WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEAL, FIFTH CIRCUIT,
PARISH OF JEFFERSON
case, we are called upon to decide whether an insurer waived
its defenses to plaintiff's current claim by paying on an
earlier claim to him in error. For the reasons that follow,
we find that the insurer did not waive its rights.
Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of the courts below.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Brandon Forvendel, was injured in a multi-vehicle accident in
2013. At the time of the accident, plaintiff was driving a
Chevrolet Equinox owned by him and insured under a policy
issued by State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company
("State Farm"), which included uninsured motorist
("UM") coverage. Plaintiff recovered the limits of
his UM coverage under his State Farm policy.
time of the 2013 accident, plaintiff lived in the household
of his mother, Deborah Forvendel, who was also insured by
State Farm. Plaintiff also sought to recover under his
mother's State Farm UM policy, which carried
significantly higher policy limits. State Farm refused to
allow him to recover under his mother's policy, citing
the anti-stacking provisions of La. R.S.
result, plaintiff filed the instant suit against State Farm.
In his petition, plaintiff alleged that the facts of the
instant case were strikingly similar to an earlier 2007
accident in which State Farm allowed him to recover UM
benefits under both his own UM policy and his mother's UM
trial, plaintiff offered evidence regarding the 2007
accident. In particular, he relied on a June 9, 2008 letter
from a State Farm manager to plaintiff's attorney. This
letter referenced to the 2007 accident and plaintiff's
claim under his mother's policy, stating, "your
client does qualify as an insured for Uninsured Motorist
coverage." Thereafter, State Farm allowed plaintiff to
recover under both policies for the 2007 accident. Ms.
Forvendel testified State Farm did not notify her of any
error in permitting plaintiff's recovery under her policy
Farm's representative, Aaron Angel, testified that the
2007 payment was made in error. Paul Robichaux, a State Farm
Auto Team Manager in 2008, testified the 2007 claim was
referred to him to consider whether plaintiff, as a resident
relative, could select UM coverage under Ms. Forvendel's
policy, but he did not consider the anti-stacking statute.
Mr. Robichaux stated he was unaware plaintiff collected UM
benefits under his own policy at the time, and he did not
make any determination regarding stacking.
conclusion of trial, the district court entered judgment for
plaintiff in the amount of $50, 000 in damages, plus interest
and costs. In its reasons for judgment, the district court
explained "State Farm previously interpreted the
agreement between the parties to cover plaintiff under his
mother's UM policy, and this fact can be considered by
the Court in interpreting the agreement between the parties
in effect at the time of the 2013 accident."
Farm appealed. In a split decision, the Court of Appeal,
Fifth Circuit, affirmed, concluding the trial court did not
err in finding State Farm waived any defense to the 2013
claim by paying the 2007 claim in error. Forvendel v.
State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 17-77 (La.App. 5 Cir.
11/15/17), 230 So.3d 687. The dissenting judge rejected the
majority's reasoning, finding it would be in
contravention of the anti-stacking statute to find State Farm
extended coverage to plaintiff beyond his policy limits.
State Farm's application, we granted certiorari to
consider the correctness of this decision. Forvendel v.
State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 17-2074 (La. 3/9/18),
anti-stacking statute, La. R.S. 22:1295 provides, ...