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National Liability & Fire Insurance Co. v. Hughes

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

October 22, 2019

NATIONAL LIABILITY & FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY
v.
RODERICK HUGHES, ET AL.

          ORDER

          RICHARD L. BOURGEOIS, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court is the Joint Trial Brief Submitted for a Decision and Judgment on the Merits on March 15, 2019, wherein the remaining parties agreed to submit this matter for a decision and final judgment on the merits. (R. Doc. 134).

         This action arises out of a collision between a school bus and a 2002 Chevrolet Silverado being operated by William Carpenter on or about February 13, 2017. (R. Doc. 134 at 1). National Liability & Fire Insurance Company (“National Liability”) filed a Complaint-in-Interpleader on June 15, 2017. (R. Doc. 1). National Liability represents that its policy provides applicable underinsured motorists coverage with a combined single limit in the amount of $100, 000. (R. Doc. 1 at 5).

         I. FINDINGS OF FACT

         Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a), the Court makes the following findings:

         1. The parties agree that the Court will make appropriate findings of fact and conclusions of law based solely on the Joint Trial Brief and the spreadsheet and medical records submitted to the Court and will enter a Judgement accordingly. The parties further waive any objections to resolution in this manner pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Federal Rules of Evidence, or any other law or procedure applicable in this matter. (R. Doc. 134).

         2. On February 13, 2017, on Louisiana Highway 43 near the intersection of Muse Road in St. Helena Parish, Louisiana, a 2002 Chevrolet Silverado, operated by William Carpenter, collided with a 1996 blue school bus being driven by Roderick Hughes. (R. Doc. 1 at 5).

         3. The 2002 Chevrolet Silverado and its operator, William Carpenter, are insured by a $15, 000/$30, 000 liability policy issued by GEICO. The parties settled all claims under the applicable GEICO policy.

         4. The occupants of the school bus are insured by a $100, 000 single limit UM liability policy issued by National Liability & Fire Insurance Company. (Joint Trial Brief, p. 1; R. Doc. 1 at 5).

         5. National Liability & Fire Insurance Company invoked this interpleader action in order to resolve the distribution of its policy limits.

         6. On January 8, 2018, Judgment was entered in favor of National Liability & Fire Insurance Company, dismissing National Liability with prejudice upon its deposit of $100, 000 into the Registry of the Court, which it has since deposited, and enjoining the adverse claimants from commencing any action against National Liability for claims arising from payment of its UM policy. (R. Doc. 94).

         7. Various medical providers filed liens in this action, all of which have been satisfied as of the time of this Order.

         8. The only remaining claimants are the twenty-nine minor children who have asserted claims in this action arising out of injuries sustained in the accident.

         9. Funds in the amount of $89, 347.18 remain in the Registry of the Court[1] for distribution to the minor children who filed claims in this action.

         10. The parties submitted a Joint Trial Brief to the Court, attached to which is a spreadsheet that lists each Claimant/Child and his or her respective funds received, and a brief summary of treatment. The parties also submitted an electronic file containing the pertinent medical bills and medical records of each Claimant/Child. The Court accepts the foregoing records and information as true and complete for purposes of this Order.

         II. CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

         The pertinent facts of this case are not contested. The 2002 Chevrolet Silverado operated by William Carpenter was attempting to pass a school bus that was attempting to execute a left turn when a collision occurred, resulting in injuries to more than forty children. (R. Doc. 134 at 1). The parties represent that, after settlements for the fault of William Carpenter and all medical bills having been paid or satisfied, the only issue remaining for the Court's consideration is that of disbursement of the remaining $89, 347.18 in funds deposited in the registry of the Court for the general damages of the twenty-nine remaining claimants. (R. Doc. 134 at 3).

         “General damages are those which may not be fixed with pecuniary exactitude; instead, they ‘involve mental or physical pain or suffering, inconvenience, the loss of intellectual gratification or physical enjoyment, or other losses of life or life-style which cannot be definitely measured in monetary terms.” Duncan v. Kansas City S. Ry. Co., 773 So.2d 670, 682 (La. 2000). “Pain and suffering, both physical and mental, refers to the pain, discomfort, inconvenience, anguish, and emotional trauma that accompanies an injury.” McGee v. A C and S, Inc., 2005-1036 (La. 7/10/06), 933 So.2d 770, 775. The trier of fact is accorded much discretion in fixing general damage awards. La. C.C. art. 2324.1.

         The general damages of the twenty-nine remaining claims fall into essentially three categories. First, 13 children had varying combinations of transportation by ambulance, an ER visit, and/or up to two days of soft tissue treatment. Second, 15 children had anywhere from 1 ¾ months to 14 ½ months of soft tissue treatment. Finally, one child suffered a fractured arm. General damages will be discussed and assessed in accordance with the foregoing. The Court has reviewed all of the information provided by the parties, including but not limited to spreadsheets and ...


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