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Louisiana Appeals Court Holds Plaintiff Has Burden of Proving His Entitlement to Recovery Under Uninsured Motorist Coverage

file851270340900In a recent case before the Second Circuit Court of Appeal, the court held that the plaintiff had not met his burden of proving he was entitled to uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage stemming from a vehicle accident. The court also found that in this case, the question of whether the offending driver was insured was a question of fact, not law.

The plaintiff, Ted Luquette, appealed the jury verdict and judgment rejecting his claims against his uninsured/underinsured insurance carrier. The trial court found Mr. Luquette failed to prove that the driver of the car who allegedly injured him was uninsured or underinsured (UM).

In this case, Mr. Luquette was driving with two passengers when his vehicle was struck by another vehicle, driven by Chad Mowbray and owned by Billie Borga. The offending vehicle ran a red light and collided with Ms. Luquette’s vehicle, allegedly causing Mr. Luquette’s back and neck injuries, and aggravating pre-existing conditions.

Mr. Luquette filed a petition for damages against Mr. Borga and his insurer, as well as Mr. Mowbray and Mr. Luquette’s own insurance carrier. He later filed a supplemental and amended petition claiming that his insurer was liable for fees for failing to pay under the UM policy coverage.

Before the jury trial, Mr. Luquette settled with Mr. Borga’s insurer for the policy limit of $100,000. At trial, the sole claim was Mr. Luquette’s claim against his insurance company for the UM claim.

In support of his claim, Mr. Luquette presented evidence of his injuries and claimed he has bulging discs in his neck and back due to the accident. His insurer disputed his claims that he required surgeries that will cost in excess of $100,000 each.

The insurer moved for a directed verdict on the grounds that Mr. Luquette has the burden of proving that the owner and operator of the offending vehicle were uninsured or underinsured at the time of the accident. They claimed that Mr. Luquette had not presented proof that the other driver was uninsured or underinsured.

The appellate court reviewed the law required to establish proof of loss for an uninsured motorist claim. The insured must show that the insurance company received facts demonstrating that the owner or driver of the other vehicle in the accident was uninsured or underinsured, that the accident was his fault, and that this fault gave rise to quantifiable damages.

Mr. Luquette contends that the question of whether Mr. Mowbray was uninsured or underinsured is a question of law concerning insurance coverage, and it was a fundamental error for the court to submit that question to the jury. The appeals court rejected this argument and stated that whether an insurance policy provides coverage may not be solely a legal question, particularly when a factual finding is necessary to determine the coverage issue.

In this case, it was necessary to prove the UM status of the owner and operator of the offending vehicle in order for Mr. Luquette to recover against Farm Bureau. It was not a legal question but a factual issue. Mr. Luquette had the burden of proof on the issue of whether he was entitled to recovery under the UM policy.

The appellate court also rejected Mr. Luquette’s argument that Mr. Mowbray’s UM status was an uncontested issue and that Mr. Luquette’s insurer’s statement of the case was a stipulation of liability. It merely acknowledged that a policy had been issued to Mr. Borga and that Mr. Luquette had a UM policy. But the UM status of Mr. Mowbray still required proof by Mr. Luquette.

In conclusion, the appellate court found no error with the trial court’s denial of Mr. Luquette’s motions for JNOV and new trial. The jury verdict and the judgment in favor of the insurance company were affirmed.

At the Lavis Law Firm, clients in need of guidance or representation for their insurance disputes can rely on our experience and advocacy. Contact our office at 866-558-9151 for a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Louisiana Appeals Court Holds that Evidence Does not Favor the Plaintiff over Insurer, Louisiana Insurance Lawyer Blog, August 18, 2015

Louisiana Appeals Court Affirms Judgment in Favor of Insurance Company Because Plaintiff Failed to Prove Injuries, Louisiana Insurance Lawyer Blog, August 11, 2015

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