Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court
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In this insurance dispute, the Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the district court granting the cross-motion for partial summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs and New West Health Services and denying Allied World Assurance Company's motion for partial summary judgment, holding that the district court erred in part.Dana Rolan, who serious injuries in an automobile accident, had health insurance through New West. New West denied coverage because the tortfeasor's liability insurance paid $100,000 of Rolan's medical expenses. Rolan filed a class action complaint alleging that New West violated its made-whole obligations. New West tendered the defense to its insurer, Allied. The district court certified the class and held New West liable for monetary losses. Plaintiffs and New West subsequently entered into a settlement. Allied opposed the district court's ensuing motion for final judgment, arguing that the proposed settlement amount was not covered by Allied. The district court approved the settlement between New West and Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court held that the district court (1) erred in holding that Allied was estopped from asserting a $1 million "each Claim" limit of liability under the policy; and (2) correctly concluded that Allied's "Loss" provision did not preclude Allied's indemnity obligation of the class's damages. View "Rolan v. New West Health Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the rulings of the district court that the State was covered by an insurance policy it had with National Indemnity Company (National) for claims made against the State for injury and death resulting from asbestos exposure but reversed the district court's rulings regarding qualifying "occurrences" under the policy, holding that remand was required for further consideration of these issues.This insurance dispute followed litigation between the State and claimants who alleged that they were harmed by the State's failure to warn them of the hazards of asbestos exposure over years of mining and milling operations in Libby, Montana. National insured the State against general liability from 1973-1975. National filed this action seeking determinations that it had no obligation to defend the State or to cover the claims. The State concluded that National breached its duty to defend the State but disagreed with the district court's determination of the number of "occurrences" eligible for coverage under the policy, holding that remand was required for further factual findings. View "National Indemnity Co. v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the district court concluding that Appellant was not entitled to underinsured motorist (UIM) and medical payment (MP) coverages under his automobile policy with USAA Casualty Insurance Company, holding that the court erred in part.The district court granted summary judgment for USAA on both coverages. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) as to the UIM coverage, the district court erred by interpreting the contract and determining its terms were not contrary to public policy; and (2) as to the MP coverage, the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of USAA. View "Goss v. USAA Casualty Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court dismissing as moot Appellant's claim for declaratory judgment that The Hartford Underwriters Insurance Company had a duty as an insurer to provide its insured's policy to a third-party claimant when the insured's liability was reasonably clear, holding that the district court improperly dismissed The Hartford from the action.The district court dismissed the case as moot after the insureds provided the policy at issue to Appellant. On appeal, Appellant argued that the district court erred in dismissing the case because The Hartford failed to meet its burden of demonstrating the inapplicability of the voluntary cessation exception to mootness. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the district court erred by failing to apply the voluntary cessation exception to the mootness doctrine and dismissing the claims against The Hartford. View "Wilkie v. Hartford" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company in this insurance dispute, holding that the coverage for damage to Plaintiffs' RV was mandated under the plain language of the insurance policy.After Plaintiffs purchased an RV, they purchased a recreational vehicle policy through State Farm. Later, the roof and wall of the RV were damaged. State Farm paid for the roof repair but denied coverage for the wall repair, finding it was not a "covered loss" under the terms of the policy. Plaintiffs then filed this complaint. The Supreme Court granted State Farm's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the issue. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the coverage for the wall repair was a covered expense under the plain language of the policy. View "Kaul v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of ALPS Property & Casualty Insurance Company and declaring that ALPS owed no duty to defend or indemnify Defendants in a malpractice suit, holding that the district court correctly granted summary judgment to ALPS.ALPS brought this action seeking a declaration that it owed no duty to defendant or indemnify Keller, Reynolds, Drake, Johnson & Gillespie, P.C. (the firm) or any of its members for claims Bryan Sandrock, GG&ME, LLC and DRAES, Inc. (collectively, Sandrock) asserted in a malpractice suit against the firm and three of its attorneys. In granting summary judgment for ALPS, the district court held that the firm's ALPS policy did not provide coverage for Sandrock's claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly concluded that there was no coverage under the policy because a member of the firm knew the basis of the legal malpractice claim before the effective date of the policy. View "ALPS Property & Casualty Insurance Co. v. Keller" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the holding of the district court that Farmers Insurance Exchange had no duty to defend the Insureds in this case but reversed the district court's holding that the duty to indemnify was not justiciable, holding that when there is no duty to defend there cannot be a duty to indemnify.Defendants in two underlying lawsuits (together, the Insureds) tendered the claims to Farmers, with whom they had a homeowners insurance policy. Farmers concluded that coverage was not available because the claims asserted intentional conduct by the Insureds and filed the instant declaratory judgment action to confirm that it did not have a duty to defend or indemnify. The district court granted summary judgment to Farmers, concluding that there was no coverage under the policy and that the issue of indemnification was not justiciable. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the district court (1) correctly concluded there was no coverage under the policy; (2) did not abuse its discretion in denying the Insureds more time for discovery; but (3) erred in concluding that the issue of whether Farmers had a duty to indemnify was not justiciable. View "Farmers Insurance Exchange v. Wessel" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting motions to dismiss filed by Farmers Insurance Exchange and State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, holding that the district court did not err in granting the motions to dismiss.Plaintiffs filed a complaint against State Farm and Farmers alleging, among other claims, common law bad faith and violation of the Unfair Trade Practices Act. The insurers filed motions to dismiss. The district court granted the motions to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in dismissing Plaintiffs' bad faith claims on the basis that the liability of State Farm and Farmers was not reasonably clear. View "Shepard v. Farmers Insurance Exchange" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court granting class certification in this action alleging breach of contract and violation of Montana's Unfair Trade Practices Act (UTPA), Mont. Code Ann. 33-18-101 et seq., holding that a sufficient factual basis was established to justify certification of the classes.Plaintiffs filed this action against Fergus Farm Mutual Insurance Company (FFM), alleging that FFM breached its insurance contract with Plaintiffs and all other insureds by failing to include general contractor overhead and profit in the cost to repair or replace Plaintiffs' property. The district court granted Plaintiffs' motion for class certification. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion by determining that common questions of law predominate the litigation and support certification of the class; but (2) certain conclusions reached by the district court were a "bridge too far" at this stage of litigation. View "Kramer v. Fergus Farm Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Farmers Insurance Exchange on Plaintiff's claim for underinsured motorist (UIM) benefits, holding that Plaintiff's UIM claim was not barred by either the doctrine of issue preclusion or claim preclusion.Plaintiff sued Darrell King alleging damages resulting from injuries he sustained when King rear-ended him. King was insured by Progressive Northwestern Insurance Company, and Plaintiff was insured by Farmers. When Farmers refused to pay Plaintiff anything under his UIM coverage Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against Farmers to recover his UIM benefits. Plaintiff's lawsuit against King subsequently went to trial, and the jury awarded Plaintiff $10,000 in damages. Before the district court entered judgment, the parties settled for $50,000 - the policy limits of King's liability coverage with Progressive. Thereafter, Farmers moved for summary judgment on Plaintiff's UIM coverage claim, arguing that because Plaintiff had settled with King, his UIM claim was barred by issue preclusion and claim preclusion. The district court granted summary judgment for Farmers. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a contract claim for UIM benefits is wholly distinct and separate from the underlying third-party tort claim, and therefore, Plaintiff's complaint was barred by neither issue preclusion nor claim preclusion. View "Reisbeck v. Farmers Insurance Exchange" on Justia Law