SILAS DEAN, JR., AND PRISCILLA D. DEAN Plaintiffs-Appellants
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY Defendant-Appellee
from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of
Morehouse, Louisiana Lower Court No. 2013-325 Honorable
Stephens Winters, Judge
LAW FIRM OF EDDIE CLARK & ASSOCIATES, LLP By: Eddie M.
Clark Counsel for Appellants.
DAVENPORT, FILES & KELLY, LLP W. David Hammett Counsel
MOORE, PITMAN, and COX, JJ.
Dean appeals a judgment that dismissed his claim against his
uninsured/underinsured motorist ("UM") carrier,
State Farm, for failing to prove that the other driver was
uninsured or underinsured, as required by La. R.S. 22:1295
(6). He also contests a partial summary judgment that
dismissed his claim for damages and attorney fees arising
from bad-faith adjusting of his UM claim, under La. R.S.
22:1973, 1892. Finally, he seeks an award of reasonable
damages for his personal injuries. Finding no merit in any of
his arguments, we affirm, but amend the judgment to state the
prevailing and losing parties more precisely.
11, 2012, Dean was driving his wife's 2001 Lexus 300,
which was insured (with UM coverage) by State Farm. He was
going west on East Madison Avenue, in Bastrop, through the
intersection at South Washington Street. He testified that he
had the green light, but was struck by a southbound 2011 Ford
Ranger driven by Robert McKellar and insured by Progressive
Insurance Co. The impact spun the Lexus around, resulting in
two impacts. Dean testified that he was "in a daze"
after the collision until McKellar walked up to his window
and denied that he (McKellar) ran a red light. Dean was
positive that he had the green light.
was taken to Morehouse General Hospital and, in the ensuing
months, was treated by a chiropractor, a pain management
specialist and a physical therapist; he was also examined by
a neurosurgeon in Shreveport. He felt that the accident
aggravated preexisting back and neck problems that he had
been treating for years.
and his wife filed this suit against State Farm in August
2013. He alleged that Progressive was McKellar's
liability carrier, State Farm was his own UM carrier, and
McKellar's liability coverage was "insufficient to
fully compensate petitioners for all" injuries and
damage; hence, the UM claim. He also alleged that State Farm
"arbitrarily, capriciously, and without cause refused to
timely tender a reasonable and fair amount" under the UM
policy, contrary to R.S. 22:1973 and 1892, entitling him to
statutory penalties, damages and attorney fees.
Farm made general denials, admitting that it had issued a UM
policy to the Deans with a limit of $25, 000 per person per
accident. State Farm also asserted that Dean was
comparatively negligent in the accident and had many
preexisting injuries unrelated to the accident.
Farm moved for partial summary judgment in October 2013 to
dismiss the bad-faith adjusting claim. In a memo in support,
State Farm recited that Dean made a claim against
McKellar's liability carrier, Progressive, which
"paid its policy limit of $100, 000 to plaintiff for
settlement of plaintiff's injury claim." State Farm
showed that Dean had submitted medical bills of only $19,
249.05 as a result of the accident, and argued that his
remaining damages were not worth $100, 000; hence, he could
not prove bad faith just because he disagreed with State
Farm's assessment of his injury. In support, State Farm
attached a copy of the Deans' full release of all claims
with indemnity ("the Settlement") with Progressive.
This recited a payment of $100, 000 for "any and all
claims, actions, causes of action, demands, rights, damages,
costs" arising from the accident, but did not state that
$100, 000 was Progressive's policy limit.
opposed the motion in February 2014, arguing that
"adequate and/or meaningful discovery" had not yet
taken place and a hearing would be premature. He asked for a
court held a hearing on March 6, 2014. No transcript of this
is in the record, but the minutes show that the district
court denied Dean's motion for continuance and granted
State Farm's motion for partial summary judgment.
filed a motion in limine, in August 2015, to prohibit any
mention at trial of, among other things, any benefits he
might have received from a collateral source, and of the fact
that he settled with Progressive for "its insured's
liability policy limits in exchange for a limited
court held a hearing on Dean's motion in limine, and on
several other motions, on August 20, 2015. The court voiced
perplexity at Dean's request: "How do you get to the
court not knowing that it's a UM claim[?] * * * You have
to establish as an underlying basis that the policy limits
which you've obtained are not sufficient?" Counsel
replied, "Your honor, that's not what we have to
do[, ]" and, moments later, "The petition * * *
states that the settlement limits were paid." The court
again advised that one of the elements of proof is that
"there is not enough money from one source[.] You almost
have to have this as an element of your case that these
people are underinsured." After several minutes of
dialogue in this vein, the court denied Dean's motion in
matter proceeded to trial in February 2016. Dean offered
medical records and bills, totaling $24, 119.90, and photos
of the damaged Lexus. State Farm offered a copy of its UM
policy, two medical depositions, and a copy of the
Settlement. Regarding the Settlement, Dean's counsel
persisted that it was inadmissible except to show "the
policy limits for Progressive were fully exhausted."
State Farm agreed to stipulate how much Dean received from
Progressive, but nothing more.
himself was the only live witness, describing the accident,
his course of treatment and his continued medical complaints.
On cross-examination, he was unable to recall or explain
medical records confirming very similar medical complaints
before the accident. Dean also offered the
deposition of Dr. John Ledbetter, a pain management
specialist who treated him starting in December 2012, about
five months after ...