United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
MARY LAMBERT, ET AL.
ALLSTATE PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, ET AL.
ORDER AND REASONS
ZAINEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc.
48) filed by Defendant Government Employees Insurance Company
(“GEICO”). Plaintiffs Matthew Lambert and Candace
Lambert Lemond (herein after collectively referred to as
“Plaintiffs”), on behalf of the deceased Mary
Lambert, oppose the motion (Rec. Doc. 56) and GEICO has
replied (Rec. Doc. 61). This motion, noticed for submission
on January 9, 2019, is before the Court on the briefs without
oral argument. Having considered the motion, memoranda of
counsel, the opposition, the reply, the record, and the
applicable law, the Court finds that Defendant's Motion
for Partial Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 48) is GRANTED for
the reasons set forth below.
April 15, 2015, while operating a motor vehicle, Mary Lambert
(“Lambert”) was struck by another vehicle
operated by Servio Rolando Murcia Ortiz
(“Ortiz”). (Rec. Doc. 1 Complaint, p. 3).
Pursuant to diversity of citizenship, 28 U.S.C. § 1332,
subject matter jurisdiction, Lambert brought the instant suit
and named several defendants to recover for injuries and
damages sustained as a result of the motor vehicle accident.
(Id.). Before her death, Lambert settled her claims
against Imperial Fire and Casualty Company and Allstate
Property and Casualty Insurance Company. (Rec. Doc. 56, p.
Lambert, now deceased, is substituted by Matthew Lambert and
Candace Lambert Lemond. (Rec. Doc. 55). The claims that
remain pending against GEICO include payments in accordance
with the policy's under-insured motorist coverage and
pursuant to La. Rev. Stat. 22 §§ 1892 and 1973
statutory damages and attorney's fees for bad faith
handling of Lambert's claim. (Rec. Doc. 1 Complaint, p.
8). GEICO now requests this Court to grant partial summary
judgment dismissing Plaintiffs' claims for the bad faith
statutory penalties. (Rec. Doc. 48, p. 1).
judgment is appropriate only if “the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, together with the affidavits, if any, ” when
viewed in the light most favorable to the non-movant,
“show that there is no genuine issue as to any material
fact.” TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James, 276 F.3d 754,
759 (5th Cir.2002) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986)). A dispute about a material fact
is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving
party. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). The
court must draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the
non-moving party. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at
255). Once the moving party has initially shown “that
there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving
party's cause, ” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 325 (1986), the non-movant must come forward with
“specific facts” showing a genuine factual issue
for trial. Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e);
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574,
587 (1986)). Conclusory allegations and denials, speculation,
improbable inferences, unsubstantiated assertions, and legal
arguments do not adequately substitute for specific facts
showing a genuine issue for trial. Id. (citing SEC
v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir.1993)).
argues that partial summary judgment is proper regarding
Plaintiffs' bad faith/unfair trade practice and related
breach of contract causes of action. (Rec. Doc. 48-6, p.1)
GEICO argues that (1) under the terms of the policy, Texas
law applies; (2) under Louisiana choice-of-law codified
provisions, Texas law applies to the policy; and (3) under
Texas law, Plaintiffs' claims of breach of contract and
statutory bad faith and/or unfair trade practices should be
dismissed, with prejudice, at Plaintiffs' costs. In the
alternative, GEICO argues that Plaintiffs cannot be
successful in accordance with Louisiana law because there is
a reasonable and legitimate question as to the extent of the
liability. (Id. at 12).
respond that the Texas and Louisiana uninsured motorist
provisions are virtually identical, and both of these sets of
laws provide a claim for bad faith practices including
sanctions and attorney's fees. (Rec. Doc. 56, p. 2).
Plaintiffs also argue that the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure
are not applicable because jurisdiction in this case is based
on diversity of citizenship. (Rec. Doc. 56, p. 3).
diversity action, federal courts are bound to apply the forum
state's substantive law. Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S.
64, 78 (1938). Where a choice of law issue is involved, we
apply the forum state's choice of law rules. Klaxon Co.
v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496-97 (1941);
Kuchenig v. California Co., 410 F.2d 222, 224 (5th Cir.1969).
Accordingly, this Court must determine whether the Louisiana
courts would enforce the parties' choice of Texas law to
govern their contract and related breach of contract claims.
choice-of-law provisions are codified in Book IV of the
Louisiana Civil Code. Louisiana Civil Code Article 3540
titled “Party autonomy” states the general rule
that parties may choose which state's law will govern
disputes arising out of the contract. It provides:
All other issues of conventional obligations are governed by
the law expressly chosen or clearly relied upon by the
parties, except to the extent that law contravenes the public
policy of the state whose law ...