Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Bell v. Steckler

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

December 4, 2019

DAVID C. BELL, III
v.
MARLENE B. STECKLER, STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY AND HARTFORD ACCIDENT AND INDEMNITY COMPANY

          ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 765-508, DIVISION "J" HONORABLE STEPHEN C. GREFER, JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, DAVID C. BELL, III Gilbert V. Andry, IV.

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, HARTFORD ACCIDENT AND INDEMNITY COMPANY Terrill W. Boykin Kriste Talton Utley Alexis R. Jani.

          Panel composed of Judges Fredericka Homberg Wicker, Jude G. Gravois, and Hans J. Liljeberg.

          JUDE G. GRAVOIS, JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, David C. Bell, III, appeals a summary judgment granted in favor of defendant, Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, which judgment dismissed Mr. Bell's bad faith claims against Hartford with prejudice. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This matter arises out of a motor vehicle accident that occurred on September 20, 2016 in Marrero, Louisiana. Plaintiff, David C. Bell, III, was traveling eastbound on U.S. 90B when a vehicle being driven by Marlene Steckler allegedly entered into his lane of travel and struck the front left quarter panel of his vehicle. On October 11, 2016, Mr. Bell filed a petition for damages, naming Ms. Steckler as a defendant, along with her insurer, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, and his uninsured/underinsured liability carrier, Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company. Mr. Bell alleged that as a result of the accident, he suffered injuries to his neck, back, left side, left arm, and shoulder.

         On January 4, 2017, Ms. Steckler and State Farm were dismissed from the suit with prejudice following a settlement with Mr. Bell. On February 17, 2017, Hartford tendered $19, 238.00 in general damages and $8, 238.00 in medical expense payments to Mr. Bell.

         On October 16, 2017, Mr. Bell filed a supplemental and amended petition for damages, claiming that Hartford was in bad faith pursuant to La. R.S. 22:1892 and La. R.S. 22:1973 for failing to make a good-faith tender to him within 30 and/or 60 days of receiving satisfactory proof of loss. He also claimed that the tender Hartford finally did make was "arbitrarily low ignoring the serious objective injuries caused by defendant's negligence."

         On July 19, 2018, Hartford filed a motion for partial summary judgment, asserting that the evidence showed that there are reasonable questions of liability and causation in the action, and thus, Hartford was justified in defending the claims brought by Mr. Bell and cannot be held to be in bad faith. Hartford asserted in its motion that Mr. Bell cannot meet his burden of proof that Hartford was arbitrary, capricious, or without probable cause in its actions and that it had received satisfactory proof of loss. Specifically, Hartford argued that there existed reasonable disagreements between the parties about (1) whether the subject accident actually occurred, and (2) whether Mr. Bell's injuries were causally related to the accident. First, Hartford argued that based on Ms. Steckler's deposition testimony, in which she stated that she did not feel the impact of the accident, and that Mr. Bell's car only had a scratch, it is unclear if the alleged accident actually occurred at all. Second, Hartford argued that there was a reasonable question about whether Mr. Bell's alleged injuries to his left shoulder, back, neck, and carpal tunnel are causally related to the accident. Specifically, Hartford claimed that the independent medical examination ("IME") report and deposition testimony of Dr. Robert Steiner suggested that Mr. Bell's shoulder, neck, and back issues were all degenerative pre-existing conditions. Though Mr. Bell's treating doctors' opinions differed, Hartford argued that Mr. Bell's doctors did not have a proper foundation on which to base their analysis of causation because (1) they were not told about the force of impact of the collision, (2) Mr. Bell was inconsistent in his statements to his doctors as to how his body moved in response to the accident, and (3) Mr. Bell did not provide a complete medical history to his doctors. Hartford argued that given the foregoing, it was not obligated to tender payment in this case, but nonetheless, it still tendered payment in an appropriate amount, and under the circumstances presented, cannot be held to be in bad faith.

         Mr. Bell filed an opposition to the motion for partial summary judgment, arguing that genuine issues of material fact remain that preclude summary judgment. Mr. Bell claimed that Hartford received satisfactory proof of loss for longer than 60 days and failed to pay the claim. In particular, he argued that: (1) there is no dispute as to liability in this case since Ms. Steckler was cited for improper lane usage, pled guilty to said charge, paid the ticket, and her insurer, State Farm, tendered its policy limits; (2) he is afforded the presumption of liability; (3) Hartford's representative admitted in Hartford's corporate deposition to not remembering or having any evidence that Mr. Bell had a herniation of his cervical spine or a torn labrum of his left shoulder prior to the accident in question; (4) the tender made to him was in bad faith since his projected future medical expenses total at least $182, 000; and (5) Hartford violated its duty of good faith and fair dealing as well as its own stated rules governing its customers.

         In reply, Hartford asserted that it did not receive satisfactory proof of loss since it presented evidence that shows it had reasonable bases to dispute whether the subject accident actually occurred and whether Mr. Bell's alleged injuries are related to the accident. Hartford argued that Mr. Bell presented no countervailing evidence to Hartford's position in his opposition to the motion for partial summary judgment.

         At the conclusion of a hearing conducted on September 10, 2018, the trial court orally granted the motion for partial summary judgment. On September 25, 2018, the trial court signed a written judgment which granted the motion for partial summary judgment and dismissed the bad faith claims brought by Mr. Bell against Hartford under La. R.S. 22:1973 and La. R.S. 22:1892. On October 29, 2018, the trial court signed a judgment designating the September 25, 2018 judgment as a final appealable judgment pursuant to La. C.C.P. art. 1915(B)(1), stating that there was no just reason for delay for the reasons stated at a hearing on October 10, 2018. On November 7, 2018, Mr. Bell filed a motion for a new trial, which was denied on December 29, 2018 following a hearing on the motion. This appeal followed.

         JURISDICTIONAL ISSUES

         Appeal of Motion ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.