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John Morrison

Morrison Sherwood Wilson & Deola, PLLP
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John Morrison
Morrison Sherwood Wilson & Deola, PLLP

John Morrison has served Montana and America as a lawyer and public leader for 35 years. John grew up in western Montana working from the age of 13 as a dishwasher, lawn mower, construction laborer, landscaper and radio announcer before going to law school. After passing the Montana bar exam, John worked in Washington D.C. for Sen. John Melcher, where he helped write the Farm Credit Act of 1987, before returning to Montana to practice law. While still in his mid 30s, John received the highest possible rating for legal ability and ethics (AV Preeminent) from judges and other lawyers and has held the rating for 25 consecutive years. John also became a Board Certified Civil Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, was President of the Montana Trial Lawyers Association, served as Special Assistant Attorney General and chief Montana counsel in the Tobacco Case, obtained medical monitoring funds for hundreds of Montana fen Phen victims, and represented the New York Times and NBC in the Unabomber case before being elected to public office. John has tried numerous cases to verdict and judgment in the state and federal trial courts and won many landmark decisions in the Montana Supreme Court and the United States Courts of Appeals.

After two terms as a state-wide elected official, John returned to the law practice in 2009. In 2015, he received the Appellate Advocacy Award from MTLA (appellate lawyer of the year), and his cases continue to receive national media attention. John is listed in US News Best Lawyers in America, SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Top 100, the National Association of Distinguished Counsel (NADC)—Nation’s Top 1%, and represents Montana on the National Board of the invitation-only American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). In 2019, John received the Friend of Nursing Award from the Montana Nurses Association. Based on peer reviews, Best Lawyers in 2020 and 2021 named John Lawyer of the Year in the Great Falls-Helena region for personal injury litigation.

Recent results. Since 2019, John and his co-counsel have recovered over $100 million for clients, including a $56.7 million judgment for the Montana Health CO-OP in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims for wrongful reduction of risk corridor payments under the Affordable Care Act; a $14 million judgment for a Montana Jewish woman against a Nazi internet troll leader; a $7 million settlement for 11,000 Montana Hospital employees against five hospital employers for ERISA violations; an $8 million national class action settlement following partial summary judgment against a short term medical insurer for underpayment of claims; a related $1 million recovery for a Sidney truck driver and cancer victim for alleged fraudulent sale and wrongful delay and denial of his claims; a $2 million settlement against MGM for an Alaska realtor and coach who sustained injuries in the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay shooting; a $585,000 (capped) medical malpractice judgment against the U.S. for wrongful death of a 63-year-old homeless itinerant ranch hand; affirmance of a $1.234 million judgment for the Montana Health CO-OP in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (first case to hold the Trump administration wrongly withheld CSR payments under the ACA); a $2.85 million settlement for employers overcharged for health insurance as part of an alleged kickback scheme; a settlement for an undisclosed sum against an ERISA fidelity bond insurer for two hospital employee benefit plans; a settlement for an undisclosed sum for a Glendive mechanic who suffered severe burns due to a defective propane valve. *Past results afford no guarantee of future results and every case is different and must be judged on its own merits.

Philanthropy. Using fees from the tobacco case, John co-founded the Safe Kids and Families Fund that has provided more than 20,000 bicycle and sports helmets to low-income children in Montana through MTLA. In 2020, John created the Healthy Montana Kids Fund to support organizations that promote healthy child development. In 2021, John endowed the Healthy Montana Kids Educator Award, to be given each year by the Montana Professional Teachers Foundation to an educator who, through inspiration and/or innovation, fosters healthy lifestyles and choices among Montana public schools and students. In 2022, distributing remainder funds from a successful national class action, John endowed the Little Peeps program through Mountain Health Gives, which will provide eye exams and glasses to thousands of low income school kids in Montana and surrounding states, and provided a matching grant to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation that will pay for three additional scientists in 2023 seeking to crack the code of cancer metastasis. John also co-founded the Mohamed Nasir Kahn Diversity Award scholarship, named after his late college roommate, which supports international and racial minority students at Whitman College. John provided support and guidance to H2O for Hope, a project founded and led by his then teenage daughters, which which raised funds and built a well and latrine at an elementary school in rural Kenya. John served as board President of CASA of Montana and cycled from Glacier to Yellowstone each year to raise money for the children’s advocacy group. John and his wife Cathy have also directly supported a range of non-profit organizations that advance the interests of education, conservation, the arts, veterans, law enforcement officers and firefighters, human rights, mental health, access to clean water, and disaster and hunger relief.

Public Service. John was elected Montana State Auditor in 2000 and 2004, where he served as Montana’s Insurance and Securities Commissioner and on the Montana Board of Land Commissioners. He wrote and led passage of major health coverage initiatives, including Insure Montana and Healthy Montana Kids, that have provided health coverage to tens of thousands of Montanans. More than half of the children in Montana are now covered by HMK and the program has brought into Montana nearly a billion dollars in additional healthcare funding. John chaired the Health Insurance (B) and Market Regulation (D) committees of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and led the national ban of discretionary clauses in ERISA plans, which was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Standard Insurance v. Morrison, restoring fair claim handling rights to tens of millions of Americans. John led a national crackdown on fake health insurance and pushed through laws in Montana to protect privacy and limit credit scoring. He also chaired the NAIC special task force following the 9-11 attacks and led roll out of the Consumer Information Source web portal and the centralized Market Conduct Annual Statement, which required U.S. insurers to file annual reports containing data about their claim handling practices. John also helped expose and publicize the insurance industry’s recognition of the urgency of carbon caused climate change. As NAIC’s International Vice-Chair for Asia, John helped develop the working relationship between US and Chinese regulators, represented US insurance regulators in Doha Round trade negotiations and the US-China Strategic Economic Dialogue and provided recommendations to the Chinese government (published by Stanford) concerning their health insurance market. John introduced the legislation that made Montana a captive insurance domicile and helped the industry develop; nearly 300 captive insurers now call Montana home, collecting over $1 billion in premiums and generating millions of dollars annually for Montana, while hundreds of U.S. business leaders travel to Montana for captive insurance meetings each year. On the securities side, John and his team investigated, prosecuted and worked with U.S. Attorneys to achieve convictions in historic fraud cases. Two of the cases were recounted in the documentary film Fraud Under the Big Sky, which John co-produced and appeared in with Academy Award winner J.K. Simmons. As a Land Board Commissioner, John led creation of the state land bank, which has added a hundred thousand publicly accessible acres to the state land trust. In 2007, Montana Living magazine wrote: “Some say no one in state government has accomplished more positive change for this state in the last five years.” John comes from a family tradition of public service; his dad was a Montana Supreme Court Justice, his grandad was a three term governor of Nebraska, and his great great grandad was a wounded Civil War veteran and Kansas legislator.

Insurance and health policy consulting. In addition to his continuing law practice, John works with various organizations on insurance and health policy matters. John co-founded the Mountain Health CO-OP which provides non-profit, consumer governed health coverage to tens of thousands in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, and served for three years as the Founding President of the National Alliance of State Health CO-OPs (NASHCO) whose members, by their second year of operation (2015) provided coverage to more than one million Americans and saved consumers and taxpayers billions of dollars. He has recently served as Vice-Chair of the board of the National Academy of State Health Policy, board member and chairman of the $3 billion Senior Health Care Oversight Trust and on a number of corporate boards. John has been called as an expert witness in numerous cases including for the Plaintiff in Hull v. Ability Insurance, which resulted in a $34 million jury verdict, one of the largest in Montana history. John is also a consulting expert to the U.S Department of Labor on ERISA related issues.

Speaking, teaching, media and writing. John has given invited talks at Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health, Stanford’s Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Georgetown Health Policy Institute, Peking University, and a number of other colleges and law schools. John has spoken at many continuing legal education seminars in Montana and other states. John has also been the adjunct professor of insurance law at the Alexander Blewett III University of Montana Law School. He has given invited testimony on multiple occasions to both houses of Congress. John has been covered by and/or published in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico, the Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg News, The Times (London), Money, Forbes, Smart Money, Consumer Reports, Best’s Review, CNN, Good Morning America, C-Span, PBS, and National Public Radio among other national publications and broadcasts. He is the author of numerous articles and one book: Mavericks, The Lives and Battles of Montana’s Political Legends (Univ. of Idaho Press, 1997; Montana Historical Society Press, 2003), listed as one of “Twelve Important Works of Historical Non-Fiction About Montana,”which John wrote with his wife Cathy.

Personal. John and Cathy have been married for 31 years. They have two daughters, Allison (28) and Amanda (26). Both were born in Helena, Montana and attended Title I public schools there. Allison, a D-1 All-Academic American track and field athlete, received her A.B. in 2016 from Harvard, worked as a legislative aide to Sen. Michael Bennet in the U.S. Senate, and led integrity war rooms for Facebook during the 2020 U.S. presidential election and other elections and crises globally. She now manages policy development at Meta for VR and the evolving Metaverse. Amanda, a U.S. Presidential Scholar and Schwarzman Scholar, received her B.A. summa cum laude from Princeton and her M.S. in global affairs from Tsinghua University. She is a nationally published China expert, film producer, and now Director of Film and TV Development for Oscar® winning Little Monster Films. John and his family enjoy the full range of sports and activities in Montana’s great outdoors. An avid runner, John qualified for and competed in the 2018 and 2019 Boston Marathons. John and his daughters also enjoy mountaineering and have summited most of the state high-points in the American West and New England.

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