Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of State Compensation Mutual Insurance Fund (State Fund) on Plaintiff’s claims that, inter alia, Mont. Code Ann. 39-71-605 was unconstitutional because it permits workers’ compensation insurers to obtain multiple medical examinations of a claimant and that State Fund committed a constitutional tort against her, holding that the district court properly dismissed the claims. Plaintiff brought this proceeding challenging State Fund’s handling of her workers’ compensation claims. The district court granted summary judgment for State Fund. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 39-71-605 is neither facially unconstitutional nor unconstitutional as applied in Plaintiff’s case; and (2) there was no basis to claim a constitutional tort. View "Robinson v. State Compensation Mutual Insurance Fund" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the jury verdict in favor of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company (BN) on Plaintiff’s claims that BN violated the standard of care under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) and the Locomotive Inspection Act (LIA), holding that Plaintiff’s allegations of error on appeal were unavailing. Plaintiff alleged injury for exposure to asbestos during his work at a treatment plant operated by BN’s predecessor. A jury found in favor of BN. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding certain evidence at trial; (2) Plaintiff was not denied a fair trial due to any alleged trial misconduct on the part of BN; and (3) Plaintiff was not denied a fair trial due to any alleged discovery misconduct on the part of BN. View "Daley v. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co" on Justia Law

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In this workers’ compensation case, the Supreme Court held that the Workers’ Compensation Court (WCC) erred in holding that Mont. Code Ann. 39-71-407(14) did not apply for purposes of determining liability for the exacerbation of Kim Wiard’s occupational disease (OD). Wiard was an employee at Tricon Timber, LLC. Liberty Northwest Insurance Corporation accepted liability for Wiard’s bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) as an OD. Liberty later ceased providing workers’ compensation insurance for Tricon, and State Fund became Triton’s workers’ compensation insurance provider. When Wiard filed an OD claim for left CTS with State Fund, State Fund denied the claim on the basis that Wiard’s OD diagnosis preceded State Fund’s coverage. Liberty also denied liability. The insurers filed cross-motions for summary judgment in the WCC on the issue of liability. The WCC granted summary judgment in favor of Liberty, concluding that Wiard had reached maximum medical improvement for her earlier CTS diagnosis and that her later job duties materially aggravated her OD. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the WCC erred when it held that section 39-71-407(14) did not apply in this case; and (2) under the statute, liability for the OD diagnosis remained with the insurer providing coverage at the time the OD was first diagnosed. View "Montana State Fund v. Liberty Northwest Insurance Corp." on Justia Law

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Mont. Code Ann. 39-8-207(8)(b)(i), which extends the exclusivity remedy of the Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA) from a professional employer organization (PEO) to its client, does not violate Mont. Const. art. II, 16 by depriving an injured worker of full legal redress. PEOs hire employees and assign them to the PEO’s client businesses on an ongoing basis. Defendant entered into a contract with a licensed PEO. The PEO hired Plaintiff and assigned him to Defendant. After Plaintiff suffered an on-the-job injury, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant, alleging that his injuries occurred because of Defendant’s failure to provide a safe workplace. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendant, concluding that Plaintiff’s claim was barred by the exclusivity provision of the WCA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that since both the PEO and Defendant were immediate employers who hired Plaintiff and provided workers’ compensation coverage, they were both entitled to the exclusive remedy of Article II, Section 16. View "Ramsbacher v. Jim Palmer Trucking" on Justia Law

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Where Juliana Arechaga, a non-tenured teacher for Victor School District No. 7, did not receive written notice of the school district’s decision not to renew her employment contract for the 2017-2018 school year until June 7, Arechaga demonstrated that she was entitled to the school district’s performance of a “clear legal duty” to renew her contract for the upcoming school year and that there was no other “speedy and adequate remedy” available to her apart from a writ of mandamus. On May 23, 2017, the school district’s Board of Trustees voted not to renew Arechaga's employment contract for the 2017-2018 school year. Arechaga did not receive written notice of the decision until after June 1, the date a school district is obligated to provide such written notice pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 20-4-206(1). Arechaga sought a writ of mandamus, arguing that the school district was statutorily obligated to renew her contract. The district court denied the application, finding that Arechaga’s neglect in maintaining a current address on file with the school district was the sole cause of her failure to receive timely notice of the non-renewal of her contract. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred when it held that Arechaga did not satisfy the requirements for mandamus. View "Arechaga v. Victor School District No. 7" on Justia Law

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Where Juliana Arechaga, a non-tenured teacher for Victor School District No. 7, did not receive written notice of the school district’s decision not to renew her employment contract for the 2017-2018 school year until June 7, Arechaga demonstrated that she was entitled to the school district’s performance of a “clear legal duty” to renew her contract for the upcoming school year and that there was no other “speedy and adequate remedy” available to her apart from a writ of mandamus. On May 23, 2017, the school district’s Board of Trustees voted not to renew Arechaga's employment contract for the 2017-2018 school year. Arechaga did not receive written notice of the decision until after June 1, the date a school district is obligated to provide such written notice pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 20-4-206(1). Arechaga sought a writ of mandamus, arguing that the school district was statutorily obligated to renew her contract. The district court denied the application, finding that Arechaga’s neglect in maintaining a current address on file with the school district was the sole cause of her failure to receive timely notice of the non-renewal of her contract. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred when it held that Arechaga did not satisfy the requirements for mandamus. View "Arechaga v. Victor School District No. 7" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s decision upholding the decision of the hearing officer with the Montana Human Rights Bureau (HRB) in favor of All Star Painting on Plaintiff’s complaint alleging that the company’s owner had sexually harassed her at work. The Court held (1) the district court erred in dismissing Plaintiff’s petition for judicial review because the hearing officer’s decision either ignored the testimony of four individuals, all of whom corroborated Plaintiff’s testimony, or misapprehended the effect of that evidence; and (2) the district court properly dismissed All Star Painting’s owner as a party to the action because he was never properly added as a party under Mont. R. Civ. P. 20. View "Jones v. All Star Painting Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s decision upholding the decision of the hearing officer with the Montana Human Rights Bureau (HRB) in favor of All Star Painting on Plaintiff’s complaint alleging that the company’s owner had sexually harassed her at work. The Court held (1) the district court erred in dismissing Plaintiff’s petition for judicial review because the hearing officer’s decision either ignored the testimony of four individuals, all of whom corroborated Plaintiff’s testimony, or misapprehended the effect of that evidence; and (2) the district court properly dismissed All Star Painting’s owner as a party to the action because he was never properly added as a party under Mont. R. Civ. P. 20. View "Jones v. All Star Painting Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment to the Wolf Point School District Board of Trustees (Board) on Plaintiff’s claim that the Board unlawfully terminated her employment in violation of the open meeting law, Mont. Code Ann. 2-3-203, and Mont. Const. art. II, 9. Plaintiff appeared before the Board for a hearing regarding the termination of her employment. The Board closed the meeting to the public and then re-opened the meeting to the public, at which time a trustee made a motion, seconded by another, for the Board to terminate Plaintiff’s employment. The meeting was then closed again to everyone except the Board and the superintendent to allow the Board to discuss unspecified litigation strategy at an “executive session” with the Board’s lawyer. When Plaintiff was allowed back into the room the Board voted to terminate Plaintiff’s contract. The Supreme Court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Board, holding that the district court (1) erred in granting summary judgment that the Board lawfully closed the hearing portion of the meeting based on third-party privacy rights; and (2) erred in granting summary judgment that the Board lawfully excluded Plaintiff from its “executive session” under the litigation strategy exception of section 2-3-203(4). View "Raap v. Board of Trustees, Wolf Point School District" on Justia Law

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The Workers’ Compensation Court (WCC) erred by ruling that a chiropractor may not make a medical determination regarding the claimant’s 1991 work-related injury in this case. In 1991, Claimant suffered injuries while working for Employer. Based on Chiropractor’s opinion, Claimant presented claims to Employer’s successor (Employer) for permanent partial disability and vocational rehabilitation benefits. Employer denied the claim on the ground that it was premised upon the medical determination of a chiropractor, rather than a physician, as required by the 1991 workers’ compensation statutes. Claimant filed a petition in the WCC. The WCC granted summary judgment to Employer, concluding that the 1991 statutes rendered Chiropractor’s opinion inadmissible. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) EBI/Orion Group v. Blythe, 931 P.2d 38 (Mont. 1997), controlled the outcome here; and (2) reversal was required because the WCC determined it was bound to follow Fleming v. International Paper Co., 194 P.3d 77 (Mont. 2008), as this Court’s most recent holding on the issue, but this Court’s overboard analysis in Fleming was in error. View "Murphy v. Westrock" on Justia Law