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Castain v. American Summit Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

November 2, 2017

GREGORY CASTAIN
v.
AMERICAN SUMMIT INSURANCE COMPANY

         ON SUPERVISORY WRIT FROM THE OPELOUSAS CITY COURT PARISH OF ST. LANDRY, NO. 36, 065 HONORABLE VANESSA HARRIS, CITY COURT JUDGE

          John R. Walker Sam J. Collett, III Jones Fussell, L.L.P. Counsel for Defendant/Applicant: American Summit Insurance Company

          Gregory Castain In Proper Person Plaintiff/Respondent

          Court composed of John D. Saunders, Phyllis M. Keaty, and Candyce G. Perret, Judges.

          PHYLLIS M. KEATY JUDGE

         Relator, American Summit Insurance Company, sought supervisory writs from a judgment denying its motion for summary judgment. By order dated June 19, 2017, we granted the writ and gave the parties time to file additional briefs and to request oral argument should they deem it necessary. [1] Thereafter, no additional briefs were filed and oral argument was not requested. Accordingly, we now address the merits of Relator's motion for summary judgment.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This case involves a lawsuit which Plaintiff, Gregory Castain, filed, seeking to recover for damages to his house which was struck by a vehicle that ran off the roadway. On January 24, 2014, Kenneth Rosette was driving his pickup truck on Louisiana Highway 749 in Opelousas, Louisiana, when he lost control of the vehicle. After crossing the centerline, the east shoulder of the road, and a ditch, Mr. Rosette's vehicle went onto Plaintiff's property and struck the front of Plaintiff's house. Plaintiff alleges that the force of impact caused damage to his front door, storm door, vinyl siding, and concrete steps. Plaintiff also alleges that the impact caused the house's foundation to become dislodged, resulting in humps and dips in the flooring. Plaintiff filed a claim with Relator, which had issued a homeowner's insurance policy to Plaintiff. Relator paid to repair Plaintiff's door, steps, and siding; however, Relator refused to pay for the alleged damage to the foundation on the basis that coverage for such damage is excluded under the policy. Subsequently, Plaintiff, acting in proper person, filed the instant lawsuit. In November 2016, Relator filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking dismissal of the lawsuit. The trial court excluded Plaintiff's opposition to the motion for summary judgment on the ground that it was untimely filed. Following a hearing, the trial court denied Relator's motion for summary judgment. Relator seeks review of the trial court's ruling.

         LAW

Appellate courts "review a grant or a denial of a motion for summary judgment de novo." Bridges v. Cepolk Corp., 13-1051, p. 10 (La.App. 3 Cir. 2/12/14), 153 So.3d 1137, 1145, writ denied, 14-901 (La. 8/25/14), 147 So.3d 1117. As noted in La.Code Civ.P. art. 966(A)(2), "[t]he summary judgment procedure is designed to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action. . . . The procedure is favored and shall be construed to accomplish these ends." On de novo review, "there is no deference to the trial judge's legal findings, and we make an independent review of the evidence in determining whether there is no genuine issue of material fact and whether the mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law under La.Code Civ.P. art. 966." Bridges, 153 So.3d at 1145. "A genuine issue of material fact is one as to which reasonable persons could disagree; if reasonable persons could reach only one conclusion, there is no need for trial on that issue and summary judgment is appropriate." Smitko v. Gulf S. Shrimp, Inc., 11-2566, p. 7 (La. 7/2/12), 94 So.3d 750, 755.

Hanks v. La. Cos., 16-334, p. 9 (La.App. 3 Cir. 12/14/16), 205 So.3d 1048, 1056 (footnote omitted), writ denied, 17-260 (La. 5/19/17), 220 So.3d 749.

According to La.Code Civ.P. art. 966(D)(1):
The burden of proof rests with the mover. Nevertheless, if the mover will not bear the burden of proof at trial on the issue that is before the court on the motion for summary judgment, the mover's burden on the motion does not require him to negate all essential elements of the adverse party's claim, action, or defense, but rather to point out to the court the absence of factual support for one or more elements essential to the adverse party's claim, action, or defense. The burden is on the adverse party to produce factual support ...

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