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Parker v. Safeco Insurance Co.

Parker v. Safeco Insurance Co., 2016 MT 173 (July 19, 2016) (McGrath, C.J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in construing Parker’s insurance policy as excluding coverage for damage caused by a large rock falling down a hillside into Parker’s cabin. 

Short Answer: No.

Affirmed 

Facts: In March 2014, a large boulder dislodged from a hillside and fell down the hill into Parker’s unoccupied cabin, causing substantial damage. Parker submitted a claim to his insurer, Safeco.…

Employers Mutual Casualty Co. v. Fisher Builders, Inc.

Employers Mutual Casualty Co. v. Fisher Builders, Inc., 2016 MT 91 (April 19, 2016) (Rice, J.) (5-0, rev’d)

Issue: (1) Did the district court err in concluding the alleged acts and their consequences were not an “occurrence” under the policy; and (2) whether the district court erred in granting summary judgment to Employers Mutual Casualty (EMC).

Short Answer: (1) Yes, clarifying previous precedent; and (2) yes.

Reversed and remanded

Facts: Jerry and Karen Slack have owned a vacation home on Flathead Lake since 1969. In 2007, the Slacks hired Fisher Builders to build a remodeled home that would serve as the Slacks’ year-round residence. In order to maintain the home’s status as an acceptable non-conforming property use under Lake County zoning laws, the remodeled home had to incorporate the existing structure.…

Stonehocker v. Gulf Insur. Co.

Stonehocker v. Gulf Insur. Co., 2016 MT 78 (March 29, 2016) (Cotter, J.) (6-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in granting summary judgment to Travelers on the basis that Stonehocker was not a named insured under the uninsured provision of the policy, and (2) whether the district court erred in granting summary judgment to Travelers because at the time of Stonehocker’s injury her personal pickup was not a “temporary substitute auto” under the policy.

Short Answer: (1) No, and (2) yes.

Affirmed (issue #1) & reversed (issue #2), and remanded for entry of judgment for Stonehocker on coverage 

Facts: Marilyn Stonehocker was a camp cook for Bear Creek Outfitters, a guest ranch near East Glacier.…

Westchester Surplus Lines Insurance Co. v. Keller Transport, Inc.

Westchester Surplus Lines Insurance Co. v. Keller Transport, Inc., 2016 MT 6 (Jan. 12, 2016) (Rice, J.; McKinnon, J., dissenting) (6-1, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in determining Westchester’s excess policy provided an additional $4 million in coverage under the “general aggregate” limit; and (2) whether the district court erred in holding Westchester breached its duty to defend.

Short Answer: (1) No, and (2) yes.

Affirmed and reversed

Finn v. Dakota Fire Insurance Co.

Finn v. Dakota Fire Insurance Co., 2015 MT 253 (Aug. 26, 2015) (Rice, J.) (6-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in granting summary judgment to Dakota Fire on the grounds that it had properly cancelled an insurance policy for nonpayment of a renewal premium.

Short Answer: No.

Affirmed

Facts: Dakota Fire Insurance Co. issued an insurance policy to David Finn for his 2007 Silverado pickup truck, effective May 1, 2011-May 1, 2012. On March 16, 2012, Finn received letter from EMC Insurance (Dakota Fire’s parent company) advising him he would be receiving a renewal invoice soon, and that failure to pay the premium would result in cancellation. On March 28, 2012, Finn requested that his new GMC Sierra be substituted on the policy, and EMC made the change.…

American States Insurance Co. v. Flathead Janitorial & Rug Services, Inc.

American States Insurance Co. v. Flathead Janitorial & Rug Services, Inc., 2015 MT 239 (Aug. 11, 2015) (McKinnon, J.; Wheat, J. dissenting) (4-1, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in concluding Bridgett was not covered under the commercial auto policy issued to Flathead Janitorial.

Short Answer: No.

Affirmed

Facts: Bridgett suffered severe, permanent, debilitating injures in December 2011 when the bicycle she was riding collided with a truck making a negligent turn. She now requires full-time care from her parents. At the time of the accident, Bridgett was attending college in Utah, had a Utah driver’s license, and was employed by a Utah business. It is undisputed that she was not employed by Flathead Janitorial or in a company vehicle at the time of the accident.…

F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber Co. v. American States Insurance Co.

F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber Co. v. American States Insurance Co., 2015 MT 165 (June 23, 2015) (Baker, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether district court properly granted summary judgment to insurer on grounds that policy insurer has with Schlegel does not require it to defend and indemnify Stoltze in action where Schlegel could not be held liable.

Short Answer: Yes.

Affirmed

Facts: In 2003, Schlegel and Stoltze contracted for Schelgel to log Stoltze’s property. In the contract, Schlegel agreed to obtain liability insurance indemnifying Stoltze from liability for loss or injury arising from the logging operations. Schelgel also agreed that the indemnification would not be limited by Schlegel’s immunity, Schlegel having waived such immunity as a defense against Stoltze.

The policy extended coverage to any person for whom Schlegel was required by contract to provide insurance, but further provided there was no coverage if “in the absence of this endorsement, no liability would be imposed by law” on Schlegel.…

Atlantic Casualty Insur. Co. v. Greytak

Atlantic Casualty Insur. Co. v. Greytak, 2015 MT 149 (May 29, 2015) (McGrath, C.J.; Rice, J., concurring; McKinnon, J., concurring) (7-0, certified question answered)

Issue: Whether the notice-prejudice rule applies to insurers in third-party damages claims.

Short Answer: Yes.

Certified question answered

Facts: In March 2010, GTL sued Greytak and Tanglewood (Greytak) for non-payment of an obligation arising from a construction project. GTL was insured by Atlantic Casualty under a CGL policy. In March 2010 Greytak sent a letter to GTL asserting it had grounds for various counterclaims involving construction defects, and in November 2010 filed counterclaims in the state court action.

In April 2011, GTL and Greytak entered a settlement agreement that required GTL to notify Atlantic of Greytak’s counterclaims.…

Estate of Gleason v. Central United Life Insurance Co.

Estate of Gleason v. Central United Life Insurance Co., 2015 MT 140 (May 20, 2015) (Wheat, J.; McKinnon, J., concurring & dissenting; Rice, J., concurring & dissenting) (5-2, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) whether the district erred in applying the notice-prejudice rule; (2) whether the district court erred when it instructed the jury that it must first find UTPA damages other than damages for failure to pay benefits before considering punitive damages; (3) whether the district court erred by failing to direct a verdict against Central United for violating the UTPA; (4) whether the district erred in not dismissing the UTPA claim because Central United had a reasonable basis in law for denying the claims; (5) whether the district court erred in determining the date from which the statute of limitations was applied; (6) whether the district court erred in allowing the parties to present evidence of other cases in and out of Montana; (7) whether the district court properly awarded trial costs to Central United; (8) whether the district court erred in awarding attorneys’ fees to the estate.…

Truck Insurance Exchange v. O’Mailia

Truck Insurance Exchange v. O’Mailia, 2015 MT 42 (Feb. 17, 2015) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court properly granted summary judgment to the insurer on the basis that no property damage occurred during the policy period; and (2) whether the district court violated O’Mailia’s right to due process by dismissing his counterclaims with prejudice.

Short Answer: (1) Yes, and (2) no.

Affirmed

Facts: O’Mailia was hired to install a water heater on the premises of the newly built Famous Dave’s restaurant in Kalispell in 2007. O’Mailia was covered by a commercial general liability policy from TIE, which he held from July 2006 – November 2009, when he terminated coverage. In March 2010, a fire broke out in Famous Dave’s and was eventually traced to installation and maintenance of the water heater, which heated wood framing near the heater to the point where it eventually caught fire.…