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Champagne v. USAA Casualty Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

November 15, 2019

CHARLES CHAMPAGNE, JR. AND KERRIE CHAMPAGNE
v.
USAA CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, STATE FARM MUTUALAUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, XYZ INSURANCE COMPANY, CAJUNLAND PIZZA, LLC D/B/AMARCO'S PIZZA, MARCO'S PIZZA, LLCAND KATHARINA M. WORRTNGER

          APPEALED FROM THE TWENTY-SECOND JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT IN AND FOR THE PARISH OF ST. TAMMANY STATE OF LOUISIANA DOCKET NUMBER 14328, DIVISION "G" HONORABLE SCOTT C. GARDNER, JUDGE

          Wade A. Langlois, III William D. Dunn, Jr. Gretna, Louisiana Attorneys for Defendant/Appellant SELA Pizza #2, LLC d/b/ a Marco's Pizza

          Laurent J. Demosthenidy William H. Dunckleman, Jr. New Orleans, Louisiana Attorneys for Defendant/Appellee USAA Casualty Insurance Company

          BEFORE: McDONALD, THERIOT, and CHUTZ, JJ.

          McDONALD, J.

         In this case, SELA Pizza #2, LLC d/b/a Marco's Pizza (SELA), appeals a trial court judgment granting summary judgment in favor of a co-defendant, USAA Casualty Insurance Company (USAA), denying SELA's motion for summary judgment, and dismissing SELA's cross-claim against USAA with prejudice. SELA also appeals a judgment certifying the first judgment as final. After review, we affirm the trial court judgments.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On November 6, 2013, Katharina Worringer, a pizza delivery driver employed by SELA, was driving through the intersection of Highway 190 and Maris Stella Avenue in St. Tammany Parish when she rear-ended a vehicle driven by Charles J. Champagne. Kerri S. Champagne was a passenger in her husband's vehicle at the time.[1] Ms. Worringer was driving a 2010 Ford Focus owned by her father, Robert Worringer. The vehicle was a covered vehicle under an automobile policy issued by USAA to Mr. Worringer, with limits of $30, 000.00 per person and $60, 000.00 per accident.

         Before the Champagnes (hereafter the plaintiffs) filed suit, USAA attempted to negotiate a settlement for the full $30, 000.00 per person and $60, 000.00 per accident limits of Ms. Worringer's policy. The plaintiffs were initially reluctant to enter into a complete compromise of their claims against USAA due to the severity of their injuries and because they were investigating other possible sources of recovery, specifically against Ms. Worringer's employer, SELA. USAA tendered checks for its policy limits to the plaintiffs in May of 2014, and later reissued the checks several times when they were not cashed and became stale.

         On September 26, 2014, the plaintiffs filed suit, naming as defendants USAA, Ms. Worringer, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, SELA, and American Safety Indemnity Company (ASIC), an excess non-owned auto liability insurer for SELA.[2]

         Plaintiffs eventually confirmed in writing a settlement agreement wherein they released Ms. Worringer from any liability in excess of the USAA policy limits, in exchange for the payment of those policy limits by USAA. By letter dated December 5, 2014, counsel for the plaintiffs wrote to counsel for USAA:

         This is to confirm that we reached a settlement in this matter. The terms are as follows:

(1)USAA will tender its limits and reissue the settlement checks;
(2)Plaintiffs will not attempt to collect any judgment against Ms. Worringer over and above the policy limits once a ...

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