Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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In this insurance dispute the Supreme Court reversed in part the district court's determination that Carla King was not entitled to her taxable costs and her claimed nontaxable costs after a jury found in favor of King, holding that the district court erred in concluding that King was not entitled to her claimed nontaxable costs. King was injured when her vehicle was hit by a drunk driver. King sought underinsured motorist coverage from State Farm, but King and State Farm did not agree on the value of King's claim. State Farm had offered to settle the claim for $20,000. The jury found that King had suffered damages in the amount of $410,000. The district court entered judgment against State Farm in the amount of the policy limit of $50,000. The district court awarded King $20,000 in attorney fees and denied King's claimed litigation expenses and costs. The Supreme Court held (1) the district court correctly held that King was not entitled to her taxable costs as provided by Mont. Code Ann. 25-10-201 because they were not timely filed; and (2) the district court erred in concluding that King was not entitled to her claimed nontaxable costs because those litigation costs were part of the insurance exception to the American Rule. View "King v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Workers' Compensation Court (WCC) granting summary judgment to Indemnity Insurance Company of North America on Brian Richardson's petition arguing that he was entitled to have Indemnity accept his claim for workers' compensation benefits, holding that the WCC correctly held that Richardson had not timely filed a written claim for benefits under Mont. Code Ann. 39-71-601. Richardson filed his claim for benefits almost four years after the alleged work-related accident. Indemnity denied Richardson's claim on the grounds that Richardson had failed to provide his employer with timely notice and that he had failed timely to file his claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Richardson failed to file a timely written claim under section 39-71-601. View "Richardson v. Indemnity Insurance Co. of N.A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of dissolution issued by the district court, holding that the district court had jurisdiction to divide a portion of the proceeds from Shannon Moore's California personal injury lawsuit in the decree and did not err when it denied Kayle Jo Hardman's request for half of the proceeds from Shannon's California personal injury lawsuit. Kayle and Shannon married in California. Shannon was injured in California and filed a personal injury lawsuit. After living in Montana for 100 days, Kayle filed a petition for dissolution and served it on Shannon in California. The district court entered a decree. Thereafter, Shannon received a jury verdict in his personal injury lawsuit. Kayle sought to be awarded half of the proceeds of the lawsuit under the decree. The district court granted Kayle fifty percent of the proceeds from Shannon's personal injury lawsuit. The court later vacated its order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) had jurisdiction to divide a portion of the proceeds from Shannon's California personal lawsuit in the decree; and (2) correctly denied Kayle's request for half of the proceeds from Shannon's California personal injury lawsuit. View "In re Marriage of Moore" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Ford Motor Company's motion to change venue in this case alleging claims for strict liability for design defects, strict liability for failure to warn, and negligence, holding that the named plaintiff in this proceeding properly brought a survival and wrongful death action against Ford in Cascade County pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 25-2-122(2)(b). The Decedent, a resident of Mineral County, died of injuries she suffered when her Ford Explorer lost stability and rolled into a ditch in Mineral County. Charles Lucero, the personal representative of Decedent's estate, filed suit against Ford in Cascade County on behalf of Decedent and her heirs. Ford, which had a registered agent in Missoula County, filed a motion for change of venue, requesting that venue be changed to Mineral or Missoula County. The district court denied the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Lucero resided in Cascade County venue was proper in Cascade County under section 25-2-122(2). View "Lucero v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law

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In this action brought by Lisa Warrington bringing claims for breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and promissory estoppel the Supreme Court affirmed the district court's order granting partial summary judgment to Great Falls Clinic, LLP and denied the Clinic's cross appeal, holding that the district court did not err. Specifically, the Court held that the district court (1) did not err by granting partial summary judgment to the Clinic on Warrington's tort claim for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; (2) did not commit reversible error by admitting evidence of the Clinic's liability and Warrington's emotional distress; (3) did not err by denying the Clinic's motion for judgment as a matter of law regarding Warrington's damages; and (4) did not err by failing to rule and instruct the jury that the contract at issue was for a one-year term pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 39-2-602(1). View "Warrington v. Great Falls Clinic, LLP" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court accepted a question certified to it by the United States District Court for the District of Montana to address an Estate's third-party claim to stacked liability limits in an aircraft insurance policy that covered multiple aircraft, concluding that the answer to the question, which the Court reformulated, was no. The Supreme Court reformulated the question as follows: "Is the Estate of Darrell L. Ward entitled to stack the limits of liability coverage for three separate aircraft under the terms of an insurance policy issued to the pilot of an aircraft in which Ward was a passenger at the time it crashed?" The Supreme Court answered no to the reformulated certified question because (1) the plain, unambiguous language of the contract limits the coverage to the aircraft that is involved in the accident; (2) there is no public policy or statute that mandates payment of the cumulative coverage for separate aircraft in an aviation liability insurance policy that does not provide for such payment; and (3) the insurance policy at issue was not subject to stacking of its passenger liability coverages. View "U.S. Specialty v. Estate of Ward" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration and dismiss the case, holding that the district court did not erroneously compel arbitration. Plaintiff entered into a construction contract that contained an arbitration agreement. Plaintiff later filed a complaint against Defendants, asserting claims for breach of contract, negligence, and other torts. Defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration and dismiss. The Supreme Court granted the motion to compel arbitration and dismissed the action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err (1) in concluding that the arbitration agreement required arbitration of matters within its scope rather than merely authorizing it as a matter of discretion upon timely demand; (2) in failing to conclude that Defendants equitably waived the right to arbitrate; (3) in compelling arbitration without consideration of Plaintiff’s proposed declaratory judgment claim challenging the validity of the arbitration agreement; (4) in concluding that Plaintiff’s asserted non-contract claims were subject to arbitration; and (5) in failing to conclude that, as a non-party to the agreement, one defendant lacked standing to enforce the arbitration agreement. View "Peeler v. Rocky Mountain Log Homes Canada, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Appellants’ motion to compel arbitration of claims brought by Appellee, holding that the district court did not err in denying Appellants’ motion to compel arbitration. At issue in this case was a dealership agreement containing an arbitration clause. The agreement was signed by Frontline Ag, LLC and John Deere Company. Appellee owned an interest in Frontline. The dealer agreement contained an arbitration clause requiring arbitration of disputes between Deere and Frontline, the dealer. Appellee eventually filed this action against Deere alleging, inter alia, tortious interference with contract. Deere moved to stay the proceedings and compel arbitration. The district court denied the motion to compel arbitration, reasoning that Appellee never agreed to arbitrate his claims against Deere and that the dealer agreement only required arbitration of disputes between Deere and Frontline. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the arbitration clause did not incorporate Appellee’s personal damage claims within its definition of disputes subject to mandatory arbitration. View "Anderson v. John Deere & Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granted the State’s motion to dismiss and Jefferson County’s motion for summary judgment as to Plaintiffs’ complaint against special deputy prosecutor Steven Shapiro, the State, and Jefferson County, holding that the district court properly concluded that Shapiro was entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity and that this immunity was properly extended to both Jefferson County and the State. Plaintiffs brought this complaint seeking damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of their child’s constitutional rights, a Dorwart claim, and a malicious prosecution claim. Plaintiffs also filed a negligence claim against Jefferson County. The district court granted the motion to dismiss brought by the State and Shapiro on the grounds of absolute prosecutorial immunity. The court then granted summary judgment for Jefferson County on the grounds that the public duty doctrine barred Plaintiffs’ claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) correctly concluded that Shapiro was entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity when he signed an affidavit establishing probable cause to file a petition initiating delinquency proceedings against Plaintiffs’ child; (2) properly extended this immunity to Jefferson County and the State; and (3) correctly concluded that the public duty doctrine prevented recovery against Jefferson County. View "Renenger v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s orders granting motions to dismiss Plaintiffs’ negligence claims against BNSF Railway Company, holding that a company does not consent to general personal jurisdiction by registering to do business in Montana and voluntarily conducting in-state business activities. BNSF, a rail carrier incorporated in Delaware with its principal place of business in Texas, registered to do business in Montana and designated an in-state agent for service of process. Plaintiffs filed suit against BNSF under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act for injuries allegedly sustained while working for BNSF in states other than Montana. BNSF moved to dismiss Plaintiffs’ claims for lack of personal jurisdiction. The district court determined that BNSF did not consent to personal jurisdiction in Montana and, accordingly, granted BNSF’s motions to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a foreign corporation does not consent to general personal jurisdiction when it registers to do business in Montana and then voluntarily conducts in-state business activities; and (2) accordingly, BNSF did not consent to general personal jurisdiction in this case. View "Deleon v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law