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Garcia v. Martinez

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

September 27, 2019

FRANCIS GARCIA AND KEIDY URREA, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF THEIR MINOR CHILDREN, YUCKARY GARCIA AND OZNI GARCIA
v.
MANUEL MARTINEZ, TANYA MEJIA-NUNEZ AND SAFEWAY INSURANCE COMPANY

          Appealed from the 21st Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of Tangipahoa State of Louisiana Case No. 2015-2042 The Honorable Robert H. Morrison III, Judge Presiding

          Ivan A. Orihuela Kenner, Louisiana Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellants Francis Garcia and Keidy Urrea, individually and on behalf of their minor children, Yuckary Garcia and Ozni Garcia

          Michael W. Landry Lafayette, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/Appellee Safeway Insurance Company

          Amy E. Boudreaux Gregory J. Laborde Lafayette, Louisiana Counsel for Defendants/Appellees Manuel Martinez and Tanya Mejia- Nunez

          BEFORE: HIGGINBOTHAM, PENZATO, AND LANIER, JJ.

          LANIER, J.

         Safeway Insurance Company ("Safeway"), made defendant in this suit, filed an "Exception Of No Right Of Action And Alternative Motion For Summary Judgment, " which was granted by the trial court. The trial court dismissed all claims against Safeway, with prejudice. For the reasons that follow, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This suit arises as the result of an automobile accident that occurred on July 4, 2014, on Highway 190 in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, when a 2010 Chevrolet Colorado pickup truck, in which plaintiffs, Francis Garcia, Keidy Urrea, Yuckary Garcia, and Ozni Garcia, were passengers, was struck by a 2006 Nissan Pathfinder, operated by defendant, Manuel Martinez, and owned by defendant, Tanya Mejia-Nunez. Plaintiffs subsequently filed suit against Tanya, Manuel, and Safeway seeking recovery for their respective personal injuries and property damages. Safeway was named as the alleged liability carrier on the vehicle owned by Tanya.

         Thereafter, Safeway filed a petition for declaratory judgment in the Circuit Court for the State of Mississippi, County of Jackson, Case Number 2015- 00, 0672(2). Safeway sought judicial declaration that the insurance policy issued to Tanya was "null and void from its inception and that no coverage was due for an accident in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, because Tanya ... submitted material misrepresentations and/or false warranties on the application for insurance and/or in the renewal process." According to the record, Tanya filed a pro se answer in the proceeding on April 30, 2015. On December 29, 2015, the Mississippi circuit court entered the following judgment:

The relief sought by Safeway can be determined from the Complaint and its exhibits without further proof being required and Safeway is entitled to declaratory judgment as follows: Safeway Insurance Company is not obligated under policy of insurance no. 1573920-MS-PP-601 to provide coverage for a motor vehicle accident occurring in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, on July 4, 2014, involving a vehicle owned by Tayna E. Meija-Nunez and operated by Jose de Aza, and that said policy of insurance is null and void from its inception. It is therefore,
ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that declaratory judgment by default enter in favor of Safeway insurance Company as follows: Safeway Insurance Company is not obligated under policy of insurance no. 1573920-MS0PP0601 to provide coverage for a motor vehicle accident involving a vehicle owned by Tanya E. Mejia-Nunez and operated by Jose de Aza on July 4, 2014, in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, and said policy is deemed null and void from its inception, and that all costs are assessed against the Defendant, Tanya E. Mejia-Nunez.

         On September 9, 2016, pursuant to La. R.S. 13:4241 et seq., Safeway filed an ex parte petition requesting that the Mississippi judgment be made executory and that Safeway be dismissed from the suit, with prejudice. According to the record, a judgment was signed on September 13, 2016, making the Mississippi judgment executory, declaring the Safeway policy in question to be null and void on the date of the accident, and dismissing Safeway from the suit, with prejudice. On September 29, 2016, plaintiffs filed a motion to vacate said judgment or in the alternative, a motion for new trial. Minutes from a November 21, 2016 hearing on plaintiffs' motion indicate that the matter was considered by the trial court as follows: "The matter was taken up and heard. Court heard oral argument. Court granted partial new trial as to dismissing claims and modified Mississippi Judgment to make executory. [Counsel for plaintiffs] will reduce to writing and submit at a later date."[1]

         In January 2017, Safeway filed an exception raising the objection of no cause of action, alleging that the Mississippi judgment, made executory in Louisiana, was conclusive on the merits of Tanya's inability to bring a direct action against Safeway for damages stemming from the accident herein. Safeway noted, "Once the judgment was made executory in Louisiana, Tanya ... was barred from filing any suit against Safeway. Accordingly, Safeway is entitled to raise this defense against the plaintiffs by peremptory exception of no right of action." The minutes from February 21, 2017, ...


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