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Americas Insurance Company v. Jarreau

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

February 25, 2019

AMERICAS INSURANCE COMPANY
v.
BRIAN JARREAU and MAGDALENA BUDZIAKOWSKA

         SECTION: "A" (3)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JUDGE JAY C. ZAINEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The following motions are before the Court:

         Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 54) filed by Defendants, Brian Jarreau and Magdalena Budziakowska (herein after collectively referred to as “Defendants”). Plaintiff, Americas Insurance Company (“Americas”) opposes the motion (Rec. Doc. 60) and Defendants have replied (Rec. Doc. 64). This motion, noticed for submission on January 9, 2019 is before the Court on the briefs without oral argument.

         Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 59) filed by Americas. Defendants oppose this motion (Rec. Doc. 62) and Americas has replied (Rec. Doc. 68). This motion, noticed for submission on January 9, 2019, is before the Court on the briefs without oral argument.

         Having considered the motions, memoranda of counsel, the oppositions, the replies, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 54) is DENIED and Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 59) is GRANTED for the reasons set forth below.

         I. Background

         Defendants Brian Jarreau and Magdalena Budziakowska own immovable property in New Orleans, Louisiana allegedly damaged by a fire on or about January 5, 2018. (Rec. Doc. 1, Complaint ¶ 7). On January 5, 2018, Defendants submitted a claim for the damaged property to Plaintiff, Americas Insurance Company (Americas). (Id. ¶ 8). On March 19, 2018, Defendants submitted correspondence to Americas invoking the appraisal provision set forth in Americas' policy. (Id. ¶ 15). Defendants appointed Nader Anthony Odeh (Odeh) as their independent appraiser. (Id.). On April 3, 2018, Americas accepted Defendants' demand for appraisal pursuant to the Americas' policy, appointed Mitash Patel as Americas' appraiser, and objected to Odeh as Defendants' appraiser. (Id. ¶ 18).

         Americas filed suit for declaratory judgment, to declare Odeh ineligible to serve as Defendants' appraiser and to order Brian Jarreau and Magdalena Budziakowska to comply with the Americas' policy by participating in the appraisal and by appointing a competent and impartial appraiser (Id. ¶ 33). Defendants Brian Jarreau and Magdalena Budziakowska counterclaimed that Americas failed to appoint a competent and impartial appraiser pursuant to the Americas' policy. (Rec. Doc. 6 ¶ 14). In their counterclaim, Defendants requested an award for their costs and attorney's fees incurred. (Id. ¶ 26).

         Both parties now move this court to grant partial summary judgment. Defendants request partial summary judgment on the issue of bad faith claims and an entitlement to additional living expenses (“ALE”). Plaintiffs request partial summary judgment on the issue of Defendants' counterclaim request for declaratory judgment to enlarge the applicable policy limits of further policy payments for ALE.

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary 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 legalistic argumentation 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)).

         III. Discussion

         A. Partial Summary Judgment on Bad Faith Handling

         Defendants argue that Americas refused to participate in the appraisal process for more than six months to pursue the disqualification of Odeh, (Rec. Doc. 54-4, p. 1). They allege that this deliberate halt of the appraisal process has forced the Defendants to incur ALE exceeding the amount permitted via the policy. (Id.). Defendants argue that Americas' bad faith conduct violates Louisiana Revised Statutes 22 ยงยง 1973 and 1892 entitling Defendants ...


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