COURTNEY HANDY, ON BEHALF OF COURTLANDRA ARMSTEAD, JAMETRICE HANDY AND AIDEN HANDY Plaintiffs-Appellees
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY Defendant-Appellant
Appealed from the Monroe City Court for the Parish of
Ouachita, Louisiana Trial Court No. 2016CV01701. Honorable
Tammy Lee, Judge
DAVENPORT, FILES & KELLY, L.L.P. By: M. Shane Craighead
Counsel for Appellant
OFFICE OF ANTHONY J. BRUSCATO By: Anthony J. Bruscato Counsel
COX, STEPHENS, and McCALLUM, JJ.
Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company ("State
Farm") appeals a judgment from Monroe City Court in
favor of the plaintiffs, Courtney Handy, on behalf of her
minor son, Aiden Handy, and Reginald Handy, on behalf of the
minors, Courtlandra Armstead and Jametrice Handy. The trial
court allowed the plaintiffs to proceed against State Farm
under the uninsured motorist ("UM") provision of
the insurance policy. For the following reasons, we
respectfully reverse the trial court's judgment.
accident occurred on May 19, 2015. Courtney was driving a
2004 Ford F-150 north on North 18th Street at its
intersection with Millhaven Road and Texas Avenue in Monroe,
Louisiana. The intersection is controlled by a traffic light.
Her minor siblings, Courtlandra and Jametrice, and her minor
son, Aiden, were all passengers in the vehicle. North
18th Street runs north and south. Millhaven Road
and Texas Avenue both run east and west. As Courtney was
traveling north on North 18th Street, she made a
left turn in front of the southbound vehicles causing her to
collide with the other vehicles. The parties entered into the
following stipulation agreement:
This litigation involves a four-vehicle accident for which
Plaintiff, Courtney D. Handy, was at fault. State Farm
provided automobile liability coverage on the vehicle being
operated by Ms. Handy in the coverage amounts of $15, 000.00
per person per accident, and $30, 000.00 total per accident
for bodily injury.
Five bodily injury claims were presented to State Farm:
1) David Biddle;
2) Kavin Clay Johnson;
3) Courtlandra Armstead (Plaintiff's sister and passenger
in the Handy vehicle);
4) Jametrice Handy (Plaintiff's brother and passenger in
the Handy vehicle); and
5) Aiden Handy (Plaintiff's minor son and passenger in
the Handy vehicle).
Biddle treated at Glenwood Regional Medical Center and
Sanson's Family Medicine, incurring $4, 406.90 in medical
Johnson treated for about four months, incurring $4, 584.00
in medical expenses.
[Courtlandra] Armstead, Plaintiff's sister, treated
for about a month (an emergency room visit and three visits
to Dr. J.D. Patterson, the last one being on June 18, 2015)
and incurred $2, 709.00 in medical expense.
Jametrice Handy, Plaintiff's brother who was
approximately two years old at the time of the accident,
visited the emergency room at St. Francis Medical Center, and
saw Dr. Patterson once. He incurred $2, 528.15.
Aiden Handy, Plaintiff's son who was about three years
old at the time of the accident, incurred $2, 528.15 in
medical expense. He visited the emergency room and saw Dr.
State Farm's policy with Plaintiff states that it has
"the right to . . . investigate, negotiate, and settle
any claim or lawsuit."
The Biddle claim involved $4, 406.90 in medical expense, and
State Farm settled that claim for a total of $6, 909.00
(i.e., about $2, 500, plus medical).
The Johnson claim involved four months of treatment and $4,
584.00 in medical expense. State Farm was able to settle that
claim for $12, 007.32 ($7, 423.32, plus medical, which
equates to less than $2, 000.00 per month).
State Farm thereafter made settlement offers to Courtlandra
Armstead, Jametrice Handy, and Aiden Handy, the total of
which offers would have expended the remainder of the
aggregate policy limit. State Farm offered Courtlandra
Armstead $4, 618.20 ($1, 909.20 plus medical); Jametrice
Handy $3, 232.74 ($704.59 plus medical); and Aiden Handy $3,
232.74 ($704.59 plus medical).
F-150 that Courtney was driving at the time of the collision
was insured by State Farm for the benefit of Reginald Handy
and anyone driving his vehicle with his permission, which
filed a petition for damages on behalf of the minors on May
18, 2016. She alleged that each minor sustained the following
damages: physical injuries; physical pain and suffering;
mental anguish and distress; and, medical expenses. She filed
a supplemental and amending petition, asserting that State
Farm failed to timely pay their claims and was arbitrary,
capricious, unreasonable, and without probable cause.
Farm filed a dilatory exception of lack of procedural
capacity. State Farm argued Courtney did not have the
procedural capacity to file on behalf of her minor siblings,
Courtlandra and Jametrice, and she failed to provide
sufficient allegations that she has the procedural capacity
to bring claims on behalf of Aiden. State Farm also filed a
dilatory exception of vagueness. State Farm argued that
Courtney failed to provide facts in support of her claim that
it failed to timely pay a claim and was arbitrary,
capricious, unreasonable, and without cause.
trial court granted both of State Farm's dilatory
exceptions. Courtney was given ten days to amend her petition
to conform to the legal requirements of legal capacity to sue
on behalf of the minors and to state with more particularity
the facts and allegations against State Farm.
filed a second supplemental and amending petition on October
17, 2016. She stated that she is the mother of Aiden Handy
and is responsible for his medical expenses. She clarified
that Reginald Handy is responsible for the medical expenses
of Courtlandra Armstead and Jametrice Handy. Courtney stated
that she was amending the original petition to state that
Reginald is now filing on behalf of Courtlandra and
Farm again filed dilatory exceptions of lack of procedural
capacity and vagueness, reasserting its previous arguments.
State Farm included a copy of a letter it sent to the
plaintiffs' counsel requesting that counsel contact State
Farm to discuss the fact that Courtney is still the
petitioner in the second supplemental and amending petition.
As of the filing of the exceptions, State Farm stated it had
not been contacted by the plaintiffs' counsel.
Farm filed an answer on January 26, 2018. In answering
Courtney's second supplemental and amending petition,
State Farm affirmatively pled "its contractual limits of
$15, 000 per person per accident and $30, 000 total per
accident for bodily injury so as to preclude recovery in
excess thereof against it under any circumstances."
State Farm also asserted that after the bodily injury claims
of the other drivers (Biddle and Johnson) were paid, a
balance of $11, 083.68 remained on the aggregate bodily
injury limit. State Farm affirmatively pled the
provisions of its policy, including its contractual
"right to … investigate, negotiate, and settle
any claim or lawsuit." State Farm denied that it acted
in an arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable manner in its
effort to negotiate settlements.
January 30, 2018, the plaintiffs filed a third supplemental
and amending petition. Courtney and Reginald both filed on
behalf of their respective minors. They asserted that the
liability coverage was insufficient to fully compensate all
claimants. They stated that "one or two of the remaining
claimants will exhaust the balance of the liability coverage,
forcing one or two to seek [UM] coverage under the [State
Farm] policy covering the Handy vehicle[.]" ...