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News & Press: Montana Supreme Court

Court rules for McLean in insurance battle with ALPS

Friday, August 10, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Joe Menden
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The Montana Supreme Court ruled this week that a lawyer malpractice insurance company was wrong to rescind the policy of an Anaconda lawyer whose father and business partner stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from clients.

In a 4-3 decision the court ruled on Tuesday that a state district court wrongly granted summary judgment for ALPS Property & Casualty Insurance Company on rescinding Michael McLean’s policy. ALPS rescinded the policy as well as those of Michael’s father, David, and the McLean & McLean law firm after the theft of clients’ funds came to light.

The Supreme Court’s Commission on Practice in 2015 found that the elder McLean stole at least $522,564 from clients over a period of six years.

However, the court ruled against two of David’s clients who intervened to file claims on the elder McLean’s policy. 

Tuesday’s ruling said that the district court’s summary judgment granted ALPS the remedy of rescinding Michael’s policy while disallowing equitable exceptions, with no explanation or legal basis.

“The result is a hodgepodge that, for innocent insureds such as Michael, is all stick and no carrot,” Justice James Shea wrote for the majority.

Justice Jim Rice dissented – joined by Justice Beth Baker and District Judge Michael Moses, sitting for Justice Michael Wheat – saying the majority made its decision on the premise that Michael McLean was without blame.

“However, summary judgment was entered by the District Court without consideration of Michael’s culpability, and thus, no determination has yet been made in this proceeding about his involvement, what he knew, or what he should have known …,” Justice Rice wrote.

Read the full ALPS v. McLean opinion