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Stone v. Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

March 7, 2019

ED STONE, ET AL.
v.
ALLSTATE PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, ET AL.

          ON APPLICATION FOR SUPERVISORY WRITS FROM THE SEVENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF CATAHOULA, NO. 28, 822 HONORABLE KATHY A. JOHNSON, DISTRICT JUDGE

          Steven B. Rabalais Melvin A. Eiden Rabalais & Hebert COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPLICANT: Sentry Select Insurance Company

          Barry A. Roach Christopher S. Lacombe Larry A. Roach, Inc. COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/RESPONDENT: Ed Stone, Individually and as duly authorized agent of River City Logistics, Inc.

          Christina S. Slay Bolen, Parker, Brenner, Lee & Engelsman, APLC COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/RESPONDENT: Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company

          Court composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Shannon J. Gremillion, and Van H. Kyzar, Judges.

          SHANNON J. GREMILLION JUDGE.

         Sentry Select Insurance Company (Sentry) seeks our exercise of supervisory jurisdiction to reverse the trial court's denial of its motion for summary judgment. Sentry also asks in this application that we reverse the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Mr. Ed Stone. In a consolidated matter, Ed Stone, et al. v. Allstate Prop. and Cas. Ins. Co., 18-763, Sentry also appeals the trial court's judgment in favor of Mr. Stone. For the reasons that follow, we grant Sentry's application for supervisory writs and make that grant peremptory.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL POSTURE

         Ms. Denise McClendon is the president of River City Logistics, Inc. In August 2015, she procured a policy of automobile liability insurance from Sentry on behalf of River City Logistics. Her agent, Mr. Don Pridgen, sent her a form for the rejection of or selection of lower limits of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM). Ms. McClendon placed a check mark in the space beside the clause indicating rejection of UM. She then signed and dated the form and returned it to Mr. Pridgen. The agency called her and told her she had to initial the space. The form was returned to Ms. McClendon, who initialed in a space drawn by someone in Mr. Pridgen's office immediately adjacent to the check-marked space.

         On April 28, 2016, an accident between a Peterbilt truck driven by Mr. Stone and owned by River City Logistics, his employer, and a Chevrolet Silverado driven by Mr. Stephen Card allegedly occurred on U.S. Highway 84 east of Jonesville, Louisiana. Mr. Stone sued Mr. Card, Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company, Mr. Card's insurer, and Sentry as River City Logistics' UM carrier for damages he incurred in the accident.

         Sentry filed a motion for summary judgment in which it asserted that there was no UM. Sentry relied, in its motion, on an affidavit executed by Ms. McClendon that affirmed her authority to execute the UM waiver on River City Logistics' behalf and recounts the events surrounding its execution. Mr. Stone filed his own motion for summary judgment and asserted that the policy did provide UM because the UM waiver had not been properly executed. The trial court denied Sentry's motion and granted Mr. Stone's. Sentry then filed this application for supervisory writs and an appeal of the judgment. We granted writs and determined that, in the interests of judicial economy and efficiency, an opinion from the court should be held in abeyance pending briefing in the appeal. Stone v. Allstate Prop. and Cas. Ins. Co., 18-547 (La.App. 3 Cir. 9/10/18) (unpublished ruling).

         ANALYSIS

On appeal, summary judgments are reviewed de novo. Magnon v. Collins, 98-2822 (La.7/7/99), 739 So.2d 191. Thus, the appellate court asks the same questions the trial court asks to determine whether summary judgment is appropriate. Id. This inquiry seeks to determine whether any genuine issues of material fact exist and whether the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. La.Code Civ.P. art. 966(B) and (C). This means that judgment must be rendered in favor of the movant if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions on file, and affidavits show a lack of factual support for an essential element of the opposing party's claim. Id. If the opposing party cannot produce any evidence to suggest that he will be able to meet his evidentiary burden at trial, no genuine issues of material fact exist. Id.
Material facts are those that determine the outcome of the legal dispute. Soileau v. D & J Tire, Inc., 97-318 (La.App. 3 Cir. 10/8/97), 702 So.2d 818, writ denied, 97-2737 (La.1/16/98), 706 So.2d 979. In deciding whether facts are material to an action, we look to the applicable substantive law. Id. Finally, summary judgment procedure is favored and designed to secure the ...

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