Bone of contention: Was UM waiver valid?
Aaron Stall, an employee of CVS Caremark Corporation, and Gustavo Garcia-Jimenez were involved in a two-vehicle accident on January 1, 2014. Stall was operating a vehicle provided by CVS. National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, issued a business auto policy to CVS that covered the vehicle and its employee/driver, Stall.
Stall filed suit against Garcia-Jimenez and his alleged insurer, Mercury Insurance Company of Florida. He also sued National Union, among others, alleging that Garcia-Jimenez was at fault, that he was uninsured or underinsured, and that National Union’s policy provided uninsured/underinsured motorists coverage for the accident. National Union denied coverage, claiming that the policy contained a proper waiver of uninsured or underinsured motorists coverage.
Stall filed a motion for partial summary judgment, alleging that the UM waiver was defective. There was no dispute that the waiver was executed on a form provided by the Louisiana Department of Insurance and signed by David Huntley in the space provided for the named insured or representative. Huntley’s printed, handwritten name also appeared on the form in the correct space. It was dated December 19, 2012. Huntley’s initials appeared in the blank indicating that he was waiving UM coverage, all in compliance with the insurance department form.
At the hearing on the motion for partial summary judgment, evidence showed that the National Union policy was in effect from January 1, 2013, through January 1, 2014, at 12:01 a.m. The accident occurred at 1:29 a.m. on January 1, 2014, after that policy had expired. The policy was timely renewed before the accident, and the new policy was effective January 1, 2014, through January 1, 2015, at 12:01 a.m., and issued by AIG/National Union. A UM waiver for the renewal policy, however, was not executed until February 21, 2014, several weeks after the accident, so the UM waiver attached to the policy was signed too late to be effective. National Union claimed that because the 2014-2015 policy was a renewal, the UM waiver executed on December 19, 2012, for the 2013-2014 policy year was still binding pursuant to statutory law.
The court found that the totality of the facts at issue and the form of the purported waiver of uninsured/underinsured motorists coverage made the waiver unclear and mistakable. Accordingly, the court found that the waiver was invalid. National Union appealed.
On appeal, National Union argued that the waiver form was sufficient because the option to waive coverage was initialed and signed by Huntley, who it claimed was a legal representative of CVS. Huntley’s name was correctly printed below the signature in the box provided for the named insured or legal representative to sign, the form was appropriately correctly initialed rejecting UM coverage, and it was dated. National Union argued that it was entitled to a rebuttable presumption that UM coverage was validly waived for the renewal policy issued by AIG/National Union, effective January 1, 2014, through January 1, 2015.
Stall argued that the UM coverage waiver was unclear and mistakable because it did not adequately reference the underlying policy. He further argued that although the form purported to meet the requirements of the insurance department, the form completed by Huntley lacked sufficient information to connect it to the underlying policy because it did not include the name of the named insured or a policy number. Further, the name of the insurance group printed on the 2012 form, Chartis, was different from the name of the group that issued the 2014-2015 renewal policy, AIG. Finally, Stall pointed out that no evidence in the record showed who Huntley was or in what capacity he signed the waiver of UM coverage.
Stall and National Union noted that the printed name of the insurer on the 2012 policy was Chartis, whereas the printed name on the renewal policy in 2014 was AIG/National Union. The court stated that all policies showed that the affiliated company that actually issued the policy was National Union, the entity Stall named in his suit as the UM carrier for CVS. The court found no merit to Stall’s argument that the difference in printed names on the UM waiver was significant and created uncertainty. If it did, the court said, that presented an issue of fact that made summary judgment improper as to Stall’s motion.
The court reversed the trial court’s ruling that granted Stall partial summary judgment on the issue of the validity of the UM waiver and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.
Stall vs. Mercury Insurance Company-Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Third District-December 28, 2017-No. 17-439.