Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the orders of the district court certifying three classes to proceed in a lawsuit against the University of Montana, holding that the district court abused its discretion in certifying Class 3 to pursue the claims. Current and former students of the University brought this lawsuit as a class action complaint alleging that the University breached its fiduciary duty to students by entering into a contract with Higher One, Inc. to process student loan refunds through non-competitive financial accounts and by providing students' personal information to Higher One. In two orders, the district court certified three classes to proceed in the lawsuit. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the district court's certification of Class 3 under Mont. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(2) was an abuse of discretion; and (2) the district court abused its discretion in certifying Class 1 and Class 2 under Rule 23(b)(1) and (b)(2) but properly certified Class 1 and Class 2 under Rule 23(b)(3). View "Knudsen v. University of Montana" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part the district court’s denial of class certification on the basis that Plaintiff failed to satisfy the Mont. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3) element of superiority. Plaintiff was terminated at the conclusion of her six-month probationary period due in part to concerns with her background check and credit report. Plaintiff sued the organization that performed the background check, asserting claims in her individual capacity, as well as a claim for class action. The district court determined that Plaintiff met the four rule 23(a) prerequisites but failed to meet her burden regarding the two rule 23(b)(3) requirements of predominance and superiority. The Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Plaintiff’s motion for class certification on grounds that she failed to satisfy the superiority requirement, and (2) therefore, there need be no discussion regarding the district court’s holding regarding the predominance requirement. View "Ascencio v. Orion International Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed three orders of the district court that directed Southwest Montana Building Industry Association (SWMBIA) to transfer funds from the impact fee payer class refund account (refund account) to the City of Bozeman, to submit an accounting of the refund account, and for contempt of court. The Court held (1) the district court did not exceed its authority when it ordered SWMBIA to transfer the funds remaining in the refund account to Bozeman; (2) the district court’s order regarding the transfer of the remaining refund account funds was enforceable; (3) the district court did not err when it did not dispose of the remaining refund account funds in accordance with Mont. R. Civ. P. 23(i)(3); (4) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it ordered SWMBIA to provide an accounting of the refund account; and (5) SWMBIA cannot obtain relief from the district court’s contempt order. View "Southwest Montana Building Industry Ass’n v. City of Bozeman" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were both insured by USAA Casualty Insurance Company under auto insurance policies that provided medical payments coverage. Plaintiffs filed a complaint against USAA arguing that USAA’s practice of sending medical claims to Auto Injury Solutions (AIS) for review was an improper cost containment scheme designed to deprive Montana consumers of their first-party medical pay benefits. Plaintiffs subsequently filed a motion to certify a proposed class. The district court issued its order certifying the class, concluding “all members of the proposed class were subject to the same claims processing procedure of outsourcing claims to AIS. USAA appealed from the certification order. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court abused its discretion by certifying the class under Mont. R. Civ. P. 23(a) and under Mont. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3). Remanded. View "Byorth v. USAA Casualty Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The underlying claim in this case, which had been appealed on three previous occasions, concerned an exclusion in the State’s health benefit insurance plan, which allowed the State to coordinate benefits in violation of Montana’s made whole laws. Jeanette Diaz, Leah Hoffman-Bernhardt, and others similarly situated (collectively, Diaz) filed suit alleging that third-party administrators and the State (collectively, Defendants) had violated employees’ made whole rights under Montana law. During the various appeals, the Supreme Court concluded that the district court certified and defined a class and that the district court correctly denied the State’s motion for summary judgment. In this, the fourth appeal, Diaz appealed a district court order determining the manner in which prejudgment interest on payments due to class members was to be calculated. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order declaring interest to begin thirty days following the Court’s decision in Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Montana v. Montana State Auditor. Remanded for the district court to correct the date to be applied for determining the calculation of prejudgment interest. View "Diaz v. State" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of claims asserted by multiple people against Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, now known as Caring for Montanans, Inc. (CFM) and Montana Comprehensive Health Association (MCHA). The claimants asserted that while they were insured by CFM or MCHA, they submitted claims that the insurers denied based upon exclusions contained in their health insurance policies. These exclusions generally provided that the insurer would not pay for health care costs of the injured insureds if the insureds received, or were entitled to receive, benefits from any automobile liability policy. These exclusions were subsequently disapproved by the Montana Commissioner of Insurance, and the insureds sought the previously-denied benefits. The district court certified a class of claimants for settlement purposes only. The court then held a fairness hearing on a proposed settlement agreement and approved the settlement. Several class members objected to the settlement and appealed to the Montana Supreme Court, arguing they should have been allowed to conduct further discovery to ascertain the fairness of the settlement agreement. The Supreme Court agreed with the objectors and remanded the case to the district court for further discovery and a second fairness hearing. The district court allowed further discovery, held a second fairness hearing, and determined that the same settlement agreement was fair, reasonable, and adequate. The Objectors again appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Pallister v. BCBS" on Justia Law

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When Kent Roose was injured in an automobile crash his wife was an employee of Lincoln County, which provided health benefits via a group health plan (the Plan) that was part of Joint Powers Trust (JPT). Employee Benefit Management Services, Inc. (EBMS administered the Plan. The Plan contained an exclusion stating that medical benefits would not be paid when any automobile or third-party liability insurance was available to pay medical costs. EBMS denied Roose’s request for reimbursement for medical expenses he paid out of the liability insurance payment he received from the tortfeasors’ insurer. Roose subsequently brought suit against EBMS and JPT. The Supreme Court held that the exclusion violated Mont. Code Ann. 2- 18-902(4). Appellants subsequently reimbursed Roose the requested amount. In 2014, Roose filed a motion for partial summary judgment and class certification, arguing that Appellants violated section 2-18-902 through systematic practices that amounted to seeking subrogation against the tortfeasor’s liability carrier before Roose was made whole. Roose also sought class certification on behalf of every member of Appellants’ plans subject to Montana law that contained the coverage exclusion. The district court granted Roose’s motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in certifying the class or in defining the class. View "Roose v. Lincoln County Employee Group Health Plan" on Justia Law

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This case arose from claims asserted by multiple persons against Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) and Montana Comprehensive Health Association (MCHA). Claimants asserted that while they were fully insured by BCBSMT or MCHA, they submitted claims that the insurers denied based upon exclusions contained in their insurance policies. These exclusions were subsequently disapproved by the Montana Commissioner of Insurance (Commissioner) and the insureds sought the previously-denied benefits. The matter evolved into a class action and three of the claimants, Krista Lucas, Brittany Smith, and Alice Speare, were named class representatives. Subsequently, a settlement was negotiated. Three other claimants, Tyson Pallister, Kevin Budd and Jessica Normandeau, objected to the settlement and sought review by the Second Judicial District Court. The District Court approved the settlement. Pallister, Budd and Normandeau appealed asserting numerous errors by the District Court including but not limited to the court’s error in denying Pallister’s motion to conduct discovery. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded on a discrete issue of discovery and vacated the District Court’s approval of the Settlement Agreement. View "Pallister et al v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Montana" on Justia Law

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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBS) and New West Health Services (collectively TPAs) administered a self-funded employee healthcare benefit plan for the State's employees. Jeannette Diaz and Leah Hoffmann-Bernhardt (Plaintiffs), who were both injured in accidents, filed suit against the state, BCBS, and New West for allegedly violating their made-whole rights by failing to conduct a made-whole analysis before exercising subrogation rights. Plaintiffs moved for class certification seeking to include in the lawsuit individuals who had their benefits reduced under the State plan, as well as individuals who had their benefits reduced under policies independently issued and administered by the TPAs. The district court denied class certification and determined that Montana's made-whole laws did not apply to TPAs. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the district court's finding that BCBS and New West, in their capacities as TPAs in the present case, were not subject to the made-whole laws under either the subrogation statutes or under a third-party beneficiary theory; and (2) reversed the district court denial of class certification, as Diaz and Hoffmann-Bernhardt demonstrated that the requirements of Mont. R. Civ. P. 23 were met. View "Diaz v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield" on Justia Law

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Timothy Hop's automobile was damaged in an accident with a driver insured by Safeco Insurance Company. In addition to the costs of repair, Hop sought "residual diminished value" (RDV) for his vehicle. When Safeco failed to pay RDV, Hop filed a class action complaint for declaratory relief in the district court, seeking a declaration that Safeco was required to investigate and pay class members, people whose vehicles were damaged by a Safeco insured and who were not paid RDV by Safeco, for RDV of their vehicle. The district court granted Hop's motion for class certification. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court abused its discretion in certifying a class action before Hop had satisfied the statutory requirements to bring an individual third party action against Safeco. Remanded with instructions to dismiss Hop's class action without prejudice.