Category: Insurance

Insurance Coverage for “Temporary Substitute Autos” in Louisiana

Louisiana insurance law recognizes a practical problem faced by many: the need to obtain alternative transportation when the car won’t start. Under La. R.S. 22:1296, any insurance on your personal vehicle must also extend to vehicles that are used as “temporary substitute autos.”

The statute provides that a car’s status as a “temporary substitute auto” depends on how the term is defined in the particular auto policy at issue. However, some rules typically apply to determine whether the auto is a “temporary substitute.” First, the use must be temporary, i.e. limited in duration. Second, the car must be a substitute for the auto insured under the policy and used for the same purpose. Third, policies typically limit coverage to substitute vehicles that the driver does not own.

Some policies also limit coverage by requiring that the substitution be needed for a purpose identified in the policy, such as the breakdown, repair, or destruction of the covered auto.

While the statute generally defers to the definition of “temporary substitute auto” provided in the policy, sometimes courts will overrule the insurer’s definition. For instance, in State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Safeway Insurance Company, 50-098 (La. App. 2 Cir. 9/30/15), 180 So.3d 450, the relevant policy defined a “temporary substitute auto” as a substitute for the owned auto when the owned auto was “being serviced or repaired by a person engaged in the business of selling, repairing, or servicing motor vehicles.” The case involved a motor vehicle accident that occurred while the policy holder operated a borrowed vehicle but before she brought her usual vehicle to a mechanic.

Citing the terms of the policy, the insurer denied coverage on grounds that the policy required the “temporary substitute auto” not only take the place of the driver’s usual vehicle, but also that the driver take the car to a mechanic before coverage would extend to the substitute vehicle. However, the court found this requirement to be against the public policies behind La. R.S. 22:1296 and found coverage under the policy extended to the borrowed vehicle.

To Be or Not To Be Specific—Fact Pleading in Louisiana

Louisiana is a fact-pleading state. Accordingly, Louisiana law requires that a petition contain “a short, clear and concise statement of all causes of action and material facts arising out of the transaction or occurrence that is the subject matter of the litigation.”  See La. C.C.P. art. 891. Generally, the pleader must state what act or omission he will establish at trial. Legal conclusions disguised as factual allegations do not meet the pleading standards required by Louisiana law.

This concept recently was examined in Henderson v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 2021-0654 (La. App. 4 Cir. 12/17/21), 2021 WL 7162224, where the court considered bad faith allegations the plaintiff tried to assert against an insurer in his petition for damages. At the time of the underlying accident, the plaintiff was a passenger in a Lyft vehicle that was struck by an unknown driver. Steadfast Insurance Company was the Lyft driver’s insurer, and the plaintiff named Steadfast as a defendant to recover damages under its policy.

The plaintiff later amended his petition to seek uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits under the Steadfast policy. He also sought penalties from Steadfast for alleged bad faith and dealing in its insurance practices. In turn, Steadfast filed an exception of no cause of action, arguing that plaintiff’s petition only contained legal conclusions and not specific facts, which were insufficient to support a cause of action. The trial court overruled the exception.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal reversed the decision. Plaintiff’s amended petition alleged that Steadfast “refused to deal with him in good faith, including but not limited to, refusing to issue unconditional (McDill) tenders and taking actions in violation of La. R.S. 22:1892 and La. R.S. 22:1973.” The plaintiff also generally alleged the insurer acted “arbitrarily, capriciously and without probable cause” in its failure to pay money under its policy.

The Court noted that the plaintiff’s allegations were legal conclusions asserted as facts, which could not be considered as well-pleaded factual allegations for purposes of a no cause of action. Importantly, the court reiterated that a court may not consider legal conclusions “clothed as facts,” citing Hooks v. Treasurer, 06-0541, p. 10 (La. App. 1 Cir. 5/4/07), 961 So.2d 425, 431-32.  Accordingly, the plaintiff’s allegations, absent additional information, were insufficient to state a cause of action. The plaintiff failed to state specific actions or omissions that would be established at trial. Hence, he failed to state a cause of action.

Renewed or Was it New? Dispute over UM Coverage in Auto Policy

Louisiana law requires UM coverage in automobile liability insurance policies in the same amount as the policy’s bodily injury liability coverage. UM coverage will be included in the policy unless the insured rejects UM coverage, selects lower limits, or selects economic-only coverage. This rejection, selection of lower limits, or selection of economic-only coverage must be made on a form prescribed by the commissioner of insurance and must be signed by the insured or its legal representative. See La. R.S. 22:1295. If a rejection form is not completed, UM coverage will be read into the policy. However, a valid UM waiver form executed for a policy of insurance remains in effect when that policy is renewed with a few exceptions. Generally, execution of a new waiver form is not required unless a new policy is issued or the liability limits increased. These basic principles were considered in the recent First Circuit decision in Johnson, et al. v.  Bass, Geico General Ins. Co., and GoAuto Management Services, LLC, 2021 CA 0139 (La. App. 1 Cir. 12/22/21).

In Johnson, the plaintiff obtained a policy of insurance from GoAuto on July 17, 2015 and validly rejected UM coverage on the commissioner’s UM rejection form. The plaintiff renewed the policy multiple times and also completed an “Application for Personal Automobile Insurance” on February 23, 2018 to add her husband and an additional vehicle to the policy. 

The Johnson plaintiff was in a motor vehicle accident on November 26, 2019 and claimed UM benefits under the policy. She argued that the insurance application she completed in February 2018 to add a new driver and a new vehicle to the policy created a new policy of insurance that required completion of a new UM waiver form. Because a new UM waiver form was not executed in February 2018, the plaintiff argued that UM coverage should be read into the policy. Thus, the question posed to the court was whether the 2018  policy became new or was simply a renewal. The trial court found that the policy was a renewal and dismissed the UM claim.

The First Circuit affirmed and rejected the plaintiff’s argument holding, “the language of La. R.S. 22:1295 is clear and unambiguous; only changes in the ‘limits of liability’ to an existing policy will create a new policy that requires the completion of a new UM selection form.” Despite multiple renewals, the liability limits of the policy did not change from the date it was issued through the date of the accident. Importantly, the limits also did not change when the new driver and vehicle were added to the policy in February 2018. Thus, no new policy was created. The original rejection of UM coverage remained in effect, and the plaintiff’s claims against her alleged UM insurer were dismissed.

What to do if your Home or Business is Damaged by Flood or Storm

Unfortunately, recent flooding and storm events have again affected our area in Louisiana.  Many people experienced flooding and storm damage to their homes and businesses.  If you experienced flood or storm damage, please consider following these steps to ensure your damage claim is properly documented and submitted:

  • DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT – Once you are able, make sure to document the damages to your home and contents.  Whether for a homeowners or flood insurance policy or to obtain government assistance, take plenty of photos and video of the damage.  Make a list of the items that were damaged or destroyed.  One way to organize this list is to group items from each room together, approximate its age, where it was purchased, and its value when purchased.  It will be more difficult to document your claim once the cleanup or rebuilding begins.
  • OBTAIN MULTIPLE ESTIMATES -To the extent you are able, obtain multiple estimates for the work needed on your home.  Pay for the estimate if necessary.  If you have three estimates and the amounts are close, they are much more credible.  Also, try and get as much detail as possible in each estimate, including specific materials to be used, dimensions, and finishes.
  • NOTIFY YOUR INSURER – Whether a homeowners or flood policy claim, or other insurance claim related to your business, promptly notify your insurer of your damage.  Your insurer will send someone to inspect the damage and start your claim.  Provide as much information as possible to make their job as easy as possible.  That will likely quicken the pace of your claim.
  • FLOOD CLAIMS – If you have flood insurance, it is likely provided by the federal government through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).  There are specific rules for submitting your claim through the NFIP.  YOU MUST SUBMIT FEMA FORM 086-0-11 (NOTICE OF LOSS) WITHIN 120 DAYS OF YOUR DAMAGE.  You can find this form here.

Insurance: “ACV,” Depreciation, or Both

In Louisiana, we are all too familiar with natural disasters. Every “hurricane season,” we hope the storm causes only minor inconvenience; but history teaches us to prepare for more. When these storms come, home and business owners inevitably make post-disaster insurance claims to repair the damage. While the specific amount owed for property damage is determined by the terms of the policy, the amount received may be affected by when (and if) the damage is repaired.  

An insurer will work with you to identify the “actual cash value” or “ACV” of the damaged property when handling your claim. “ACV” is defined as the cost to repair/replace the damage, less depreciation. Jouve v. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co., 2010-1522 (La.App. 4 Cir. 8/17/11), 74 So.3d 220. Many policies provide that an insurer is not obligated to provide you with more than the “ACV” of the damage, unless and until you actually make repairs. Later, you can recover the depreciation amount once you submit proof that the repairs are complete. Courts have enforced such provisions in many cases, regardless of the type of loss.

So, what happens if you never make the repairs? Simply, the insurance company may never owe the depreciation. In Hackman v. EMC Ins. Co., 07-552 (La.App. 5 Cir. 3/25/08), 984 So.2d 139, the plaintiff’s property was damaged by a fire. The insurer paid the ACV of the loss but withheld depreciation pending repairs. The plaintiff never made the repairs and ultimately sold the property. The Court ruled the plaintiff was not entitled to recover the difference.

Similarly, in Jouve v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., supra, the plaintiffs’ home was damaged by wind during Hurricane Katrina. Their insurer paid the ACV of the loss. Thereafter, the plaintiffs sold the home “as is” and sought recovery for the depreciation. The court reviewed the policy and found the plaintiffs’ sale of the home without repairs limited their recovery to ACV.

As with any insurance claim, you should always read your policy before losses occur to ensure you understand its terms and conditions. Maybe add this as an unusual step to your hurricane checklist. As these cases show, your ultimate recovery can be affected by what you do, or do not do, following the loss.

No Pay, No Play: What is it and why does it matter?

Louisiana’s automobile insurance premiums are some of the highest in the United States. With so many other demands on driver’s wallets, it may seem tempting to simply not purchase a liability automobile policy, even if it is required by Louisiana law. Louisiana’s “No Pay, No Play” statute, LA-R.S. 32:866, is intended to fight that temptation. See Progressive Sec. Ins. Co. v. Foster, 1997-2985 (La. 4/23/98), 711 So.2d 675. Below are some key considerations for drivers and insurers on either side of a potential “No Pay, No Play” dispute.

For Drivers

The “No Pay, No Play” statute means just what it seems—if you do not pay for your own liability insurance, you cannot recover under someone else’s liability insurance even if the accident is not your fault … at least to a point.

Specifically, the “No Pay, No Play” statute precludes someone who does not have liability insurance from recovering from another driver’s policy (1) the first $15,000 of bodily injury damages and (2) the first $25,000 of property damage. Of course, if damages do not exceed these amounts, it means the uninsured driver cannot recover his or her damage at all.

Of course, some exceptions exist. For example, the statute does not apply (meaning, it does reduce the plaintiff driver’s recovery) if the other driver is cited for operating his or her vehicle while intoxicated and is convicted or pleads nolo contendere; if the other driver intentionally causes the accident; if the other driver flees the scene; or if the other driver is in furtherance of the commission of a felony. However, the off-chance that a driver falls into an exception should not outweigh the obligation to comply with Louisiana law.

For Insurers

Generally, liability insurers should assert the “No Pay, No Play” affirmative defense when it appears a plaintiff driver lacks liability insurance. However, insurers should also keep in mind that this defense also has limitations.

For instance, the “No Pay, No Play” statute is not necessarily a total bar to a plaintiff’s recovery. If damages exceed $15,000 for bodily injury and/or $25,000 for property damage, payment may still be owed for these excess damages.

Secondly, the party asserting the “No Pay, No Play” affirmative defense—usually a defendant insurer—bears the burden of establishing that the plaintiff driver lacked insurance coverage on the vehicle he or she was operating at the time of the incident.

This burden can sometimes present difficult issues. For instance, in Johnson v. Henderson, 2004-1723 (La.App. 4 Cir. 3/16/05), 899 So.2d 626, the plaintiff was operating a vehicle he did not own. The defendant failed to yield and struck the plaintiff’s car.  The defendant and his insurer asserted the affirmative defense under “No Pay, No Play.”

The facts of the case suggest the vehicle that the plaintiff was operating was not insured, but plaintiff paid his “premiums” to the owners of the vehicle, had an ostensibly valid insurance card, and believed he was insured. The court found that the defendants failed to carry their burden of establishing a lack of coverage. As a result, the insurer owed the plaintiff the full amount of his damages—a total of $5,855.00 that would otherwise have been precluded under the statute.  

The “No Pay, No Play” issue is easily avoided: Louisiana drivers should get the insurance required by the statute. Failure to do so runs the risk of discounting (and potentially barring) recovery for accidents that are not the driver’s fault.

La. Supreme Court Rules 10-year Contract Prescription Applies to 1st Party Claims Against Insurer

In a first-party action obtained by assignment for excess liability against an insurer, the Louisiana Supreme Court in Smith v. Citadel Insurance,19-00052 (La. 10/22/19) ruled that the claim against the carrier is subject to the 10-year contract prescription period under La. law, stating:

“For the above reasons, we hold an insurer’s duty of good faith owed to its insured under La. R.S. 22:1973 does not exist separate and apart from an insurer’s contractual obligations. The duty of good faith is codified in La. R.S. 22:1973, but this duty is an outgrowth of the contractual and fiduciary relationship between the insured and the insurer, and the duty of good faith and fair dealing emanates from the contract between the parties. Thus, first-party bad faith claims against an insurer are governed by the ten-year prescriptive period set forth in La. C.C. art. 3499. Consequently, Ms. Smith’s first-party bad faith claim against GoAuto, brought pursuant to an assignment of rights from the insured, was subject to a 10-year prescriptive period and is not prescribed.”

The concurring justice noted that it was not necessary to engage in the protracted discussion concerning the duties of insurers relative to first-party claims. Nevertheless, the court offered an in-depth discussion of these duties.

An Insurer’s Duty: To Defend or Not To Defend

Primary insurance policies include the duty to defend an insured in connection with a covered loss. The insurer is sometimes presented with the question of whether a defense is owed when many of the allegations are not apparently covered by a particular policy. In this circumstance, how does an insurer determine its obligation? The law provides the answer: the “eight corners” rule—do the four corners of the policy unambiguously exclude coverage in all respects when viewed within the context of the four corners of the petition? If the answer is “no,” the duty to defend arises. Mossy Motors, Inc. v. Cameras America, 2004-0726 (La. App. 4 Cir. 3/2/05), 898 So.2d 602, 606.

Courts generally hold that the duty to defend the case extends to ALL claims, not just the covered claims. This duty can often prove quite costly, especially when non-covered claims are high-value or involve extensive factual development or testimony to defend. In some instances, the answer under the eight corners analysis is not so clear. The safe choice for the insurer is to provide a defense and hire separate counsel to handle the coverage side of the case.

In this scenario, where an insurer has serious coverage defenses, but agrees to provide the defense, when does the duty to defend terminate? The Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal recently ruled on this issue again in Ponchartrain Natural Gas System, K/D/S Promix, L.L.C. and Acadian Gas Pipeline System v. Texas Brine Company, L.L.C., No. 2018 CA 0254 (La. App. 12/12/19), stating:

            “Our previous decisions in the related sinkhole appeals clearly set out the well-established rule of law that an insurer’ s duty to defend terminates once the undisputed facts establish, or a judicial determination is made, that the claims asserted are not covered under the policy. See Florida Gas, 272 So. 3d at 551; Pontchartrain, 264 So.3d at 553- 54; Crosstex, 240 So.3d at 1032.”

So, the duty to defend ends when undisputed facts establish OR a judicial determination is made that the asserted claims are not covered. Of course, who is to say that the facts are “undisputed” without a judicial determination that confirms this conclusion.  An insurer could unilaterally determine that facts are undisputed and terminate the defense before a judicial determination, but if the court does not agree, the insurer may have issues. Accordingly, the safe course is to await a judicial determination before an insurer terminates the defense.

It is important to distinguish the duty of an excess carrier because such policies generally do not provide an obligation to defend. Instead, the excess carrier may exercise its “right to defend.”

The Louisiana Supreme Court rules that amount billed by healthcare providers beyond what has been paid by a Workers Compensation insurer is NOT a collateral source that is recoverable against tort defendants

In a very important ruling by the Louisiana Supreme Court, a tort defendant is no longer liable for any “actual charges” by medical providers above the amount paid by a Workers Compensation insurer pursuant to promulgated Workers Compensation fee schedule . In Simmons v. Cornerstone Investments, LLC,  2018-cc-0735 (La. 5/18/19), the court concluded:

“…the amount of medical expenses charged above the amount actually incurred is not a collateral source and its exclusion from the purview of the jury was proper.” See http://www.lasc.org/opinions/2019/18-0735.CC.OPN.pdf

The court conducted a detailed analysis of the development of the collateral source rule under applicable jurisprudence noting that the genesis of the collateral source rule:

“Under the collateral source rule, a tortfeasor may not benefit, and an injured plaintiff’s tort recovery may not be reduced, because of monies received by the plaintiff from sources independent of the tortfeasor’s procuration or contribution. Under this well-established doctrine, the payments received from the independent source are not deducted from the award the aggrieved party would otherwise receive from the wrongdoer.” See Louisiana Dept. of Transp. & Dev. v. Kansas City Southern Railway Co., 02-2349, p. 6 (La. 5/20/03), 846 So.2d 734, 739.

Essentially, the court asks two questions when assessing whether the collateral source rule should apply. First, does the claimed benefit arise from some payment, wage deduction or other contribution by the Plaintiff that would diminish the plaintiff’s patrimony?  Second, will the goal of tort deterrence be promoted by allowing the windfall?  In a series of cases culminating in the case at bar, the court has been limiting the application of the collateral source rule in a number of contexts.

The court in Bozeman v. State, 03-1016 (La. 7/2/04), 879 So.2d 692, found that the collateral source rule did not apply when Medicaid was the payor such that the defendant could not be responsible for any amounts above what Medicaid paid to the provider. The court reasoned that it would be “unconscionable” to require taxpayers to pay the bills and then let a plaintiff recover the full undiscounted medical expenses and “pocket the windfall.” The court continued by noting in “Cutsinger v. Redfern, 08-2607 (La. 5/22/09), 12 So.3d 945, this court found the collateral source rule did not apply to prevent the plaintiff’s uninsured motorist carrier from receiving a credit for workers’ compensation benefits paid by her employer, even though the plaintiff paid for the UM coverage herself.” In Hoffman v. 21st Century North American Ins. Co., 14-2279 (La. 10/2/15), 209 So.3d 702, the court held that the collateral source rule does not apply to attorney-negotiated medical discounts. The court also looked at the US 5th Circuit in Deperrodil v. Bozovic Marine, Inc., 842 F.3d 353 (5th Cir. 2016), that the collateral source rule does not apply above any amounts actually paid by the employer in the context of the LHWCA.

In each of the instances outlined, the court noted that the patrimony of the plaintiff was not impacted by limiting recovery to the amount of medical bills actually paid. Moreover, the court noted that the goal of tort deterrence is not negatively impacted, and that allowing a plaintiff to recover a windfall in this context is tantamount to an award of punitive damages that are not recoverable absent statutory authority which is not present in this context.   The Simmons decision now extends that same logic to cases where a Workers Compensation insurer has paid the medical benefits pursuant to the Louisiana Workers Compensation Law.

This ruling will have significant impact on the evaluation, settlement and trial of tort cases that have corresponding Workers Compensation claims.

Submitted by John P. Wolff, III (Partner)

Past Mistakes: Waiver of Coverage Defenses

What does it mean to “waive” something? To an insurer in Louisiana, the meaning is clear; a waiver can mean thousands or even millions of dollars in insurance coverage that may otherwise be excluded. Recently, the Louisiana Supreme Court in Forvendel v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, 2017-C-2074 (June 27, 2018) clarified when an insurer will be found to have waived coverage defenses.

Waiver is generally understood as the “intentional relinquishment of a known right, power, or privilege.” Waiver occurs when there is: 1) a right; 2) that is known; and, 3) an actual intention to forego the right or conduct so inconsistent with an intent to enforce the right so as to induce a reasonable belief that it has been relinquished. The waiver rule is generally applied to an insurer who defends itself and its insured without having obtained a nonwaiver agreement to preserve its coverage defense. The joint defense of the insured and the insurer, without asserting a known defense, is deemed to be conduct inconsistent with the enforcement of the coverage defense and therefore a waiver.

In Forvendel, the Louisiana Supreme Court considered whether an insurer’s waiver of a coverage defense in a prior claim served to waive the coverage defense in a subsequent claim involving the same insured and similar circumstances. The key issue in the case was whether the insurer’s conduct in allowing the same insured to “stack” two UM coverages contrary to Louisiana’s “anti-stacking” law (La. R.S. 22:1295 (1)(c)) when adjusting an accident claim in 2007 served as a waiver of the right to assert the anti-stacking law when adjusting a 2013 accident claim.

Luckily for insurers, who could be forever bound by past mistakes in their handling of claims, the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed the two lower courts and found the right was not waived. In so ruling, the Court distinguished prior case law in which a coverage defense was found to have been waived because the insurer’s conduct took place while handing the same claim, not a prior claim. The Louisiana Supreme Court also drew on a line of cases that allowed insurers to recover previously made payments under well-established principles of Louisiana law allowing for the recoupment of payments not due.

The Forvendel case provides a common-sense result by relieving insurers from unintended consequences from past omissions in the handling of an insured’s new claim.

 

Nancy B. Gilbert is a partner with Keogh Cox. She is a puzzle-solver by nature and uses these skills to provide clear and in-depth analysis of complex litigation issues. Nancy is a devoted grandmother, an avid camper and gardener, and enjoys renovating her 80-year-old home.

Distracted Driving: More, and More Severe, Accidents

 

**If you’re reading this article while driving, stop reading or driving – your choice**

 

Distracted driving is dangerous and can lead to an accident. Everyone knows this now. But one factor that appears to have gone unnoticed by the public at large is that distracted driving not only results in more automobile accidents, but often causes accidents which are more severe. The reasons why are becoming clear to insurance carriers who write automobile liability policies.

In a January 2017 “earnings call,” Travelers Insurance observed that it was detecting a higher percentage of car crashes at higher speeds. Simple physics shows that higher speeds bring higher forces, and increase the risks involved. Research has shown that sending or reading a text takes your eyes off of the road an average of 5 seconds. If correct, at 55 mph, you will travel 403 feet while not looking at the road. Often times, a driver, even if they cannot avoid an accident, can do something to minimize the consequences, such as braking or taking a better angle to protect the driver or the passengers.

The fact that an insurance company is able to detect an increase in the severity of accidents, in an age where cars are safer than ever before, is something we should all consider.

 

Brian Butler is a partner with Keogh Cox. With over 30 years of experience, Brian has handled all types of defense matters. In recent years, his practice has been focused on cases involving complex cases with serious injuries and damages, which has led to extensive work with experts in complex cases, fire cases, and cases involving extensive forensic investigation. In his free time, Brian enjoys traveling with his wife.

Leave Different: Gasquet Agreements and What Insurers Need to Know

As part of its travel pitch, Louisiana tourism once used the slogan: “Louisiana. Come as you are. Leave different.” If an out-of-state insurer writes in Louisiana and does not understand the ramifications of “Gasquet,” then they may leave different, very different.

The term “Gasquet” comes from the case of Gasquet v. Commercial Union Ins. Co., 391 So. 2d 466 (La. App. 4th Cir. 1980). The case considered how a settlement of the plaintiff’s claims against the primary carrier and a partial settlement of claims against the tortfeasor/insured impacted the excess carrier.

In Gasquet, the plaintiff alleged serious personal injury. Prior to trial, he settled with the primary insurer, Commercial Union, for $200,000, even though it had a $300,000 policy limit. In the deal, the plaintiff fully released Commercial Union. He also released the tortfeasor/insured from all liability not insured by the excess carrier, Stonewall Insurance. The insured therefore remained in the lawsuit as a “nominal defendant” to allow the plaintiff to pursue the excess carrier.

After settlement, the excess carrier denied the claim and asserted that payment by the primary carrier of less than policy limits did not trigger its policy, which required that the primary policy be “exhausted.” Without exhaustion, the excess carrier argued that it could not be called upon to respond under its policy language. The court rejected this argument and held that the plaintiff was entitled to a direct action against the excess carrier who would, in turn, receive a credit for the full limits of the primary policy. The “Gasquet release” has since become a staple of Louisiana litigation.

In Louisiana, unlike many states, a primary insurer owes no general duty to the excess carrier under Great Southwest Fire Ins. Co. v. CNA Insurance Companies, 557 So. 2d 966 (La. 1990). This creates a dynamic not present in states where the primary carrier is duty bound to consider the interests of the excess carrier. This lack of duty magnifies the vulnerability of the excess carrier’s position in Gasquet-friendly Louisiana.

An excess carrier in Louisiana should measure its reliance upon a primary carrier who can independently settle out with the plaintiff, sometimes on the eve of trial. If the excess carrier relied upon the primary carrier to defend the case, the excess carrier could be placed in the unenviable position of scrambling to defend a case where the insured (protected by Gasquet) may be suddenly disinterested in the outcome. Excess carriers with real potential exposure need to stay involved in the litigation and be prepared.

Following Gasquet, permutations have developed such as a “reverse-Gasquet,” where the excess carrier settles with the plaintiff and then pursues the primary insurer to recoup its payment. So, come to Louisiana, but know that we are sometimes different.

 

Collin LeBlanc is a Keogh Cox partner and experienced litigator who concentrates in injury, commercial, and legal malpractice disputes. He lives in nearby Zachary, Louisiana with his wife Melissa and three all-too-active children. He is an outdoorsman, a tennis player, a cook, and a hobbyist writer.