This is an Unfair Trade Practices Act and common law, bad faith case.
Hartford and Safeco both move for summary judgment. Their positions are well taken on account of the statutes of limitations that apply to the Nelsons' claims.
Lucas Nelson was involved in a multiple vehicle, motor vehicle accident on August 15, 2004. Shannon Nelson is Lucas's common law wife. She was not involved in the accident.
On the day of the accident, Lucas was a passenger in a 1995 Dodge truck being driven by his father, Harold Nelson. The Nelsons were traveling north on Highway 93 between Hamilton and Missoula. Donald Guthrie was traveling south in a Nissan Altima sedan. David Anderson was traveling on Indian Prairie Loop in a Toyota Land Crusier, which was owned by Mary Gossi.
Anderson caused the accident when he did not stop at the intersection of Highway 93 and Indian Prairie Loop. His Toyota crashed into Guthrie's vehicle. The Nelsons' vehicle then hit both Guthrie's car and Anderson's Land Cruiser.
Anderson had an insurance policy with Safeco. The policy limits were $50,000.00 per person and $100,000.00 per accident. Gossi had a policy with Hartford, which covered the vehicle driven by Anderson. The policy limits were $250,000.00 per person and $500,000.00 per accident.
In September 2004, Hartford began advancing money to Lucas Nelson to cover expenses and losses resulting from the August wreck. On July 17, 2007, Tracey Morin, the Nelsons' attorney, started complaining that Hartford was acting in bad faith and she threatened to file a bad faith lawsuit against Hartford. Morin complained about Hartford asking for additional information and for not settling within the policy limits. On October 4, 2007, Morin gave Hartford until October 19, 2007, to settle the case or else she would file a bad faith lawsuit on the Nelsons' behalf.
On October 12, 2007, Hartford agreed to pay the rest of the policy limits. On October 24, 2007, Hartford told the Nelsons that the advance was intended to cover "any additional or future special damages that Mr. Nelson may incur, including lost wages, medical expenses, or any other expenses." (Hartford's SUF, doc. 69 at ¶ 27.) Hartford mailed its check to the plaintiffs on October 26, 2007, and they deposited it on October 30, 2007.
Even though Hartford told the Nelsons that it would not be advancing any more money, the Nelsons continued to submit medical bills, wage loss requests, and collection notices to Hartford. Hartford refused to pay any more money to the Nelsons and referred them to the October 24, 2007, letter. Morin persisted in her accusation the carrier was engaged in bad faith.
The Nelsons also complained about Safeco's conduct. Safeco insured Anderson, who was driving Gossi's vehicle. The Nelsons made several demands on Safeco between August 8, 2007, and May 14, 2008, but Safeco rejected each of those demands. Safeco eventually paid the Nelsons $50,000.00. The check was for "bodily injury settlement." (Safeco's SUF, doc. 83 at ¶ 15.) The Nelsons cashed the check on July 21, 2008.
In the meantime, the Nelsons sued Gossi, Anderson and his estate, and Richard Goldman. The lawsuit was resolved in May 2009. The Nelsons filed this case on September 27, 2011. They assert 8 counts:
Count I: "Failure to advance Pay Medical Bills and Wage Loss Where [L]iability was reasonably clear,"
Count II: "Failure to Investigate, Evaluate and Attempt to Settle in a Reasonably Prompt Fashion,"
Count III: "Violation of Unfair Trade ...