MARSHA A. WILLIS
EAN HOLDINGS D/B/A ENTERPRISE RENT A CAR, ELCO INSURANCE GROUP, INC., TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION, AND TROY DAVID THIBODEAUX
Appeal from the 19th Judicial District Court In and for the
Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Trial Court No.
614, 425 Honorable R. Michael Caldwell, Judge Presiding
A. Willis Baton Rouge, LA Plaintiff-Appellant, In Proper
A. Salley A. Jacob Culotta, JL New Orleans, LA Attorneys for
Defendant-Appellee, EAN Holdings, LLC
W. Darling Baton Rouge, LA Attorney for Defendant-Appellee,
Empire Fire & Marine Insurance Co.
Powe Green Hattiesburg, MS Attorney for Defendant-Appellee,
Rental Insurance Services, Inc.
BEFORE: HIGGINBOTHAM, THERIOT, AND CHUTZ, JJ.
Ms. Marsha A. Willis (Ms. Willis), appeals the judgment of
the trial court granting defendant-appellee's, Empire
Fire and Marine Insurance Company (Empire), motion for
summary judgment and dismissing her claims against Empire
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
August 3, 2011, Ms. Ida Mae Willis entered into a car rental
agreement with EAN Holdings, LLC d/b/a Enterprise Rent A Car
(Enterprise) for the use of a Toyota Corolla. The next day,
Ms. Ida Mae Willis' daughter, Ms. Willis, was driving the
vehicle when she was involved in an automobile accident with
Mr. Troy Thibodeaux. After the accident, on June 23, 2012,
Mr. Thibodeaux filed a petition for damages in the 19th
Judicial District Court against Rental Insurance Services,
Inc. (RIS) and Ms. Willis (hereafter referred to as the
was the policyholder of a supplemental liability insurance
policy issued by Empire. After Mr. Thibodaux filed suit, his
petition was sent to Empire's claim specialist, Trisha
Green, to make a determination as to whether a defense would
be provided to Ms. Willis. On September 19, 2012, Ms. Green
sent a letter to Ms. Willis notifying her that Empire was
denying coverage for her accident, because she was not an
additional authorized driver on Ms. Ida Mae Willis' car
rental agreement with Enterprise. Eventually, through the
assistance of RIS, Mr. Thibodeaux's claims against Ms.
Willis and RIS were settled. Empire was never made a party to
the Thibodeaux litigation.
litigation forming the basis of this appeal began on August
6, 2012, when Ms. Willis filed a Petition for Damages naming
Enterprise, Toyota Motor Corporation, and Mr. Thibodeaux as
defendants. Subsequently, Ms. Willis filed an amended and
supplemental petition adding as defendants RIS and
Empire. In her petition, Ms. Willis set forth
several theories of recovery against Empire which appear to
be based on Empire's conclusion that she was not an
authorized driver under the car rental agreement, and
Empire's timeliness of informing her of its conclusion.
Ms. Willis alleged that RIS and Empire conspired to deprive
her of free speech and a fair trial in asserting the
unauthorized driver defense more than one year after the
automobile accident. Ms. Willis' theories of recovery
against Empire include state law claims of fraud and breach
of contract, and federal law claims under the Fourteenth
Amendment as well as civil rights violations under 42
U.S.C.A. §1985, and equal rights violations under 42
April 7, 2015, Empire filed a motion for summary judgment
contending that Empire's decision to deny coverage to Ms.
Willis was based solely upon review of the car rental
agreement and the allegations in Mr. Thibodeaux's
petition for damages, and that no genuine issues of material
fact exist regarding any of the causes of action Ms. Willis
set forth in her petition. Empire's motion for summary
judgment was heard by the trial court on June 1, 2015, after
which the trial court concluded that Ms. Willis "has no
evidence to support any issues of material fact against
[Empire]" and "has shown no basis for recovery
against [Empire]." On June 16, 2015, judgment was signed
granting Empire's motion for summary judgment and
dismissing Ms. Willis' claims against Empire with
prejudice. It is from this judgment that Ms. Willis
appeals. In response, Empire answered Ms.
Willis' appeal, seeking attorney fees incurred in
connection with defending this appeal and contending that Ms.
Willis' appeal was frivolous and was filed for the sole
purpose of harassing Empire.