Be careful what you e-sign
On May 11, 2013, Zachary Addison’s automobile was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by Phara Martin. Thereafter, Addison and his wife filed suit against Martin, Affirmative Insurance Company, Martin’s liability insurer, and Liberty Mutual, which they alleged provided uninsured/underinsured motorists coverage to them.
Addison obtained insurance from LM General (Liberty Mutual) by receiving a quote via telephone. He was then given the option to complete his transaction by executing emailed documents that could be returned by mail, fax, or electronically. He chose to complete and submit the documents electronically. The electronic documents had selections of coverage pre-made based on the quote he received. The preselected information could not be changed, and Addison did not inquire about changing the selections at any time prior to executing and returning the documents. It was undisputed that the documents were electronically signed by Addison. Additionally, he was sent a copy of the policy prior to its effective date.
LM General filed a motion for summary judgment seeking dismissal of the Addisons’ claims for uninsured motorists bodily injury (UM-BI) coverage. The motion was based on Addison’s having electronically selected economic-only UM-BI coverage. The court granted the motion and restricted LM General’s coverage to economic-only UM-BI. The Addisons appealed.
On appeal, the Addisons raised numerous assignments of error that pertained to the validity of the UM rejection form that was e-signed by Addison and provided for economic-only UM-BI coverage.
Generally UM-BI coverage is required by Louisiana law to be in the same amount as the policy limits of bodily injury liability coverage. However, the law allows a named insured to select lower limits for UM-BI coverage, reject UM-BI coverage completely, or select economic-only UM-BI coverage on a form prescribed by the insurance commissioner.
Previously a state supreme court decision set forth six criteria for a valid uninsured motorists form: (1) initialing the selection or rejection of coverage chosen; (2) if limits lower than the policy limits are chosen (available in options 2 and 4), then filling in the amount of coverage selected for each person and each accident; (3) printing the name of the named insured or legal representative; (4) signing the name of the named insured or legal representative; (5) filling in the policy number; and (6) filling in the date.
Although the Addisons asserted that the UM-BI rejection form that Addison e-signed was deficient in meeting the six criteria, the court disagreed. The Addisons asserted that the UM rejection form should fail because the coverage was preselected and could not be changed and his name and date did not appear in the designated area on the form. The Addisons also argued that an electronic signature could not stand for both the printed and signed name.
Because the Addisons failed to sufficiently rebut the presumption that the LM General UM form was valid, the court affirmed the trial court’s granting of summary judgment.
Addison vs. Affirmative Insurance Company-Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit-November 15, 2017-No. 2017-0378.