APPLICATION FOR WRITS DIRECTED TO CIVIL DISTRICT COURT,
ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2018-10830, DIVISION "G-11"
Honorable Robin M. Giarrusso, Judge
R. Brigandi, Jr. THE BRIGANDI LAW FIRM, LLC COUNSEL FOR
Thibodeaux THE THIBODEAUX LAW FIRM, LLC P.O. COUNSEL FOR
composed of Chief Judge James F. McKay, III, Judge Daniel L.
Dysart, Judge Sandra Cabrina Jenkins
CABRINA JENKINS JUDGE
Steven Jackson, seeks review of the trial court's March
19, 2019 judgment granting the exception of improper venue in
favor of defendants/respondents, Shane Benoit, Greenwich
Insurance Company, Testing Holdings USA, Inc., and Intertek
USA, Inc., and transferring this case to the
24thJudicial District Court in Jefferson Parish.
Based on our de novo review of this case, in light
of the applicable law and jurisprudence, we find the trial
court erred in granting defendants' exception of improper
venue without conducting a contradictory hearing to determine
whether plaintiff was in bad faith when he filed suit in
Orleans Parish. Accordingly, we vacate and set aside the
trial court's judgment and remand this matter to the
trial court to conduct a contradictory hearing and rule anew
on the exception of improper venue.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
October 26, 2017, Mr. Jackson, an Orleans Parish domiciliary,
was involved in an automobile accident with Shane Benoit, a
Jefferson Parish domiciliary, in Kenner, Louisiana, Jefferson
Parish. According to the accident report taken at the scene
of the accident by Kenner Police Department, Mr. Jackson was
driving a vehicle owned by Claudell Anderson and insured by
GEICO, and Mr. Benoit was driving a vehicle owned by Intertek
and insured by Greenwich.
to filing suit, between November 2017 and June 2018, Mr.
Jackson's attorney sent three letters addressed to York
Risk Services Group, the insurance adjuster for defendants,
requesting declaration insurance policy limits. Plaintiff did
not receive any response from the insurance adjuster.
October 26, 2018, plaintiff filed his petition for damages in
Orleans Parish Civil District Court, naming the following
defendants: Mr. Benoit, the alleged tortfeasor; Testing
Holdings and/or Intertek, the alleged employers of Mr.
Benoit; Greenwich, the alleged liability insurer for Mr.
Benoit, Testing Holdings, and/or Intertek; GEICO, the
liability insurer for the vehicle driven by plaintiff; and
Liberty Personal Insurance Co., plaintiff's
uninsured/underinsured motorist ("UM") insurer.
Along with his petition for damages, plaintiff filed and
requested service on defendants for his first set of
interrogatories and requests for production and inspection of
documents. Among the requested information and documents,
plaintiff sought certified copies of all insurance policies
that may provide coverage to defendants.
December 19, 2018, defendants Mr. Benoit, Intertek, Testing
Holdings, and Greenwich, filed declinatory exceptions of
insufficiency of citation, insufficiency of service of
process, lack of jurisdiction over the person of the
defendant, and improper venue. At the hearing on the exceptions,
on February 15, 2019, the trial court heard arguments
regarding the exception of improper venue only. Defendants
argued that proper venue for this action is in East Baton
Rouge or Jefferson Parish only, based on where the accident
occurred and because their insurance policies were in excess
of $15 million, and that plaintiff had no reason to join his
UM insurer in this suit, except to obtain venue in Orleans
Parish. However, defendants did not offer or introduce copies
of the insurance policies or declaration pages at the
hearing. The trial court then left the matter open
for 30 days to allow defendants to supplement the record with
the insurance policy declaration pages, and the trial court
stated it would issue its judgment "depending on what I
March 11, 2019, defendants submitted a letter to the trial
court stating that certified copies of all effective
insurance policies had been provided to plaintiff's
counsel; and enclosed with the letter, defendants submitted
to the trial court redacted insurance policy declaration
pages issued by Greenwich, Navigator Insurance Company, and
American Guarantee and Liability Insurance
March 19, 2019, the trial court issued a judgment and written
reasons for judgment granting the exception of improper venue
in favor of defendants and transferring the matter to the
24th Judicial District Court in Jefferson
Parish. On that same date, the trial court filed
the letter and declaration pages, submitted by defendants,
into the record of this case as Exhibits "Court 1"
and "Court 2."
timely filed a notice of intent to apply for supervisory
review of the trial court's March 19, 2019 judgment.
Plaintiff also requested a stay of proceedings pending a
decision on its writ application by this Court and, if writs
are timely sought, final decision by the Louisiana Supreme
Court. The trial ...