Stacking: Cross, Brady, and Redfield v. Warren, Grass Chopper LLC, et al.

The Montana Supreme Court recently held that plaintiffs could not “stack” third-party liability coverages for each of the defendant’s vehicles and that anti-stacking policy provisions do not violate public policy.

The plaintiffs argued that the defendants’ four motor vehicle liability insurance coverages should be “stacked” for application toward plaintiffs’ injury claims. Montana law defers to policies with alternate coverage stacking determinations to those provided by statute. The policy in this case prohibited stacking.

While the defendants argued that the distinction between first-party and third-party coverages is meaningless, the court stressed the “fundamental differences in the coverages that must be carefully considered . . . in determining whether to void, on public policy grounds, a policy provision governing the stacking coverage limits.” One such difference is that liability coverage “is not like a first-party or personal-accident policy such as uninsured motorist or medical pay coverages. . . Liability coverage results solely because a vehicle is involved.” Accordingly, public policy considerations did not require judicial voiding of the anti-stacking provisions as applied to liability coverage.