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Louisiana Court Holds Insurer’s “Garage Policy” Offered Car Service Repair but did not Provide Coverage to Plaintiff Injured in Two-Car Collision

In an insurance coverage dispute following a car accident, the Louisiana Third Circuit affirmed a judgment finding that the plaintiff was not insured under either insurance policy, and it dismissed her claims against the insurance company.  A “garage policy” had been issued to a car dealership that provided uninsured motorist coverage and medical payment coverage.   The issue in this case was whether the plaintiff was in fact “insured” for the purposes of UM coverage.  Specifically, the court here looked at the policy language defining coverage and whether the definition of “insured” violated Louisiana law. In Lake Charles, Louisiana, in August 2013, the plaintiff in this case was involved in a two-car auto accident on I-210.  She contended that she suffered injuries as a result of the accident.  At the time of the accident, the plaintiff had been driving a borrowed car from Service Chevrolet, while her own car underwent repairs. A “garage policy” had been issued to Service Chevrolet, and the car driven by the plaintiff was a “covered auto” under the policy. The plaintiff settled her claims against the other driver and the other driver’s insurer.  She then pursued a claim against the insurance company for Service Chevrolet for the remaining damages under the uninsured/underinsured (UM) “garage policy” and the medical payments coverage.  The insurer moved for summary judgment, contending that the plaintiff was not “insured” because she maintained her own insurance.  The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment.  The plaintiff appealed.

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Appellate Court Affirms Summary Judgment Motion in Favor of Insurance Company When Defendant Driver Failed to Renew Insurance Policy Before Motor Vehicle Collision in Louisiana

In a recent automobile accident case, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal addressed choice-of-law provisions as well as the question of whether the defendant driver had been covered by her automobile insurance policy at the time of the accident. The plaintiffs in this case brought a lawsuit for damages against the driver of the vehicle that struck them, their automobile insurance company, and the uninsured/underinsured motorist carrier.  The trial court granted the defendant insurance company’s summary judgment motion, based on the argument that the insurance policy had been cancelled before the accident because the defendant driver had not renewed by paying the required premium.  The plaintiffs argued the trial court erred, and the defendant driver had not properly canceled the insurance policy, according to law. While the accident took place in Louisiana, on March 1, 2014, the automobile insurance policy had been issued in Mississippi.  The policy terms made clear that the policy would terminate on January 10, 2014, if the insured did not accept an offer to renew the policy and to timely pay the required renewal premium.  On appeal, the plaintiffs’ argument was that the insurance company had not mailed a notice of cancellation 10 days before canceling the policy, as required by Louisiana law.

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Appellate Court Affirms Decision in Favor of Car Insurer, Holding Exclusion Valid Under Louisiana Law

The Third Circuit Court of Appeal for Louisiana recently affirmed a decision in favor of an automobile insurance company, finding they need not provide underinsured/uninsured (UM) coverage following a car accident. The issues on appeal addressed the validity of the “regular” use exclusion and whether, if the exclusion applied, the lower court erred in finding it applied to the plaintiff, who had been driving for her employer at the time of the accident. The plaintiffs in this case included a woman injured in a two-car accident and her husband. She had been driving a truck owned by her employer, and the other vehicle involved in the accident was underinsured.  Uninsured motorist coverage on the employer’s car had been rejected, so the plaintiffs filed a claim against their own underinsured motorist carrier, Louisiana Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company (Farm Bureau).  The trial court found in favor of Farm Bureau, and the plaintiffs appealed. In their discussion, the court stated that coverage under an insurance policy is a question of law.  The plaintiffs contended that the exclusion in the Farm Bureau policy did not apply because it violated Louisiana law. Specifically, the plaintiffs argued that the “regular use” exclusion was contrary to Louisiana law and not enforceable.

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Appellate Court Reverses Judgment Against Insurance Company Because Plaintiff Had Not Shown Defendant Driver was Uninsured/Underinsured According to Louisiana Law

In a recent appeal, the Louisiana Third Circuit reviewed whether a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit following a car accident had met her burden of showing the defendant driver was an uninsured/underinsured motorist. The burden remains on the plaintiff to present a prima facie showing of uninsured/underinsured coverage, and in this case, an affidavit by a rental car employee did not meet the evidentiary standard required to prove this status. The court reversed the trial court’s judgment against the automobile insurer and in favor of the plaintiff. The facts of this case centered on a car accident that took place at an intersection in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Mary King’s vehicle backed into Crystal Stephens’ vehicle. Both women had been driving a rental car. Safeway Insurance Co. of Louisiana had insured Ms. Stephens’ vehicle.

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