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Iles v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

November 7, 2018



          Brad M. Boudreaux, Schutte, Terhoeve, Richardson, Eversberg, Cronin, Judice, & Boudreaux COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: State Farm Fire and Casualty Company

          Remy A.M. Jardell COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT: Randall Scott Iles

          Court composed of John D. Saunders, Marc T. Amy, and Elizabeth A. Pickett, Judges.

          MARC T. AMY JUDGE.

         The plaintiff filed timely suit against his automobile liability provider to recover damages resulting from an automobile accident under the policy's uninsured motorist provision. He noted that the alleged tortfeasor's automobile liability insurance had provided him with its entire policy limit for his injuries. Almost five years following the accident, the plaintiff filed a supplemental and amending petition naming his personal liability umbrella policy provider as an additional defendant. The defendant umbrella policy provider filed an exception of prescription, alleging that it was not a solidary obligor with the plaintiff's automobile liability and UM policy provider. The trial court sustained the exception. The plaintiff appeals. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         The plaintiff, Randall Scott Iles, instituted this matter on June 20, 2014, with the filing of a petition by which he sought damages associated with a June 20, 2012 automobile accident. He alleged that the accident occurred when a vehicle driven by Gregory Hall "failed to stop for some reason and rear ended the vehicle operated by [the plaintiff.]" He explained that his vehicle was forced forward into another vehicle stopped at a light. The plaintiff alleged that, as a result of this accident, his vehicle was deemed a total loss and that he sustained serious personal injuries, as well as loss of wages. Noting that Mr. Hall's personal automobile insurer, Louisiana Farm Bureau, provided him its entire policy limits, the plaintiff named his automobile liability insurance provider, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (State Farm Mutual), as the sole defendant. He asserted that the State Farm Mutual policy included UM coverage and alleged that it was indebted to him "for damages sustained as a result of this accident above and beyond the coverage afforded to the tortfeasor, Gregory Hall."

         The record indicates that, after the filing of the petition, the litigation continued between the plaintiff and State Farm Mutual as evidenced by filings related to trial dates and to the parties' exchange of expert witness and exhibit lists. Following a March 2016 continuance of that litigation, the present matter arose with the plaintiff's May 10, 2017 filing of a first supplemental and amending petition by which he added State Farm Fire and Casualty Company (State Farm Fire) as a defendant. Therein, the plaintiff maintained that, as his personal liability umbrella policy provider, State Farm Fire is a solidary obligor of previously-named defendant, State Farm Mutual. The plaintiff re-urged all allegations of the original petition, including those related to general damages, medical expenses, lost wages, and future lost wages and/or earning capacity.

         Subsequently, the plaintiff and State Farm Mutual filed a joint motion and order of partial dismissal, seeking the dismissal of State Farm Mutual "with full prejudice." The trial court signed the order of partial dismissal on June 27, 2017, dismissing the automobile liability insurer "with prejudice, reserving plaintiff's rights to pursue all claims against State Farm Fire . . . ."

         By its July 2017 answer, State Farm Fire acknowledged that, at the time of the subject accident, it had in place a personal liability umbrella policy. However, it denied the amending petition's allegation that it is solidarily liable with State Farm Mutual, asserting that the two are separate legal entities. State Farm Fire also advanced a number of defenses, including an allegation that the plaintiff's claims were prescribed and/or preempted.

         The following month, State Farm Fire filed the exception of prescription now under review, framing the single inquiry of whether State Farm Mutual and State Farm Fire are solidary obligors for the alleged injuries stemming from the June 20, 2012 accident. At the close of the related hearing, the trial court explained that it would sustain the exception of prescription, "finding that more than two (2) years had passed" and that the entities are not solidarily liable "because there's two (2) separate numbers." It thereafter entered a judgment in that regard, dismissing the plaintiff's claims against State Farm Fire.

         The plaintiff appeals, first asserting that the trial court erred in sustaining the exception of prescription when timely suit had been filed against State Farm Mutual, an entity he contends was the solidary obligor of State Farm Fire. The plaintiff also argues that the trial court should have concluded that the latter-filed suit related back to the timely suit against State Farm Mutual.


         Exception ...

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