FROM THE SIXTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ST.
MARTIN, DOCKET NO. 83328 HONORABLE KEITH R. J. COMEAUX,
Jonathan R. Villien William W. Stagg Durio, McGoffin, Stagg
& Ackermann, P.C. ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT Lydia
W. Copley Phillip J. Antis, Jr. Alex B. Rothenberg Michael J.
Fussell, Jr. Gordon, Arata, Montgomery, Barnett, McCollam,
Duplantis & Eagan, LLC ATTORNEY FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE
First American Title Insurance Company of Louisiana
composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, Shannon J. Gremillion, and Van
H. Kyzar, Judges.
R. COOKS JUDGE
August 1, 2014, Lydia Degueyter and her brother-in-law,
Charles Faul, acquired through a cash sale a one hundred
percent undivided interest in a tract of land located on
Snapper Road in New Iberia, Louisiana. The act of cash sale
listed Nationwide Mortgage, LLC as the seller, and Lydia and
Charles as the buyers. The listed price was $143, 325.00. The
act of cash sale was signed and notarized on August 1, 2014,
although it was not filed into the Iberia Parish conveyance
records until September 3, 2014, at 4:09 p.m.
connection with the cash sale, on September 3, 2014, Lydia
and Charles purchased a title insurance from First American
Title Insurance Company. The policy specified that
"[t]itle is vested in" Lydia and Charles. According
to the record, the policy was effective "09/03/2014 @
04:09 p.m. or the date of recording, whichever is
later." Lydia and Charles were both listed as insureds
under the policy.
also transferred his entire undivided interest to Lydia by a
donation inter vivos, which according to the donation was
"done and passed in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, on the
2nd day September, 2014." The donation was
properly recorded with the Iberia Parish Clerk of Court on
September 3, 2014 at 4:09 p.m. at the same exact time the act
of cash sale was recorded and the First American policy went
April of 2015, Lydia attempted to obtain financing from
Farmers Merchants Bank & Trust Company (hereafter FM
Bank), using the property on Snapper Road as collateral.
However, her application for financing was denied by FM Bank
due to the presence of multiple judgments attached to the
property. Upon further investigation, Lydia discovered the
recordation of ten judgments or tax liens in favor of third
parties against Charles and his various business entities,
which attached to the property upon his acquiring an interest
after discovering the judgments on the property, Lydia
contacted First American seeking coverage through the title
policy. First American denied the claim. On November 13,
2015, Lydia filed suit against First American seeking
coverage under the title insurance policy purchased on
September 3, 2014. In conjunction with the filing of suit,
Lydia filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing there was
no genuine issue of material fact as to coverage in her favor
under the policy. Lydia argued she has never held marketable
title to the property due to the encumbrances on the property
and this was an insurable risk under the plain language of
American responded and filed a Cross Motion for Summary
Judgment. It argued, as a matter of law, that Lydia had no
claim against First American under the title insurance policy
because the policy insured Lydia as to her interest as
co-owner, and the judgments against Charles did not encumber
and had no effect on her ownership interest.
motions for summary judgment were set for hearing on August
1, 2016. Following the hearing, the trial court granted First
American's motion for summary judgment and denied
Lydia's motion for summary judgment. In its written
reasons for judgment, the trial court found Charles'
"judicial mortgages and liens attached only to his
one-half interest in the Snapper property because that is all
he owned." The trial court further found "Lydia has
clear and unencumbered title on her undivided one-half
interest in the Snapper immovable property that she
originally obtained when she purchased the property with
Charl[es] . . . [and] title on her undivided one-half
interest in the Snapper property was the interest first
insured by First American." The trial court then
concluded "any judgment granting Lydia relief as
requested would force [First American] to pay a claim that
did not exist at the date of the policy."
has appealed the trial court's judgment, asserting the
following assignments of error:
1. The trial court manifestly erred in finding that
[Charles'] outstanding judgments and liens which attached
to the immovable property subject to the title insurance
policy at issue did not cause the title to the property to be
unmarketable as of the date of the policy, an insurable risk
under the policy, and therefore that there was no coverage
2. The trial court manifestly erred in finding that
[Lydia's] interpretation and construction of the
applicable language of the title insurance policy at issue
was not reasonable.
judgments are reviewed de novo on appeal and the reviewing
court is governed by the same criteria as the trial court in
determining whether the mover is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Schroeder v. Board of Supervisors,
591 So.2d 342 (La.1991). Summary judgment is appropriate when
there remains no genuine issue as to material fact and the
mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. La.Code
Civ.P. art. 966. Summary judgments are now favored in
Louisiana and shall be construed to accomplish the ends of
just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of allowable
actions. La.Code Civ.P. art. 966.
mover bears the burden of proof. La.Code Civ.P. art. 966.
Once the mover has made a prima facie showing that the motion
shall be granted, the burden shifts to the adverse party to
present evidence demonstrating that material factual issues
remain. Luther v. IOM Company, LLC, 13-353 (La.
10/15/13), 130 So.3d 817. If the adverse party fails to do
so, there is no genuine issue of material fact and summary
judgment will be granted. Id.
parties largely agree on the facts of this case. The issue
herein is the interpretation and application of the title
insurance policy issued by First American.
"Interpretation of an insurance policy usually involves
a legal question that can be properly resolved in the
framework of a motion for summary judgment." Kirby
v. Ashford, 15-1852, p. 5 (La.App. 1 Cir. 12/22/16), ...