was committed in Lake County. However, appellant asserts that Section 25-2-122, MCA, which would unequivocally place this tort action as properly triable in Lake County, is not controlling. Appellant contends that Section 25-2-126, MCA, is the decisive statute and, as worded, labels Missoula County as a proper place of venue. We disagree. The pertinent language in Section 25-2-126(3) states:

"(3) The proper place of trial against a political subdivision is in the county in which the claim arose or in any county where the political subdivision is located."

Case law in Montana has not addressed whether a school district is properly labeled a "political subdivision." As this case can be decided without making such a distinction, we will not address it here.

Montana case law has analyzed the question of venue concerning a Montana corporation which does business in more than one county within the State. In such cases, this Court has held that a corporation does not reside in any county in which it happens to do business. A corporation in Montana has only one residence. That residence is the county in which it has it's principal place of business. Platt v. Sears, Roebuck Co. (Mont. 1986), [ 222 Mont. 184,] 721 P.2d 336, 338, 43 St.Rep. 1160, 1162.

Although a school district is not a corporation, it is similar in that it has a principal place of business which is easily identifiable.

In the present case some students attend Arlee High School in Lake County while residing in Missoula and Sanders counties for reasons of convenience and efficiency. The district includes these families living outside of Lake County because they live closer to the Arlee School than to the those located in their own respective counties. The extent of the school district's contact with Missoula County is when buses cross the county border, pick the children up, take them to school and return them to their homes in the afternoon. This limited contact with Missoula County does not make it a county in which a school district, primarily located in and operating from Lake County, can be sued.

The proper place for a tort action is: (1) the county in which defendants, or any of them, reside at the commencement of the action; or (2) the county where the tort was committed. Section 25-2-122, MCA. See also Bradley v. Valmont Industries, Inc. (Mont. 1985), [ 216 Mont. 429,] 701 P.2d 997, 998, 42 St.Rep. 925, 927.

The proper county in which to try this tort action is Lake County.

The order of the District Court granting defendant's motion for a change of venue to Lake County is affirmed.


Summaries of

Mapston v. Joint School Dist. No. 8

Supreme Court of Montana
Jul 29, 1987
740 P.2d 676 (Mont. 1987)
Case details for

Mapston v. Joint School Dist. No. 8

Case Details


Court:Supreme Court of Montana

Date published: Jul 29, 1987


740 P.2d 676 (Mont. 1987)
740 P.2d 676

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