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Summary of Alaska Supreme Court Opinions

In the interest of truth in advertising, I will no longer describe these posts as “weekly” summaries of Alaska Supreme Court opinions. Nonetheless, here is a selection of some relevant and interesting opinions issued by the Alaska Supreme Court over the past month.

May 8, 2009

In Cragle v. Gray, a granddaughter claimed that her grandmother orally promised to leave her house to her if she would care for her until she died. The grandmother’s will left the house to her daughter, and not the granddaughter. The court reversed the trial court’s denial of a motion for partial summary judgment, holding that the oral promise was a succession contract and unenforceable under AS 13.12.514.

Municipality of Anchorage v. Regulatory Commission of Alaska held that the Regulatory Commission had no reasonable basis for denying approval of rate increases requested by the Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility. The rate increases were necessary because of new regulations adopted by the Municipality regarding payment in lieu of property taxes.

April 24, 2009

E.P. v. Alaska Psychiatric Institute contains a good discussion of Alaska’s involuntary committee laws. The opinion affirms the commitment of a mentally ill individual on three consecutive occasions. The court found that the individual had suffered organic brain injury as a result of his substance abuse, and was a danger to himself and others.

Smith v. Kofstad addressed the time limit for executing on a judgment, and the effect passage of property by operation of law to the judgment debtor’s spouse had the judgment creditor’s effort to executive on the judgment – the property could not be executed on.

April 10, 2009

Ruest v. Alaska Petroleum Contractors addressed the State’s 50% share of any punitive damage award, and held that the parties to a case in which punitive damages are awarded cannot enter into a settlement post-verdict to avoid the State receiving its share of punitive damages. Consequently, the State’s interest in 50% of any punitive damage award attaches at the time the verdict is published, and not at final judgment.

April 3, 2009

In Gibson v. Nye Frontier Ford, Inc., the Alaska Supreme Court reaffirmed that it will do much to preserve an arbitration clause in a contract. Although it found that part of an arbitration provision was unconscionable, it also held that the unconscionable provision was severable, leaving the remainder of the arbitration agreement enforceable. The court did hold that requiring an employee to pay arbitration costs was not permitted by the Alaska Wage and Hour Act. As such, the employer could require arbitration of the employee’s claims only if the employer agreed to pay the arbitration costs.