United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
BRIAN RICHARD, ET AL.
USAA CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY
RULING AND ORDER
A. JACKSON JUDGE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
the Court is Defendant Garrison Property and Casualty
Insurance Company's ("Garrison") Motion
for Summary Judgment (Doc. 19). For the following
reasons, the Court DENIES Garrison's motion.
Ross Richard ("Plaintiff) was a passenger in a vehicle
owned and being operated by Lance Boudreaux
("Boudreaux"). (Doc. 1-2 at ¶ 2). On or about
May 16, 2012, when Boudreaux was attempting to make a left
turn, the vehicle was struck by another vehicle driven by
Patrick Gisler ("Gisler")- (Id.).
Plaintiff then sued Gisler, Gisler's insurance
company, Boudreaux, and Garrison, which issued an
auto insurance policy to Boudreaux, in state district court
in Baton Rouge. (Doc. 8-1). On January 29, 2016, the jury
returned a verdict finding Boudreaux completely liable for
the accident, and a judgment was entered against him in the
amount of $434, 000.00. (Id.). Boudreaux's
insurance policy limit with Garrison was $100, 000.00. (Doc.
1 at ¶ 3). Garrison appealed the judgement on its own
behalf, but not on behalf of Boudreaux. (Doc. 20 at p. 1).
Boudreaux, through a "Compromise Agreement"
executed on September 9, 2016, assigned to Plaintiff the
right to pursue a bad faith action against Garrison for
improperly proceeding to trial as opposed to settling within
policy limits in return for being absolved of personal
liability for the judgment. (Doc. 8-3 at Exhibit C).
now brings this action against Garrison to recover from
Garrison the value of the excess judgement entered against
Boudreaux. (Doc. 1-2). Plaintiff alleges that he suffered
significant injuries as a result of Boudreaux's
negligence. (Id. at ¶ 2). Plaintiff claims that
Garrison failed to meet its statutory obligation to settle
within the policy limits. (Id. at ¶ 3).
Plaintiff alleges that this caused Boudreaux to be subjected
to excess judgement. (Id.).
claims that Garrison further abrogated its duties by filing
an appeal of the excess judgment on its own behalf and not
appealing the verdict for its insured, thereby failing to
provide counsel to Boudreaux pursuant to its contractual
obligation to do so. (Id. at ¶ 4). As such,
Plaintiff argues that the judgment against Boudreaux is final
and enforceable. (Id.). Plaintiff asserts violations
of La. R. S. 22:1973 and La.R.S. 22:1892 as well as breach of
contract for failure to provide counsel. (Id. at
matter was removed to this Court on March 23, 2017. On June
1, 2018, Garrison filed the instant motion. (Doc. 19).
Plaintiff filed his opposition on July 3, 2018. (Doc. 20).
asserts that it was entitled to litigate the underlying case
rather than settle for its $100, 00.00 policy limit.
(Id.). Garrison argues that it insured only
Boudreaux, not Plaintiff, and that both Plaintiff and his
attorney previously claimed that Boudreaux was not at fault
for the accident. (Id. at ¶ 1). Garrison claims
that because Plaintiff assured it that Boudreaux was not at
fault for the accident, it was not obligated to settle within
policy limits. (Id. at ¶ 2). Garrison cites
Smith v. Audubon Ins. Co., 95-2075 (La. 9/5/96), 679
So.2d. 372, 377 for the proposition that after an insurer has
made a thorough investigation into the cause of an accident,
if reasonable minds may differ about who is at fault, the
insurer no longer is obligated to settle within its policy
limits and may choose to litigate.
Garrison alleges that Plaintiffs original Petition for
Damages primarily focused on Gisler's alleged negligence
and raised claims against Boudreaux only in the alternative.
(Doc. 19-1 at p. 2). Garrison also alleges that no facts were
provided to support a claim of negligence against Boudreaux
in the initial Petition for Damages. (Id.).
claims that Baton Rouge City Police Officer Gabriel Walters
("Officer Walters") testified that Gisler was at
fault for the accident due to "improper passing."
(Id. at p. 3). Further, Garrison alleges that
Plaintiff gave deposition testimony wherein he asserted that
Boudreaux was not at fault for the accident. Garrison also
cites the opening statement prepared by Plaintiffs attorney,
wherein he stated:
. . . My client will testify that Lance Boudreaux was not at
fault in this accident. Did everything right, didn't see
anything he did wrong, and wasn't at fault. That's
what Brian is going to testify. The police officer is going
to testify. . .That officer is going to say Lance wasn't
at fault. . .
(Doc. 19 at Exhibit H). Garrison cites to numerous other
portions of trial and deposition testimony to reinforce its
argument that at every turn, all parties involved with the
accident, save for Gisler, held the opinion that Boudreaux
was not at fault for the accident. Garrison also cites the
Compromise Agreement between Plaintiff and Boudreaux as
further evidence that neither party believed that Boudreaux
was at fault for the accident. (Doc. 19-1 at p. 5).
opposition to Garrison's Motion for Summary Judgment,
Plaintiff argues that he sued both Boudreaux and Gisler, both
of their insurers, and demanded settlements within both of
their policy limits. (Doc. 20 at p. 1). Plaintiff challenges
Gaivrison's claim that it was entitled to try the case.
Plaintiff contends that Garrison was not forthcoming in its
motion sub judice regarding the information that was
available to it and what it knew when making the decision to
litigate the matter as opposed to settle. (Id. at p.
2). Specifically, Plaintiff argues that:
1. Garrison failed to inform Boudreaux that Gissler's
insurance company offered to settle for the liability policy
limits and release Boudreaux ...