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Bank Liable for $17M for Wrongful Setoff that Killed a Family Business

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Kelly was forced to shut down, having struggled to survive for almost four years following the wrongful setoff by First Interstate (shown above) of Kelly’s checking account.

A Montana jury announced a $17 million verdict on August 15 in favor of Kelly Logging, Inc., a Missoula-based company, against First Interstate Bank, its lender. First Interstate Bank took $762,000 out of Kelly's checking account to pay off a note which was current, was not due and had not matured.

After a seven-day trial in the District Court for Missoula County, with Judge Ed McLean presiding, the jury unanimously found First Interstate Bank liable for all the claims against it.

The award includes $286,550 in compensatory damages and $16,760,000 in punitive damages to punish First Interstate Bank for its misconduct against Kelly. Kelly also expects to receive an award of significant legal fees and costs incurred by Kelly in their pursuit for justice.

David Paoli and Tim Strauch, co-counsel for Kelly, expressed serious concerns regarding the likelihood of First Interstate Bank employing the same tactics already employed to further delay paying this award. The attorneys say any challenge to this verdict will be sure to damage the resurgence of Kelly's Missoula-based business and, therefore, its opportunity to bring much-needed jobs and economic benefit back to Western Montana.

Founded 60 years ago

Bill G. Kelly and his wife Frances founded Kelly Logging in the late 1950s.  With the help of their son Jerry and his wife Angie, they grew the business into Montana's largest logging company.  This family-owned company once employed nearly 50 workers.  Kelly has been a leader in best management practices to help raise logging industry standards. In 2013, Kelly was forced to shut down, having struggled to survive for almost four years following First Interstate's wrongful setoff of Kelly's checking account.

David Paoli said, "We are thankful the jury vindicated the Kelly family and sent a firm message to this Bank and all financial institutions, to follow the law.

"Let this be a reminder of the great levelling that occurs in a court of law when a huge corporation must come to its heels upon the judgment of 12 honest citizens," said Tim Strauch. Jerry Kelly added: "It will be a good day for business in Montana when restitution is made and we can move forward."

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