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J & M Pile Driving, LLC v. Chabert Insurance Agency, LLC

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

October 25, 2017

J & M PILE DRIVING, LLC
v.
CHABERT INSURANCE AGENCY, LLC

         On Appeal from the Seventeenth Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of Lafourche State of Louisiana No.118398 Honorable F. Hugh Larose, Judge Presiding

          Mark Plaisance Thibodaux, Louisiana Henry J. Lafont, Jr. Larose, Louisiana, Counsel for Plaintiffs/ Appellants J & MPile Driving, LLC

          Joel Hanberry Cut Off, Louisiana, Counsel for Defendants/ Appellees Chabert Insurance Agency, LLC

          BEFORE: McCLENDON, WELCH, AND THE RIOT, JJ.

          McCLENDON, J.

         The plaintiff appeals the judgment of the trial court that dismissed its suit for damages. The plaintiff, the owner of a vessel, asserted that the defendant insurance agency failed to secure insurance on the vessel before it sank. Finding no manifest error in the trial court's judgment, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In August of 2010, the plaintiff, J&M Piling Driving, LLC (J&M), requested a quote for protection and indemnity (P&I) insurance and hull insurance from Chabert Insurance Agency, LLC (Chabert), on a newly-acquired vessel, the M/V Lil Cherie. The M/V Lil Cherie sank on September 21, 2010. J&M learned it had no insurance coverage on the vessel after its claim was denied. Thereafter, J&M filed suit against Chabert, asserting that it was informed and believed it had full insurance coverage on the M/V Lil Cherie. J&M alleged that Chabert never added the M/V Lil Cherie to J&M's existing policy as requested and that Chabert was therefore responsible for any and all damages suffered by J&M, including the value of the vessel, personal items on the vessel, salvage of the vessel, and loss of income.

         Following a bench trial on March 31, 2016, the trial court took the matter under advisement so that the parties could take the trial deposition of a former insurance agent at Chabert. The trial court issued written reasons for judgment on October 7, 2016, finding that Chabert did not breach its duty to J&M to procure insurance. The court determined that Chabert used reasonable diligence in trying to obtain insurance on the vessel and notifying J&M of the lack of coverage. The trial court also found that J&M failed to meet its burden to recover under the theory of detrimental reliance. On October 7, 2016, the trial court signed its judgment in favor of Chabert, dismissing J&M's claims with prejudice.

         J&M timely filed a devolutive appeal and assigned the following as error:

1. An insurance agent who undertakes to procure insurance for another has a duty to use reasonable diligence to place the insurance or to promptly notify the client if he has failed to obtain insurance. Because Chabert Insurance Agent Chris Brantley not only failed to obtain insurance - but provided J&M a certificate of insurance - Chabert breached its duty to procure hull coverage for the M/V Lil Cherie; and
2. Because Chabert Insurance Agent Chris Brantley provided a certificate of insurance upon which J&M based its decision to lease the M/V Lil Cherie, the trial court erred by denying J&M recovery under detrimental reliance.

         LAW AND DISCUSSION

         Standard ...


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