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Clifton v. Progressive Paloverde Insurance Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

April 6, 2015

ROBERT C. CLIFTON, ET AL
v.
PROGRESSIVE PALOVERDE INSURANCE COMPANY

RULING

SHELLY D. DICK, Judge.

Before the Court is Defendant, Progressive Paloverde Insurance Company's ("Progressive"), Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [1] seeking dismissal of the Plaintiffs' bad faith claims. Plaintiffs, Robert and Miriam Clifton ("the Cliftons"), allege that Progressive denied the Plaintiffs' uninsured motorists ("UM") claim in bad faith in violation of Louisiana Law.[2]

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On May 5, 2012, the Cliftons were involved in a "miss and run" on Interstate 10 Westbound in West Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana. Miriam Clifton was driving. Robert Clifton was a front seat guest passenger. The Cliftons were involved in a single car collision as a result of evasive actions taken by Miriam Clifton to avoid a collision with another vehicle. A following motorist stopped to render aid to the Cliftons. State Trooper Jake Patin responded to the scene and, after interviewing the Cliftons and the following motorist and surveying the scene and the property damage, prepared a Uniform Motor Vehicle Traffic Crash Report ("Report").[3] According to Officer Patin, the following motorist "corroborated the Clifton's statements regarding the accident".[4] The Cliftons were treated for injuries at an area hospital and released. The next day, Mrs. Clifton reported the accident to their insurance carriers, Progressive.[5] In her report to Progressive, Mrs. Clifton reported[6] as follows:

Q. Anc can you briefly describe what happende in the accident?
A. Yeah, Um, we were driving on I-10 west, headed towards Lafayette on the highway, and um, so i was thin right lane and I was driving, say, between 70, 75, the speed limit's 70 there. And, uh, the cars in front of me were strain' to slow down. So I made ready to turn into the left, you know, pass over into the left lane. And, um, I looked, I checked, I put my blinker on, and I didn't see anybody coming for a while back. So as I went to make the move over into the left lane, this car comes, well, it was an SUV, I think, it was big, just comes fluyign out of the left, um, down the road. And so as I get ready to move over, I realize, oh, my gosh, he's not seeing me or not slowing down or speeding up, I'm gonna hit hi, or her, whoever it was
Q. Did the other vehicle stop.
A. Nope.

It is undisputed that, at the time of the accident, Miriam Clifton was a named insured under Progressive Policy Number XXXXXXXX-X which provided bodily injury liability coverage in the amount of $25, 000 per person bodily injury UM with the same limits.[7]

Progressive contends that guest passenger Robert Clifton presented a liability claim against Miriam Clifton under Progressive's liability coverage. Progressive's liability adjuster determined Miriam Clifton was 100% at fault in causing the accident and paid the full liability limits of $25, 000 to guest passenger Robert Clifton. Progressive contends that "thereafter, Robert and Miriam Clifton presented a UM claim under their Progressive Policy".[8]

On June 6, 2013, Progressive denied the Cliftons' UM claim.[9] Progressive's denial of the Cliftons' UM claim expresses the following reasons:

[Progressive has] not been able to confirm that another vehicle was involved in this loss, also the police report has Ms. Clifton at fault for careless operation, she was attempting to change lanes at the time of the loss. Also, the liability claim has accepted 100% liability for this loss.
Due to the reasons stated above we are denying coverage for this subject [UM] claim at this time.[10]

Plaintiff's filed suit seeking to impose penalties on Progressive under Louisiana law owing to alleged bad faith in handling and denying the UM claim.[11] Progressive moves for ...


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