Louisiana Court Does not Hold Insurer Responsible for Negligence of an Uncovered Driver

highway-perspective-1508300-1024x768Lawsuits that are rooted in car accidents are typically cut and dry; it is easy to determine the party at fault and to determine the party that should pay for the costs of damage. However, a case arising out of Monroe proves that this is not always the case. This perplexing lawsuit involves a situation in which the at-fault party was not covered under the vehicle’s insurance.

After a car accident occurred on September 29, 2010, at the intersection of Louisville Avenue and North 18th Street, Shanedra Reed and Jasine Hubbard brought claims against one of the car’s insurers, Safeway, alleging that they were passengers in the car driven by Naiman Carroll when they became injured by the accident. Safeway was Carroll’s insurer, so under these claims, this company would be liable for their injuries. However, Safeway affirmatively argued that Carroll and Reed were passengers in the car, while Hubbard, who is not covered by Safeway under Carroll’s insurance, was driving. Hubbard’s claim was eventually dismissed because she failed to answer discovery before trial.

At trial on January 30, 2014, the Trial Court determined that Hubbard had been negligent in failing to properly look for traffic while making a left turn at a stoplight. As a result, the trial court found that Safeway was liable to Reed for general damages of $10,000, as well as for special damages caused as a result of the accident.

On January 5, 2015, Carroll and Safeway appealed the trial court’s decision. They argued that the trial court erred in making them liable for an accident that was determined to be entirely Hubbard’s fault. They also argued that the Trial Court erred in finding Safeway liable to Reed under the “direct action statute”. The crux of the appellants’ argument was that in order for them to be liable for Hubbard’s negligence, Hubbard would have to be insured under Safeway’s policy.

La. R.S. 22:1269(B), the direct action statute, provides that an injured person can bring a direct action against an insurer only when at least one of the following six situations applies: (1) the insured person has been judged bankrupt by a court or such proceedings have begun (2) the insured is insolvent (3) service cannot be made on the insured (4) the cause of action is between children and their parents or between married persons (5) the insurer is an uninsured motorist carrier (6) the insured is deceased.

The appellate court noted that Louisiana case law has strictly limited direct actions against an insurer alone to the circumstances laid out in the direct action statute. According to the appellate court in this case, when Reed failed to name Hubbard as a defendant in this case, the claim became a direct action. Because there was no evidence produced that any of the requirements were met for filing a direct action against the insurer only, the appellate court concluded that the trial court had erred in finding Safeway liable to Reed.

The appellants also filed a peremptory exception of no right of action pursuant to La. C. C. P. art. 2163. The purpose of this exception is to establish whether the plaintiffs have an actual interest in the action or is part of a class to which the law grants a remedy. If it is determined that the plaintiffs do not have an actual interest in the action then the action is declared legally nonexistent and is dismissed. In this case, the appellate court sustained the appellants’ peremptory exception of no right of action based on its conclusion that the trial court had erroneously held Safeway liable under the direct action statute.

The appellate court, in this case, continued the Louisiana courts’ practice of strictly applying the direct action statute in claims against insurers alone by overturning the trial court’s decision to hold Safeway liable for the negligence of an uninsured driver. Sometimes it takes a great truck accident lawyer to help figure out such complex issues.

Additional Sources: JASINE HUBBARD AND SHANEDRA REED Versus NAIMAN CARROLL AND SAFEWAY INSURANCE COMPANY

Written By Berniard Law Blog Writer: Ryan Nowicki

Additional Berniard Law Firm Articles on the Direct Action Statute: Arbitration Agreements and Louisiana’s Direct Action Statute Collide in East Baton Rouge Medical Malpractice Lawsuit