BRIAN K. DUPLICHAN, ET UX.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE CO.
FROM THE THIRTY-SIXTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF
BEAUREGARD, NO. 2009-0276 HONORABLE MARTHA ANN O'NEAL,
Craig Jones Jones & Hill, LLC COUNSEL FOR
PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT: Brian K. Duplichan, as Natural Tutor of
his Minor Child, Kadie Duplichan
David Vaughan, II Plauche, Smith, & Nieset, LLC COUNSEL
FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: State Farm Mutual Automobile
composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, John D.
Saunders, and David E. Chatelain, Judges.
E. CHATELAIN [*] JUDGE
plaintiff, Brian Duplichan, the natural tutor of his minor
child, Kadie E. Duplichan (Kadie), appeals the trial
court's judgment granting State Farm Mutual Automobile
Insurance Company's (State Farm) motion for summary
judgment. For the following reasons, we reverse and remand
this matter to the trial court for further proceedings.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
March 29, 2007, Kadie and her mother, Sarah Spears (Spears),
were passengers in a vehicle driven by Beverly B. Hooper
(Hooper). Hooper drove her vehicle off the road into a ditch
and struck a culvert, seriously injuring Spears and Kadie.
Spears survived for a short time after the accident but
ultimately died from her injuries; Kadie, though injured,
survived the accident.
time of the accident, Kadie and Spears lived with Mary
Elizabeth Reeves (Reeves), Spears's mother. When the
accident occurred, Reeves had a State Farm insurance policy
which provided under-insured motorist bodily injury (UMBI)
coverage. The dispute in this case is over the amount of
Reeves's UMBI insurance coverage. State Farm asserts that
Reeves's UMBI policy was for $25, 000, while the
plaintiff claims Reeves's UMBI policy was for $1, 000,
plaintiff sued State Farm, seeking the maximum payment of
UMBI. After answering the lawsuit, State Farm tendered $25,
000, what it considered the full amount of the policy, and
then filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that
its UMBI policy was exhausted.
December 16, 2013 and April 17, 2014, the trial court heard
State Farm's motion for summary judgment. At the first
hearing the trial court requested evidence about the premiums
Reeves paid; this evidence was introduced at the second
hearing. At the conclusion of the April 17 hearing, the trial
court took the matter under advisement.
1, 2014, the trial court granted State Farm's motion for
summary judgment. In its written reasons for judgment, the
trial court stated:
After a review of the evidence, the court finds that there
are no genuine issues of material fact to deny
defendant's motion for summary judgment.
State Farm has produced a certified copy of the policy issued
to Mary Reeves, # 80 4927-D02-18C, which provided UMBI
coverage of $25, 000 per person and $50, 000 total per
accident. The agent's notes show that the policy was
prepared at the request of Mary Reeves, stating as the reason
for the change: "Mary is not working at this time."
The new policy was subsequently issued to Mary Reeves and
mailed to her home, based on the certificate filed by State
Farm. The policy's effective dates were February 22,
2007, to October 2, 2007. Additionally, the policy references
that it replaces policy, # 80 4927-D02-18B. State Farm also
produced evidence that Mary Reeves received credit for the
former higher premium that was previously paid for on
February 22, 2007, which coincides with Reeves'[s]
request to reduce the policy limit. Further, Mary Reeves
accepted this credit on April 10, 2007, when she paid 50% of
the new, reduced premium minus the credit given for changing
from the more costly $1, 000, 000 UMBI premium to the 25,
000/ $50, 000 UMBI premium, as shown in the Premium History
Plaintiff has offered the affidavit of Mary Reeves and an
uncertified Auto Renewal document for policy # 80
4927-D02-18A as evidence. Mary Reeves states in her affidavit
that she never requested a change to her policy affecting the
premiums and that she never received a new policy in the
mail. Mary Reeves claims that the policy # 80 4927-D02-18A
was the policy in place at the time of the accident which
gave rise to this suit, as evidenced by her Auto Renewal
Mary Reeves'[s] affidavit does not present a genuine
issue of material fact. Insurance policies are to be
interpreted by the court under the contractual interpretation
statutes in the [C]ivil [C]ode. Peterson v. Schimek,
729 So.2d 1024 (La. 1999). Where the policy is clear and
unambiguous, the policy must be enforced as written.
Id. "When a contract can be construed from the
four corners of the instrument without looking to extrinsic
evidence, the question of contractual interpretation is
answered as a matter of law and summary judgment is
appropriate." Id. at 1029; citing Brown v.
Drillers, Inc., 630 ...