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Juge v. Yee

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

June 6, 2017




         This matter comes before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 40) filed by Defendant Garrison Property and Casualty Insurance Company (“Garrison”). Plaintiff James Juge opposes the motion. (Doc. 47). Garrison has filed a reply. (Doc. 48). Oral argument was previously set for August 15, 2017 (Doc. 52) but is no longer necessary. The Court has carefully reviewed the law, the facts in the record, and the arguments and submissions of the parties and is prepared to rule. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

         I. Relevant Background

         This suit arises out of a motor vehicle accident between drivers Plaintiff James Juge and Defendant David Yee. James Juge is also suing Garrison, his insurer. The facts relevant to this motion are not disputed. (See Defendant's List of Material Facts to Which There is No Gennuine [sic] Dispute, Doc. 40-2 at 1-3, and Plaintiff's Admission of Material Facts, Doc. 47 at 1-3). Rather, the parties contest the proper interpretation of the California Insurance Code. (Docs. 40-3, 47 and 48).

         Plaintiffs James Juge, Elizabeth Juge, and J. Juge are residents of Riverside, California. (Docs. 40-2 at 3, 47 at 2.) The plaintiffs were visiting family in Louisiana when a car collision occurred with the defendant driver, David Yee, in the parish of West Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Docs. 40-2 at 2-3, 47 at 2.) David Yee is domiciled in Katy, Texas. (Docs. 40-2 at 2, 47 at 2.) David Yee lives with his father, Michael Yee, in Katy. (Id.)

         On the date of the collision, James Juge was treated at the Lake After Hours Clinic in Louisiana. (Docs. 40-2 at 3, 47 at 3.) The following day, the plaintiffs returned home to California, and James Juge continued the remainder of his medical treatment in California. (Id.)

         Garrison issued a policy of insurance # 01718 13 01R 7103 7 to the named insured James Juge, which policy was delivered to him at his residence in Riverside, California. (Docs. 40-2 at 1, 47 at 1.) The Garrison policy named to insured James Juge includes “uninsured motorist coverage with per person limits of $100, 000.00 and per accident limits of $300, 000.00.” (Id.) Garrison's policy provides that it is a “California Auto Policy.” (Id.) “The policy language of Garrison's policy states that ‘[t]he limits of liability (each person and each accident) under UMBI Coverage shall be reduced by all sums: (1) Paid because of the [bodily injury] by or on behalf of persons or organizations who may be legally responsible. This includes all sums paid under Part A.' ” (Docs. 40-2 at 1, 47 at 1-2.)

         Regarding David Yee's insurance, Liberty Mutual issued a policy of auto liability insurance to named insured Michael Yee, which was delivered to his address in Katy, Texas, and which lists David Yee as “driver” on the policy. (Docs. 40-2 at 2, 47 at 2.)

         The plaintiffs James Juge, Elizabeth Juge, and J. Juge settled their claims with the defendants Liberty Mutual and David Yee, dismissing them with prejudice from this lawsuit. (Id.) Plaintiff James Juge's claim against Liberty Mutual and David Yee settled for Liberty Mutual's “per person $50, 000.00 policy limit.” (Id.)

         II. Parties' Arguments

         A. Defendant's Memorandum in Support (Doc. 40-3)

         Defendant Garrison filed a Motion for Summary Judgment per Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. (Doc. 40) and a Memorandum in Support of the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 40-3). Based on the language of Cal. Ins. Code § 11580.2, as well as the Garrison policy language regarding UM limits, Garrison argues that it is “entitled to an offset of its $100, 000.00 per person UM limits by Liberty Mutual's $50, 000.00 liability policy covering defendant David Yee.” (Doc. 40-3 at 3.) Garrison cites to § 11580.2 (p) (4)-(5), which states:

(4) When bodily injury is caused by one or more motor vehicles, whether insured, underinsured, or uninsured, the maximum liability of the insurer providing the underinsured motorist coverage shall not exceed the insured's underinsured motorist coverage limits, less the amount paid to the insured by or for any person or organization that may be held legally liable for the injury.
(5) The insurer paying a claim under this subsection shall, to the extent of the payment, be entitled to reimbursement or credit in the amount received by the insured from the owner or operator of the underinsured motor vehicle or the insurer of the owner or operator.


         Garrison contends that this language from the insurance code as well as the policy language of the Garrison UM policy allows Garrison to “reduce James Juge's $100, 000.00 per person UM limits (offset) by the $50, 000.00 per person liability limits covering David Yee in this collision.” (Doc. 40-3 at 3). Therefore, Garrison argues that James Juge may collect at most $50, 000.00. (Id.)

         Garrison also argues that California law applies in this case. (Doc. 40-3 at 2-6.) Garrison contends first that the Louisiana UM statute does not govern this case because the Louisiana UM statutes only apply to UM policies delivered or issued in Louisiana, to any liability insurance covering any accident that occurs in this state and that involves a resident of this state. (Doc. 40-3 at 4) (citing Triche v. Martin, 2008-1220 (La.App. 1 Cir. 5/8/09), 13 So.3d 649, 652, writ denied, 2009-1284 (La. 9/25/09), 18 So.3d 76). Garrison cites Article 9 of the Louisiana Civil Code, stating that the law is “clear and unambiguous” and accordingly, “no further interpretation may be made in search of the intent of the legislature.” (Id.) Thus, Garrison concludes that because James Juge's policy was issued and delivered in California, and the collision did not involve a Louisiana resident, California law should apply. (Id.)

         However, Garrison argues that in the event that Louisiana law applies to the case, Louisiana's choice of law analysis for UM policies directs that California law should apply. (Doc. 40-3 at 4) (citing Champagne v. Ward, 2003-3211 (La. 1/19/05), 893 So.2d 773, 780). Garrison contends that “Book IV of the Louisiana Civil Code explains that conventional obligations are governed by the law of the state whose policies would be most seriously impaired if its laws were not applied to that issue.” (Doc. 40-3 at 4-5) (citing La. Civ. Code art. 3537). Further, Garrison relies on art. 3537 which outlines the factors to ascertain which state has stronger and more relevant policies. Article 3537 states:

(1) the pertinent contacts of each state to the parties and the transaction, including the place of negotiation, formation, and performance of the contract, the location of the object of the contract, and the place of domicile, habitual residence, or business of the parties; (2) the nature, type, and purpose of the contract; and (3) the policies referred to in Article 3515, as well as the policies of facilitating the orderly planning of transactions, of promoting multistate commercial intercourse, and of protecting one party from undue imposition by the other.

         Garrison thus concludes that California law should govern the dispute because (1) no driver involved in the accident is a resident of Louisiana; (2) the only contact that James Juge has with Louisiana is that the accident occurred there; (3) James Juge is a resident of California, the insurance policy was issued and delivered in California, and the plaintiff received all except the first day of his medical treatment in California; and (4) California has a more substantial interest in the uniform application of its insurance laws. (Doc. 40-3 at 5-6.)

         B. Plaintiff's Opposition (Doc. 47)

         The plaintiff opposes the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Garrison. (Doc. 47). Plaintiff cites to § 11580.2 (p) (4)-(5), arguing that the California statute only applies where the bodily injury is caused by the underinsured motor vehicle. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff then states that David Yee's insurance policy was exhausted and plaintiff James Juge, “was not entirely compensated for his injuries in this accident.” (Id.) Plaintiff contends that Garrison is “not entitled to any ‘offset' for any payments made to the plaintiffs by the defendant, Liberty Mutual, regarding the matter.” (Id.)

         The plaintiff argues that Garrison's policy summarizes § 11580.2 (h) of the California Insurance Code. ...

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