Attorneys: Conduct and Tactics

Charlson v. Montana State Fund [07/01/10] 2010 MTWCC 23 Petitioner responded to a mediator’s report and recommendation by letter, and agreed with the mediator that additional information needed to be obtained, but indicated that he would file a petition for hearing.   Respondent believed Petitioner’s letter was ambiguous and filed a motion to dismiss the petition.  The Court noted that an easier way to settle the perceived ambiguity would have been for Respondent’s counsel to communicate with Petitioner, rather than file a motion.
Conoco, Inc. v. Williams Insulation Co. [3/5/03] 2003 MTWCC 15 Attorneys have an obligation to fully inform the Court regarding essential facts and must avoid providing the Court with misleading half-truths.
Williams Insulation Co. v. DLI/UEF [6/7/02] 2002 MTWCC 33 Attorneys have an obligation to accurately and completely state the facts of a case.
Lyons v. Montana Power Company [2/12/99] 1999 MTWCC 16 Counsel's desire to litigate two cases together and soon does not justify failure to allow the opposing party time to assess and possibly meet a demand. Court condemns counterproductive hardball tactics.

Lyons v. Montana Power Company [2/11/99] 1999 MTWCC 15 The Court condemns the hard-ball litigation practice occurring in this case. This matter could have been resolved easily without litigation by communication between counsel. The approximately three hour deadline set by counsel for response to his demand was unnecessary, ill-mannered, and counterproductive. Montana Power Company is also at fault for not computing and paying benefits owed claimant instead of taking the position the matter would be resolved through litigation, though this fault is mitigated somewhat by the lack of clarity in the information provided by claimant regarding medical bills.

Murer, et al. v. State Fund [4/16/98] 1998 MTWCC 29 Because the WCC had failed to order that claimant's counsel could not use computer printouts provided to him by the insurer as a means for contacting potential plaintiffs for a bad faith case, counsel would not be held in contempt for that action, even though it was not contemplated by the parties and counsel acknowledged the listed individuals had rights of privacy. However, WCC was persuaded beyond any reasonable doubt that some statements made to the Court by counsel during the Court's inquiry into the matter were a smokescreen to conceal counsel's real purpose in the challenged conduct. Counsel found in contempt relating to those statements and was fined $500.

Kastella v. Plum Creek Timber Company [06/30/95] 1995 MTWCC 54 Where medical panel provisions of the Occupational Disease Act clearly contemplate evaluation by an impartial medical panel, argumentative ex parte communication from respondent’s counsel received by the physician without time for claimant to add his spin on the evidence may prejudice claimant. The Department of Labor and Industry is obligated to take steps to regulate such communications.

Mavity v. Champion International [04/13/95] 1995 MTWCC 27 Trial counsel embroiled in expert witness dispute are admonished that the Court takes a dim view of gamesmanship in the discovery process. Attorneys are expected to make full and fair disclosure and to cooperate with each other. With the Court’s impatience with pretrial games well known, it is prepared to impose sanctions for abuses.