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Vickers v. PV Holding Corp.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division

June 7, 2019

MARY VICKERS
v.
PV HOLDING CORP ET AL

          WHITEHURST MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          Robert R. Summerhays, United States District Judge.

         The present matter before the court is have filed this motion for summary judgment filed by defendants, PV Holding Corp., Avis Budget Car Rental, LLC and Avis Budget Group, Inc, ("Avis Defendants") [doc, 26], This case arises out of a collision involving a rented automobile. Plaintiff Mary Vickers contends that the Avis Defendants breached their obligation to provide liability insurance coverage for the collision. The Avis Defendants contend that they have no contractual or statutory obligation to provide coverage for the collision. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS the Avis Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         Early in the morning of November 30, 2016, Mary Vickers was driving eastbound on Johnston Street in Lafayette, Louisiana, when her vehicle collided with a vehicle driven by defendant Adam Pousson. Pousson had just run a red light at the intersection of Johnston Street and Bertrand Drive. Vickers was injured in the collision. Pousson was arrested and charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated after a breathalyzer test administered to him at the scene of the collision registered a blood alcohol level of 0.221g%. Pousson was also charged with reckless driving for running the red light.[1]

         The vehicle driven by Pousson was a 2016 Ford Mustang owned by PV Holding Corp. and rented by Avis Rent A Car System, LLC. Avis Rent A Car System is not a party in this action. Pousson was employed at the time by Cerner Corporation, and the Mustang was rented under a Worldwide Rate Agreement between Cerner and defendant Avis Budget Car Rental, LLC (the "Rate Agreement").[2] The Rate Agreement provided that if a vehicle is rented for business purposes under the agreement, the Cerner employee renting the vehicle is covered by liability insurance for bodily injury or death up to a limit of $100, 000 for each person, up to $300, 000 for each accident, and for property damage up to a limit of $25, 000. This coverage is contingent on the renter's compliance with the "terms of this Agreement and the applicable Avis standard rental agreement."[3]When Pousson rented the Mustang, he received an Avis Standard Rental Agreement. This agreement shows that Pousson declined liability coverage and other optional services. This agreement also states that it is a violation of the agreement to use the rented vehicle "under the influence of alcohol," or to use the vehicle "recklessly."

         Vickers filed this case in the 15th JDC against Pousson, the Avis Defendants, and Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company (Plaintiffs UM coverage provider). She contends that the Avis Defendants were required to provide liability insurance coverage for the collision either by contract or by statute. The Avis Defendants removed the action to federal court on January 9, 2018, based on diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The Avis Defendants then filed the present motion, arguing that Pousson's violation of the Avis Standard Rental Agreement terminated any contractual or statutory obligation to provide liability insurance coverage.

         DISCUSSION

         A. The Summary Judgment Standard

         A court should grant a motion for summary judgment when the movant shows "that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The party moving for summary judgment is initially responsible for identifying portions of pleadings and discovery that show the lack of a genuine issue of material fact. Titbacex, Inc. v. M/V Risan, 45 F.3d 951, 954 (5th Cir. 1995). The Court must deny the motion for summary judgment if the movant fails to meet this burden. Id.

         If the movant makes this showing, however, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986) (quotations omitted). This requires more than mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleadings. Instead, the nonmovant must submit "significant probative evidence" in support of his claim. State Farm Life Ins. Co. v. Gutterman, 896 F.2d 116, 118 (5th Cir. 1990). "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249 (citations omitted).

         A court may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence in ruling on a motion for summary judgment. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000), The court is also required to view all evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Clift v. Clip, 210 F.3d 268, 270 (5th Cir. 2000). Under this standard, a genuine issue of material fact exists if a reasonable trier of fact could render a verdict for the nonmoving party. Brumfield v. Hollins, 551 F.3d 322, 326 (5th Cir. 2008).

         B. Liability of the Avis Defendants to Provide Liability Insurance Coverage under the Rate Agreement.

         Vickers contends that the Rate Agreement and the Avis Standard Rental Agreement obligate the Avis Defendants to provide liability insurance coverage for the injuries she suffered in the collision. Schedule B of the Rate Agreement provides that a Cerner employee renting under the company's number will be provided primary coverage either under an automobile liability insurance policy, or as a duly authorized self-insurer, covering bodily injury to persons and damage to property arising out of the maintenance, condition, use or operation of the Avis Rental vehicle...." But the only signatory to the Rate Agreement is Avis Budget Car Rental, LLC. Neither PV Holding nor Avis Budget Group are parties to the Rate Agreement and the insurance obligation in Schedule B. PV Holding was the owner of the Mustang driven by Pousson. As the Avis Defendants point out in their Motion for Summary Judgment, PV Holding's status as the owner of the vehicle, standing alone, provides no basis ...


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