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Smith v. Shelter Mutual Insurance Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

July 11, 2018

BRADLEY W. SMITH
v.
SHELTER MUTUAL INSURANCE CO.

          RULING

          JUDGE SHELLY D. DICK UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Before the Court is Defendant Shelter Mutual Insurance Company's Motion for Summary Judgment.[1] Plaintiff Bradley W. Smith has filed an Opposition.[2] For the following reasons, the Defendant's Motion shall be granted.

         I. RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The Court is familiar with the factual background of this case. Plaintiff, Bradley W. Smith (“Smith”), and Paul Babin (“Babin”) were involved in an automobile-pedestrian accident in August 2001. Subsequently, Plaintiff filed a state court lawsuit against Babin and his insurance company, Shelter Mutual Insurance Company (“Shelter”). After conducting a bifurcated trial, the state court trial judge dismissed with prejudice Babin's cross-claims against Shelter for alleged bad faith in refusing to provide Babin with a legal defense, misrepresenting the coverage under the Shelter policy, and failure to indemnify Babin. Babin appealed the trial court's decision, and the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed.

         On June 3, 2015, Smith filed the present lawsuit, under an assignment of rights from Babin, seeking to collect from Shelter the excess amount of the state trial court judgment beyond the policy liability amount of $10, 000 per person, and for bad faith damages pursuant to La. R.S. 22:1892 and La. R.S. 22:1973.

         After dismissing Smith's claims for bad faith damages, the only claim remaining before the Court is Smith's claim for excess judgment liability.[3] After reviewing the record, the Court is clear that Smith's claim for excess judgment liability is solely derived from Shelter's alleged breach of its duties under La. R.S. 22:1892 and La. R.S. 22:1973. Those claims have already been finally adjudicated by the state court.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”[4] “When assessing whether a dispute to any material fact exists, we consider all of the evidence in the record but refrain from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence.”[5] A party moving for summary judgment “must ‘demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact,' but need not negate the elements of the nonmovant's case.”[6] If the moving party satisfies its burden, “the non-moving party must show that summary judgment is inappropriate by setting ‘forth specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue concerning every essential component of its case.'”[7] However, the non-moving party's burden “is not satisfied with some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, by conclusory allegations, by unsubstantiated assertions, or by only a scintilla of evidence.”[8]

         Notably, “[a] genuine issue of material fact exists, ‘if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'”[9] All reasonable factual inferences are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party.[10] However, “[t]he court has no duty to search the record for material fact issues. Rather, the party opposing the summary judgment is required to identify specific evidence in the record and to articulate precisely how this evidence supports his claim.”[11] “Conclusory allegations unsupported by specific facts … will not prevent the award of summary judgment; ‘the plaintiff [can]not rest on his allegations … to get to a jury without any “significant probative evidence tending to support the complaint.”'”[12]

         III. ANALYSIS

         When deciding whether to give preclusive effect to an earlier state court judgment in a subsequent federal lawsuit, a federal court sitting in diversity applies the preclusion law of the state in which the judgment was rendered.[13] Louisiana law governing res judicata provides:

Except as otherwise provided by law, a valid and final judgment is conclusive between the same parties, except on appeal or other direct review, to the following extent:
(2) If the judgment is in favor of the defendant, all causes of action existing at the time of final judgment arising out of the transaction or occurrence that is the subject matter of the litigation are extinguished and the judgment bars a subsequent action on those causes of action.
(3) A judgment in favor of either the plaintiff or the defendant is conclusive, in any subsequent action between them, with respect to any issue actually litigated and determined if its ...

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