BATON ROUGE — The Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court ruling for involuntary dismissal in a claim between Allstate Insurance Company and its customer Tracy Brumfield.
Judge Charlotte Foster heard the case and rendered a decision on July 3.
The court ruled that Brumfield failed to meet her burden of proving that her damages in an auto accident exceeded $50,000.
After Jacob Currier’s vehicle rear-ended Brumfield, forcing her car into the vehicle ahead of her, Brumfield sued Currier; his insurance carrier, National General Assurance Company; and her own insurance carrier, Allstate.
Brumfield ultimately received a $43,000 settlement from Currier and National General Assurance Company.
“Mrs. Brumfield alleged that [Allstate] was liable for all relief afforded her ... including penalties, attorney fees, and costs unless sufficient tenders are made for damages that exceed Mr. Currier’s underlying liability coverage," the court ruling stated.
Currier’s liability coverage limit was $50,000.
Allstate then filed a motion to involuntarily dismiss the case against the company for penalties and attorney fees because Brumfield failed to prove the value of her claim exceeded the underlying limits of Currier’s liability policy.
Allstate alleged that since Brumfield had settled for $43,000, the additional $7,000 was unwarranted.
The 21st Judicial District Court agreed with Allstate, which prompted Brumfield's appeal. She alleged in her appeal that the court made five errors when ruling to dismiss her claim against Allstate, including: granting Allstate’s motion for involuntary dismissal; finding that Allstate's failure to make a reasonable tender was not arbitrary and capricious; its ruling regarding liability, causation, and damages; allowing the amount of settlement and the underlying policy limits into evidence before rendering a ruling; and denying her request to admit certified medical records into evidence.
According to the appeals court's ruling, Brumfield confirmed the amount of her settlement and the amount of Currier’s liability policy during the trial. Since her counsel didn’t object to the questions, she lost the right to appeal on grounds that evidence was improperly admitted.
The court also found that Brumfield’s counsel did not attempt to enter her certified medical records into evidence, which disqualified her claim that she was denied the request.
During the first trial, Allstate indicated that Currier was at fault for the accident, so the court never ruled on liability, causation, and damages making Brumfield’s claim invalid. She also did not “meet her burden of proof that damages she sustained in the accident giving rise to this lawsuit exceed $50,000, the underlying limits of Mr. Currier’s insurance policy.”
The ruling also revealed that although some of Brumfield's injuries resulted from the accident, she had previously sought attention for injuries due to previous accidents and chronic conditions.
In a final statement, the judgment declares “these assignments also lack merit."