Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Summary 2007 WY 117

Summary of Decision issued July 31, 2007

[SPECIAL NOTE: This opinion uses "Universal Citation" and was given an "official" citation when issued. You should use this citation whenever you cite the opinion, with a P.3d parallel citation. You will note that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you need to provide a pinpoint citation, the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number. The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion should include the reporter page number. If you need assistance, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library.]

Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Case Name: Bradley v. Bradley

Citation: 2007 WY 117

Docket Number: 06-201

Appeal from the District Court of Teton County, the Honorable Nancy J. Guthrie, Judge

Representing Appellant (Plaintiff): Kenneth S. Cohen of Cohen Law Offices, PC, Jackson, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee (Defendant): Jessica Rutzick, Jackson, Wyoming.

Issue: Whether the district court properly applied Minnesota law to a purported modification of a premarital agreement where the premarital agreement included a choice of law provision calling for Minnesota law to govern its “validity, execution, enforcement, and construction.”

Facts/Discussion: Husband appealed from the district court’s order granting a partial summary judgment in favor of Wife. The court ruled, as a matter of law, that Minnesota law applied to the modification provision of the parties’ premarital agreement and their post-nuptial amendment to the agreement was unenforceable because it did not comply with Minnesota statutes.
The Court reviews all aspects of the district court’s decision to grant a summary judgment de novo. They employ the same standards and examine the same materials as the district court.
The Court reviewed the applicable Minnesota statutes and stated that it was undisputed the parties did not comply with the statute in numerous ways when they executed the amendment. Husband conceded the amendment was not enforceable under Minnesota law but argued that the choice of law did not apply to the provision pertaining to modification of the premarital agreement. Courts in Minnesota and Wyoming seek to interpret contracts in accordance with the parties’ intentions.
Husband argued that under the plain language of the premarital agreement, the choice of Minnesota law in Article 15 did not extend to the method of amending or modifying the contract under Article 14. The Court disagreed. The Court noted that Wyoming and Minnesota rules for interpreting contracts are very similar. The clear language in Article 15 broadly defined the scope of the choice of law provision. Under the terms of Articles 14 and 15, execution of an amendment to a premarital agreement must be accomplished in accordance with Minnesota law.
The general language of Article 15 makes it clear the parties intended the choice of law provision to apply broadly to the contract. Under the clear and unambiguous language of the premarital agreement, Minnesota law applies to amendment of the agreement. The Court’s analysis continued with a discussion of Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws which generally respects the parties’ contractual choice of law. Minnesota law is not contrary to Wyoming law or public policy, the parties had sufficient contacts with Minnesota (property and time spent) so under the Restatements, the parties’ choice of Minnesota law was valid.

Holding: The district court correctly held the plain language of the premarital agreement directed that Minnesota law applied to the procedure for amending the agreement and the 2003 amendment did not comply with the applicable Minnesota statute. Consequently, the district court correctly granted a partial summary judgment in favor of Wife, declaring the amendment unenforceable.


J. Kite delivered the decision.

Link: http://tinyurl.com/257lt6 .

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