US District Court, Middle District of LA, Dismisses Bodily Injury and Bad Faith Insurance Claims
On August 17, 2020, the United States District Court, Middle District of Louisiana (Dick., J.) found in favor of Liberty Mutual and dismissed all claims against the Firm’s client with prejudice in a case in which the plaintiff alleged economic loss from a 2017 motor vehicle accident.
Liberty Mutual sought dismissal of plaintiff’s 2017 bodily injury and related economic-loss claims, arguing that the plaintiff failed to come forward with evidence demonstrating that her claimed damages exceeded the amounts payable to her by the at-fault party. The Motion also sought dismissal of plaintiff’s “bad faith” claims for penalties and attorneys’ fees, as plaintiff had not demonstrated a valid, underlying claim.
After analyzing the plaintiff’s testimony, the Court rejected plaintiff’s claims and dismissed all remaining claims against Liberty Mutual. In so doing, the Court found that the plaintiff failed to identify her medical expenses and rejected plaintiff’s argument that because “Liberty Mutual had ‘notice of bodily injury exceeding policy limits,’” she had met her burden of proof. Accordingly, because the plaintiff failed to establish the extent of her damages as required by law, her bodily injury claims were dismissed. Moreover, because she could not support a valid UM claim, her bad faith claims were also dismissed with prejudice as “not viable.”
The court refused plaintiff’s invitation to simply look at the damages claimed and the undisputed fact that the plaintiff had been injured in her motor vehicle accident and sought medical treatment. Plaintiff was required to demonstrate not only that another party was at fault for causing her injuries, but also that she sustained losses as a result that exceeded the liability insurance to her such that UM coverage would be triggered. The ruling reminds first-party claimants that they must come forward with sufficient proof of all elements of an underinsured motorist claim and that adding a “bad faith” claim to a lawsuit will not necessarily enhance the underlying claims and, in fact, will not be viable unless and until the plaintiff has come forward with a viable underlying claim. A motion for reconsideration and appeal is expected.
About the author:
KRISTIN BECKMAN is a founding member of the firm. She represents clients in high-exposure insurance bad faith and coverage litigation as well as commercial cases with breach of contract, unfair trade practices, products liability, and default issues.