Articles Posted in Insurance Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court granting Jennifer Teeter’s motion for summary judgment in this declaratory action filed by Teeter against Mid-Century Insurance Company, Teeter's insurer, seeking payment of medical expenses and lost wages after an accident. The district court concluded that Teeter made a prima facie showing that it was reasonably clear that her medical expenses and wage losses were causally related to the accident and that the opinions of certain doctors did not create a disputed issue of material fact as to medical causation and damages. The Supreme Court disagreed and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that there was a clear dispute of material fact regarding causation because it was not reasonably clear if Teeter’s expenses were causally related to the accident. View "Teeter v. Mid-Century Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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An injured first party insured who is compelled to sue for underinsured motorist (UIM) benefits and recovers more at trial than the last insurance company offer, the insurer must pay the first party insured’s attorney fees in an amount determined by the district court to be reasonable. Plaintiff in this case filed suit against Farmers Insurance Exchange, demanding her UIM policy limits. After Farmers extended its final offer of $77,500 to settle the claim, the jury returned a verdict in the amount of $450,000 in favor of Plaintiff. Judgment was entered for the policy limit amount of $200,000. The district court denied Plaintiff’s motion for attorney fees. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Farmers was required to pay Plaintiff’s attorney fees because Plaintiff was compelled to sue and the jury returned a verdict higher than the amount of the last offer made by Farmers to settle her UIM claim. View "Mlekush v. Farmers Insurance Exchange" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

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An injured first-party insured who is compelled to sue for underinsured motorist (UIM) benefits and recovers more at trial than the last insurance company offer is entitled to recover his or her attorney fees in an amount subsequently determined by the district court to be reasonable. In this case, Plaintiff was compelled to sue Insurer. The jury returned a verdict higher than the amount of the last offer made by Insurer to settle her UIM claim. The Supreme Court held that Insurer was required to pay Plaintiff’s attorney fees. The court thus reversed the district court order denying fees and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Mlekush v. Farmers Insurance Exchange" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment to State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company on Kilby Butte Colony, Inc.’s complaint filed after State Farm declined the Colony’s underinsured motorist (UIM) claim submitted on behalf of Mary Ann and Ivan Stahl. The Stahls, members of the Kilby Butte Hutterite Colony, were injured in an automobile accident. Hutterite colony members own assets of the community collectively, and therefore, the Stahls could not own a vehicle in their individual capacities. All of the Colony’s auto insurance policies were purchased through State Farm, and no individual Colony members were listed as named insureds on any vehicle owned by the Colony. The district court determined the the Stahls did not qualify for UIM coverage because they did not satisfy the definition of an “insured” within the terms of the policy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding that the Stahls did not satisfy the unambiguous definition of “insured” under UIM coverage in the policy and that they were therefore not entitled to those benefits. View "Kilby Butte Colony, Inc. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Jessica Huckins filed a complaint against Barry Van Sickle and his real estate agent alleging several causes of action related to Van Sickle’s failure to disclose previous basement flooding problems in the sale of his home. At all relevant times, Van Sickle held three insurance policies through United Services Automobile Association (USAA). USAA denied coverage for the claims stated in the underlying complaint. Van Sickle settled the underlying litigation with Huckins by way of a consent judgment and Van Sickle’s assignment of all claims under his insurance policies to Huckins in exchange for a covenant not to execute. Huckins then brought this case against USAA, alleging, inter alia, breach of duty to defend Van Sickle. The district court concluded that USAA had not breached its duty to defend under any of the policies because the claim did not constitute an “occurrence” as defined by the policies. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) USAA had a duty to defend Van Sickle, at least until a ruling was obtained declaring there was no coverage; and (2) by failing to defend Van Sickle, USAA breached its duty to defend. View "Huckins v. United Services Automobile Ass’n" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

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While employed by a company now known as Asurion Services, LLC, Christy Harris filed industrial injury claims for two different incidents. Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Company adjusted Harris’s workers’ compensation claims until it was declared insolvent. Montana Insurance Guaranty Association (MIGA) subsequently assumed the handling of Harris’s claims. Thereafter, MIGA notified Asurion that it would seek reimbursement for the benefits it paid to Harris pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 33-10-114(2). Asurion filed a declaratory judgment action against MIGA. The district court granted motion for Asurion based on the exclusivity provision of the Montana Workers’ Compensation Act (Act), concluding that because Asurion met its obligation to obtain workers’ compensation insurance, it had no payment obligations to Harris, and therefore, Mont. Code Ann. 33-10-114(2) did not afford MIGA relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Asurion provided workers’ compensation coverage in accordance with the Act, Asurion was not required to reimburse MIGA for benefits paid to Harris. View "Asurion Services, LLC v. Montana Insurance Guaranty Ass’n" on Justia Law

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After Robert Fitte burned tree branches on his property, a fire rose from the ashes of the burn and erupted into a wildfire known as the Corral Fire. At the time of the fire, Fitte carried two insurance policies issued by Mountain West Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company, including the commercial automobile policy at issue in this appeal. Fitte stipulated to entry of a judgment in favor of Associated Dermatology and Skin Cancer Clinic of Helena, P.C. Profit Sharing Plan and Trust for the benefit of Stephen D. Behlmer, M.D. (Behlmer). Fitte and Behlmer subsequently entered into an agreement wherein Fitte assigned his rights in the Mountain West policies to Behlmer. Behlmer then filed this action seeking a declaration that the automobile policy provided coverage for the Corral Fire damages. The district court ruled in favor of Behlmer and directed that the insurance proceeds be deposited into the district court. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred in holding that there was coverage for the Corral Fire damage under Mountain West’s commercial automobile policy. View "Associated Dermatology & Skin Cancer Clinic of Helena, P.C. Profit Sharing Plan & Trust for the Benefit of Stephen D. Behlmer v. Mountain West Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Charlotte Suzor injured her knees in a workplace accident in 1982 and settled her workers’ compensation claims in 1987 with her self-insured employer, reserving the right to seek future medical benefits for ongoing complications from her injury. In 2009, Suzor broke her hip after her knees gave out. Suzor’s physical filed a claim with Sedgwick Claims Management Services (Sedgwick), the third-party administrator for the workers’ compensation plan now funded by her employer’s successor in interest, International Paper Company (International). After Sedgwick denied the claim, Suzor sued International, Sedgwick, and two of Sedgwick’s employees (collectively, Defendants), alleging bad faith and breach of fiduciary duty. The district court entered judgment in favor of Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendants did not owe Suzor a fiduciary duty; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Suzor’s jury instruction on causation; (3) the mistaken association of a wrong juror questionnaire with a juror was not a structural error necessitating a new trial; (4) the jury’s award of no damages was supported by sufficient evidence; and (5) the district court did not abuse its discretion in its award of attorney’s fees. View "Suzor v. International Paper Co." on Justia Law

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Appellants attempted to execute judgments obtained against Robert Fitte in their respective underlying lawsuits by attaching the proceeds of a commercial liability policy issued to Fitte by joined party Mountain West Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company (Mountain West). In a separate declaratory proceeding, a federal court determined that the commercial policy covered Fitte’s actions. Thereafter, Mountain West filed a motion to deposit the proceeds of the commercial policy into an existing interpleader action. The underlying proceedings filed by Appellants were consolidated. The district court granted summary judgment to Fitte and Mountain West, concluding that Appellants were not entitled to execute judgments secured outside the pending interpleader action and attach the proceeds of the commercial policy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in concluding that the proceeds from the commercial policy must be distributed through the interpleader; and (2) deposit of the commercial policy proceeds was not required at the time of the interpleader proceeding to establish the interpleader court’s jurisdiction. View "Associated Dermatology & Skin Cancer Clinic of Helena, P.C. Profit Sharing & Trust Benefit of Stephen D. Behlmer, M.D. v. Fitte" on Justia Law

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J & C Moodie Properties, LLC hired Haynie Construction, owned by Kyle Haynie, as general constructor to construct a building for Moodie’s farm equipment dealership. Scottsdale insured Haynie under a policy that was in effect when the building project was completed. Moodie later sued Haynie, asserting construction defect claims regarding the construction project. Scottsdale denied coverage. Haynie and Moodie subsequently filed a stipulated settlement, under which Haynie assigned its rights and interest in the Scottsdale policy to Moodie. The district court then entered judgment in the case against Haynie. Thereafter, Moodie filed a fourth amended complaint requesting a declaratory judgment against Scottsdale, claiming that Scottsdale had breached its duty to defend, Haynie had entered a stipulated judgment due to Scottsdale’s failure to defend, the stipulated judgment was reasonable, and Scottsdale was liable for the stipulated judgment. The district court ruled in favor of Moodie on all issues. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded, holding that the district court (1) correctly found that Scottsdale breached its duty to defend Haynie; (2) erred by ruling that there were no grounds for a reasonableness hearing regarding the stipulated judgment; and (3) erred by ruling that Scottsdale was not entitled to discovery regarding the reasonableness determination. View "J & C Moodie Properties, LLC v. Deck" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law