Montana - Costly Results

Montana is well known as a difficult jurisdiction for property, casualty and workers' compensation claims. Not only is the Supreme Court one of the most liberal (pro plaintiff) in the nation, they aren't afraid to make 'new law' at times. The duty to defend is a high duty in Montana law and has not changed much over the years. The issue typically is an insurance company, broker or TPA that either doesn't believe the state of the law or thinks that they can use other states to model their Montana claims handling. Such seems to be the case in Benton-Kennedy v Maxum Casualty Insurance, Missoula DV-09-811. The case involved a semi truck that went off the road in 2006, resulting in a passenger death and injuries to a second passenger. The company claimed that the trip was a 'personal errand' and therefore not covered under the commercial truck policy. They refused to defend the claims brought by the deceased and surviving passengers. The plaintiffs obtained a consent judgement against the driver in the amount of $3,253,603. The district court in Missoula found there was a duty to defend, Maxum breached its duty to defend and therefore cannot raise policy exclusion defenses in the case. Finding that the duty to defend had been breached, the court found Maxum responsible for the $3M plus consent judgement.