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Parker v. American Western Home Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

December 28, 2018



          R. Scott Iles 1200 West University Avenue Lafayette, LA 70506 P.O. Box 3385 Lafayette, LA 70502 (337) 234-8800 COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT: Cody Parker

          Richard J. Petre, Jr. Onebane Law Firm P.O. Box 3507 Lafayette, LA 70502-3507 (337) 237-2660 COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT-APPELLEE American Western Home Insurance Company

          Court composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Sylvia R. Cooks, and Marc T. Amy, Judges.


         Plaintiff-appellant, Cody Parker appeals the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the insurer, American Western Home Insurance Company, finding the business exclusion contained in its policy did not provide coverage for Plaintiff's injuries. Finding summary judgment was improperly granted in this case, we reverse the trial court's judgment and remand for further proceedings.


         The facts establish Mike Blakly purchased the mobile home in question approximately ten years prior to the occurrence of the subject accident. Blakly lived in the mobile home until sometime in 2015. At that time, Blakly refinanced the mobile home and land on which it rested to acquire different property. Blakly and his wife, Deborah Armentor, then moved to that property.

         The mobile home remained "empty for a few months," until Blakly's daughter, Imarie Blakly, began living there. She lived in the mobile home for approximately six months. There was testimony that a rental agreement was signed by Imarie, although she did not pay rent. Blakly testified he prepared a rental agreement for his daughter because "[s]he wanted one[.]" Blakly further testified when Imarie's boyfriend began living there, Blakly expected to receive rent. Blakly ultimately had the couple evicted from the mobile home for failure to pay rent.

         After the eviction of Imarie and her boyfriend, Jeromie and Krissi McCann became aware of the empty trailer and inquired to a friend as to its availability. Eventually they were given Blakly's number and contacted him in regard to the mobile home. The McCanns maintained they discussed renting the mobile home, with the intent to purchase. There was a "Rent to Own Lease Agreement" prepared, which contemplated a purchase price conditioned on Blakly's financing and interest rate. The agreement stated in part, "[t]he total price for the property is $46, 000.00 unless the rate of interest is changed when seller refinances balloon note on November 5, 2018. At this time the seller and buyer will renegotiate to satisfy the original bank note due." The contemplated rent-to-own agreement also required a non-refundable fee deposit of $7, 000.00.

         The rental agreement signed contained the following language as to the rent due:

Monthly Rental will be paid on the 1st of each month in the sum of $600.00 which $530.00 will be applied to the price agreed on in section 2 of the leases when criteria is met and agreed to at that time.
If Rent to own is not fulfilled it will not be applied to ownership of property as in section two.

         The parties ultimately signed a "Month to Month Rental Agreement" on January 31, 2016, which set forth a $600.00 monthly rental fee. The McCanns paid $5, 000.00 of a requested $7, 000.00 deposit on February 18, 2016. Krissi McCann testified Blakly was informed the $5, 000.00 was all they could afford and believed this deposit would apply to the understood rent-to-own arrangement. The McCanns believed upon paying all mortgage debt on the property, they would own the premises, including the mobile home. According to the Jeromie McCann there was no question they were "planning on buying the place from [Blakly] until he decided he wanted to take some of the land and move onto it during his divorce."

         The testimony established that after the McCanns moved into the mobile home in February of 2016 (the testimony is conflicting on the exact date), Blakly moved back on to the 3.17 acres upon which the mobile home was located. He apparently stayed in a shed which he purchased after he and his wife separated. Jeromie McCann testified that when Blakly moved onto the property, they decided not to go forward with the purchase. The McCanns took the position the parties agreed the $5, 000.00 deposit they paid should go toward rent owed. Blakly insisted the deposit was not meant to apply to rent.

         According to Jeromie, Blakly began telling him in July of 2016 that they needed to leave his premises. On October 25, 2016, Blakly issued a Notice to Vacate to the McCanns. A Rule to Evict was issued on November 16, 2016, and the matter was heard before the district court on November 28, 2016. The trial judge made the following comment at trial:

This is the problem with people that don't go to lawyers to get their legal work done or approved. You've got a document here that's sort of three different things all ...

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