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JENNY BAUMAN v. AUGUSTIN INIGUEZ AND WINDHAVEN INSURANCE COMPANY
Defendant-appellant, Florida Insurance Guaranty Association, Inc. (“FIGA”), appeals the district court's November 30, 2021 judgment granting the motion for summary judgment filed by plaintiff-appellee, Jenny Bauman, and denying FIGA's motion for summary judgment. Pursuant to this judgment, the district court ruled based on a conflicts of law analysis that Louisiana law applies to the insurance policy at issue in this matter. For the following reasons, we reverse the district court's November 30, 2021 judgment granting Ms. Bauman's motion for summary judgment and deny her motion for summary judgment. We reverse the denial of FIGA's motion for summary judgment in part as to the applicable law and find that Florida law applies to the insurance policy. We affirm the denial of FIGA's motion for summary judgment in part to the extent FIGA seeks dismissal of Bauman's claims.
FACTS and PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On May 21, 2018, Ms. Bauman, a Louisiana resident, and Augustin Iniguez, a Florida resident, were involved in an automobile accident in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana. On December 20, 2018, Ms. Bauman filed suit against Mr. Iniguez and Windhaven Insurance Company in the 29th Judicial District Court for the Parish of St. Charles.
Mr. Iniguez was insured by an automobile liability policy purchased by Rosalba Guzman from Windhaven. Specifically, on October 26, 2015, Ms. Guzman, a Florida resident, purchased a Florida personal auto insurance policy for personal injury protection for herself and dependent relatives, including Mr. Iniguez, and property damage liability coverage from Windhaven. She rejected bodily injury liability, which is permitted under Florida law. She renewed the policy with the identical coverage through October 28, 2018. The Windhaven policy provided property damage liability coverage of $10,000 for each accident and basic personal injury protection of $10,000 for each person. The policy had no coverage for bodily injury liability or uninsured motorist. The policy included an Out of State Coverage Endorsement, which reads, in pertinent part: “If this policy does not provide Bodily Injury Liability Coverage, we do not provide coverage for Bodily Injury in any State or Province. This endorsement applies to every policy that has no Bodily Injury Liability Coverage.”
On September 9, 2019, Windhaven answered Ms. Bauman's original petition, denying all allegations including coverage on the basis that the insured declined bodily injury coverage under the policy. Subsequently, in 2019, Windhaven was put into receivership with the Florida Department of Financial Services, and the proceedings in this matter were stayed. On July 9, 2020, plaintiff filed an amended petition adding Florida Insurance Guaranty Association (“FIGA”) as a defendant and substituting FIGA as the guarantor of Windhaven. On February 1, 2021, FIGA answered admitting that it was substituted in as a party in place of Windhaven.
On August 18, 2021, FIGA filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking dismissal of Ms. Bauman's claims based on the lack of bodily injury liability coverage under the policy. FIGA argued that the named insured clearly rejected bodily injury coverage as permitted under Florida, and that as a result, the policy does not provide coverage for Ms. Bauman's bodily injuries caused by the accident. FIGA also argued that under a conflict of law analysis, this policy was governed by Florida law because Florida's interest in the matter was greater, and the policy was negotiated and purchased in Florida.
Ms. Bauman filed a cross motion for partial summary judgment asking the district court to apply Louisiana law, which requires Louisiana vehicle owners to purchase liability insurance with minimum bodily injury limits, to the policy. Ms. Bauman argued that applying a conflicts of law analysis, Louisiana's interest in the matter was more substantial because the accident occurred in Louisiana and injured a Louisiana resident.
After a hearing on the summary judgment motions, the district court ruled that Louisiana law applies because (1) Louisiana has a substantial interest in regulating awards to victims injured on its highways and in protecting its residents from uninsured and underinsured motorists; (2) the plaintiff-victim is a Louisiana resident; and (3) the accident and the medical treatment occurred in Louisiana. FIGA appeals the district court's ruling. This judgment was designated as a final judgment pursuant to La. C.C.P. art. 1915 B(1).
ASSIGNMENTS of ERROR
On appeal, FIGA asserts the district court erred in (1) considering the contacts of the plaintiff exclusively to conclude that the plaintiff's state of residence is the most crucial factor in a conflict-of-laws analysis; (2) in failing to recognize that the integrity of insurance contracts is an overwhelming public interest of each state; and (3) failing to find that Florida's policies would be most seriously impaired if Florida law is not applied to the Windhaven policy.
LAW and ANALYSIS
Appellate courts review grants of summary judgment de novo, using the same criteria that govern the district court's consideration of whether summary judgment is appropriate, i.e., whether there is a genuine issue of material fact and whether the mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Champagne v. Ward, 03-3211 (La. 1/19/05), 893 So.2d 773, 776. The mover bears the burden of proof. La. C.C.P. art. 966 C(2). If the defendant-mover meets this initial burden, the burden of proof then shifts to plaintiff to present factual support adequate to establish that he will be able to satisfy the evidentiary burden at trial. Champagne, 893 So.2d at 776. If plaintiff does not meet this burden, there is no genuine issue of material fact and defendant is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. Id.
This multistate case presents the issue of whether Louisiana law applies to an automobile insurance policy negotiated and purchased in a foreign state, Florida, relative to an accident that occurred in Louisiana injuring a Louisiana resident. FIGA, the foreign insurer in this case, contends that the district court erred in applying Louisiana law to a Florida insurance policy because Florida has a substantial interest in regulating its insurance industry. Ms. Bauman claims that Louisiana law should apply because the collision occurred in Louisiana, and she resides and is undergoing medical treatment in Louisiana.
Louisiana has a public interest in protecting Louisiana residents and others when an accident occurs on Louisiana roads. Champagne v. Ward, 03-3211 (La. 1/19/05), 893 So. 2d 773, 777. The goal is to promote full recovery for innocent automobile accident victims by mandating minimum liability insurance coverage and making coverage available when the tortfeasor is uninsured or underinsured. Id. This policy is statutorily fostered by mandating minimum liability insurance coverage in an attempt to insure that innocent automobile accident victims make a full recovery. See Martin v. Champion Ins. Co., 95-30 (La. 6/30/95), 656 So.2d 991, 994. In this regard, La. R.S. 32:861 A(1) sets forth the requirements:
Every self-propelled motor vehicle registered in this state except those motor vehicles used as agricultural or forest vehicles during seasons when they are not used on the highway, those used primarily for exhibit or kept primarily for use in parades, exhibits, or shows, and lease-bound mobile rig haulers as defined in Subsection D of this Section, shall be covered by an automobile liability policy with liability limits as defined by R.S. 32:900(B)(2) 1 or 900(M), or a binder for same, or by a motor vehicle liability bond as defined by Subsection B of this Section, or by a certificate of the state treasurer stating that cash or securities have been deposited or securitized with said treasurer as provided by Subsection C of this Section, or by a certificate of self-insurance as provided by R.S. 32:1042. [Emphasis added.]
The issue of whether the requirements of the above statute apply to nonresidents has previously been considered by other Louisiana courts. In Jolls v. Miller, 19-23 (La. App. 1 Cir. 5/29/19), 2019 WL 2291971, the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal, held that a nonresident motorist was not required under Louisiana law to maintain minimum liability insurance. The First Circuit made the following conclusion:
Absent from the Compulsory Motor Vehicle Safety Law is any requirement that a nonresident motorist must also maintain minimum and/or compulsory insurance with respect to the operation of his or her vehicle. The clear, unambiguous language of Louisiana Revised Statute 32:861 requires security only of those motor vehicles registered in the State of Louisiana.
Thus, a Louisiana appellate court has held that La. R.S. 32:861 A(1) only applies to those vehicles registered in Louisiana and not to vehicles registered in other states.
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana has resolved this issue in the same manner as Jolls. In Atkinson v. Boyne, the court stated that “If a person is ‘operating’ a motor vehicle in this state, the car he or she is operating must be ‘registered’ in Louisiana in order for the compulsory law to apply.” Atkinson v. Boyne, 178 F. Supp.2d 670, 673 (E.D. La. 2001). The court therefore found that the law only requires security for cars registered in this state. Id. A contrary reading would redefine the parameter of the law and lead to the absurd result of removing the registration requirement from the law. Id.
In the instant case, the applicable statute, by its express terms and interpreted as written, only purports to affect an automobile policy insuring a “motor vehicle registered in this state.” There is no dispute that the policy in the present case insured a vehicle registered in Florida not Louisiana. Therefore, we find that the Windhaven policy, which provides coverage for a vehicle registered in Florida not Louisiana, is not bound by Louisiana's mandatory minimum liability requirements set forth in La. R.S. 32:861 A(1).
Because the issue regarding application of Louisiana's mandatory minimum liability requirements to this Florida policy can be resolved based on Louisiana law, a conflicts-of-law analysis was not necessary. A multistate case does not automatically give rise to conflict of law analysis merely because the contacts of the dispute involve different states. Rains v. Jones, 38,977 (La. App. 2 Cir. 12/22/04), 890 So. 2d 747, (J. Caraway's concurrence) 752–53, writ denied, 2005-0185 (La. 4/1/05), 897 So. 2d 605. La. C.C. art. 14 states that “Unless otherwise expressly provided by the law of this state, cases having contacts with other states are governed by the law selected” applying Book IV of the Civil Code. The language of this article indicates that no conflict analysis is necessary if it can be determined which state's law applies based on specific provisions in the Louisiana statute or article at issue. Creel v. Dolphin Services, L.L.C., 17-1355 (La. App. 1 Cir. 8/22/18), 256 So.3d 1011, 1014.
The Louisiana law at issue in this case, La. R.S. 32:861 (the compulsory motor vehicle liability law), expressly applies only to vehicles registered in Louisiana. Mr. Iniguez's vehicle was not registered in Louisiana at the time of the accident. It was registered in Florida. As a result, Louisiana law does not apply to the Windhaven policy that insured Mr. Iniguez's vehicle. Therefore, there is no basis upon which to require the Windhaven policy to provide the mandatory minimum liability requirements of Louisiana law.
Considering the foregoing, although the cross motions for summary judgment at issue here and the district court engaged in conflicts of law analyses, we find that this case is not an appropriately decided based on a conflicts of law analysis. As discussed above, we conclude that this case can be resolved based on Louisiana law.
Applying Louisiana law, we find that FIGA has met its burden of proving that the Windhaven policy is not bound by Louisiana's compulsory motor vehicle liability law, and that FIGA is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. We therefore conclude that the district court erred in granting Ms. Bauman's motion for summary judgment. Accordingly, we reverse the district court's November 30, 2021 judgment and grant FIGA's motion for summary judgment in part as to the applicable law, affirm the denial in all other respects, and deny Ms. Bauman's motion for summary judgment. DECREE
For the reasons set forth herein, we reverse the district court's November 30, 2021 judgment granting Ms. Bauman's motion for summary judgment and deny her motion for summary judgment. We reverse the denial of FIGA's motion for summary judgment in part as to the applicable law and find that Florida law applies to the Windhaven policy. We affirm the denial of FIGA's motion for summary judgment in all other respects.
REVERSED AND REMANDED
I concur in the result reached by the majority in this case and write separately solely to express my opinion that, pursuant to the analysis and directive of the Louisiana Supreme Court in Champagne v. Ward, 03-3211 (La. 1/19/05), 893 So.2d 773, it is still necessary for this Court to conduct a conflict of law analysis to determine whether Louisiana law or Florida law is applicable to this case. I recognize that in Champagne the Supreme Court was analyzing the uninsured motorist provisions of Louisiana law, as opposed to the compulsory liability insurance law that we are called upon to address in this case. However, in my opinion, the Supreme Court's analysis, which resulted in a determination that a conflict of law analysis is necessary under a factual scenario nearly identical to the one presented to us in this case, is equally applicable to our analysis of Louisiana's compulsory liability insurance law.
In Champagne, the Supreme Court, while acknowledging that Louisiana's uninsured motorist statutory provisions expressly apply only to policies “delivered or issued for delivery in this state,” nevertheless held that Louisiana law does not automatically apply to the interpretation of a foreign UM insurance policy in a multistate case where an accident occurs in Louisiana and involves a Louisiana resident. Rather, the Court stated that:
․ in a multistate case, the appropriate starting point is to determine if there is a difference between Louisiana's UM law and the UM law of the foreign state. If so, the Court should conduct a choice of law analysis, as set forth in La. C.C. arts. 3515 and 3537, to determine which state's law applies to the interpretation of the UM policy. Champagne, 893 So.2d at 786.
Garces-Rodriguez v. GEICO Indem. Co., 16-196 (La. App. 5 Cir. 12/21/16), 209 So.3d 389, 392.
In my opinion, this directive is equally applicable when analyzing Louisiana's compulsory liability law, regardless of the “registered in this state” language found in that law.
In conducting a conflict of law analysis, I agree with the majority opinion that Florida law is the appropriate law to apply under the facts of this case. I also agree with the majority's decision to remand this case to the trial court for further proceedings, as I find that the issue of coverage under the provisions of this particular policy, when applying Florida law, has not yet been resolved by the trial court.
SUSAN M. CHEHARDY CHIEF JUDGE
FREDERICKA H. WICKER JUDE G. GRAVOIS MARC E. JOHNSON ROBERT A. CHAISSON STEPHEN J. WINDHORST HANS J. LILJEBERG JOHN J. MOLAISON, JR. JUDGES
CURTIS B. PURSELL CLERK OF COURT
SUSAN S. BUCHHOLZ INTERIM CHIEF DEPUTY CLERK
LINDA M. WISEMAN FIRST DEPUTY CLERK
MELISSA C. LEDET DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL STAFF
(504) 376-1498 FAX
101 DERBIGNY STREET (70053)
POST OFFICE BOX 489
GRETNA, LOUISIANA 70054
NOTICE OF JUDGMENT AND CERTIFICATE OF DELIVERY
I CERTIFY THAT A COPY OF THE OPINION IN THE BELOW-NUMBERED MATTER HAS BEEN DELIVERED IN ACCORDANCE WITH UNIFORM RULES - COURT OF APPEAL, RULE 2-16.4 AND 2-16.5 THIS DAY DECEMBER 21, 2022 TO THE TRIAL JUDGE, CLERK OF COURT, COUNSEL OF RECORD AND ALL PARTIES NOT REPRESENTED BY COUNSEL, AS LISTED BELOW:
CURTIS B. PURSELL CLERK OF COURT
29TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT (CLERK)
HONORABLE CONNIE M. AUCOIN (DISTRICT JUDGE)
ROBERT J. CALUDA (APPELLEE)
H. JAMES PARKER (APPELLANT)
PATRICK D. DEROUEN (APPELLEE)
AUGUSTIN INIGUEZ (APPELLEE)
2352 PAR ROAD
WEST PLAM BEACH, FL 33409-1827
CHARLES V. GIORDANO (APPELLANT)
JAIRO F. SANCHEZ (APPELLANT)
MICHAEL E. ESCUDIER (APPELLANT)
ATTORNEYS AT LAW
3501 NORTH CAUSEWAY BOULEVARD
METAIRIE, LA 70002
LINLY L. HALL (APPELLEE)
ATTORNEY AT LAW
650 POYDRAS STREET
NEW ORLEANS, LA 70130
1. The liability policy is required to “insure the person named therein and any other person, as insured, using any such motor vehicle or motor vehicles with the express or implied permission of such named insured against loss from the liability imposed by law for damages arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of such motor vehicle or motor vehicles within the United States of America or the Dominion of Canada, subject to limits exclusive of interest and costs with respect to each such motor vehicle as follows:(a) Fifteen thousand dollars because of bodily injury to or death of one person in any one accident, and(b) Subject to said limit for one person, thirty thousand dollars because of bodily injury to or death of two or more persons in any one accident, and(c) Twenty-five thousand dollars because of damage to or destruction of property of others in any one accident. La. R.S. § 32:900.
STEPHEN J. WINDHORST JUDGE
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Docket No: NO. 22-CA-88
Decided: December 21, 2022
Court: Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit.
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