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WALDRON et al v. ACE AMERICAN INSURANCE COMPANY

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Case Number: 
6:15-cv-00008 Search Pacer
ACE Group party(s): 
Opposing Party: 
Bill Waldron
Court Type: 
Federal
US District Court: 
District of Montana
Date Filed: 
Feb 4 2015

COME NOW Plaintiffs Bill Waldron and Esther Suhr (‘Tlain tiffs55), through
counsel, and for their complaint against Ace American Insurance Company and allege
as follows:

I. PARTIES, JURISDICTION AND VENUE
1. Plaintiffs Esther Suhr and Bill Waldron are residents o f Broadwater County,
Montana.
2. ACE American Insurance Company in an insurance company incorporated in
Pennslyvania. ACE American does business as ACE Agribusiness (“ACE”).
A EXHIBIT. l
3. Briggs Ranch & Quarter Horses, LLC (“Briggs”) is a business owned and
operated by Dean Briggs, It owns and operates Briggs Equine Center. Briggs Ranch
and Dean Briggs are not parties to this action, but were defendants in previous
litigation. They are also insureds of ACE Agribusiness.
4. Jurisdiction is proper in this Court.
5. Venue is also proper as the residential county of the plaintiffs. § 22-2-122,
MCA.

GENERAL ALLEGATIONS
6. On or about September 18, 2013, Esther transported her and Bill’s mare
Coyote to Briggs Equine Center in Whitehall for training. When she arrived, Dean
met her to take control of Coyote.
7. Before Coyote was unloaded from the trailer, Dean fitted her with a special
“breaking halter.” Esther made a point of telling Dean that Coyote was a “puller.”
Meaning that if Coyote were tied up, she would pull her head and body backwards to
try and escape being tied up.
8. Dean knew what Esther meant when she said Coyote was a puller and he even
explained that he had a special halter for horses that are pullers. And he explained
that Coyote would “figure it out.”
9. Dean proceeded to tie Coyote fast to a heavy-duty solid steel pipe hitching
post and left her there for several hours after Esther left the premises.
10. On or about September 19, 2013, Dean called Esther and informed her that
Coyote was too sore to work with from being tied up and pulling.
11. The next day, on or about September 20, 2013, Dean again calls Esther and
states that Coyote has developed a bubble (abscess) that he might drain - and
eventually did. Dean further stated he would watch Coyote over the weekend.
12. On or about September 21, 2013, Dean did not speak with Bill or Esther.
13. The following day, Dean called Esther and requested that she come get
Coyote and give her a few weeks to rest.
14. Then, on or about September 23, 2013, Bill drove to Whitehall to pick up
Coyote. When he arrived, Coyote was in a horrible state; she was lying on the ground
with all four feet in the air, and she had a giant abscess between her rear legs that was
draining blood and puss from where Dean had lanced it. Dean admitted that he had
not given her any painkillers. Nor had he taken her to a veterinarian.
15. When Bill moved Coyote to the trailer, she could barely stand up, let alone
walk, because of the abscess between her hind legs. Eventually, Bill was able to get
Coyote in the trailer and transport her to Equine Surgical Center near Three Forks,
Montana.
16. After arriving at the Equine Surgical Center, the veterinarians administered
painkillers, and one veterinarian described Coyote's injuries as the worst case of that
type he had ever seen.
17. The next day, on or about September 24, 2013, Esther and Bill got a call from
the surgical center that the skin on Coyote’s rear right hip had ripped open as a result
of the traumatic injuries. Bill and Esther immediately went to the surgical center, and
upon arrival, were told that Coyote had to be euthanized. Coyote was then
euthanized.
18. Coyote’s injuries were the result of being tied up by Dean, even though he
knew she was a puller, and that but for Dean’s actions, Coyote would be alive.
Furthermore, Dean’s actions were inhumane as he let Coyote suffer for four days
without painkillers, and without informing Bill and Esther of Coyote’s true condition.
19. Plaintiffs contacted Briggs insurer, ACE Agribusiness, for compensation
regarding Coyote’s death. Plaintiffs requested $10,000.
20. ACE Agribusiness sent a letter denying their claim. While the letter stated that
the denial was based on ACE’s investigation, the letter provided no explanation of
what that investigation included or what it revealed.
21. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiffs retained counsel, Robert Farris-Olsen, to
represent them in their claim against Briggs and to work with ACE.
22. Mr. Farris-Olsen contacted ACE’s adjuster. The adjuster informed Mr. Farris-
Olsen that he had not conducted an investigation despite having claimed in Ace
denial letter that he had conducted such an investigation.
23. Around this time, Mr. Briggs contacted the Plaintiffs, saying that he "wanted
to make it right” and admitting fault for the horse’s death.
24. Shortly after Mr. Farris-Olsen became involved, Ace hired a Michigan attorney
to investigate the claim. In conversing with Mr. Farris-Olsen, the Michigan attorney
made clear that she was not acting as an attorney, but was simply investigation the
claim. The Michigan attorney was not licensed to practice law in Montana.
25. ACE eventually offered the Plaintiffs $5,000, but conditioned the settlement
on releasing their insureds. Plaintiffs declined because such a requirement violated
Montana law. Shilhanek v. D-2 Trucking, 2003 MT 122, ^ 27, 315 Mont. 519, 70 P.3d
721.
26. Mr. Farris-Olsen also requested that ACE investigate Esther’s severe
emotional distress under the bodily injury provision o f ACE’s policy.
27. Despite making this request numerous times, ACE always declined. It
reasoned that no coverage existed under the bodily injury provision for emotional
distress so no investigation was necessary.
28. But this statement was blatantly untrue, as the Montana Supreme Court has
clearly established that emotional distress coverage can exist under a bodily injury
provision. Allstate v. Wagner-Ellsmrth, 2008 MT 240, tJ 40, 344 Mont. 445, 188 P.3d
1042.
29. Clearly seeing that ACE would not negotiate in good faith and would not
investigate, the Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against Briggs. As soon as the lawsuit was
filed, ACE offered more money than was originally requested in the Plaintiffs original
demand.
30-ACE also attempted to condition that settlement on releasing itself from
further liability—a clearly illegal condition under Montana law. Only after Mr. Farris-
Olsen stood his ground and clearly identified that ACE was acting illegally by
conditioning the settlement on its release did ACE acquiesce and setde without
releasing itself.
m. CLAIMS
Count I - UTPA
31. The preceding paragraphs are re-alleged as though set forth in full hereunder.
32. The Montana Unfair Trade Practices Act protects third-party claimants like
the Waldrons against certain unfair claim setdement practices. These banned practices
include:
a. Failure to conduct a reasonable and prompt investigation;
b. Failure to equitably settle a claim when liability is reasonably clear;
c. Failure to setde a claim where liability is reasonably clear to leverage a
settlement;
d. And failure to provide a reasonable explanation for denying a claim.
33. ACE violated all these provisions in handling the Plaintiffs’ claims against
Briggs. ACE conducted no reasonable investigation before denying the Plaintiffs
original demand of $10,000. It failed to settle the claim even its own insured admitted
he was at fault. And it attempted to leverage by conditioning settlement of the policy
limits on releasing on an insured when liability was reasonably clear. It also
continually denied investigation into Esther’s serious emotional distress even, though
the coverage was clearly available for that claim under Montana law.
34. The plaintiffs were damaged by these violations. They experienced emotional
distress, loss of opportunity to use the settlement money (i.e., interest), and litigation
costs and attorney’s fees.
35. Plaintiffs ate entitled to these damages under § 33-18-242, MCA.
Count II - Punitive Damages
36. The preceding paragraphs are re-alleged as though set forth in full hereunder.
37. ACE acted with actual malice in adjusting the Plaintiffs’ claims. ACE had
knowledge o f facts or intentionally disregarded facts which created a high probability
of injury to Plaintiffs and deliberately proceeded to act in conscious or intentional
disregard of the high probability of injury to them or deliberately proceeded to act
with indifference to the high probability of injury to them.
38. ACE was therefore malicious as defined under § 27-1-221, MCA, entitling
Plaintiffs to an award of punitive damages.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs pray for Judgment against Defendants:
1. That they be awarded all the actual damages;
2. That they be awarded punitive damages in an amount to be determined at
trial.
3. For such other and further relief as may be just and equitable.

DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL
Pursuant to M. R. Civ. P. 38, Plaintiff hereby demands a trial by jury.

The provided text is an excerpt from a document filed in this case. For a full understanding of the case, one should read the complete court file, including the response.

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