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Offshore Rental Ltd. v. LA. Scrap International

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

July 2, 2019

Offshore Rental Ltd
v.
LA. Scrap International et al

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          Carol B. Whitehurst, Magistrate Judge.

         Before the Court is a Motion For Partial Summary Judgment and Motion In Limine To Exclude Evidence of Collateral Sources (“the Motions”), filed by Plaintiff, Offshore Rental, LTD. (“Offshore Rental”) [Rec. Doc. 191]. Defendants, Hartford Fire Insurance Company (“Hartford”), Louisiana Scrap International, Inc. (“Louisiana Scrap”), and Southern Recycling, L.L.C. all opposed the motion [Rec. Docs. 198, 212, and 218]. Plaintiff filed replies to each defendant's opposition. [Rec. Docs. 223; 229; 231]. Oral argument was conducted by the Court with Hartford, Louisiana Scrap and Southern Scrap (collectively “Defendants”) on June 25, 2019. For the reasons that follow the Court will deny the Motions.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Offshore Rental filed this action alleging that “prior to August 2015 and on numerous occasions in the months following, ” defendant, Travis Cormier, the former employee of Offshore Rental, conspired with defendants, Anthony Harris and Floyd Tolivour, (collectively “Individual Defendants”) to misappropriate and transport Offshore Rental's equipment (the “Property”) from its facility in Golden Meadow, Louisiana to scrapyards in Lafayette, Louisiana, owned and operated by Louisiana Scrap and Southern Recycling.[1] R. 60. In the Complaint, Plaintiff further alleges that the defendant scrapyards and their personnel took possession of the Property and converted it for cash despite the fact that they knew or should have known it did not belong to the Individual Defendants. Id.

         Offshore Rental contends that the defendants violated the provisions of Louisiana Scrap Metal Recyclers Law, La. R.S. 37:1961, et seq., specifically alleging claims of Conversion, and/or Unjust Enrichment against them. Id. Plaintiff further contends it suffered damages totaling $2, 838, 618.53 in connection with the loss of the following Property: 114 cutting boxes, 19 offshore baskets, 2 basket containers, 4 grocery boxes, 2 single pallet boxes, and 85 slings. R. 41. Plaintiff also seeks all interest, costs, and all other relief to which it is entitled. R. 60.

         Based on the evidence before the Court, The Modern Group, LTD. (“The Modern Group”) procured an insurance policy from Hiscox Insurance Company Inc. (the “insurer”) to cover inter alia the loss of property through theft for up to $5, 000, 000 less a $75, 000 deductible amount (“the Policy”). R.191-3, Declaration of Anne Figuieras, Director of Security for the Modern Group, Ltd. The Modern Group paid a premium to the insurer for the coverage afforded by the Policy. R.191- 3, Decl. of Figuieras. The Modern Group made a claim under the Policy for the Property at issue. Id. The insurer made an initial payment (less the Policy's deducible amount) to The Modern Group on June 30, 2016. Id. An additional payment under the Policy was made by the insurer to The Modern Group for an amount totaling approximately $2, 100, 000. R. 212. On November 22, 2018, the insurer and The Modern Group executed a Claim Release in which the insurer waived any subrogation rights against The Modern Group.[2] R. 213-3.

         Offshore Rental filed the Motions before the Court, R. 191, contending that “Offshore Rental (through one of its partners and its parent entity) made a claim under [the Policy] which included coverage for losses sustained by Offshore Rental due to theft.” R. 191-1, p. 1. Offshore Rental further contends that it “was paid money under the terms of the Policy and ultimately reached a settlement with [the insurer] to resolve the insurance claim.” Id.

         II. THE PARTIES CONTENTIONS

         Plaintiff filed the instant motion for partial summary judgment stating that the Court should rule that Defendants are not entitled to any offset or credit against it under Louisiana's Collateral Source Rule. Plaintiff also moves in limine to exclude any evidence of collateral source from being introduced by Defendants at the trial of this matter.

         Defendants filed separate oppositions to Plaintiff's motions asserting various arguments as to why the Court should deny the Motions. At the oral argument Defendants indicated that while they separately addressed specific defenses to avoid duplicative arguments, each Defendant adopts all defenses.

         Hartford argues that this case does not come within the Collateral source rule because (1) the Policy contains a subrogation clause transferring all recovery rights to the insurer; and, (2) The Modern Group, not Plaintiff, paid the insurance premium covering the Property, submitted the insurance claim for damages allegedly resulting from the loss of the Property, and received settlement payments from the insured relating to the Property.

         Louisiana Scrap argues that the Collateral Source rule does not apply because (1) the insurer made an initial payment of $1.39 million on June 30, 2016 without a waiver of subrogation, and, therefore, Plaintiff's claim was assigned to the insurer pursuant to the language in the Policy; and (2) the application of collateral source to the insurance payment at issue in this case fails to serve the two major policy goals of the collateral source rule-tort deterrence and discouraging double recovery; and (3) because Offshore Rental did not pay for or suffer some diminution in its patrimony for the benefit from the insurance payment, a windfall or double recovery will result, contrary to the application of the collateral source rule.

         Southern Recycling argues that (1) the exceptions to the collateral source rule make the insurance payment admissible in this case in order to: i. show Plaintiff's lack of entitlement to damages (i.e. loss of income, loss of rental proceeds and costs of replacing the Property), ii. prove its affirmative defenses (i.e. failure to mitigate, intervening and superseding cause, waiver, fault, latches and/or estoppel), iii. show value of the Property, and, iv. impeach Plaintiff's credibility; (2) the application of collateral source to the insurance payment at issue in this case will not further the major policy goals-tort deterrence and discouraging a windfall; and (3) the insurer received subrogation rights in the insurance payment pursuant to the subrogation provision in the Policy and the Collateral source rule is inapplicable.

         III. ...


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