Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (“UM coverage”) is included in all automobile liability policies by Louisiana law unless the insured “rejects [UM] coverage, selects lower limits, or selects economic only coverage.” What constitutes an adequate rejection of UM coverage has been the crux of countless lawsuits across the state. Recently, in Havard v. Jeanlouis, et al, 2021-C-00810 (La. 6/29/22), the Louisiana Supreme Court examined the validity of a corporate representative’s signature in the context of execution of a UM waiver form. Louisiana courts have found that without a valid signature, UM coverage generally may not be waived.
The Havard court recognized that a corporation cannot “sign” its own name, and that an authorized representative must act on its behalf. Under the facts of this case, an administrative assistant attempted to execute a UM waiver form at the corporate representative’s direction with a stamp of the representative’s signature. The plaintiff argued that the use of the stamp did not meet the requirements for proper execution of the UM waiver form at issue.
Considering these facts, the court noted that Louisiana law of mandate provides that “when the law prescribes a certain form for an act, a mandate authorizing the act must be in that form.” The court continued: “Accordingly, where one individual signs a UM form on behalf of another individual and authority is not conferred by law, our Civil Code requires this authority be in writing.”
While the corporate representative in Havard verbally instructed his administrative assistant to complete the waiver with his signature stamp, no written mandate existed between the representative and the assistant to confirm this authority. Absent the written mandate, the court disregarded the express intention of the corporate representative and held the form invalid.
The court recognized the impracticality of its holding. However, it also commented “Concerns over the practical impact within the insurance industry in scrutinizing stamped signed UM forms are unavailing. Inconvenience is not absurdity. The insurer has the authority, opportunity, and responsibility to assure the UM form is completed properly. … Practical considerations regarding increased due diligence requirements are matters of policy best directed to the legislature.”
Cases involving UM waiver forms are fact-sensitive. Havard involved unique facts where the company’s authorized agent did not sign the UM waiver form personally. While Havard may be limited to its facts, it reminds that proper execution of a UM waiver form is necessary for UM coverage to be properly waived.