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Barnes v. West

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Third Circuit

February 4, 2015

TONY BARNES, ET AL.
v.
REATA L. WEST, ET AL

APPEAL FROM THE ALEXANDRIA CITY COURT, PARISH OF RAPIDES, NO. 121,872. HONORABLE RICHARD E. STARLING, JR., CITY COURT JUDGE.

Thomas B. Wahlder, Alexandria, LA, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFFS/APPELLEES: Tony Barnes, Keshela Woodland.

Howell D. Jones, IV, Alexandria, LA, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFFS/APPELLEES: Tony Barnes, Keshela Woodland.

James M. Dill, Simone C. Dupre, The Dill Firm, A.P.L.C., Lafayette, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Safeway Insurance Company of Louisiana.

Court composed of Jimmie C. Peters, Marc T. Amy, and Shannon J. Gremillion, Judges.

OPINION

Page 1076

[14-1018 La.App. 3 Cir. 1] AMY, Judge.

The plaintiffs in this automobile accident suit settled with the plaintiff/car-owner's uninsured motorist insurer. After the insurer allegedly failed to remit the settlement funds within thirty days, the plaintiffs filed a motion for penalties. The trial court granted the motion and imposed a $5,000.00 penalty. The insurer appeals. For the following reasons, we reverse.

Factual and Procedural Background

The underlying claims in this matter arise from an automobile accident. The plaintiffs' vehicle was driven by Tony Barnes and owned by Shirley Cross, who was also a passenger. In addition to Mr. Barnes and Ms. Cross, Keshela Woodland,[1] Destiny Woodland, Kimberly Miles, Antonio Barnes, Jazalyn Miles, and Ja'Kayshia Miles were all passengers in the plaintiffs' vehicle. The defendant's vehicle was driven by Reata West. According to the record, it was eventually determined that the only applicable insurance coverage was Ms. Cross' uninsured motorist coverage, which was issued by Safeway Insurance Company of Louisiana. Thereafter, the plaintiffs reached an agreement with Safeway to settle for policy limits.

However, the plaintiffs allege that Safeway failed to fund the settlement within thirty days of the date that the agreement was put into writing, and that Safeway is liable for penalties pursuant to La.R.S. 22:1973 as a result. Neither the plaintiffs nor Safeway agree on the date that the settlement agreement was put into writing. After a hearing, the trial court found that the agreement was confected on March 18, 2013, and that Safeway acquiesced to that date. Accordingly, the trial [14-1018 La.App. 3 Cir. 2] court found that Safeway paid the settlement thirty-four days after the settlement agreement was reduced to writing. Having made that determination, the trial court assessed a penalty of $5,000.00 against Safeway pursuant to La.R.S. 22:1973(B)(2).

Safeway appeals. Although Safeway asserts no discrete assignments of error, the crux of its argument is that the trial court erred in awarding penalties. Further, in their brief, the plaintiffs request an increase in the penalties awarded.

Discussion

La.R.S. ...


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