from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of
Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 569, 918 Honorable Craig
CHARLES MILKOVICH Counsel for Appellant
& PEARCE, APLC Counsel for Appellees By: Marshall Reeves
COX, BLEICH (Ad Hoc), and GASKINS (Pro Tempore), JJ.
Brenda Mills ("Brenda"), appeals a judgment from
the First Judicial District Court, Parish of Caddo, State of
Louisiana, wherein the trial court granted a motion for
summary judgment in favor of Appellee, State Farm Mutual
Automobile Insurance Company ("State Farm"). Brenda
contends the trial court erred in dismissing her
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist ("UM") claims under
three separate UM policies. She prays that the trial
court's judgment be reversed. For the following reasons,
and Brenda Mills are husband and wife; they have been married
since 1987. During their marriage, Randy bought a 2004
Kawasaki motorcycle. The motorcycle was registered solely in
his name, he was the only one to drive the motorcycle, and
was the only named insured. Randy did not reject UM coverage
on the motorcycle.
purchased UM coverage on the motorcycle through State Farm.
State Farm issued the policy, which provided $50, 000/$100,
000 liability coverage, and $50, 000/$100, 000 UM coverage.
addition to the motorcycle, both Randy and Brenda owned a
2004 GMC Envoy and a 2005 Chevy Pickup, each registered in
both of their names. They purchased separate policies on each
of the two vehicles from State Farm, which listed Randy and
Brenda as named insureds. Each of the separate policies
provided $50, 000/$100, 000 liability coverage, and $50,
000/$100, 000 UM coverage. Neither Randy nor Brenda rejected
UM coverage under these policies.
21, 2012, at approximately 9:00 a.m., Randy was driving the
motorcycle with Brenda as a passenger. Randy lost control,
admittedly through his own fault and negligence, went off the
road, and entered a ditch. Brenda claimed she suffered
serious injuries, including blurred vision, an open wound on
her forehead that required stitches, a right hand injury, and
several spinal injuries. She was hospitalized for three days.
To date, she stated her medical bills exceed $42, 545. Brenda
also claimed lost wages, loss of employment benefits, loss of
enjoyment of life, and emotional damages.
attempted to simultaneously recover liability and UM coverage
under the State Farm policy covering the motorcycle, while
also seeking to recover under the UM provisions of the two
additional policies State Farm issued for their other
vehicles. State Farm paid Brenda the $50, 000 policy limit
owed under the liability policy purchased by Randy on the
motorcycle. However, Brenda claimed this amount was
insufficient to cover her losses from the accident. State
Farm declined to pay UM benefits to Brenda under any of the
three separate UM policies issued by State Farm on the
motorcycle, the Envoy, and the Chevy.
March 22, 2016, State Farm filed a motion for summary
judgment. After hearing the pleadings, evidence, briefs, and
arguments of counsel, the trial court granted State
Farm's motion, dismissing Brenda's claim for UM
coverage. The trial court emphasized this was a one-vehicle
accident and, therefore, UM coverage does not come into play.
Brenda now appeals.
must grant a motion for summary judgment if the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions,
together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no
genuine issue as to material fact, and that the mover is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law, pursuant to La.
C.C.P. art. 966. The burden of proof for a summary judgment
motion remains with the movant. However, if the moving party
will not bear the burden of proof on the issue at trial and
points out that there is an absence of factual support for
one or more elements essential to the adverse party's
claim, action, or defense, then the nonmoving party must
produce factual support sufficient to establish that he will
be able to satisfy his evidentiary burden of proof at trial.
If the opponent of the motion fails to do so, there is no
genuine issue of material fact and summary judgment should be
granted. La. C.C.P. art. 966(D)(1).
de novo standard of review is required when an
appellate court considers rulings on summary judgment
motions, and the appellate court must use the same criteria
that governed the trial court's determination of whether
summary judgment was appropriate. Bank of New York Mellon
v. Smith, 15-0530 (La. 10/14/15), 180 So.3d 1238, 1243.
insurance policy is a contract between the two parties and
should be construed using the general rules of interpretation
of contracts set forth in the Louisiana Civil Code. Mayo
v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 2003-1801 (La.
2/25/04), 869 So.2d 96. Interpretation involves ascertaining
the common intent of the parties to the contract. La. C. C.
art. 2045. Words and phrases used in an insurance policy are
to be construed using their plain, ordinary, and generally
prevailing meaning, unless the words have acquired a
technical meaning. La. C. C. art. 2047; Marshall v.
Louisiana Farm Bureau Cas. Ins. Co., 50, 190 (La.App. 2
Cir. 11/18/15), 182 So.3d 214. "An insurance contract
should not be interpreted in an unreasonable or strained
manner under the guise of contractual interpretation to
enlarge or to restrict its provisions beyond what is
reasonably contemplated by unambiguous terms to achieve an
absurd conclusion." Mayo, supra.
interpretation of an insurance policy ordinarily involves a
legal question that can be properly resolved on motion for
summary judgment." Marzell v. Charlyn Enters.,
LLC, 51, 209 (La.App. 2 Cir. 2/15/17), 215 So.3d 405.
Absent a conflict with statutory provisions or public policy,
insurers are entitled to limit their liability and impose and
enforce reasonable conditions on policy obligations they
contractually assume. Id. A court should grant the