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Maryott v. First National Bank

Supreme Court of South Dakota
624 N.W.2d 96 (2001)


Facts

Ned Maryott (plaintiff), the owner of a cattle-dealing business, borrowed various loans from First National Bank of Eden (Bank) (defendant). In 1996, Maryott attempted unsuccessfully to collect payments from one of his customers. The Bank’s manager, Tim Hofer (defendant), and the Bank’s president, Peter Melhaff (defendant), learned of Maryott’s trouble collecting payment. Shortly thereafter, Hofer and Melhaff became aware of three sizable checks drawn on Maryott’s checking account, payable to Tri-County Livestock, Schaffer Cattle Company (Schaffer), and Central Livestock Company (Central). Based on their knowledge of Maryott’s payment-collection issues and the large checks processed from Maryott’s account, Hofer and Melhaff decided that the transactions were suspicious, and the Bank dishonored the checks. As a licensed cattle dealer, Maryott held an insurance bond. After learning of the dishonored checks, Schaffer and Central filed claims against Maryott’s bond. The bond was insufficient to cover the claims, and Maryott was forced to forfeit his livestock-dealing license and close his business. Maryott brought suit against Bank, Hofer, and Melhaff for wrongful dishonor of the checks. At trial, Schaffer and Central testified that they would not have filed claims against Maryott’s bond if the Bank had not dishonored the checks. The trial judge instructed the jury on the doctrine of proximate cause and defined emotional distress as including all highly unpleasant emotional or mental reactions. The jury awarded Maryott $450,000 for lost income and $150,000 for emotional distress. The trial court denied the Bank’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and the Bank appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Gilbertson, J.)

Concurrence (Miller, C.J.)

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