Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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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.

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Plaintiff, on behalf of a class of similarly situated plaintiffs who received Medicaid assistance and were subject to a Medicaid lien pursuant to 53-2-612, MCA, sued defendant alleging that defendant had collected a greater amount than it was entitled from plaintiffs' recoveries from other sources. The parties raised several issues on appeal. The court held that Ark. Dept. of Health & Human Servs. v. Ahlborn applied retroactively to all class members' claims and that defendant must raise affirmative defenses with respect to individual class members to avoid Ahlborn's effect. The court held that the applicable statute of limitations to be 27-2-231, MCA, which provided for a five-year limitations period. The court declined to disturb the district court's order requiring defendant to compile data on individual class members' claims. The court reversed the district court's determination as to interest assessed against defendant, and concluded that no interest could be assessed until two years after any judgment had been entered, under 2-9-317, MCA. The court concluded that the term "third party" in the Medicaid reimbursement statutes included all other sources of medical assistance available to Medicaid recipients, including private health or automobile insurance obtained by the Medicaid recipient. The court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the class on its proffered distinction between "first party" and "third party" sources. The court affirmed the district court's conclusion that plaintiffs' "made whole" claim was immaterial in light of Ahlborn.