from the Monroe City Court for the Parish of Ouachita,
Louisiana Trial Court No. 2015CV02125 Honorable Jefferson
Bryan Joyce, Judge
ANTHONY BRUSCATO Counsel for Appellant
DAVENPORT, FILES, & KELLY, LLP By: Martin Shane Craighead
Counsel for Appellee
DREW, STONE, and BLEICH (Pro Tempore), JJ.
Henderson appeals the trial court's judgment finding
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company was not
arbitrary, capricious, or without probable cause in denying
her insurance claim. For the following reasons, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
March 6, 2015,  Alice Henderson ("Henderson")
backed her 2005 Lincoln Town Car into a concrete pillar
("pole"). Henderson alleged her insurer, State Farm
Mutual Automobile Insurance Company ("State Farm"),
instructed her to take the vehicle to Hixson Ford of Monroe
("Hixson Ford") for an estimate of the damages. On
March 17, 2015, Henderson's vehicle was inspected by
Bridget Moseley, who estimated $1, 748.77 in damages. The
estimate included damage to the vehicle's left rear
bumper and replacement of the impact bar and a deflector.
to State Farm, Henderson was not instructed to take her
vehicle to Hixson Ford, but to Lee Edwards Mazda in Monroe.
After becoming aware of the miscommunication, State Farm told
Henderson to take the vehicle to Lee Edwards Mazda. On May
18, 2015, Henderson took the vehicle to Lee Edwards Mazda
where it was inspected by Lisa Chain ("Chain").
Chain estimated the damages to the left rear bumper at $1,
167.77. Chain wrote a check to Henderson totaling $916.77,
which was the estimate minus Henderson's $250 deductible.
weeks later, Henderson contacted State Farm to complain that
the vehicle had "sat down" on its tires, and State
Farm had the vehicle towed to Hixson Ford. On April 7, 2015,
Donnie Vocker ("Vocker") inspected the
vehicle's air suspension system, including the
vehicle's air compressor that inflates the rubber
bladders when the vehicle is cranked. Vocker explained that
the air compressor seized up because it was working too hard
and activating more often to compensate for air loss in the
rubber bladders. Vocker attributed the air loss to uniform
"dry rot" cracks in the rubber bladders. Vocker
determined the dry rot cracks were not a result of the
accident, but the result of normal wear and tear based on the
age of the vehicle. Vocker shared his diagnosis with State
Farm adjuster, Randy Debruhl ("Debruhl"), who also
observed significant dry rotting in the rubber bladders.
Ultimately, Henderson's insurance claim was denied.
subsequently filed suit against State Farm claiming that
State Farm unreasonably failed to repair the vehicle. A trial
on the matter was held on May 3, 2016. On July 7, 2016, the
trial court found there was insufficient evidence to prove
the vehicle's air suspension system failed because of the
accident. The trial court rendered a final judgment declaring
State Farm was not arbitrary, capricious, or without probable
cause in denying Henderson's insurance claim. Henderson
claims State Farm breached its duty under La. R.S. 22:1892
and 1973 to adjust her insurance claim fairly and in good
faith. According to Henderson, State Farm had a statutory
obligation to perform adequate tests on the vehicle's air
suspension system and not simply rely on Vocker and
Debruhl's "visual inspection." Despite hearing
testimony from mechanic Frank Walters ("Walters")
that the rubber bladders were not suffering from air loss,
Henderson argues State Farm continues to arbitrarily deny her
insurer owes its insured a duty of good faith and fair
dealing. As such, an insurer has an affirmative duty to
adjust claims fairly and promptly and to make a reasonable
effort to settle claims. La. R.S. 22:1973(A). Both La. R.S.
22:1892(B)(1) and La. R.S. 22:1973(B)(5) and (C) provide for
penalties, including attorney fees, against an insurer whose
failure to pay a claim after receiving satisfactory proof of
loss is found to be arbitrary, capricious, or without
probable cause. Both statutes are penal in nature and must be
strictly construed. Cooper v. ...