United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division
U.S. SPECIALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
THE ESTATE OF DARRELL L. WARD and THE ESTATE OF MARK MELOTZ, Defendants. THE ESTATE OF DARRELL L. WARD, Counterclaimant,
U.S. SPECIALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Counterdefendant.
L. CHRISTENSEN, CHIEF JUDGE
the Court are the parties' cross-motions for summary
judgment (Docs. 28, 33), and Plaintiffs Motion for Order
Limiting Discovery (Doc. 10). On June 28, 2018, the Court
held a hearing on the pending motions. In its motion for
summary judgment, Defendant contends the following question
should be certified: "Whether a liability insurance
policy that contains no anti-stacking clause and is not a
motor vehicle liability policy may be stacked intra-policy
where separate premiums were charged for three liability
coverages." (Doc. 34 at 17.) Plaintiff and
Counter-defendant oppose certification, but, pursuant to the
Court's request, have worked with Defendant to provide
the Court with a proposed certification question. At the
hearing, after reviewing the procedural posture of the case,
and discussing a related case involving whether third-party
claimants can stack liability coverage limits which is
currently before the Montana Supreme Court, Cross v.
Warren, DA 17-059 (Mont.), the Court finds that
certification to the Montana Supreme Court in this case is
to Rule 15 of the Montana Rules of Appellate Procedure, a
federal district court in Montana may certify questions to
the Montana Supreme Court for instruction. See Mont.
R. App. P. 15(3). "The decision to certify a question to
a state supreme court rests in the 'sound discretion'
of the district court." Eckard Brandes, Inc. v.
Riley, 338 F.3d 1082, 1087 (9th Cir.2003) (quoting Louie
v. United States, 776 F.2d 819, 824 (9th Cir.1985)). Even
where state law is unclear, resorting to the certification
process is not obligatory. Lehman Bros. v. Schein,
416 U.S. 386, 390 (1974). "If the state's highest
appellate court has not decided the question presented, then
[a United States District Court] must predict how the
state's highest court would decide the question."
Orkin v. Taylor, 487 F.3d 734, 741 (9th Cir. 2007).
In the absence of Montana Supreme Court precedent, a federal
district court sitting in Montana may look to decisions from
other jurisdictions, other relevant state cases, and
secondary sources such as the Restatement to determine how
the Montana Supreme Court would resolve the issues.
Eckard Brandes, 338 F.3d at 1087.
Court finds that there is no controlling authority under
Montana law regarding whether Montana law allows stacking in
a third-party claim by a deceased passenger in an airplane
crash. The Court has reviewed the parties' proposed
certification question (Doc. 51), modifies it, and submits
the question to the Montana Supreme Court as ordered below.
ORDERED, pursuant to Rule 15 of the Montana Rules of
Appellate Procedure, the following question is certified to
the Montana Supreme Court for instruction:
"Whether Montana law allows stacking in a third-party
claim by a deceased passenger in an airplane crash, where the
aircraft liability policy contains no anti-stacking clause
and separate premiums were charged for liability coverage for
three separate airplanes."
Court acknowledges that, as the receiving court, the Montana
Supreme Court may reformulate the certified question.
FURTHER ORDERED that the clerk of this court shall forward a
copy of this order, under official seal, to the Montana
Supreme Court, along with copies of all briefs and excerpts
of record that have been filed with this court. The parties
shall notify the clerk of this court within 14 days of any
decision by the Montana Supreme Court to accept or decline
certification. If the Montana Supreme Court accepts
certification, the parties shall then notify the clerk of
this court within 14 days of the issuance of that Court's
FURTHER ORDERED that this case is STAYED pending resolution
of the certified question by the Montana Supreme Court.
 The Court proposed this question to
the parties at the June 28, 2018 motion hearing. Defendant
has agreed that this question is appropriate for
certification. (Doc. 53 at 2.) Plaintiff does not agree with
the use of the vernacular "anti-stacking" and
submits the following alternative question: "Whether
Montana law allows stacking in a third-party claim by a
deceased passenger in an airplane crash under the insurance
policy at issue in the above-entitled cause which contains a
per passenger limit of $100, 000, and identifies separate
amounts charged for the coverage of each of the three
aircraft within the total premium charged for the ...