Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Montana Supreme Court
Buckles v. Continental Resources, Inc.
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court granting Continental Resources, Inc.'s motion to dismiss for lack of specific personal jurisdiction Plaintiff's complaint alleging that Continental was liable for the death of Zachary Buckles, holding that Plaintiff raised sufficient facts to withstand a motion to dismiss. Buckles died at a North Dakota oil well site owned by Continental, allegedly from exposure to high levels of hydrocarbon vapors while manually gauging tanks. The district court concluded that Continental, an Oklahoma corporation authorized to do business in Montana, was not subject to specific personal jurisdiction because the events leading to Buckles' death did not satisfy Montana's long-arm statute and because exercising jurisdiction over Continental would violate the United States Constitution's Due Process Clause. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Continental failed to present a compelling case that jurisdiction would be unreasonable should Plaintiff prove her claims. View "Buckles v. Continental Resources, Inc." on Justia Law
Brenden v. City of Billings
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment to the City of Billing on Appellant's claims that the City was vicariously liable for the tortious acts of former City employee Michael Glancy, holding that the district court erred in concluding as a matter of law that Glancy was not acting within the scope of his employment. After Appellant brought his lawsuit the City filed a motion for summary judgment on the asserted ground that Glancy engaged in the alleged tortious conduct outside the scope of his employment. The district court granted summary judgment for the City. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment as to whether Glancy's conduct were incidental to implicitly authorized conduct and thus within the scope of his employment. View "Brenden v. City of Billings" on Justia Law
Maryland Casualty Co. v. Asbestos Claims Court
The Supreme Court allowed hundreds of former employees of W.R. Grace & Company's Zonolite Division in Libby (Grace) to continue their asbestos-related personal injury claims against Maryland Casualty Company (MCC), Grace's former workers' compensation insurance provider, holding that MCC owed Grace workers a direct common law duty under Restatement (Second) of Torts 324A(b)-(c) to use reasonable care under the circumstances to warn them of the known risk of exposure to airborne asbestos in certain Grace workplaces. The Supreme Court assumed supervisory control over proceedings pending before the Montana Asbestos Claims Court. Here the Court addressed on extraordinary review MCC's assertion that the district court erred in concluding that MCC owed a duty of care to warn third-party employees of Grace of a known risk of airborne asbestos exposure in or about Grace facilities in and about Libby, Montana between 1963 and 1970. The Supreme Court held that, based on MCC's affirmative assumption of employee-specific medical monitoring and Grace's reliance on MCC to perform that function, MCC owed Grace workers a legal duty to use reasonable care to warn them of the risk of airborne asbestos. View "Maryland Casualty Co. v. Asbestos Claims Court" on Justia Law
Speer v. State, Department of Corrections
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for the Montana Department of Corrections (DOC) and dismissing Plaintiff's claims for wrongful discharge from employment, violation of Montana constitutional and administrative rights to privacy, and tortious defamation, holding that the district court did not err. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) no genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether DOC discharged Plaintiff for good cause, and therefore, the district court properly granted summary judgment on Plaintiff's wrongful discharge claim; (2) no genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether DOC discharged Plaintiff in violation of its written personnel policy, and therefore, the district court properly granted summary judgment on Plaintiff's wrongful discharge claim; (3) the district court did not err in granting summary judgment on Plaintiff's claim that DOC violated her right to privacy under Mont. Const. art. II, 10 and Admin. R. M. 2.21.6615; and (4) the district court did not err in concluding that derogatory statements made by DOC to the Montana Peace Officer Standards and Training Council were privileged under Mont. Code Ann. 27-1-804(2). View "Speer v. State, Department of Corrections" on Justia Law
Nunez v. Watchtower
The Supreme Court reversed a $35 million jury verdict in favor of Alexis Nunez on her claim that the Jehovah's Witnesses were negligent as a matter of law when they failed to notify authorities of a 2004 child abuse report her uncle Peter McGowan made to a church elder alleging that Peter's stepfather had sexually abused him as a child, holding that the Jehovah's Witnesses were excused from reporting by Montana's mandatory child abuse reporting statute, Mont. Code Ann. 41-3-201. Alexis, a victim of abuse by Reyes, sued the church in 2016 alleging that the Jehovah's Witnesses violated the state statute by failing to report Reyes's abuse of Peter. A jury awarded Alexis $4 million in actual damages and $31 million in punitive damages. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Jehovah's Witnesses' established doctrine and practice required elders to keep Peter's disclosure confidential, and therefore, the Jehovah's Witnesses were excepted from the mandatory reporting statute. View "Nunez v. Watchtower" on Justia Law
High Country Paving v. United Fire & Casualty Co.
The Supreme Court answered in the negative a question certified to it by a federal district court regarding tension in case law between an insurer's duty to a third-party claimant and its duty to its insured. As a result of an accident caused by High County Paving, Inc., one person died and another was critically injured. United Fire & Casualty Co., High County's insurer, advance-paid the medical expenses of the injured parties prior to a final settlement. High County argued that any further payments to the injured parties without obtaining a release for High County would violate United Fire's duties to High Country, as general damages are not a type of damages that are required to be advance-paid to an injured third party. United Fire argued it was required to tender a payment of policy limits to the injured parties without a release for High Country because total damages exceeded policy limits. The Supreme Court held that an insurer does not breach its duty to its insured when it pays policy limits to an injured third party, without a release for its insured, after a motor vehicle accident when both liability for the accident is reasonably clear and it is reasonably clear that total damages caused by the insured exceed policy limits. View "High Country Paving v. United Fire & Casualty Co." on Justia Law
Estate of Longsoldier v. Blaine County
The Supreme Court reversed the district court's entry of summary judgment in favor of the Estate of Allen J. Longsoldier, Jr. declaring that Hill County was vicariously liable for the negligence of the Northern Montana Hospital (NMH) under the non-delegable duty doctrine, holding that Hill County could not be held vicariously liable for NMH's medical negligence. Longsoldier, who was being detained at the Hill County Detention Center, died at NMH due to the effect of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Longsoldier's Estate filed this negligence action against Hill County, arguing that it had a non-delegable duty to provide Longsoldier with reasonable medical care and was therefore vicariously liable for NMH's medical negligence. The district court concluded that Hill County was vicariously liable for NMH's actions on the ground that public policy dictated the creation of a non-delegable duty. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that under the proper tests, Hill County was not vicariously liable for NMH's medical negligence. View "Estate of Longsoldier v. Blaine County" on Justia Law
Neisinger v. New Hampshire Insurance Co.
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the Workers' Compensation Court (WCC) reversing in part and affirming in part the order of the Montana Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) directing Petitioner to attend a medical examination for a diagnostic update of Petitioner's medical problems attributable to his industrial injury, holding that the WCC erred. Specifically, the WCC held that New Hampshire must first authorize Petitioner to see a psychiatrist or psychologist before it could obtain a psychiatric examination pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 39-71-605. New Hampshire provided workers' compensation insurance for Petitioner's employer. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the WCC correctly held that Petitioner should not be compelled to attend a psychiatric examination before it was established that his complaints of insomnia and anxiety were causally related to his workers' compensation claim; but (2) the WCC erred in concluding that New Hampshire must pay for a medical examination and treatment of Petitioner's complaints before New Hampshire could obtain a section 605 exam. View "Neisinger v. New Hampshire Insurance Co." on Justia Law
King v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.
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
Richardson v. Indemnity Insurance Co. of N.A.
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