Justia Consumer Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Montana Supreme Court
Conway v. Benefis Health Sys., Inc.
Plaintiff was injured in an automobile accident and received medical treatment at Benefis Health System, Inc. Plaintiff had healthcare coverage as a TRICARE beneficiary and also had medical payments coverage through his insurance carrier, Kemper. Plaintiff's medical treatment costs totaled $2,073. Benefis accepted $662 from TRICARE as payment in full satisfaction of the bill pursuant to a preferred provider agreement (PPA) between Blue Cross Blue Shield and Benefis. Benefis subsequently received $1,866 from Kemper, upon which Benefis reimbursed TRICARE's payment in full. Plaintiff filed an individual and class action complaint, claiming that he was entitled to the additional $1,204 that Benefis received from Kemper over and above the TRICARE reimbursement rate. Plaintiff filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, asking the district court to find Benefis breached its contract with TRICARE and that Benefis was liable for Plaintiff's damages. The district court converted the motion into a motion for summary judgment and granted summary judgment to Plaintiff. The Supreme Court reversed the grant of summary judgment, holding (1) Plaintiff was not entitled to pocket the difference between the TRICARE reimbursement rate and the amount Benefis accepted from Kemper; and (2) Plaintiff failed to establish any damages that resulted from the alleged breach. View "Conway v. Benefis Health Sys., Inc." on Justia Law
Kelker v. Geneva-Roth Ventures, Inc.
Plaintiff submitted an online application for a payday loan with Geneva-Roth Ventures, which charged Plaintiff an interest rate of 780 percent APR. The loan agreement contained an arbitration clause. Plaintiff entered into the contract over the Internet and did not separately sign or initial the arbitration clause. Plaintiff brought a putative class action against Geneva-Roth for charging an interest rate higher than the thirty-six percent APR permitted by the Montana Consumer Loan act for payday loans. Geneva-Roth filed a motion to compel arbitration pursuant to the arbitration clause in the loan agreement. The district court denied the motion, determining that the arbitration clause was unenforceable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the arbitration clause qualified as a contract of adhesion and fell outside Plaintiff's reasonable expectations. Therefore, the arbitration clause was unconscionable. View "Kelker v. Geneva-Roth Ventures, Inc." on Justia Law
Brookins v. Mote
Plaintiff gave birth to Child at Hospital. Complications arose prior to and after Child's delivery, leading to problems with Child's brain development. Plaintiff, individually and on behalf of Child, later sued the doctor who delivered Child and Hospital. Plaintiff subsequently settled her claims with the doctor. The district court granted summary judgment to Hospital on all of Plaintiff's claims. This appeal arose out of pre-trial rulings made by the district court in Plaintiff's litigation with Hospital. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in (1) extending discovery deadlines; (2) granting summary judgment to Hospital on Plaintiff's agency claims; (3) granting summary judgment to Hospital on Plaintiff's Consumer Protection Act Claim; (4) granting summary judgment to Hospital on Plaintiff's joint venture claim; and (5) granting summary judgment to Hospital on Plaintiff's negligent credentialing claim. View "Brookins v. Mote" on Justia Law
Horn v. Bull River Country Store Props., LLC
After a five-day trial, a jury decided that Appellee Bull River Country Store Properties, LLC was not negligent in connection with Appellants' claim that it sold water-contaminated diesel fuel. Appellants appealed the district court's order denying their motion for a new trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under the circumstances, Plaintiff could not demonstrate prejudice from Bull River's reliance on the settled-party defense authorized by 27-1-703 MCA, and therefore, the Court did not need to address the constitutionality of the statute; (2) Appellant waived his right to argue on appeal that the district court erred when it allowed Bull River to question Appellant about his unrelated insurance claims; (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Appellant's motion for a new trial based on Bull River's insurance-related arguments; and (4) Appellant was not entitled to a new trial on the ground of juror misconduct. View "Horn v. Bull River Country Store Props., LLC" on Justia Law
B Bar J Ranch, LLC v. Carlisle Wide Plank Floors, Inc.
Plaintiff owned and operated a ranch with an 18,000 square-foot lodge. Defendant was a custom manufacturer of high-end wood flooring from whom Plaintiff brought wood flooring while building the lodge. After it was installed, the wood flooring began buckling and had to be replaced. Plaintiff sued Defendant for negligent misrepresentation, breach of an implied warranty of suitability for a particular purpose, and violation of the Montana Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). The jury returned a verdict in Defendant's favor on all of Plaintiff's claims. The district court then granted Defendant attorney fees as the prevailing party under the MCPA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion when it found good cause to amend the scheduling order to allow Defendant's late disclosure of an expert witness; and (2) did not err when it awarded Defendant attorney fees under the MCPA. View "B Bar J Ranch, LLC v. Carlisle Wide Plank Floors, Inc." on Justia Law
CBI Inc. v. McCrea
Pro se litigant Sharon McCrea appealed a district court's judgment that awarded over eight thousand dollars to CBM Collections, a Missoula collection agency. McCrea owned a business which had an outstanding credit card bill with the Missoula Federal Credit Union (MFCU). She was notified that the debts were being assigned to CBM for collection. CBM subsequently filed its complaint to seek the full amount owned plus interest. McCrea answered, arguing that MFCU was unfairly and deliberately targeting her for collection and that the matter should be "remanded" to the credit union so that she could continue making incremental payments. McCrea did not deny owing the debts. She sought discovery of credit card statements and cell phone billing statements to establish she had been in regular contact with MFCU in an attempt to resolve the matter. The district court granted CBM's motion for judgment on the pleadings without ruling on McCrea's discovery request and entered the award. Finding no error in the district court's ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "CBI Inc. v. McCrea" on Justia Law
Pederson v. Rocky Mountain Bank
In 2007, Scottie and Dawn Pederson (the Pedersons) and Rocky Mountain Bank (the Bank) entered into a construction loan agreement pursuant to which the Bank agreed to lend the Pedersons several thousand dollars. In 2008, the Pedersons and the Bank agreed to finance the construction loan through three short term loans. In 2009, the Pedersons tried to refinance their loans but were unable to do so. Due to alleged failures on the part of the Bank, the Pedersons brought suit against the Bank in 2011, asserting claims for, inter alia, negligence, constructive fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. After it was served with the complaint, the Bank filed a Mont. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, asserting the statutes of limitations had run on all of the Pedersons' claims. The district court granted the Bank's motion and dismissed the Pedersons' claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the applicable statutes of limitations began to run in 2008 because the Pedersons' claims had accrued and they had discovered the facts constituting the claims; and (2) by filing their complaint more than three years later, the Pedersons failed to commence their action within any of the applicable statutes of limitations. View "Pederson v. Rocky Mountain Bank" on Justia Law
Curtis v. Citibank
Meril Curtis's houseguest took his credit card and made over $7,000 in unauthorized charges. After acknowledging that the charges were unauthorized and that Curtis was not personally liable for the charges, Citibank referred the account to a collection agency called Professional Recovery Services (PRS). Curtis filed suit against Citibank, alleging libel and credit libel and violation of the Montana Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). The district court granted summary judgment to Citibank, finding that Curtis's claims were preempted by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred in finding that Curtis' state law claims were preempted by the FCRA because the FCRA does not regulate collection agencies such as PRS. Remanded.
Harmon v. Fiscus Realty
Frederick and Mandelena Harmon bought a home pursuant to a buy-sell agreement that realtor Dianne Burright, a licensed real estate salesperson who worked for Fiscus Realty, prepared at the Fiscus Realty office. The home was built by Dianne's husband, Jerry. The Harmons subsequently discovered numerous construction problems. The Harmons sued Defendants Jerry and Dianne Burright and Fiscus Reality, raising several causing of action, including a claim under the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act (the Act). A jury returned a verdict against the Burrights on breach of warranty and negligent misrepresentation claims and held for Defendants on all other claims. After trial, Defendants filed motions for attorney fees as prevailing parties under the Act, which the district court denied. Fiscus Realty appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying an award of attorney fees to Fiscus Realty as the Harmons' claims had a basis in fact and law and were not frivolous, unreasonable or unfounded.
Credit Service Co., Inc. v. Crasco
Sheryl Crasco secured three payday loans from three different lenders. After the payor banks returned the checks for insufficient funds, the payday lenders assigned the checks to Credit Service, a collection agency. Credit Service filed an action against Crasco to recover the face value of the checks, a service fee per check, and bad check penalties of $500 per check. The county justice court concluded (1) Crasco must pay to Credit Service the face amount of each check and the service charge on each check, (2) Credit Service could not collect the bad check penalties, and (3) Crasco could recover damages for Credit Service's illegal pursuit of the bad check penalties. The district court reversed, determining that Credit Service could collect the bad check penalties. The Supreme Court reversed, holding a collection agency cannot charge bad check penalties for checks assigned to it from payday lenders when the payday lenders themselves are statutorily prohibited from charging such penalties. Remanded to determine whether the justice court incorrectly awarded Crasco damages.