United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER & REASONS
the Court is Defendant Zurich American Insurance
Company's Motion for Summary Judgment. R. Doc. 15.
Plaintiff opposes the motion. R. Doc. 17. Defendant Great
American Assurance Company also opposes the motion. R. Doc.
19. The Court held oral arguments on this matter on November
15, 2017. Having considered the parties' arguments,
submissions, and the applicable law, the Court now issues
this Order and Reasons.
case arises from injuries Plaintiff Ronald Richardson
(“Richardson”) allegedly sustained in a collision
between two 18-wheelers. Richardson Trucking LLC is a
Louisiana company of which Ronald Richardson is the sole
member. Richardson Trucking LLC and Ronald Richardson entered
in to a one-year leasing agreement to carry loads for D &
January 13, 2016, Richardson drove his truck to Dubach,
Louisiana to deliver a load of sand. Richardson drove to
Greenwood, Louisiana to spend the night and have a tire
replaced on the truck. He notified D & T Holdings that he
had completed the delivery and needed a new tire. The D &
T Holdings dispatcher told him to call after the tire was
replaced and he was available for a new load. The next
morning, January 14, 2016, Plaintiff was inside his truck
when an unknown driver in an 18-wheeler struck
Plaintiff's vehicle. R. Doc. 1-4 at 1. The unknown driver
then fled the scene.
time of the accident, Plaintiff alleges he was working on
behalf of 1845 Oilfield Transport, LLC. Plaintiff alleges
Defendant Zurich American Insurance Company
(“Zurich”) provided insurance coverage to and on
behalf of 1845 Oilfield Transport, LLC (“D & T
Holdings”). Defendant Great American Assurance Company
(“Great American”) provided
underinsured/uninsured insurance coverage to Plaintiff. R.
Doc. 1-4 at 2. Plaintiff claims that both insurance companies
have refused to make any tender under the policies despite
receiving adequate proof of loss. R. Doc. 1-4 at 3. Plaintiff
claims that Defendants Zurich and Great American's
failure to make tender on his claim is in bad faith and
therefore he is entitled to statutory damages and
attorney's fees. R. Doc. 1-4 at 4. Plaintiff brought this
action in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans
and Defendants removed to this Court on the basis of
diversity. R. Doc. 1 at 1.
Zurich answers and denies all allegations in Plaintiff's
complaint. R. Doc. 5 at 1-2. Zurich admits it was the insurer
for D & T Holdings and provided coverage to Plaintiff
while his truck was being used by or for D & T Holdings.
R. Doc. 5 at 2. However, Zurich alleges Plaintiff's truck
was not being used by or for D & T Holdings at the time
of the alleged accident. R. Doc. 5 at 2. Zurich
denies that it received adequate proof of loss and is
therefore not obligated to make a tender under the policy
issued to D & T Holdings. R. Doc. 5 at 3-4.
Great American answers and denies the allegations in
Plaintiff's complaint. R. Doc. 6 at 1-3. Defendant
asserts that Plaintiff has not provided adequate proof that
the driver in the alleged accident was uninsured. Therefore
Great American contends it cannot be held liable until it
receives proof that Plaintiffs injuries and damages exhaust
the limits of the tortfeasor's coverage. R. Doc. 6 at
Zurich moves for summary judgment and dismissal of
Plaintiff's claims against it. R. Doc. 15. Defendant
argues that it is not liable to Plaintiff because Plaintiff
was not “in the business” of D & T Holdings
at the time of the accident, Plaintiff is covered by an
insurance policy provided by Defendant Great American, and
that the Great American policy is the primary UM coverage. R.
Doc. 15-1 at 1. Therefore, Defendant Zurich argues that
Plaintiff's claims for damages, penalties, and attorney
fees should be dismissed with prejudice. R. Doc. 15-1 at 1.
responds in opposition, arguing that he was acting in the
business of D & T Holdings at the time of the incident
and therefore, Zurich's policy covers his damages. R.
Doc. 17 at 4. Plaintiff argues that he was furthering the
commercial interests of D & T Holdings at the time of the
accident because he was not heading home but rather to
prepare the truck for more work. R. Doc. 17 at 8-9. Defendant
Great American also responds in opposition. R. Doc. 19.
Because the truck in question was leased by D & T
Holdings for one (1) year, American argues that it is a
covered auto even if it was not being used in the business of
D & T Holdings at the time of the accident. R. Doc. 19 at
11. Second, Great American argues that Plaintiff was in the
business of D & T Holdings at the time of the accident.
R. Doc. 19 at 9.
LAW & ANALYSIS
Summary Judgment Standard (Fed. R. Civ. P. 56)
judgment is proper “if the pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together
with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine
issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is
entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). “Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of
summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon
motion, against a party who fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party's case, and on which the party will bear
the burden of proof at trial.” Id. A party
moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of
demonstrating the basis for summary judgment and identifying
those portions of the record, discovery, and any affidavits
supporting the conclusion that ...