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Jean v. James River Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

May 29, 2019

LISA JEAN
v.
JAMES RIVER INSURANCE COMPANY

          APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2017-12252, DIVISION "I-14" Honorable Piper D. Griffin, Judge

          Thomas Corrington THE CORRINGTON LAW FIRM COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT

          Jonathan B. Womack Paula M. Wellons TAYLOR WELLONS POLITZ & DUHE, APLC COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE

          Court composed of Judge Roland L. Belsome, Judge Daniel L. Dysart, Judge Regina Bartholomew-Woods

          REGINA BARTHOLOMEW-WOODS JUDGE

         Both Appellant and Appellee filed motions for summary judgement relating to the interpretation of La. R.S. 45:201.6 and La. R.S. 22:1295(1)(a)(i)-(ii), and whether Transportation Network Companies, such as Uber, are permitted to waive underinsured motorist coverage during the pre-trip acceptance period. Reading La. 45:201.1 in para materei with La. R.S. 22:1295, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellee and dismissed, with prejudice Appellant's claims. It is from this judgment that Appellant appeals. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         FACTUAL HISTORY AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff-Appellant, Lisa Jean ("Appellant"), while driving for UBER, [2] was involved in a motor vehicle accident on September 17, 2016, when a vehicle driven by Mr. Ty Cao pulled out from a parking spot and struck her vehicle.[3] After settling her claims against Mr. Cao - through his insurer, Progressive, for the policy limits[4] - Appellant filed a claim for underinsured motorist benefits under the policy provided by Defendant-Appellee, James River Insurance Company ("Appellee").[5] Appellee denied Appellant's claim for underinsured motorist benefits asserting that the underinsured motorist benefits had been waived by the insured, Rasier, LLC, a subsidiary of Uber ("Uber"). Thereafter, Appellant filed a petition for damages, and asserted that Appellee's policy must provide underinsured motorist coverage pursuant to La. R.S. 45:201., et seq.[6], and that the underinsured motorist coverage cannot be waived by Uber, pursuant to La. R.S. 22:1295. Subsequently, both Appellant and Appellee submitted motions for summary judgment to determine whether La. R.S. 45:201.1 et seq., permits Transportation Network Companies, such as Uber, to waive the underinsured motorist coverage. At the conclusion of the hearing on the motions for summary judgment, on October 5, 2018, the trial court ruled that the statute allows transportation companies to waive underinsured motorist coverage.[7] It is from the trial court's October 31, 2018 judgment granting Appellee's motion for summary judgment and dismissing with prejudice Appellant's claims that Appellant now appeals.[8]

         DISCUSSION

         In summary, Appellant's assignments of error focus on whether, pursuant to La. R.S. 45:201.6, Transportation Network Companies are permitted to waive underinsured motorist coverage; more specifically, whether La. R.S. 45:201.6(B)(2) prohibits Transportation Network Companies from waiving underinsured motorist coverage in a manner permitted by La. R.S. 22:1295.

         Appellant argues that La. R.S. 45:201.6(B)(2)[9] implicitly requires that underinsured motorist coverage can be no less than the liability limits. Conversely, Appellee asserts that, pursuant to La. R.S. 22:1295(1)(a)(i)-(ii), Uber is not prohibited from waiving underinsured motorist insurance, and executed a valid waiver of underinsured motorist coverage.

         Standard of Review

         The issue on appeal involves the interpretation of La. R.S. 45:201.1 et seq. and La. R.S. 22:1295 that arose through the filing of a motion for summary judgment. Based on the aforementioned, the interpretation of a statute is a question of law, and therefore, is subject to de novo review. Benjamin v. Zeichner, 2012-1763, p. 5 (La. 4/5/13); 113 So.3d 197, 201. Further, the Louisiana Supreme Court has explained that "[w]hen summary judgment is granted in the context of statutory interpretation, there are no material issues of fact in dispute, and the sole issue before the reviewing court is a question of law as to the correct interpretation of the statute at issue." Billeaudeau v. Opelousas Gen. Hosp. Auth., 2016-0846, pp. 9-10 (La. 10/19/16); 218 So.3d 513, 520; Vizzi v. Lafayette City-Parish Consol. Government, 2011-2648, p. 2 (La. 7/2/12), 93 So.3d 1260, 1262.

         Law ...


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