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.
In the recent case of Riedel v. Fenasci,
2018-0540 (La. App. 1 Cir. 12/28/18), _______ So. 3d _______, 2018 WL 6818716,
home buyers sued the sellers and the involved real estate agents after mold was
discovered shortly following the sale. This is a common fact pattern in humid
South Louisiana. The buyers lost in the trial court when there was no evidence
that the sellers or the agents knew of the problem. The result was affirmed by
the First Circuit Court of Appeal.
The Riedels identified mold weeks after
the closing and filed a claim with their homeowner’s insurer. But the claim was
denied when the insurer’s inspection revealed long- term damage, rot, and
deterioration in a ceiling due to water damage. That finding prompted the
Against the sellers, the Riedels contended
that they “had to have known” about the moisture and mold in the home prior to
the sale. Because the home was sold “as is,” they had to establish fraud
to recover. However, the sellers had not lived in the home for years and had
received no complaints from tenants over this time. Under such facts, the claim
of fraud was not supported.
The Riedels also sued both agents for negligent misrepresentation, and their own agent for breach of fiduciary duty. In assessing the claim against the agents, the Riedel Court agreed that real estate agents are liable for negligent misrepresentation when they fail to disclose hidden defects in the property which were known or should have been known to them. The Court also agreed that a purchaser’s real estate agent owes a fiduciary duty, the highest duty of care recognized by law. Nevertheless, when the plaintiffs’ own inspector found no visible evidence of mold prior to the sale and there was no indication that the agents possessed prior knowledge of the mold, the claim against the agents was also dismissed.
Marty Golden has been practicing law based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for over thirty years, concentrating in civil litigation primarily involving injuries, property damage, insurance coverage, and contract disputes. Much of his practice is defending and advising real estate agents in suits by property buyers and sellers, but Marty also defends other professionals, insurance companies, manufacturers, and business owners. Marty has a special interest in all things procedural, because they are the rules of the road for litigators and knowing them better than his opponent gives him a leg up in court.
The Louisiana Supreme Court recently held that a request for service of process made by facsimile filing within ninety days from the filing of the petition, but not perfected until after the ninety days has passed, is a timely request for service of process under LSA-C.C.P. art. 1201. See Brenda Morales and Jerson Rodriguez v. State of Louisiana Through the Board of Supervisors of LSU Through Earl K. Long Medical Center, 12-2301 (La. 1/11/13), –So.3d—.