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Estate of Oubre v. Riggs

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

May 30, 2019

ESTATE OF CECILE L. OUBRE, ONEAL OUBRE, PATRICK OUBRE, MAUREEN OUBRE, SCARLETTE OUBRE CHARLES, BRYANT OUBRE, FERGUS OUBRE, AND CORNELIA OUBRE SOLIS
v.
BRYCE RIGGS, TIMOTHY SUTTERFIELD, ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY, AND GOAUTO INSURANCE COMPANY

          ON APPLICATION FOR SUPERVISORY REVIEW FROM THE FORTIETH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 71, 598, DIVISION "B" HONORABLE EDWARD M. LEONARD, JR., JUDGE PRO TEMPORE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/RESPONDENT, ESTATE OF CECILE L.OUBRE, ONEAL OUBRE, PATRICK OUBRE, MAUREEN OUBRE, SCARLETTE OUBRE CHARLES, BRYANT OUBRE, FERGUS OUBRE, AND CORNELIA OUBRE SOLIS yler S. Loga Eric A. Bopp Walter R. Woodruff, Jr.

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/RELATOR, GOAUTO INSURANCE COMPANY Bobby J. Triche Michelle DeLoach Brooks Marla Mitchell Abel Michael G. Gee

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/RESPONDENT, BRYCE RIGGS AND ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY James L. Donovan, Jr.

          Panel composed of Judges Susan M. Chehardy, Robert A. Chaisson, and John J. Molaison, Jr.

          ROBERT A. CHAISSON JUDGE

         In this survival and wrongful death action, GoAuto Insurance Company ("GoAuto") seeks this Court's supervisory review of a judgment of the trial court on the parties' competing motions for summary judgment on the issue of the validity of a purported rejection of uninsured/underinsured ("UM") motorist coverage. In its judgment, the trial court denied GoAuto's amended motion for summary judgment seeking a ruling that UM coverage had been validly rejected, and granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment finding that there was not a valid rejection of UM coverage. For the following reasons, we reverse the judgment of the trial court on both motions for summary judgment, grant summary judgment in favor of GoAuto, and dismiss plaintiffs' suit as to GoAuto only, with prejudice.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On December 28, 2016, Cecile L. Oubre was a guest passenger in a vehicle driven by Arlene Richard, when they were involved in a two-vehicle accident that resulted in the deaths of both Ms. Oubre and Ms. Richard. Thereafter, the Estate of Cecile L. Oubre and her surviving children, respondents to this writ application (hereinafter "plaintiffs"), filed suit against both the driver and owner of the other vehicle and their insurance company. In their petition, plaintiffs alleged that the other driver was at fault in causing the accident and that he was either uninsured or underinsured. Plaintiffs therefore also named GoAuto as a defendant to the suit, alleging that it issued a policy to Ms. Richard that included UM insurance, which also covered the damages suffered by Ms. Oubre, her guest passenger.

         In response to plaintiffs' suit, GoAuto filed a motion for summary judgment contending that Ms. Richard's policy did not include UM coverage because Ms. Richard had rejected such coverage. Plaintiffs thereafter filed a competing motion for partial summary judgment contending that the purported rejection of UM coverage executed by Ms. Richard was facially invalid and that the policy therefore provided UM coverage.[1]

         After a hearing on the competing motions for summary judgment, the trial court denied GoAuto's amended motion for summary judgment, and granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment finding that there was not a valid rejection of UM coverage. It is from this judgment that GoAuto now seeks our supervisory review. Pursuant to the recently enacted requirements of La. C.C.P. art. 966(H), we assigned this matter for briefing by the parties and heard oral arguments.

         DISCUSSION

         A motion for summary judgment shall be granted if the motion, memorandum, and supporting documents show that there is no genuine issue as to material fact and that the mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. La. C.C.P. art. 966(A)(3). The burden of proof rests with the mover. La. C.C.P. art. 966(D). However, if the mover will not bear the burden of proof at trial on the issue that is before the court on the motion for summary judgment, the mover's burden on the motion does not require him to negate all essential elements of the adverse party's claim, action, or defense, but rather to point out to the court the absence of factual support for one or more elements essential to the adverse party's claim, action, or defense. Id. The burden is on the adverse party to produce factual support sufficient to establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact or that the mover is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id.; Dillenkofer v. Marrero Day Care Ctr., Inc., 16-713 (La.App. 5 Cir. 5/24/17), 221 So.3d 279, 282.

         The interpretation of an insurance policy is usually a legal question that can be properly resolved on a motion for summary judgment. Elliot v. Holmes, 15-296 (La.App. 5 Cir. 11/19/15), 179 So.3d 831, 835. Appellate courts review the granting or denying of a summary judgment de novo, using the same criteria ...


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