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Garner v. USAA General Indemnity Co.

United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division

July 23, 2019

JAMES C. GARNER, Plaintiff,

          OPINION & ORDER

          Jeremiah C. Lynch, United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff James Garner claims that Defendant USAA General Indemnity Company, at the direction of Defendants Auto Injury Solutions and certain individual doctors (“the AIS Defendants”), wrongfully denied his claim for medical payment benefits under an auto insurance policy issued by USAA. The AIS Defendants seek dismissal of all claims against them for lack of personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2). (Docs. 17, 19.) USAA seeks partial dismissal of Garner's First Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). (Doc. 14.) All three motions are granted.


         On February 11, 2016, Garner was injured in a car wreck in Missoula, Montana. (Amend. Compl., Doc. 10 at ¶ 20.) At the time, Garner had first-party medical payments coverage under a policy with USAA. (Id.) Garner's treating physicians determined that Garner's medical care, including but not limited to a diskectomy and fusion performed by Dr. John Hammerstein at a cost of $53, 000, were necessary and appropriate. (Id. at ¶ 24.) In February 2018, an adjuster for USAA determined that medical bills of $53, 000 for the diskectomy and fusion were covered under the med pay portion of Garner's USAA policy and USAA would pay those bills. (Id. at ¶ 25.) Ultimately, however, Garner's claims for med pay coverage for those bills was denied. (Id. at ¶ 26.)

         On February 12, 2019, Garner filed this action in the Montana Fourth Judicial District Court, Missoula County. (Doc. 1-1.) USAA removed the case to this Court on April 12, 2019, (Doc. 1), and the AIS Defendants immediately moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, (Docs. 5, 7). In response, Garner filed an Amended Complaint, (Doc. 10), and the motions to dismiss were denied as moot, (Doc. 11). USAA then filed a partial answer, (Doc. 13), before the current motions to dismiss, (Docs. 14, 17, 19), were filed.

         Garner's Amended Complaint alleges eight causes of action, including a request for declaratory judgment (Count I); breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing (Count II); breach of fiduciary duty (Count III); aiding and abetting tortious conduct (Count IV); violation of Montana's Unfair Trade Practices Act (“UTPA”) (Count V); violation of Montana's Consumer Protection Act (Count VI); additional violations of the UTPA (Count VII); and intentional interference with contract (Count VIII). (Doc. 10.) Some counts are directed at all the defendants, (see Counts V, VI), while others are directed at the AIS Defendants, (see Counts III, IV, VIII), or USAA (see Counts I, II, VII). (See Doc. 25 at 2.)


         I. AIS Defendants

         The AIS Defendants seek dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2). “Where a defendant moves to dismiss a complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating that jurisdiction is appropriate.” Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 800 (9th Cir. 2004). “Where, as here, the motion is based on written materials rather than an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of jurisdictional facts.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

         “Federal courts ordinarily follow state law in determining the bounds of their jurisdiction over persons.” Picot v. Weston, 780 F.3d 1206, 1211 (9th Cir. 2015) (quoting Daimler AG v. Bauman, ___ U.S. ___, 134 S.Ct. 746, 753 (2014)). Under Montana law,

[courts] first determine whether personal jurisdiction exists under M.R.Civ.P. 4(b)(1). Personal jurisdiction may exist under Rule 4(b)(1) in one of two ways: a party may be found within the state of Montana and subject to general jurisdiction, or the claim for relief may arise from any of the acts listed in Rule 4(b)(1)(A-G) and create specific jurisdiction for the purpose of litigating that particular claim. If personal jurisdiction exists under the first step of the test, [a court] then determine[s] whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction conforms with the traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice embodied in the due process clause. If personal jurisdiction does not exist under the first part of the test, further analysis under the second part of the test is unnecessary.

Milky Whey, Inc. v. Dairy Partners, LLC, 342 P.3d 13, 17 (Mont. 2015) (internal quotations and citation marks omitted).

         Of note, in January 2019, District Judge Susan Watters concluded that this Court lacked personal jurisdiction over AIS in a similar case, based on the findings and recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Timothy Cavan. See Lorentz v. Garrison Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., CV 18-82-BLG-SPW Docs. 19, 22 (D. Mont. Jan. 23, 2019).

         A. General Jurisdiction

         “General jurisdiction exists where the defendant's affiliations with the state are so continuous and systematic as to render the defendant essentially at home in the forum state and, as such, subject to suit on any and all claims against it, even causes of action that arise from dealings entirely distinct from the defendant's activities within the state.” Tackett v. Duncan, 334 P.3d 920, 925 (Mont. 2014) ...

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