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Brown v. Norman-Fuegero

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

April 22, 2015

CHARLES BROWN
v.
RELIMO NORMAN-FUEGERO AND LOUISIANA INSURANCE GUARANTEE ASSOCIATION AS SUCCESSOR TO SOUTHERN CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY

APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH. NO. 2014-02673, DIVISION " J" . Honorable Paula A. Brown, Judge.

Allen H. Borne, Jr., Ryan P. Reece, THE BORNE LAW FIRM, L.L.C., New Orleans, LA, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT.

Stephanie B. Laborde, James K. Irvin, Heather L. Landry, MILLING BENSON WOODWARD, L.L.P., New Orleans, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE.

(Court composed of Judge Edwin A. Lombard, Judge Madeleine M. Landrieu, Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano).

OPINION

Joy Cossich Lobrano, J.

Page 1060

[2014-0826 La.App. 4 Cir. 1] Plaintiff, Charles Brown, appeals the May 23, 2014 trial court judgment, granting summary judgment in favor of defendant, Louisiana Insurance Guaranty Association (" LIGA" ), and dismissing plaintiff's claims. For reasons that follow, we affirm.

Plaintiff filed a petition for damages, claiming injuries sustained as a result of an August 20, 2012 vehicular collision. Plaintiff alleged that he was proceeding west on North Dorgenois Street in New Orleans, when Relimo Norman-Fuegero negligently drove his vehicle through a stop sign on Lapeyrouse Street, thereby causing the collision. In addition to naming Norman-Fuegero as a defendant, plaintiff also sued LIGA, as successor to the now-insolvent Southern Casualty Insurance Company. Plaintiff alleged that at the time of the accident, Norman-Fuegero was covered under a liability insurance policy issued by Southern Casualty.

LIGA answered plaintiff's petition, asserting, among other defenses, that LIGA and Southern Casualty's insured, Norman-Fuegero, cannot be liable to [2014-0826 La.App. 4 Cir. 2] plaintiff because plaintiff had received Medicaid payments that exceed the per person limit of the Southern Casualty policy, which is $15,000. LIGA further asserted that La. R.S. 22:2062(A) provides that all other applicable insurance must be exhausted before LIGA's coverage can be reached. Therefore, LIGA argued that any amount payable by LIGA or by the party insured by Southern Casualty must be reduced by the full applicable limits stated in any other insurance policy from which plaintiff is entitled to receive benefits as a result of the alleged accident.

Plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment declaring that: (1) LIGA is not entitled to a credit commensurate with the value of plaintiff's Medicaid benefits; (2) if LIGA is entitled to a credit equal to the value of plaintiff's Medicaid benefits, the credit does not eliminate LIGA's liability because the value of the Medicaid benefits is less than the total value of plaintiff's damages; and (3) La. R.S. 32:866, known as the " No Pay, No Play" statute, only acts to limit plaintiff from recovering the first $15,000.00 of his damages for bodily injury suffered in the accident, not as a dollar-for-dollar credit against LIGA's insured's per person policy limit of $15,000.00.

LIGA filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that: (1) the plaintiff has received in excess of $15,000.00 in medical expenses paid by the Medicaid program, and LIGA and Southern Casualty's insured are entitled to a credit in that amount, which equals or exceeds the per person limit of the Southern Casualty policy covering the defendant insured, Norman-Fuegero; or, alternatively, [2014-0826 La.App. 4 Cir. 3] (2) because there was no automobile liability insurance covering plaintiff or the vehicle he was operating at the time of the accident, plaintiff is barred from recovering the first $15,000.00 of bodily injury and the first $25,000.00 of property damage in an action for personal injuries against another driver, and the automobile liability insurance policy issued by Southern Casualty to Norman-Fuegero had a bodily injury claim limit of $15,000.00. Accordingly, LIGA asserted that plaintiff's claims against LIGA are barred by Louisiana's " No Pay, No Play" law, La. R.S. 32:866(A) & (B).

The trial court heard both motions at a hearing on May 9, 2014, and rendered judgment on May 23, 2014, denying plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment

Page 1061

and granting LIGA's motion for summary judgment on the ground that LIGA and Southern Casualty's insured are entitled to a full credit in the amount of plaintiff's medical expenses paid by the Medicaid program. Because the amount paid by Medicaid on behalf of plaintiff exceeded Norman-Fuegero's policy limits with Southern Casualty, the trial court dismissed plaintiff's claims. Plaintiff now appeals the May 23, 2014 trial court judgment.

On appeal, plaintiff presents four assignments of error:

(1) The trial court committed legal error by finding that Medicaid benefits are " other insurance" as per the State statutory scheme that grants LIGA a dollar-for-dollar credit for " other insurance; "
(2) If the trial court did not commit legal error by concluding that Medicaid benefits are " other insurance," the trial court committed legal error by concluding that the credit should be deducted from LIGA's insured's per person automobile liability insurance limit even though plaintiff's Medicaid benefits are undisputedly insufficient to completely compensate plaintiff for all of the damages, general and [2014-0 ...

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