DAVID C. BELL, III
MARLENE B. STECKLER, STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY AND HARTFORD ACCIDENT AND INDEMNITY COMPANY
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.
composed of Judges Fredericka Homberg Wicker, Jude G.
Gravois, and Hans J. Liljeberg.
G. GRAVOIS, JUDGE.
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,
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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