The attorneys at Kalkstein, Johnson & Dye have more than 60 years' combined experience litigating and trying cases in Montana’s state and federal courts. Our three partners – Gary, C.J., and Travis – are rated AV-Preeminent by the Martindale-Hubbell Lawyer Ratings sytem, meaning we've been individually peer-reviewed at the highest possible level for legal ability and ethics. We're experienced, and very happy, trial lawyers.
Experience. We've represented all shapes, sizes, and sides (and still do) – from individuals to small businesses to the largest insurance companies in the world. Because we've handled cases for both sides – plaintiffs and defendants – we know how to build your case up, and how a good defense attorney will try to knock it down. It is with that perspective that we assess, plan, and litigate our clients' cases. Very few firms can say the same.
Why we're happy doing it. What's not to like? Trial is great fun (between Gary, C.J., and Travis, we've tried more than 60 jury trials). Depositions are the next best thing, and they're great fun, too. The creative problem solving that goes into building cases from the ground up is very rewarding. We've found a balance of practice that means we don’t have to go to work, we get to go to work.
A little more about KJD and bigskytrial.com. We stand less on ceremony than most firms – suits to work and courthouse glamour-shots don't make lawyers smarter or better – but take our client and case responsibilities very seriously. The lawyer you choose is a quality-of-life decision. The best result is never about shortcuts or telling you what you want to hear; we find it by litigating honorably, giving frank and realistic advice, and playing it straight. So if you're in the market for minions, lackeys, toadies, flunkeys, or any other manner of lawyer who might do anything to get you yours, this crew's not for you.
Feel free to call or e-mail and we'd be happy to discuss your case.
Our Most Recent Blog Posts:
Insurers frequently claim that their claims handling guidelines are not “reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” This is contrary to law.
Where a plaintiff asserts bad faith claims against an insurer, requests to produce claims handling manuals and guidelines “unquestionably seek information relevant to her bad faith claims.” Trotsky v. Travelers Indemnity Co., 2013 WL 12116153, *3 (W.D. Wash. 2013); see also White Mountain Communities Hosp. Inc. v. Hartford Cas. Ins. Co., 2014 WL 6885828, *2 (D. Ariz. 2014)(recognizing that claims handling guidelines are relevant to breach of contract and bad faith claims against an insurer); Stokes v. Life Ins. Of N. America, 2008 WL 2704564, *1 (D. Idaho 2008) (noting that an insurer’s claims handling guidelines and procedures “clearly qualif[y] as discoverable” under Rule 26(b)(1)). The United States District Court for the District of Montana has likewise previously ruled that claims handling materials are relevant to bad faith claims under Montana law. See Moe v. System Transport, Inc., 270 F.R.D. 613, 631 (D. Mont. 2010).
Whether and to what extent the insurer complied with its own guidelines and policies in the adjustment of the underlying claim speaks to the reasonableness of its investigation and is therefore appropriate fodder for discovery in bad faith litigation.
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The standard boilerplate objections we typically see in written discovery -- "vague and ambiguous," "oppressive," "undue burden," etc. -- are more easily raised than sustained. Today we briefly dissect the "vague and ambiguous" objection, which requires the objecting party to demonstrate why terms are vague or ambiguous. Bryant v. Armstrong, 285 F.R.D. 596, 606 (S.D. Cal. 2012). “The responding party should exercise common sense and attribute ordinary definitions to terms in discovery requests.” Id.; see also Thomas v. Cate, 715 F.Supp.2d 1012, 1030 (E.D. Cal. 2012)(recognizing that the burden to demonstrate vagueness or ambiguity requires a showing “that more tools beyond mere reason and common sense are necessary to attribute ordinary definitions to terms and phrases.”).
That's right, folks, it's never enough to merely claim that something is "vague" or "ambiguous"; the Rules require that the objecting party explain why the request cannot be answered. And, the responding party has to try to understand the question in context. Further, “if necessary to clarify its answers, the responding party may include any reasonable definition of the term or phrase at issue.” Beach v. City of Olafe, Kansas, 203 F.R.D. 489, 498 (D. Kan. 2001). It's never enough to object and refuse to respond. Rather, the objecting party must attempt to reasonably respond notwithstanding a "vague and ambiguous" objection.
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