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The Rough Notes Company Inc.



August 26
06:59 2021

No joy for UIM claimant

On August 9, 2016, Llon Mark Lagarde was involved in an accident in New Orleans. He filed suit against the driver, Ibraham Abukhdeir, Abukdheir’s insurer, GEICO Indemnity Company, and Liberty Personal Insurance Company, as his provider of uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage (UMBI). Lagarde settled his claims with Abukhdeir and GEICO for the policy limits, leaving Liberty as the only remaining defendant.

Lagarde filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging that the UMBI selection form was invalid, so he had full UMBI coverage for the accident. Liberty filed a cross-motion for partial summary judgment contending that Lagarde had validly selected economic-only UMBI coverage. After a hearing, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Lagarde, finding full UMBI coverage, and denied Liberty’s cross-motion for partial summary judgment. Subsequently, the trial court denied Liberty’s motion for a new trial. Liberty appealed, and Lagarde answered the appeal.

On appeal, Liberty challenged the trial court’s judgment that invalidated Lagarde’s electronically signed selection of economic-only UMBI coverage, arguing that his selection was valid. Lagarde answered the appeal asserting that the selection form was invalid for two reasons: (1) he could not make a selection on the UMBI coverage form independent of the selection he made during the application process; and (2) the online process did not permit him to initial his selection in violation of supreme court jurisprudence and the directive of the insurance commissioner.

The undisputed facts reveal that Lagarde obtained insurance from Liberty after completing an online application and receiving a quote. He maintained that he expressed to a representative that he desired full coverage on his vehicle. Lagarde electronically completed his policy documents, including an e-signature terms and conditions consent form and the UMBI coverage selection form. He electronically signed the documents on October 26, 2016. The electronic UMBI coverage form had preselected economic-only coverage based on the online application and quote he received. The preselected information could not be changed, and Lagarde did not inquire about changing the selection at any time before or after executing and returning the documents.

Generally, UMBI coverage is required by Louisiana law to be in the same amount as the limits of bodily injury liability coverage. The law, however, allows an insured to select lower limits for UMBI coverage, reject UMBI coverage completely, or select economic-only UMBI coverage on a form prescribed by the insurance commissioner.

The trial court found in favor of Lagarde, and Liberty appealed.

On appeal, the court noted that Lagarde electronically signed, rather than initialed, his selection of economic-only UMBI coverage, indicating his identity and intention to be bound. His name is printed on the form that was electronically signed by him, and it contains the date and policy number.

The only evidence presented to rebut Lagarde’s selection of economic-only coverage was his affidavit that he desired and intended to purchase full coverage uninsured motorists insurance.

The court found that Lagarde failed to sufficiently rebut the presumption that the UMBI economic-only coverage form was valid. As such, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Lagarde and against Liberty. Given that Lagarde was limited to economic-only UMBI coverage, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s judgment and rendered summary judgment in favor of Liberty.

Lagarde v. Liberty Personal Insurance Company—Louisiana Court of Appeal, Fourth Circuit—May 26, 2021—No. 2021-CA-0046.

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