Rolan v. New West

Rolan v. New West, 2013 MT 220 (Aug. 6, 2013) (7-0) (Baker, J.)

Issue: Whether the district court abused its discretion by adopting the class definition proposed by Rolan and denying New West’s motion to modify the class definition.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Dana Rolan was injured in a car accident in November 2007, and incurred medical expenses of about $120,000. Rolan’s health insurer was New West. The tortfeasor’s liability insurer paid about $100,000 of Rolan’s medical bills.

Rolan’s policy stated that New West had a subrogation right as well as the right to be reimbursed for benefits paid to an insured who recovered from or settled with a third party. The policy also excluded injuries covered by a medical payments provision of a liability carrier.

Rolan sued New West in January 2010 alleging individual and class claims for breach of contract, violation of made-whole rights, and unfair claims settlement practices. She alleged New West failed to pay about $100,000 of her medical expenses because the tortfeasor’s liability insurer paid them.

Rolan proposed a class defined by four parameters. New West opposed class certification, arguing Plaintiffs did not meet Rule 23(a) criteria and failed to appropriately define a class. The district court held a hearing. In May 2012, the court certified a Rule 23(b)(2) class for declaratory and injunctive relief. The class definition substantially mirrored the one proposed by Rolan.

Procedural Posture & Holding: New West moved to limit the class to only those insureds who had timely filed claims for benefits. Rolan objected, citing New West’s practice of directing liability carriers to pay medical bills for those insureds whose injuries were covered by a third-party’s liability insurance, as this would result in no claim being filed against New West. The district court denied the motion on this basis. New West appeals, and the Supreme Court affirms.

Reasoning: This decision and Diaz II, also issued today, address substantially similar issues. The class definition approved by a district court is afforded great deference, and can be modified by the lower court at any time until final judgment. The class definition approved by the district court is adequately precise. The fact that Judge Sherlock narrowed the class definition in Diaz II does not require a similar narrowing here, unless the district court determines it is necessary as discovery progresses.