Montana Debt Collection Laws

Bruce M. Spencer

Submitted by Bruce M. Spencer, Smith Law Firm, P.C.

Published by The National List of Attorneys


Smith Law Firm, P.C. is Montana’s oldest continuously operating law firm. It was established in 1871 by Masenna Bullard, when Montana was still a territory. Bullard came to Montana from the East following the gold miners. He was a man of some means and spent most of his career grub-staking miners on Helena’s famous A Last Chance Gulch. In the late 1880's, Bullard enticed a young J. Miller Smith, Sr., then a U.S. Marshall who had come to Helena, to return some notorious bandits to Missouri, to join him and study law under him.


Bullard sold out and returned to the East in about 1892. Smith continued the law practice and was joined by his sons, J. Miller Smith, Jr., David Smith and Paul W. Smith, as they became of age. J. Miller Smith, Jr.’s son, Chadwick H. Smith, joined his father and uncles in 1951. R.J. "Jim" Sewell, Jr. joined the firm in June, 1971 and acquired the firm from Chad Smith in 1992. Bruce M. Spencer joined in 1994. Mr. Sewell and Mr. Spencer are the shareholders. There is one associate at this time, Scott H. Clement, and six other staff.


Bruce obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Montana in Business and Finance and his J.D. from the University of Oregon in 1992. He has been active in the representation of creditors since joining the firm. The firm is a member of The National Association of Retail Collection Attorneys (NARCA), ACA International, and Commercial Law League of America (CLLA).


Montana's Debt Collection Laws

1. Statutes of Limitation


2. Bad Check Laws

A creditor may recover from the maker of the check (the person who signs, not necessarily the account holder) the following penalties:

An amount equal to the service charge of up to $30, plus the greater of $100 or three times the amount for which the check, draft, converted check, electronic funds transfer, or order was issued. However, damages may not exceed the value of the check, draft, converted check, electronic funds transfer, or order by more than $500.

Mont. Code Ann. § 27-1-717. General practice in Montana is to limit damages to a maximum of $500.00 despite the statutory language. Acceptance of partial payments or a payment plan does not waive a creditor's rights to penalties under the statute.


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