United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
WESTPORT INSURANCE CORP.
JUGE NAPOLITANO GUILBEAU RULI & FRIEMAN, ET AL.
ORDER AND REASONS
E. FALLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for summary
judgment. Rec. Doc. 17. Defendants have not filed an
opposition and the submission date has passed. After
reviewing Plaintiff's brief and the applicable law, the
Court now issues this Order and Reasons.
matter arises out of an insurance coverage dispute. Plaintiff
Westport Insurance Corporation (“Westport”)
issued a Lawyers Professional Liability Policy (the
“Policy”) to Juge, Napolitano, Guilbeau, Ruli
& Frieman (“Juge Napolitano”) with a period
from January 1, 2017 to January 1, 2018. The Policy lists
Lawrence Frieman and Bradley Naccari, both attorneys employed
by Juge Napolitano, as additional insureds.
Ackel (who is not a party in this case) filed a separate
lawsuit against Defendants Juge Napolitano, Mr. Frieman, and
Mr. Naccari, as well as a number of other parties. Mr. Ackel
asserted a claim against Juge Napolitano, Mr. Frieman, and
Mr. Naccari for negligent notarization, alleging that Mr.
Frieman and Mr. Naccari notarized Mr. Ackel's signature
on multiple documents without witnessing him execute those
Juge Napolitano, Mr. Frieman, and Mr. Naccari submitted Mr.
Ackel's claim to Plaintiff Westport. After reviewing the
claim, Westport determined that the allegations fell within
Exclusion E of the Policy, which precludes coverage for
claims where an insured, in his or her role as a notary
public notarizes a document without witnessing the signature
being placed on the document. Specifically, Exclusion E
This POLICY shall not apply to any CLAIM based upon,
arising out of, attributable to, or directly or indirectly
* * *E. the certification or
acknowledgment by any INSURED, in his or her capacity as a
Notary Public, of a signature on a document which the INSURED
did not witness being placed on the document or collect
information required by law.
the plain language of the Policy, Westport filed this action
seeking a judicial determination that Plaintiff does not owe
any of the Defendants a duty of defense or indemnity. On
February 8, 2018, Plaintiff filed this instant motion for
summary judgment, asking the Court to enter a judicial
determination that Westport's Policy excludes coverage
for the claims asserted by Mr. Ackel against Defendants. The
Court now addresses this motion.
judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, the
discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any
affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c));
Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th
Cir. 1994). When assessing whether a dispute as to any
material fact exists, the Court considers “all of the
evidence in the record but refrains from making credibility
determinations or weighing the evidence.” Delta
& Pine Land Co. v. Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co.,
530 F.3d 395, 398 (5th Cir. 2008).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), the moving party bears
the initial burden of “informing the district court of
the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of
[the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex, 477
U.S. at 322. When the moving party has met its Rule 56(c)
burden, “[t]he non-movant cannot avoid summary judgment
. . . by merely making ‘conclusory allegations' or
‘unsubstantiated assertions.'” Calbillo
v. Cavender Oldsmobile, Inc., 288 F.3d 721, 725 (5th
Cir. 2002) (quoting Little, 37 F.3d at 1075).
“The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in
support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient;
there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably
find for the plaintiff.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 253 (1986). All reasonable
inferences are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, but a
party cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory
allegations or unsubstantiated assertions. Little,
37 F.3d at 1075. A court ultimately must be satisfied that
“a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Delta, 530 F.3d at 399.
law applies the general rules of contract interpretation to
construe insurance policies. Trinity Indus., Inc. v. Ins.
Co. of N. Am., 916 F.2d 267, 269 (5th Cir. 1990). The
parties' intent, as reflected by the words of the policy,
determine the extent of coverage. Reynolds v. Select
Properties, Ltd., 634 So.2d 1180, 1183 (La. 1994). Words
and phrases used in a policy are to be construed using their
plain, ordinary and generally prevailing meaning, unless the
words have acquired a technical meaning. Id. An
insurance policy should not be interpreted in an unreasonable
or a strained manner so as to enlarge or to restrict its
provisions beyond what is reasonably contemplated by its
terms or so as to achieve an absurd conclusion. Id.