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Old Republic Life Insurance Co. v. Transwood Inc.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

June 2, 2017

OLD REPUBLIC LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY
v.
TRANSWOOD INC., TUTHILL CORPORATION, AXIALL, LLC PREVIOUSLY KNOWN AS GEORGIA GULF CHEMICALS & VINYLS, LLC, TRG, INC. PREVIOUSLY KNOWN AS DELTA PROCESS EQUIPMENT, INC., CHRISTOPHER FONTENOT, WESTSIDE TRUCK AND AUTO, ET AL

         Appealed from the 18th Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of Iberville State of Louisiana Case No. 73261, The Honorable J. Robin Free, Judge Presiding.

          Willie G. Johnson, Jr. Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Counsel for Plaintiff/ Appellant Old Republic Life Insurance Company.

          Scott L. Smith, Jr. New Roads, Louisiana Chad A. Aguillard New Roads, Louisiana Derek E. Elsey Zachary, Louisiana Connell L. Archey Keith J. Fernandez Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Counsel for Defendant/ Appellee TransWood, Inc.and TransWood Logistics, Inc..

          Robert E. Kerrigan, Jr. Raymond C. Lewis Matthew D. Moghis New Orleans, Louisiana, Counsel for Defendant/Appellee Tuthill Corporation.

          Luis A. Leitzelar Michael R. Rhea Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Counsel for Defendant/ Appellee Axiall, LLC f/k/a Georgia Gulf Chemicals & Vinyls, LLC.

          Daryl A. Higgins Wade A. Langlois, III John J. Danna, Jr. William D. Dunn, Jr. Brittany Cooper Greta, Louisiana, Counsel for Defendant/ Appellee Muncie Power Products, Inc.

          Louis C. LaCour, Jr. Gregory Rouchell New Orleans, Louisiana, Counsel for Defendant/ Appellee DXP Enterprises, Inc.

          BEFORE: HIGGINBOTHAM, THERIOT, AND CHUTZ, JJ.

          THERIOT, J.

         In this appeal, the plaintiff-appellant, Old Republic Life Insurance Company ("Old Republic"), challenges the trial court's judgment sustaining a peremptory exception of no right of action and ordering the dismissal, with prejudice, of Old Republic's claims against the defendants-appellees, TransWood, Inc. and TransWood Logistics, Inc. ("TransWood"), Tuthill Corporation ("Tuthill"), Axiall, LLC, f/k/a Georgia Gulf Chemicals & Vinyls, LLC ("Axiall"), Muncie Power Products, Inc. ("Muncie"), and DXP Enterprises, Inc. ("DXP"). For the following reasons, we maintain the appeal, affirm the trial court's revised judgment sustaining the exception of no right of action, and grant the answer to the appeal.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The factual background of this case is not currently in dispute. In January of 2013, an independent professional truck driver, Vincent G. Johnson, [1] was seriously injured in a catastrophic accident that occurred at Axiall's chemical manufacturing facility located in Plaquemine, Louisiana. Mr. Johnson was injured at Axiall's facility while unloading powdered lime from his 2005 International 94001 eighteen-wheeler. Mr. Johnson's eighteen-wheeler was equipped with a power takeoff unit and rotary displacement blower used to offload shipments. Mr. Johnson became entangled in his eighteen-wheeler's offloading system equipment, which resulted in significant bodily injuries. It is uncontested that Mr. Johnson ultimately died from his injuries after the institution of this lawsuit.

         On December 30, 2013, Old Republic filed suit against several named defendants, including Trans Wood, Tuthill, and Axiall.[2] Through amended and supplemental pleadings, Muncie and DXP were later named as additional defendants. Old Republic alleged that after the accident, it was forced to make certain insurance payments to its insured, Mr. Johnson, pursuant to the terms of an occupational accident coverage insurance policy bearing policy number ORLOl 1321. Old Republic claimed the accident and resulting injuries to its insured were caused by the fault of the defendants, which it alleged, inter alia, failed to provide a safe work environment and/or improperly manufactured and/or installed the offloading system equipment onto Mr. Johnson's eighteen-wheeler.

         On July 1, 2015, following various matters not at issue on appeal, Trans Wood filed a peremptory exception of no right of action. Trans Wood submitted that Old Republic had no right of action against it, arguing that Old Republic did not enjoy a right of action as the conventional or legal subrogee of its insured. Trans Wood sought that the exception be sustained and the petition be dismissed. In the alternative, Trans Wood requested that the suit be stayed pending resolution of Mr. Johnson's federal lawsuit against the defendants. Old Republic opposed the motion.

         On July 28, 2015, Axiall filed a motion adopting and joining in TransWood's peremptory exception of no right of action.

         On August 12, 2015, the exception of no right of action came before the trial court for a hearing. Trans Wood, Tuthill, Muncie, Axiall, and Old Republic all made appearances at the hearing. Following arguments on the matter, the trial court orally sustained the exception of no right of action and declined to rule upon the alternative request for a stay. The trial court directed counsel for Trans Wood to prepare a final judgment.

         On August 31, 2015, the trial court signed a written judgment in accordance with its oral ruling on the exception of no right of action that contained the following decretal language:

IT IS ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED there be judgment in favor of TransWood, Inc., Trans Wood Logistics, Inc., and Axiall LLC and against Old Republic Life Insurance Company GRANTING the exception of no right of action filed by TransWood, Inc. and TransWood Logistics, Inc. and dismissing with prejudice all claims asserted by Old Republic Life Insurance Company against all parties....

         Old Republic filed an appeal from this judgment. TransWood answered the appeal.[3]

ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR

         Old Republic raises the following assignments of error:

1. The trial court erred by granting the peremptory exception of no right of action, finding that Old Republic lacked a right of action through conventional subrogation.
2. The trial court erred by granting the peremptory exception of no right of action, finding that Old Republic lacked a right of action through legal subrogation.

         LAW ...


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