Application for Writs from the Monroe City Court for the
Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana Trial Court No. 2017CV00002
Honorable Jefferson Bryan Joyce, Judge
BRADLEY SMITHERMAN Counsel for Applicant
ANTHONY J. BRUSCATO Counsel for Respondent
WILLIAMS, PITMAN, and STONE, JJ.
applicant, GEICO Casualty Company ("GEICO"), filed
a motion for summary judgment asserting that its automobile
insurance policy issued to Asha Sade Johnson
("Johnson") did not provide liability coverage for
property damage sustained by Ruby Lee Lewis
("Lewis"). The trial court denied the motion, and
GEICO now seeks this court's supervisory review. For the
reasons assigned below, the writ is granted and made
peremptory. GEICO's motion for summary judgment is
granted, and Lewis' action against GEICO is dismissed.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
application stems from a single-vehicle accident that
occurred on July 11, 2016. At the time of the accident,
Johnson was the permissive driver of a Jeep Cherokee owned by
her mother, Lewis. The vehicle sustained significant property
damage as a result of the accident. Lewis did not maintain
collision or comprehensive coverage with her own insurer;
however, Johnson owned a vehicle that was insured by GEICO.
On January 3, 2017, Lewis filed a petition for damages
against GEICO seeking to recover damages to her vehicle under
Johnson's automobile insurance policy.
March 6, 2017, GEICO filed a motion for summary judgment,
arguing Johnson's policy excluded liability coverage for
damage to property operated by Johnson. A hearing on the
matter was held on May 18, 2017. After taking the matter
under advisement, the trial court filed a written judgment on
July 7, 2017, denying GEICO's motion for summary
judgment. On August 4, 2017, GEICO filed this application for
supervisory review of the trial court's judgment. On
October 5, 2017, this court ordered GEICO's writ granted
to docket for our review.
judgment is favored and is designed to secure the just,
speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action, except
those disallowed by law. La. C. C. P. art. 966(A)(2). After
an opportunity for adequate discovery, a motion for summary
judgment shall be granted if the motion, memorandum, and
supporting documents show that there is no genuine issue as
to material fact and that the mover is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law. La. C. C. P. art. 966(A)(3). Appellate
courts review summary judgment de novo under the
same criteria governing the trial court's consideration
of whether summary judgment is appropriate. Costello v.
Hardy, 03-1146 (La. 01/21/04), 864 So.2d 129;
Schelmety v. Yamaha Motor Corp., USA, 50, 586
(La.App. 2 Cir. 04/13/16), 193 So.3d 194, 198, writ
denied, 2016-0903 (La. 09/06/16), 205 So.3d 919;
Walters v. City of West Monroe, 49, 502 (La.App. 2
Cir. 02/04/15), 162 So.3d 419, writ denied, 15-0440
(La. 05/15/15), 170 So.3d 161.
interpretation of an insurance contract is usually a legal
question that can be properly resolved by means of a motion
for summary judgment. Bernard v. Ellis, 11-2377 (La.
07/02/12), 111 So.3d 995; Cutsinger v. Redfern,
08-2607 (La. 05/22/09), 12 So.3d 945; Bumgardner v. Terra
Nova Ins. Co. Ltd., 35, 615 (La.App. 2 Cir. 01/23/02),
806 So.2d 945. However, summary judgment declaring a lack of
coverage under an insurance policy may not be rendered unless
there is no reasonable interpretation of the policy, when
applied to the undisputed material facts shown by the
evidence supporting the motion, under which coverage could be
afforded. Elliott v. Continental Cas. Co.,
06-1505 (La. 02/22/07), 949 So.2d 1247; Reynolds v.
Select Properties, Ltd., 93-1480 (La. 04/11/94), 634
insurance policy is a contract between the parties and should
be construed using the general rules of interpretation of
contracts set forth in the Louisiana Civil Code. Green ex
rel. Peterson v. Johnson, 14-0292 (La. 10/15/14), 149
So.3d 766; Marshall v. La. Farm Bureau Cas. Ins.
Co., 50, 190 (La.App. 2 Cir. 11/18/15), 182 So.3d 214.
An insurance contract must be "construed according to
the entirety of its terms and conditions as set forth in the
policy, and as amplified, extended, or modified by any rider,
endorsement, or application attached to or made a part of the
policy." La. R.S. 22:881; Schelmety, supra.
When the words of a contract are clear and explicit and lead
to no absurd consequences, no further interpretation may be
made in search of the parties' intent. La. C.C. art.
2046. In such cases, the insurance contract must be enforced
as written. Schelmety, supra.
companies may limit coverage in any manner they desire, so
long as the limitations do not conflict with statutory
provisions or public policy. Schelmety, supra;
Elliott, supra; Bumgardner, supra. However,
exclusionary provisions in insurance contracts are strictly
construed against the insurer, and any ambiguity is construed
in favor of the insured. Schelmety, supra;
Elliott, supra; Bumgardner, supra. The
burden is on the insurer to prove that a loss comes within a
policy exclusion. Rodgers v. State Farm Mut. Auto.
Ins., 15-0868 (La. 06/30/15), 168 So.3d 375;
Louisiana Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Law, La. R.S.
32:851 through La. R.S. 32:1043, sets forth a mandatory,
comprehensive scheme to protect the public from damage caused
by motor vehicles. Hawkins v. Redmon, 2009-2418 (La.
07/06/10), 42 So.3d 360, 362. La. R.S. 32:900 provides the