OP 19-0051 MARYLAND CASUALTY COMPANY, Petitioner, v. THE ASBESTOS CLAIMS COURT, and THE HONORABLE AMY EDDY, Asbestos Claims Court Judge, Respondent.. Oral Argument is set for Wednesday, August 14, 2019, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.
In March 2018, the Asbestos Claims Court (ACC) selected Ralph Hutt—one of 884 plaintiffs in another case against Maryland Casualty Company (MCC)—to file a separate case against MCC in the ACC. In this case, Hutt alleged in part that MCC was negligent in providing industrial hygiene services because of actions it took while providing workers’ compensation insurance coverage to W.R. Grace in Libby. After MCC moved for summary judgment on this issue, the ACC ruled that as a matter of law, MCC owed a duty of care to warn Grace’s workers about the hidden hazard of asbestos exposure.
MCC then petitioned the Montana Supreme Court for a writ of supervisory control. Noting that hundreds of cases against ACC would be affected by the ACC’s ruling in Hutt’s case, it argued that supervisory control was appropriate because the ACC was allegedly proceeding under a mistake of law. MCC argued that the ACC’s ruling erroneously created a new duty for insurers to warn others of dangers created by their insured and that the ACC failed to consider certain legal authority in reaching its decision. Hutt disagrees with MCC and argues that the ACC correctly ruled that MCC owed a duty of care to warn the workers about asbestos exposure at Grace.
DA 19-0077 ALEXIS NUNEZ and HOLLY McGOWAN, Plaintiffs and Appellees, v. WATCHTOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY OF NEW YORK, INC.; CHRISTIAN CONGREGATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES and THOMPSON FALLS CONGREGATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES, Defendants and Appellants. __________________________________ WATCHTOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY OF NEW YORK, INC.; CHRISTIAN CONGREGATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES and THOMPSON FALLS CONGREGATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES, Third-Party Plaintiffs, and Appellants, v. MAXIMO NAVA REYES and IVY McGOWAN-CASTLEBERRY, Third-Party Defendants and Appellees. Oral Argument; is set for September, 13, 2019, at 10:00 a.m. in the Northern Hotel, Billings Montana.
In 2004, two congregants informed the Elders of the Thompson Falls Congregation that congregant Maximo Reyes had sexually abused them when they were children. The Thompson Falls Elders contacted the Elders at the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the legal department at Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. (Watchtower) for advice. Per the advice they received, the Thompson Falls Elders kept the matter confidential and did not report it to authorities.
Beginning in 2002, Reyes began to sexually abuse his step-granddaughter, who also attended services at the Thompson Falls Kingdom Hall, often accompanied by Reyes. In 2016, Reyes’ step-granddaughter filed this complaint, alleging Defendants had failed to report abuse as mandated by § 41-3-201(2)(h), and that Defendants were liable for the harm she suffered from Reyes’ abuse after they were told of Reyes abusing other children. The District Court found the Defendants liable for her harm as a matter of law. A jury awarded her compensatory damages of $4 million and punitive damages of $31 million. The District Court upheld the punitive damages award upon review.
On appeal, Defendants argue that: the District Court erred in finding Defendants liable as a matter of law; the jury’s award of punitive damages is not justified; the District Court erred in upholding punitive damages in excess of the statutory cap; and the punitive damages against Defendant Watchtower violates the U.S. Constitution.