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Louisiana Tort Law Update – April 2015

Barras v Progressive Security Ins. Co., Third Circuit, No. 14-898 (2/11/15)

Where plaintiff was awarded 100% of her mileage to and from medical appointments, she should have also been awarded 100% of the medical expenses.  The appellate court agreed with the trial court that “loss of educational benefit” should not be considered a separate item of damages on the verdict sheet.  While the court found that impact of the accident on homeschooling is recognized, the court said it was recognized as an element within the children’s loss of consortium claim.

Barnes v West, Third Circuit, No. CA 14-1018 (2/4/15)

When a party seeks bad faith penalties as a result of an insurance company’s failure to pay a settlement within 30 days, the party need not prove the insurer was “arbitrary, capricious, or without probable cause” in failing to pay; the party only needs to show that the insurance company’s failure was “knowingly committed.”

The compromise must be made in writing and evidenced by documentation signed by both parties, but there is no requirement that the compromise be contained in a single document.

Still, a letter written by one party memorializing their understanding of an oral argument was not sufficient to satisfy the “writing” requirement of La. C.C. art. 3072, so there was no agreement between the parties triggering the penalties for non-payment set forth in La. R.S. 33:1973.

Collins v State Farm Insurance Company, Fourth (La.) Circuit, No. 2014-CA-0419 (2/4/15)

An insurance agent owes a duty of “reasonable diligence” to his customer. The “reasonable diligence” duty is fulfilled when the agent obtains the requested insurance.  The Louisiana Supreme Court said that La. R.S. 22:636(H) is clear that the insurance agent’s duty of “reasonable diligence” includes the duty to notify a customer of an insurer’s decision not to renew an insurance policy. The insurance agent has no additional or independent duty to inform the insured of the insurer’s decision not to renew.

Melder v State Farm Mutual Auto Ins. Co., Third (La.) Circuit, No. 14-934 (2/11/15)

The law imposes uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage unless validly waived, regardless of the policy language, the parties’ intentions, or the presence or absence of payment or a premium charge.

A waiver form failing to meet the formal requirements is not a valid rejection of  uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. A valid UM waiver form which must be complied with by the insurer, requires the following six formalities:

(1) the insured must initial the selection or rejection chosen to indicate that the decision was made by the insured; (2) if lower limits are selected, then the lower limits are entered on the form to denote the exact limits; (3) the insured or legal representative must sign the form evidencing the intent to waive UM coverage; (4) the form must include his or her printed name to identify the signature; (5) the insured dates the form to determine the effective date of the UM waiver; and (6) the form must include the policy number to demonstrate which policy it refers to.

 

Jean-Paul Guidry is a personal injury lawyer in Shreveport, Louisiana.

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