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Thibeaux v. Goauto Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

March 27, 2019

SHANTANYA THIBEAUX
v.
GOAUTO INSURANCE COMPANY

          APPEAL FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF LAFAYETTE, NO. 2017-2737 HONORABLE DAVID M. SMITH, DISTRICT JUDGE

          Jason W. Burge Fishman Haygood LLP Attorney for Appellant/Defendant GoAuto Insurance Company

          W. Alan Lilley Goforth & Lilley, PLC Attorney for Appellee/Plaintiff Shantanya Thibeaux

          Court composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, Elizabeth A. Pickett, John E. Conery, D. Kent Savoie, and Candyce G. Perret, Judges.

          JOHN E. CONERY JUDGE

         The defendant, GoAuto Insurance Company (GoAuto), appeals the trial court's partial summary judgment in favor of its insured, Shantanya Thibeaux (Mrs. Thibeaux), in which the trial court found that GoAuto was liable under its policy's collision coverage for damages to Mrs. Thibeaux's 2008 Ford Mustang (Mustang). The vehicle at issue was involved in a one car accident while being driven by Jairi Thibeaux, an excluded driver under the terms of policy number 88797-20 issued to Mrs. Thibeaux by GoAuto. For the following reasons, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On May 11, 2016, while Ms. Thibeaux was not at home, Jairi Thibeaux, her seventeen-year-old son, took her Mustang without permission and was in a single vehicle collision a few hundred yards from their home causing extensive damage to the vehicle. The accident did not involve third party fault. The GoAuto Policy denied coverage for the accident based on the "Named Driver Exclusion Endorsement" which specifically excluded Jairi as a driver of the Mustang under the terms of the policy.

         When GoAuto denied Mrs. Thibeaux's claim for damages to the Mustang, she filed suit and moved for partial summary judgment on the issue of collision coverage. The deposition testimony of Mrs. Thibeaux and Jairi Thibeaux, as well as Mrs. Thibeaux's affidavit filed in support of the motion for partial summary judgment, are clear that Jairi did not have permission to drive his mother's Mustang on the day of the accident or any other day.

         The trial court, "after considering the law, memoranda and argument of counsel and the insurance policy, affidavits and deposition testimony[, ]" found as follows in its December 29, 2017 judgment:

IT IS ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that Summary Judgment is granted in favor of Shantanya Thibeaux, the Court finding that there is no genuine issue of material fact that Jairi Thibeaux did not have permission to operate the 2008 Mustang owned by Shantanya Thibeaux on the day of the collision, May 11, 2016, and there is property damage collision coverage afforded to Shantanya Thibeaux for the 2008 Mustang arising out of the collision of May 11, 2016[, ] under the GoAuto Policy of Insurance policy no. 88797-20.

         GoAuto now timely appeals the trial court's December 29, 2017 judgment on the basis that the insurance policy at issue excludes collision coverage when the vehicle is being operated by Jairi Thibeaux, a named excluded driver.

         ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR

         GoAuto appeals the trial court's ruling asserting one assignment of error as follows: "The district court's granting of summary judgment on coverage in favor of Ms. Thibeaux was contrary to the terms of the Named Driver Exclusion Endorsement, was contrary to Louisiana statutes providing that such exclusion is enforceable, and was error."

         LAW AND DISCUSSION

         Standard of Review

         An appellate court reviews a trial court's granting of a motion for summary judgment de novo. Duncan v. U.S.A.A. Ins. Co., 06-363 (La. 11/29/06), 950 So.2d 544. This standard of review requires the appellate court to use the same criteria as the trial court in determining if summary judgment is appropriate, which is whether there is a genuine issue of material fact and whether the mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id.

         A de novo review simply asks whether the trial court was legally correct or legally incorrect. Domingue v. Bodin, 08-62 (La.App. 3 Cir. 11/5/08), 996 So.2d 654. "[T]he appellate court assigns no special weight to the trial court[.]" Id. at 657. Instead, the appellate court reviews the record in its entirety and determines "whether the trial court's decision was legally correct in light of the evidence." Id.

         Assignment of Error One - Exclusion of Coverage And Statutory Construction

         GoAuto argues that the trial court erred by not applying the terms of the GoAuto policy issued to Mrs. Thibeaux, more particularly the "Named Driver Exclusion Endorsement" "Policy Number: 88797-16, which states:

PLEASE READ THIS ENDORSEMENT CAREFULLY. THIS ENDORSEMENT CHANGES THE TERMS OF YOUR POLICY.
This endorsement is attached to and, forms a part of the policy to be issued as of the date this endorsement is prepared. This endorsement will apply to this policy and any amended, renewal, reinstatement or substitute policy issued to the same Named Insured by the Company. This endorsement supersedes and excludes from the policy any contrary provision(s).
In consideration of the premium charged, the Named Insured agrees that no coverage provided by the Company is afforded while any vehicle listed on this policy is being used, driven, operated or manipulated by, or under the care of:
Robyn Thibeaux, Jairi D. Thibeaux.

(Emphasis in original).

         It is undisputed that Mrs. Thibeaux signed the Named Driver Exclusion Endorsement on April 12, 2014, and the endorsement was in effect on May 11, 2016, the date of the accident at issue.

         Likewise, the "Named excluded operator" is also clearly and specifically defined in the GoAuto policy as:

"Named excluded operator" means any person who by written agreement, contained in the application or by endorsement to this Policy, signed by any applicant for this Policy, or the applicant's legal representative, is listed as a person who shall be excluded from coverage under this Policy, whether or not that listed excluded person is you, the named insured, the spouse of the named insured, a family member of the named insured, or any other person who but for being named as an excluded operator would have been a person insured under the terms of this Policy or by operation of law.

(Emphasis in original).

         Further, the portion of the policy entitled, "Exclusions for Parts D, E, F, AND G[, ]" the "named excluded operator" provision in Section 1 also provides:

         There is no Coverage For Damage To Your Auto for:

1. Arising out of the operation or use of any auto insured under Parts D, E, [Collision Coverage] F, and/or G by a na ...

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