Submitted on Briefs: October 25, 2017
FROM: District Court of the Twenty-First Judicial District,
In and For the County of Ravalli, Cause No. DV 2015-53
Honorable James A. Haynes, Presiding Judge.
Appellant: James D. Johnson, Williams Law Firm, P.C.,
Appellee: Jeffrey B. Hays, Hays & Hayes, P.L.L.P.,
Michael E Wheat Justice.
Mid-Century Insurance Company (Mid-Century) appeals the
Opinion and Order of the Twenty-First Judicial District
Court, Ravalli County, granting Jennifer Teeter's
(Teeter) motion for summary judgment. We reverse and remand.
We restate the issue on appeal as follows:
Whether the District Court erred in granting Teeter's
motion for summary judgment under §§ 33-18-201(6)
and (13), MCA, concluding that no disputed issues of material
fact existed regarding causation and damages.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
This case arises from a motor vehicle accident in Missoula,
Montana, on May 30, 2014. Derek Colberg (Colberg) rear-ended
Plaintiff Teeter's vehicle on Brooks Street. Mid-Century
insured Colberg. The officer who arrived at the scene
concluded Colberg was responsible for the crash and cited him
for careless driving.
Later that day, Teeter sought medical treatment for possible
injuries from the crash. The treating physician diagnosed
Teeter with whiplash and a right shoulder strain. Following
her diagnosis, Teeter saw several health care professionals
to treat her physical and psychological injuries including a
chiropractor, neurologist, physical therapist, counselor, and
Immediately after the accident Teeter retained counsel
demanding advance payment of medical costs from Mid-Century.
Mid-Century determined its insured Colberg was responsible
for the accident and made several advance payments to Teeter
for her medical expenses and lost wages. Mid-Century paid in
advance $53, 347.97 from May 30, 2014, until December 2014.
In November 2014, Mid-Century sought Teeter's past
medical records and asked Teeter to undergo an independent
medical examination (IME) to determine if the ongoing medical
expenses were related to the accident. Teeter refused both
requests. In December, Mid-Century had Dr. Lennard Wilson
conduct a records review of Teeter's post-accident
medical records. Mid-Century discontinued Teeter's
advance payments based on Dr. Wilson's opinion that
Teeter's ongoing expenses were no longer causally related
to the accident.
On February 17, 2015, Teeter filed a declaratory action
against Mid-Century seeking payment of medical expenses and
lost wages incurred after December 16, 2014. During
discovery, Mid-Century obtained two IMEs of Teeter. The first
IME was with forensic psychiatrist Dr. William Stratford on
March 15 and 16, 2016. Dr. Stratford concluded that
Teeter's symptoms were almost entirely a psychological
issue. The second IME was with board-certified orthopedist
Dr. Emily Heid on March 22, 2016. Dr. Heid determined that
there was no physiological basis for Teeter's pain
On June 23, 2016, Teeter filed her motion for summary
judgment arguing that there is no dispute of material facts
that Colberg's liability is reasonably clear and that
Teeter's medical expenses and lost wages were causally
related to the accident. The following day, Mid-Century filed
its own motion for summary judgment. Mid-Century argued that the
opinions of Dr. Wilson, Dr. Heid, and Dr. Stratford
(collectively, the Doctors) provided objective evidence
establishing a reasonable debate regarding whether
Teeter's ongoing medical expenses and wage losses were
causally related to the accident. ...