This action is a complicated consolidation of four primary actions seeking damages emanating from a propane gas explosion at the Baltic Farmers Elevator Company on May 28, 1980. The voluminous settled record, consisting of two large boxes, is digested for benefit of the parties, their attorneys, and a decision of this case. A recitation of the procedural history focuses the complexity of this litigation but the substantive aspect of this decision is riveted upon the unconstitutionality of two state statutes.
In one action, appellants Claire Hines and Linda Hines (Hines) filed a complaint on March 30, 1981, against appellees Koopman & Sons Gas Company, Inc. (Koopman Gas), Helen Koopman (Koopman), and Baltic Farmers Elevator Company (Baltic Elevator). Answers were filed. Discovery commenced. Crane Company (Crane) became a defendant and brought in United States Steel Corporation (U.S. Steel) and Republic Steel Corporation (Republic) as third-party defendants via a third-party complaint. On June 28, 1982, Crane moved for summary judgment. U.S. Steel then moved for summary judgment on July 8, 1982. On July 26, 1982, counsel for Hines filed an affidavit in opposition to summary judgment. Crane filed a cross-claim against the other appellees on September 21, 1982. Koopman Gas and Koopman motioned to amend their answers and cross-claim against Baltic Elevator, the Baltic Cooperative Building Supply Association (Baltic Builders), Crane, U.S. Steel, and Republic. On November 24, 1982, Republic filed a motion for summary judgment. Affidavits in favor of, and in resistance to, the summary judgments were filed.
On January 20, 1983, the trial court entered findings granting summary judgment in favor of Crane. On February 1, 1983, the trial court entered an order allowing Hines to amend their complaint. Findings granting summary judgment in favor of U.S. Steel were entered on February 10, 1983, and for Republic on February 23, 1983. An amended complaint making Tri-State Insurance Company of Minnesota (Tri-State) a defendant and alleging concealment against some defendants was filed on March 10, 1983. On March 23, 1983, Hines filed a notice of appeal (# 14136) to this Court from the summary judgment. On April 1, 1983, Koopman Gas and Koopman filed a notice of review (# 14146) with this Court. On April 5, 1983, Crane filed a notice of review (# 14154) with this Court.
In another action, appellant Daniel Chmela filed a complaint on April 13, 1982, against Baltic Elevator, Koopman Gas, Koopman, Leroy Koopman, Don Koopman, Minnehaha Cooperative Oil Company (Minnehaha Oil), Crane, U.S. Steel, and Republic. Answers were filed. Discovery commenced. Crane cross-claimed against all defendants. On May 21, 1982, Republic also cross-claimed against all defendants. Minnehaha Oil motioned for summary judgment on June 24, 1982, as did Crane on June 28, 1982, U.S. Steel on July 8, 1982, and all Koopman defendants on November 22, 1982. Affidavits were filed. All Koopman defendants motioned for an amended answer and cross-claimed against Baltic Elevator, Minnehaha Oil, Crane, U.S. Steel, and Republic. Republic motioned for summary judgment on November 24, 1982.
On January 20, 1983, the trial court entered findings granting summary judgment for Crane. On February 3, 1983, the trial court entered an order allowing Chmela to amend his complaint and also bring in Tri-State as a defendant. On February 4, 1983, findings were entered granting summary judgment for Minnehaha Oil. Chmela filed an amended complaint alleging concealment against some defendants on February 9, 1983. Findings allowing summaryjudgment for U.S. Steel were entered on February 10, 1983, and for Minnehaha Oil
In the third primary action, appellant Darwin R. Daugaard filed a complaint on October 14, 1981, against Baltic Builders, Baltic Elevator, Koopman Gas, Leroy Koopman, Don Koopman, Helen Koopman, Minnehaha Oil, Crane, U.S. Steel, and Republic. Answers were filed and discovery commenced. Crane cross-claimed against all defendants. On June 22, 1982, Baltic Builders motioned for summary judgment; Minnehaha Oil similarly motioned on June 24, 1982; Crane on June 28, 1982; U.S. Steel on July 8, 1982; and all Koopmans on November 22, 1982. Affidavits were filed.
On November 17, 1982, Darwin Daugaard motioned to amend his complaint. On November 22, 1982, all Koopmans cross-claimed against Baltic Builders, Baltic Elevator, Minnehaha Oil, Crane, U.S. Steel, and Republic. Republic motioned for summary judgment on November 24, 1982. Minnehaha Oil motioned for summary judgment against Crane on November 24, 1982. The trial court entered an order on December 10, 1982, allowing an amended complaint and summary judgments for Baltic Builders, Minnehaha Oil, Crane, U.S. Steel, and Republic. An amended complaint was filed on December 10, 1982, alleging concealment against all Koopmans and Baltic Elevator. Tri-State was brought in as a defendant. Nunc pro tunc orders were entered on December 16, 1982.
On January 20, 1983, Darwin Daugaard filed a notice of appeal (# 14053) to this Court from the summary judgments entered below. On February 9, 1983, Baltic Builders answered Darwin Daugaard's amended complaint, motioned for summary judgment, and answered the Koopmans' cross-claim. Tri-State answered the Koopmans' cross-claim on February 16, 1983. All Koopmans motioned for summary judgment on February 22, 1983. A petition for allowance of appeal from an intermediate order was filed by Darwin Daugaard with this Court on January 26, 1983. On February 22, 1983, this Court denied the petition. On March 14, 1983, Crane filed a notice of appeal (# 14118) with this Court from the summary judgments entered dismissing its cross-claims.
The trial court entered an order on March 23, 1983, granting summary judgment in favor of Baltic Builders against the amended complaint and the individual Koopmans' cross-claims. This order also denied the Koopmans' motion for summary judgment on the amended complaint. On April 13, 1983, Darwin Daugaard filed a notice of appeal (# 14171) to this Court from the trial court's summary judgment. On April 21, 1983, the trial court entered an amended order on the motions for summary judgment which granted the Koopman defendants a partial summary judgment against the amended complaint. Summary judgment was not granted in favor of the Koopmans for Daugaards' negligence, breach of warranty, strict liability, and violation of statute causes of action. An amended notice of appeal (# 14053) was filed with this Court on April 26, 1983. A stipulation allowing the amended appeal, to relate back to the original appeal, was filed on April 25, 1983.
In the final primary action consolidated herein, appellant Dorothy A. Daugaard as executrix of the estate of Dwight R. Daugaard, deceased, filed a complaint on January 2, 1981, against Baltic Builders, Baltic Elevator, Koopman Gas, and Crane. Answers were filed and discovery commenced. Crane cross-claimed against all other defendants on January 13, 1981. Baltic Builders cross-claimed against Crane and Crane answered on January 13, 1981. Crane motioned for summary judgment against appellant and Baltic Builders and
Baltic Builders motioned for summary judgment on June 22, 1982, as did Crane on June 28, 1982 and U.S. Steel on July 8, 1982. Dorothy Daugaard motioned for permission to file an amended complaint to include concealment against some defendants on November 17, 1982. Koopman Gas filed a motion for summary judgment on November 22, 1982.
The trial court entered an order on December 10, 1982, allowing an amended complaint featuring a concealment cause of action and summary judgment for Baltic Builders, Minnehaha Oil, Crane, U.S. Steel, and Republic. Koopman Gas' motion for summary judgment was denied. An amended complaint was filed by Dorothy Daugaard on December 10, 1982. A nunc pro tunc order was entered on December 16, 1982. Tri-State answered the amended complaint on January 12, 1983. On January 18, 1983, an additional nunc pro tunc order was entered. Dorothy Daugaard filed a notice of appeal to this Court (# 14052) from the summary judgments on January 20, 1983. Koopman Gas answered the amended complaint on February 7, 1983. The individual Koopmans also answered the amended complaint and cross-claimed against Baltic Builders, Baltic Elevator, and Tri-State on February 7, 1983. Baltic Builders answered the amended complaint and the Koopman cross-claim on February 9, 1983.
Baltic Builders motioned for summary judgment against the amended complaint on February 9, 1983. Tri-State answered Koopmans' cross-claim on February 16, 1983. All Koopman defendants motioned for summary judgment on February 22, 1983. A petition for allowance of appeal from an intermediate order was filed by Dorothy Daugaard with this Court on January 26, 1983. The petition was denied on February 22, 1983. Crane filed a notice of appeal (# 14117) to this Court on March 14, 1983. The trial court entered an order on March 23, 1983, granting Baltic Builders summary judgment against the amended complaint and the Koopmans' cross-claim. Koopmans' motion for summary judgment was denied. On March 30, 1983, Baltic Elevator filed a notice of review (# 14144) with this Court. On April 13, 1983, Dorothy Daugaard filed a notice of appeal (# 14170) to this Court from the summary judgments. On April 21, 1983, the trial court entered an amended order for summary judgment allowing the Koopman defendants a partial summary judgment as set forth above in Dwight Daugaard's action. Dorothy Daugaard filed an amended notice of appeal (# 14052) with this Court on April 26, 1983, and a stipulation allowing the amendment followed on April 25, 1983. A second amended notice of appeal (# 14052) was filed with this Court on May 5, 1983.
On August 18, 1983, this Court entered an order consolidating all of the above-referenced appeals and notices of review. We reverse and remand.
Baltic Elevator obtained the services of Baltic Builders in 1970 to install two underground liquified propane gas lines. Baltic Builders procured a quantity of steel pipe from Crane. On October 21 and 22, 1970, Baltic Builders trenched in two uncoated black iron pipes at Baltic Elevator. The trench was backfilled leaving capped ends of the pipes protruding above the soil. This installation failed to incorporate an anticorrosion system.
In May 1974, Koopman Gas delivered a rental propane tank to Baltic Elevator and hooked it up to the one-inch diameter unprotected pipe. At this juncture, it remains unclear when the other end of the pipe was ultimately connected to a grain dryer. Propane gas for the rented tank was purchased by Baltic Elevator from Koopman Gas in September 1975. From December 1972 through December 1979, Koopman
On the morning of May 28, 1980, several construction workers were repairing a portion of Baltic Elevator. Dwight Daugaard and his son Darwin were waiting to unload a truckful of corn. Three workers entered Baltic Elevator's basement to repair damage stemming from a recent fire. Suddenly, the entire basement was engulfed in flames; then an explosion ripped through Baltic Elevator. Most of the individual appellants herein are persons who suffered severe injuries in the explosion-fire. Mrs. Daugaard is the executrix of Dwight Daugaard, who perished from his injuries.
An investigation ensued culminating in the discovery of corrosion perforations through the one-inch steel pipe installed in 1970. It is alleged that the propane, which is heavier than air, leaked from the pipe and entered the elevator basement through its foundation. Allegedly, an accumulation of propane gas created a great explosion.
"All courts shall be open, and every man for an injury done him in his property, person or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law, and right and justice, administered without denial or delay." South Dakota Constitution art. VI, § 20.
According to appellees and the recent majority opinion in McMacken v. State, 320 N.W.2d 131, aff'd on rehearing, 325 N.W.2d 60 (S.D.1982), appellants do not have a "vested right in the continued existence of an immutable body of negligence law ...." McMacken, 320 N.W.2d at 137 (quoting Freezer Storage, Inc. v. Armstrong Cork Co., 476 Pa. 270, 279, 382 A.2d 715, 720-21 (1978)).
We agree that much of our negligence law is incapable of being cast in concrete for time immemorial. Negligence law must have some degree of flexibility. However, it is an entirely different and unacceptable proposition to assume that the flexibility of our negligence law may act in degradation of the fundamental foundations of our state constitution.
Our constitution, as enacted by our forefathers and occasionally amended, is solid core upon which all our state laws must be premised. Clearly and unequivocably, our constitution directs that the courts of this state shall be open to the injured and oppressed. We are unable to view this constitutional mandate as a faint echo to be skirted or ignored. Our constitution is free to provide greater protections for our citizens than are required under the federal constitution. State v. Opperman, 247 N.W.2d 673 (S.D.1976). Our constitution has spoken, and it is our duty to listen.
SDCL 15-2-9 and SDCL 15-2-12.1 are a locked deadbolt and shackle on our courtroom doors. We are unwilling to couch SDCL 15-2-9 and SDCL 15-2-12.1 in wishful language which portends their effect is somehow constitutional. SDCL 15-2-9 and SDCL 15-2-12.1 are statutes of nullification which stamp out our citizens' causes of action before they accrue. SDCL 15-2-9 and SDCL 15-2-12.1 have transgressed constitutional limitations and therefore it is our duty to declare these two statutes unconstitutional.
This is hardly the first expression of disapproval voiced towards these statutes of nullification. In McMacken, 320 N.W.2d at 140, Justice Dunn dissented, writing in part:
Another Justice likewise dissented in McMacken, writing in part:
Id. at 141 (Henderson, J., dissenting). See also, Mitchell Sch. Dist. No. 17-2 v. Welfl Constr., 329 N.W.2d 138, 140 (S.D.1983) (Dunn and Henderson, JJ., dissenting); McMacken v. State, 325 N.W.2d 60, 61 (S.D.1982), on rehearing (Dunn and Henderson, JJ., dissenting).
Several courts have held similar legislation unconstitutional. See Jackson v. Mannesmann Demag Corp., 435 So.2d 725 (Ala.1983); Heath v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., N.H., 464 A.2d 288 (1983); Bolick v. American Barmag Corp., 54 N.C. App. 589, 284 S.E.2d 188
Legal commentators have also expressed disapproval of statutes drafted in the same vein as SDCL 15-2-9 and SDCL 15-2-12.1:
Cotter, COMMENT/Limitation of Action Statutes for Architects and Builders—Blueprints for Non-action, 18 Cath.U.L.Rev. 361, 372, 374, 379 (1968-69) (footnotes omitted).
We are compelled to express that in addition to potential causes of action for common law negligence
Pursuant to SDCL 34-39-10, the predecessor to ARSD 61:12:01:02 was adopted incorporating the National Fire Protection Association pamphlet number 58, Storage and Handling of Liquefied Petroleum Gases. As in effect in 1970, section B.8.(k) of pamphlet number 58 provided: "Where soil conditions warrant, all piping shall be protected against corrosion." In 1974, ARSD 61:12:01:03 was created with the following language:
In 1969, we held that violations of regulations promulgated under SDCL 34-39-10 were, as a matter of law, negligence. Weeks v. Prostrollo Sons, Inc., 84 S.D. 243, 249, 169 N.W.2d 725, 729 (1969). In our recent holding of Walz v. City of Hudson, 327 N.W.2d 120, 122 (S.D.1982), we noted that "[n]egligence is the breach of a legal duty imposed by statute or common law." Importantly, we further reaffirmed in Walz, 327 N.W.2d at 123 n. 5, that a statute designed to protect South Dakota's citizenry must be construed with a "view to
We therefore hold that SDCL 15-2-9 and SDCL 15-2-12.1 are violative of, and repugnant to, constitutional provisions insuring the citizenry of open courts. McMacken, 320 N.W.2d 131, and Mitchell Sch. Dist., 329 N.W.2d 138, are overruled. Summary judgments entered below which are inconsistent with this holding must be vacated. This decision contemplates that discovery procedures must necessarily follow as circumstances in each cause of action and defense require. Accordingly, we reverse and remand.
DUNN, J., and HECK and MARTIN, Circuit Judges, concur.
WOLLMAN, J., dissents.
HECK, Circuit Judge, sitting for FOSHEIM, C.J., disqualified.
MARTIN, Circuit Judge, sitting for MORGAN, J., disqualified.
WOLLMAN, Justice (dissenting).
It is difficult to write a dissent to an opinion that relies upon rhetoric rather than reason to support the result it so fervently desires to reach. Talk of locks and shackles on our courtroom doors and of stamping out our citizens' causes of action makes good newspaper copy, but it is hardly the currency of serious analysis.
In McMacken v. State, 320 N.W.2d 131 (S.D.1982), we carefully considered an attack upon the constitutionality of SDCL 15-2-9 based upon Article VI, § 20, the open courts provision of our state constitution. We reaffirmed this court's decisions in Simons v. Kidd, 73 S.D. 41, 38 N.W.2d 883 (1949), and Behrns v. Burke, 89 S.D. 96, 229 N.W.2d 86 (1975), to the effect that Art. VI, § 20 guarantees a right of access to the courts for redress only of causes of action recognized under common law or by statute and does not in and of itself create causes of action. A number of other courts, see, e.g., Lamb v. Wedgewood South Corp., 308 N.C. 419, 302 S.E.2d 868 (1983), and cases cited therein, have reached the same conclusion under similar constitutional provisions.
The consequences of today's opinion are potentially far broader than the opinion itself intimates. For example, does the holding in effect overrule our recent decision in Grosz v. City of Sioux Falls, 346 N.W.2d 446 (S.D.1984)? Does it overrule our decision in Hunt v. Hunt, 309 N.W.2d 818 (S.D.1981) (in which we purported to judicially abolish the common law tort of criminal conversation)? (Indeed, perhaps Justice Henderson and I will be forever foreclosed from reaffirming our views that the tort of alienation of affections should also be abolished.) Does today's opinion render a sinking morass the "safer legal ground" to which municipal employees may seek to flee to avoid the imposition of personal liability? See Schaub v. Moerke, 338 N.W.2d 109, 112 (S.D.1983) (Henderson, J., concurring specially). Open courts forsooth!
With respect to the purported statutory basis of liability that the majority holds survives the effect of the statutes in question, I need only quote the response of the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit to a similar contention made in a case arising out of the accident that gave rise to these actions:
Van Den Hul v. Baltic Farmers Elevator Co., 716 F.2d 504, 512 (8th Cir.1983).
If we were free to strike down statutes willy-nilly on the basis of our personal feelings, the result of the proposed opinion might be justifiable. Once this court, or any other court for that matter, starts down that road, however, I see no end in sight. Although it might well be a heady, enjoyable experience to correct what we may perceive to be unwise, ill-conceived legislation, I see no warrant for us to do so in the absence of palpably unconstitutional legislative action. The judiciary should not have to do penance for the sins of the legislature.
It will be interesting to see whether the life span of today's majority opinion will be as ephemeral as the composition of the court that produced it. However long lived today's interment of McMacken, the decision will do nothing to add to this court's reputation for constancy, consistency, and reasoned elaboration.
I would affirm the summary judgments.
SDCL 15-2-12.1 provides: