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Willis v. EAN Holdings

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

April 12, 2017

MARSHA A. WILLIS
v.
EAN HOLDINGS DBA/ENTERPRISE RENT A CAR, ELCO INSURANCE GROUP, INC., TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION, AND TROY DAVID THIBODAUX

         On 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

          Marsha A. Willis, Plaintiff-Appellant, In Proper Person

          David A. Salley A. Jacob Culotta, Jr., Attorneys for Defendant-Appellee, EAN Holdings, LLC

          Thomas W. Darling, Attorney for Defendant-Appellee, Empire Fire & Marine Insurance Co.

          Donna Powe Green, Attorney for Defendant-Appellee, Rental Insurance Services, Inc.

          BEFORE: HIGGINBOTHAM, THERIOT, AND CHUTZ, JJ.

          HIGGINBOTHAM, J.

         Plaintiff-appellant, Ms. Marsha Willis (Ms. Willis), appeals the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant-appellee, Rental Insurance Services, Inc. (RIS), and dismissal of her claims with prejudice.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On August 3, 2011, Ms. Ida Mae Willis entered into a 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 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 Ms. Willis and RIS (hereafter referred to as the Thibodeaux litigation). RIS made Ms. Willis aware through a phone message that it was not providing a defense for her because she was not an authorized driver under the rental agreement. However, RIS negotiated a settlement agreement with Mr. Thibodeaux whereby Mr. Thibodeaux dismissed his claims against all parties, including Ms. Willis, in exchange for payment made by RIS.

         Thereafter, Ms. Willis sought discovery responses from RIS and Mr. Thibodeaux, but, because of the agreement settling all the claims of Mr. Thibodeaux, the trial court signed an order suspending discovery. The trial court also awarded sanctions related to an answer filed by Ms. Willis in favor of RIS under La. Code Civ. P. art. 863. Ms. Willis appealed the trial court's judgments awarding sanctions and suspending discovery. The judgments were affirmed by this court. See Thibodeaux v. Rental Ins. Services, Inc., 2013-1947 (La. App 1st Cir. 4/24/15) 2015 WL 1882456 (unpublished), writ denied, 2015-1213 (La. 9/25/15) 178So.3d567.

         The litigation forming the basis of this appeal by Ms. Willis began on August 6, 2012, when she 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 Fire and Marine Insurance Company (Empire). In her petition, Ms. Willis set forth several theories of recovery against RIS including state law claims of fraud and breach of contract, and federal law claims under the Fourteenth Amendment as well as civil right violations under 42 U.S.C.A. §1985 and 42 U.S.C.A. §1983, and equal rights violations under 42 U.S.C.A. §1981. Ms. Willis contends that RIS, in informing her that she was not an authorized driver more than one year after the accident, and settling the Thibodeaux litigation without her permission, prevented her from being able to prove that the accident was not her fault, and placed her in a position in which it appeared she owed Mr. Thibodeaux money through the settlement agreement.

         On April 21, 2015, RIS filed a motion for summary judgment contending that no genuine issues of material fact exist regarding any of the causes of action Ms. Willis set forth in her petition. RIS' 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 [RIS]" and "has shown no basis for recovery against [RIS]." On June 16, 2015, judgment was signed granting RIS' motion for summary judgment and dismissing Ms. Willis' claims against RIS with prejudice. It is from this judgment that Ms. Willis appeals raising four assignments of error.

         LAW ...


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