Summary Judgment: Disputed Facts

MONTANA SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

Dvorak v. Montana State Fund [07/30/13] 2013 MT 210 Although Petitioner conceded that she suffered from a repetitive motion condition as far back as February 2006, her treating physician’s affidavit which stated that he first informed Petitioner that she had an “occupational disease” in March or April of 2011 created a disputed fact which precludes summary judgment on the issue of whether Petitioner knew or should have known that she was suffering from an occupational disease more than one year prior to filing her claim in May 2011.

 
MONTANA WORKERS' COMPENSATION COURT DECISIONS

Trevino v. Montana State Fund [03/29/13] 2013 MTWCC 10 The Court granted reconsideration where it found that, although Petitioner had the opportunity to argue her position, the Court did not adequately address her contentions.  Specifically, the Court made an unwarranted assumption when it implicitly accepted as credible the deposition testimony of witnesses.  Petitioner presented evidence which, at a minimum, raised a question of fact.  Summary judgment was therefore inappropriate.

Dostal v. Uninsured Employers' Fund [11/05/12] 2012 MTWCC 40 Where a disputed fact is immaterial to the legal issue raised in a motion for summary judgment, the existence of this disputed fact does not preclude summary judgment.

Liberty Ins. Corp. v. Travelers Indemnity Co. of America, In Re Kuran [08/28/12] 2012 MTWCC 32 Where the cause of claimant’s neck condition remains in dispute between two insurers, the Court concluded the matter was not susceptible to summary disposition since an issue of material fact exists.  Respondent’s motion is denied.

Lanman v. Montana Municipal Insurance Auth. [12/28/11] 2011 MTWCC 27 Although Respondent contended that Petitioner should have known that his condition was related to his employment because of advice Petitioner’s treating physician gave him and from certain testimony Petitioner gave during his deposition, the Court found that the advice and deposition testimony were not as clear-cut as Respondent alleged. The Court concluded that whether Petitioner knew or should have known that his condition was work-related more than a year before he filed his claim remained a legitimate issue to explore at trial and therefore denied summary judgment.
McLaughlin v. Northwestern Corp. [03/14/11] 2011 MTWCC 9 Where a case is settled on a disputed liability basis and the injury’s existence is in contention, whether an injury occurred for purposes of the hiring preference statute, § 39-71-317, MCA, is a disputed fact, precluding dismissal or summary judgment.
Leigh v. Montana State Fund [12/21/10] 2010 MTWCC 37 Respondent argued that genuine issues of material fact preclude summary judgment because it believes its claims adjuster should testify so that the Court can make a credibility determination.  However, Respondent sets forth no genuine issues of material fact which would necessitate such testimony.  Since Respondent has its adjuster at its disposal, it had the ability to bring any issues of material fact to the Court’s attention.  Since no genuine issues of material fact have been brought forth, this matter is appropriate for summary disposition.
Benton v. Uninsured Employers' Fund [08/14/08] 2008 MTWCC 41 ARM 24.5.329(3) is designed to facilitate the Court’s resolution of a motion for summary judgment by clearly identifying the issues in dispute and setting forth the material facts which would preclude summary judgment. Although Petitioner has not complied with this rule, she has submitted her own affidavit accompanying her response to Rogue’s motion to dismiss and/or for summary judgment. Much of Petitioner’s affidavit is a series of conclusory statements. Nevertheless, as this motion pertains to the first issue (whether Meyer d/b/a Rogue Transportation or Rodriguez were Petitioner’s “employer” within the meaning of § 39-71-117(4)), it is clear from Petitioner’s brief and accompanying affidavit that the basis for Petitioner’s opposition to this motion is her contention that Rogue maintained a “place of business” wherever Rogue’s truck was located.
Satterlee v. Lumberman's Mutual [07/12/06] 2006 MTWCC 29 If the Court rules in Respondents’ favor on the cross-motion for summary judgment without allowing Petitioners the opportunity to demonstrate how the discovery they seek may have impacted the Court’s decision, the Court will inevitably be faced with addressing the same issue in another case involving a different petitioner in the same position as Petitioners in this case. In that event, the petitioner in the next case will simply seek the same discovery that Petitioners now seek. This procedural carousel only serves to negatively impact all the parties involved. It is in everyone’s interest to have a final resolution of this matter based on a complete record.
Fleming v. International Paper [07/08/05] 2005 MTWCC 34 The insurer is not entitled to summary judgment based on the fact that asbestos disease has a long latency period where the evidence upon which it relies does not show as an uncontroverted matter that the claimant’s exposure to asbestos at the insured’s place of employment was so short and trivial as to be wholly non-contributory to his disease. The insurer’s proof is insufficient to entitle it to summary judgment under any of the standards identified in Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law treatise as governing the degree of exposure necessary to impose liability under the last injurious exposure doctrine.
Burke v. Montana State Fund [01/05/05] 2005 MTWCC 1  Motion for summary judgment denied for failure to comply with Rule 24.5.329(3), which requires any motion for summary judgment to set forth facts serially and with citation to evidence. The requirements reduce the time necessary to resolve a motion for summary judgment and reduces the possibility that the Court will miss essential facts.
Cuellar v. Vanliner Ins. Co. [6/24/04] 2004 MTWCC 51 Where the issue is one of medical causation and the insurer presents uncontradicted medical opinion that the medical condition in question was not caused by the industrial accident, the insurer is entitled to summary judgment.
Cuellar v. Vanliner Ins. Co. [6/24/04] 2004 MTWCC 51  Where one party presents medical opinion that a particular medical condition was not caused by the claimant's industrial accident, the other party can avoid summary judgment only by presenting contrary medical opinion or evidence which raises a factual issue regarding causation.
Ahearn v. Montana Schools Group WC Risk Retention Program [4/30] 2004 MTWCC 40 In the face of a denial of liability based on an assertion that the claimant did not in fact suffer a work-related injury, the failure of a petitioner to set out any facts which would establish, as an uncontroverted matter, that she was in fact injured at work is fatal to her motion for summary judgment concerning liability.
Ahearn v. Montana Schools Group WC Risk Retention Program [4/30] 2004 MTWCC 40 The affidavit of the employer stating that the claimant did not report her injury until thirty-one days after the alleged accident raises a factual issue as to the timeliness of the claimant's report and precludes a grant of summary judgment finding the insurer liable for the claim.
Fuss v. Ins. Co. of North America and Valor Ins. Co., Inc. [11/25/03] 2003 MTWCC 68 Where medical records are extensive and do not on their face establish an uncontroverted link between a claimant's current condition and his previously diagnosed occupational disease, summary judgment is inappropriate.
Oens v. Employee Benefits Ins. Co. [6/5/03] 2003 MTWCC 40 Motions for summary judgment are not favored. Summary judgment will be refused where the Court would be required to make inferences about claimant's knowledge or diligence without full development of the record.
Kapor v. Liberty Mutual [3/14/03] 2003 MTWCC 22 Where claimant had previously been found to be at MMI but a medical panel thereafter recommends changes in claimant's medications and exercise program and says with those changes she will have reached MMI, questions concerning what the physicians meant by reaching MMI and whether claimant had regressed or ever reached MMI, require an opportunity for an evidentiary hearing.
Montana Contractor Compensation Fund v. Liberty Northwest Ins. Corp [2/19/03] 2003 MTWCC 10 A disagreement over the "interpretation" of uncontested facts does not give rise to a material issue of fact preventing summary judgment. Stanley v. Holms, 1999 MT. 41, 32, 293 Mont. 343, 975 P.2d 1242, 293 Mont. 343 (1999). The party opposing a motion for summary judgment is entitled to a trial only when minds can "reasonably differ" as to the facts essential to the resolution of the legal issues in the case. Schmidt v. Washington Contractors Group, Inc., 1998 MT 194, 6, 290 Mont. 276, 964 P.2d 34, 290 Mont. 276 (1998).
Smith v. Liberty Mutual Fire Ins. Co. [10/31/02] 2002 MTWCC 54 Even though the opposing party does not support its medical contentions with affidavits or other sworn evidence raising a material issue of fact, where summary judgment motion raises medical issues and medical testimony which might raise an issue of fact is scheduled to take place only days after a motion for summary judgment is submitted for decision, the Court will defer ruling on motion for summary judgment and consider the medical testimony in determining whether a genuine issue of fact is raised. See ARM 24.5.329(8). This approach is in recognition of the expedited pretrial schedule in workers' compensation proceedings and the difficulty in scheduling doctors' testimony.
Geery v. Travelers [10/15/02] 2002 MTWCC 46 Partial summary judgment denied where facts regarding the matter at issue are disputed.
Kemp v. Montana Contractor Compensation Fund [6/4/98] 1998 MTWCC 45 Motion for summary judgment denied for failure to comply with ARM 24.5.329(3) regarding presentation of alleged undisputed facts.
Pittsley v. State Fund [6/4/98] 1998 MTWCC 44 Motion for summary judgment denied for failure to comply with ARM 24.5.329(3) regarding presentation of alleged undisputed facts. The requirements to set forth facts serially and with reference to specific evidence reduces the time necessary to resolve a motion for summary judgment and avoids the possibility that the court would miss essential facts.
Wiard v. Liberty NW Ins. Corp. [7/20/01] 2001 MTWCC 31A In response to a motion for summary judgment, a party cannot hold back evidence and then seek reconsideration based on evidence and facts not tendered in response to the motion.
Liberty Mutual Fire Ins. v. Griner and Sentry Ins. [5/16/01] 2001 MTWCC 22. A party is entitled to summary judgment only if undisputed material facts entitle the party to judgment as a matter of law.
Liberty Mutual Fire Ins. v. Griner and Sentry Ins. [5/16/01] 2001 MTWCC 22. Even though the arguments of the parties largely involve legal issues, the Court must first determine whether the material facts to those issues are undisputed.

Liberty Mutual Fire Ins. v. Griner and Sentry Ins. [5/16/01] 2001 MTWCC 22. What facts are material are determined by looking at the substantive law which governs the claim.

Darrah v. ASARCO [5/8/01] 2001 MTWCC 20 The Court will only consider facts which are properly set out separately and in serial fashion and will ignore other facts appearing in the body of the brief.
Darrah v. ASARCO [5/8/01] 2001 MTWCC 20 The Court will not consider facts which are not supported by reference to affidavits, depositions, or discovery answers.
American Alernative Ins. Group v. Sorenson & MSGIA [9/19/00] 2000 MTWCC 60 Two successive insurers of school district moved for summary judgment arguing that janitor's 1997 OD claim was barred by doctrine of collateral estoppel or res judicata where OD claim filed in 1996 was denied by DOL based on OD panel examination and claimant did not request a hearing on that denial. Court denied motion for summary judgment where claimant raised triable issues of material fact regarding whether her work following her 1996 claim materially aggravated her condition or she suffers from a new condition.
State Fund v. Montana Sign, Skinner Enterprises, Lifestyle Homes and Andy Skinner [4/4/00] 2000 MTWCC 17 SJ denied on IC issue where answer to petition alleges claimant was employee of one company associated with moving party. Where answer not amended, Court will not find "undisputed fact" contrary to moving party's answer.
Kline v. Farmers Ins. Group [1/18/00] 2000 MTWCC 4 Insurer's recitation of facts deemed undisputed where claimant failed to set forth specific facts showing that the insurer's enumerated facts were actually at issue. Mere allegation that facts are disputed in not sufficient to put the facts at issue; the opposing party must set forth his own supported facts showing that there is indeed an issue of fact. ARM 29.5.329(3) and (7). See, Koepplin v. Zortman Min., Inc., 267 Mont. 53, 58-59, 881 P.2d 1306, 1309 ("When raising the allegations that disputed issues of fact exist, the nonmoving party has an affirmative duty to respond by affidavits or other sworn testimony containing material facts that raise genuine issues; conclusory or speculative statements will not suffice.")

Royal Ins. Co. v. Roadarmel and White [7/30/99] 1999 MTWCC 4 [summary judgment grant reversed in 2000 MT 259] Where respondents and cross-movants for summary judgment did not contest statement of facts offered by other party, they cannot do so on motion for reconsideration of ruling. Nor can they reargue the merits of the motion.

DeGregory v. State Compensation Ins. Fund [07/03/95] 1995 MTWCC 55 Failure to verify factual assertions made in opposition to motion for summary judgment with affidavits, or back with discovery or other verified evidence, may be fatal to opposition. Note: this case was decided prior to the Court’s adoption of a rule on Summary Judgment Motions (see ARM 24.5.329.)