United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
S. VANCE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is defendant Progressive Insurance Company's
motion for judgment on the pleadings, on the ground that
coverage for plaintiffs' injuries is excluded under the
terms of its insurance policy.Because the insurance coverage
exclusion Progressive invokes does not apply to injuries
sustained in the boating accident at the center of this
litigation, the Court denies the motion.
case arises out of a boating accident on Lake
Pontchartrain.Plaintiff Muriel Van Horn served as a
volunteer race official for a sailing regatta held on the
lake. On November 26, 2016, Ms. Van Horn boarded
a boat operated by defendant David Rubin, who was assigned to
transport her to her official's position. According to the
complaint, Rubin suddenly accelerated the vessel over the
swells of Lake Pontchartrain, causing the boat to leave the
water's surface, assume a nearly vertical position in the
air, and slam back down onto the water. This incident
allegedly caused Ms. Van Horn to fracture her right tibial
plateau, requiring major surgery and continuing medical
November 21, 2017, Ms. Van Horn and her husband Mark Van Horn
sued for damages under general maritime law and Louisiana
Ms. Van Horn alleges that her injuries were caused by
Rubin's negligence and by the negligence of the regatta
organizers, the United States Optimist Dinghy Association,
Inc. and the Southern Yacht Club. Mr. Van Horn asserts a claim
for loss of consortium and society as a result of Ms. Van
Horn's injuries. Progressive provided a boat and personal
watercraft insurance policy to Rubin. Progressive
now moves for a judgment on the pleadings on the ground that
the liability insurance it issued to Rubin excludes coverage
for any injuries sustained during the accident. Rubin and
plaintiffs have each filed briefs in opposition to
motion for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(c) is appropriate if the matter can be
adjudicated by deciding questions of law rather than factual
disputes. Brittan Commc'ns Int'l Corp. v. Sw.
Bell Tel. Co., 313 F.3d 899, 904 (5th Cir. 2002). It is
subject to the same standard as a motion to dismiss under
Rule 12(b)(6). Doe v. MySpace, Inc., 528 F.3d 413,
418 (5th Cir. 2008). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss, the plaintiff must plead enough facts “to
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007). A claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff
pleads facts that allow the court to “draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A court must accept all well-pleaded
facts as true and must draw all reasonable inferences in
favor of the plaintiff. Lormand v. U.S. Unwired,
Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 239 (5th Cir. 2009). But the Court
is not bound to accept as true legal conclusions couched as
factual allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
legally sufficient complaint must establish more than a
“sheer possibility” that the plaintiff's
claim is true. Id. It need not contain detailed
factual allegations, but it must go beyond labels, legal
conclusions, or formulaic recitations of the elements of a
cause of action. Id. In other words, the face of the
complaint must contain enough factual matter to raise a
reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of
each element of the plaintiff's claim. Lormand,
565 F.3d at 257. If there are insufficient factual
allegations to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level, or if it is apparent from the face of the complaint
that there is an insuperable bar to relief, the claim must be
dismissed. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
parties agree that Louisiana law governs the interpretation
of Progressive's insurance policy. The Louisiana Civil
Code sets forth the guiding principles for construing
contracts in Louisiana. See In re Katrina Canal Breaches
Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 206 (5th Cir. 2007);
Cadwallader v. Allstate Ins. Co., 848 So.2d 577, 580
(La. 2003). “Interpretation of a contract is the
determination of the common intent of the parties.” La.
Civ. Code art. 2045. Such intent is to be derived from the
language of the contract itself. If that language is
“clear and explicit and lead[s] to no absurd
consequences, no further interpretation may be made in search
of the parties' intent.” Id. art. 2046.
Words “must be given their generally prevailing
meaning, ” and terms of art are interpreted as such
only when a technical matter is at stake. Id. art.
2047. Furthermore, “[e]ach provision in a contract must
be interpreted in light of the other provisions so that each
is given the meaning suggested by the contract as a
whole.” Id. art. 2045.
provisions in insurance contracts are strictly construed
against the insurer, and any ambiguity is construed in favor
of the insured.” Garcia v. St. Bernard Par. Sch.
Bd., 576 So.2d 975, 976 (La. 1991); see also
La. Civ. Code art. 2056 (“In case of doubt that cannot
be otherwise resolved, a provision in a contract must be
interpreted against the party who furnished its text. A
contract executed in a standard form of one party must be
interpreted, in case of doubt, in favor of the other
party.”); Arctic Slope Reg'l Corp. v.
Affiliated FM Ins. Co., 564 F.3d 707, 709-10 (5th Cir.
2009) (ambiguities in insurance contracts are “to be
construed against the insurer and in favor of
coverage”) (quoting Sher v. Lafayette Ins.
Co., 988 So.2d 186, 193 (La. 2008)).
argues that its insurance policy does not cover any injuries
sustained in the accident because of an exclusion that
exempts from coverage
bodily injury or property damage resulting from, or sustained
during practice or preparation for: (a) any pre-arranged or
organized racing, stunting, speed, or demolition contest or
activity; or (b) any driving, riding, navigation, piloting,
or boating ...