The sole issue raised in this case is whether or not there was a valid rejection of uninsured motorist (UM) coverage under LSA-R.S. 22:1406(D). The trial court found that there was a valid rejection of UM coverage and granted summary judgment in favor of defendant, Shelter General Insurance Company. Plaintiffs, Joseph D. Bertrand and Dora Miller Bertrand, now appeal that judgment. We find no error. We affirm.
Plaintiffs instituted this action for damages for the wrongful death of their major daughter occurring as a result of an automobile accident. Named as defendant in this matter is Shelter General Insurance
The automobile insurance application form which defendant provided Mr. Bertrand was filed into the record. In the vehicle description section Mr. Bertrand listed a 1973 Kenworth truck bearing the vehicle identification number 222996. Question number 6 on the application asked: "6. Do you want Uninsured Motorist coverage? (Not applicable in IL, KS, MO)." Mr. Bertrand answered this question in the negative. Question number 7 on the application asked: "Do you want Uninsured Motorist limits equal to Bodily Injury Limits?" to which Mr. Bertrand again responded in the negative.
Mr. Bertrand filled out an application to transfer coverage to a 1981 International truck bearing the vehicle identification number IHTL23270BGA21711. Subsequently, Mr. Bertrand filled out another application to transfer coverage, this time to a 1982 International truck bearing the vehicle identification number IHTD21376CGB1094. On the same date, a 1982 Timpi trailer bearing the vehicle identification number ITDM4002XCB53550 was added on to the coverage. All three of these applications are present in the record. The final application for transfer of coverage filled out by Mr. Bertrand provides as follows:
As can be plainly seen, Mr. Bertrand rejected UM coverage and responded negatively to the question of whether or not he wanted UM limits equal to the bodily injury limits. It can also be clearly seen that the application provides blank spaces adjacent to the categories of coverage to be filled in with the applicant's requested amounts of coverage. There is no amount filled in next to the UM categories of coverage. Mr. Bertrand's signature appears at the bottom of the application form.
With regard to UM coverage, LSA-R.S. 22:1406(D)(1)(a) provides:
In Roger v. Estate of Moulton, 513 So.2d 1126, 1130 (La.1987), the Louisiana Supreme Court explained the purpose and effect of UM coverage in the following terms:
The case law has also recognized that it remains the insurer's burden to prove either rejection or else selection of lower limits if the insurer is to escape the statutory obligation that its policy shall contain UM coverage equal in amount to its bodily injury coverage. Roger, supra; McCall v. Nguyen, 509 So.2d 651 (La.App. 3d Cir. 1987); Aramburo v. Travelers Insurance Co., 426 So.2d 260 (La.App. 4th Cir. 1983), writ denied, 433 So.2d 161 (La.1983), modified, 438 So.2d 274 (La.App. 4th Cir.1983), writ denied, 443 So.2d 1110 (La.1983).
In the instant matter, plaintiffs concede that Mr. Bertrand signed the form which contained a rejection of UM coverage; however, they contend that the rejection is invalid because Mr. Bertrand was never offered in writing UM limits in any
This identical issue was raised in a case recently decided by this court. Guilbeau v. Gabriel, 553 So.2d 1078 (La.App. 3d Cir. 1989), writ denied, 559 So.2d 138 (La. 1990). The facts in Guilbeau are remarkably similar to those in the case at bar. In Guilbeau, the plaintiff brought suit against her UM carrier seeking to recover damages for the death of her daughter, who was struck by an alleged uninsured motorist. The trial court granted the UM carrier summary judgment on the ground that the plaintiff rejected in writing UM coverage on the insurance application. As in the case sub judice, the application for insurance provided the insured the opportunity to accept or reject UM coverage. The application also contained blank spaces by the categories of coverage to be filled in with the amount of coverage requested. The UM coverage blanks were left unfilled. Plaintiff argued that although she signed the rejection it was invalid because it did not present her with all of the available options under LSA-R.S. 22:1406(D)(1)(a). She contended that for the form to be valid it had to explain to her that she had the option of selecting UM coverage in the same limits as liability coverage, lower limits than liability coverage or rejecting coverage completely. Plaintiff relied on some of the same cases to support her argument as do the plaintiffs in this case. This court rejected the plaintiff's argument and affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment. Quoting from the Supreme Court's decision in Roger, this court determined that the following was required to validly reject UM coverage:
Guilbeau, at 1080. It was also recognized that the rejection must be in writing and must be signed by the named insured or his legal representative. In light of these requirements, this court found that plaintiff's signature next to the rejection clause constituted a clear and unequivocal expression of her intent to reject UM coverage.
Similarly, we find that Mr. Bertrand's negative response to the questions: "Do you want Uninsured Motorist coverage?" and "Do you want Uninsured Motorist limits equal to Bodily Injury Limits?" constitutes a clear and unequivocal expression of his intent to reject UM coverage. We determine that the rejection is in accordance with the requirements of LSA-R.S. 22:1406(D)(1)(a). In fact, in Rawson v. Jennings, 487 So.2d 777 (La.App. 3d Cir.1986), this court found that the same language qualified as a written rejection of UM coverage. This court went on to ultimately hold in that case that the initial rejection of UM coverage was vitiated by a subsequent change order which requested coverage. We are not faced with a similar problem here, as Mr. Bertrand never requested UM coverage in any of the application for change forms he signed.
Plaintiffs cite several cases to support their position that the rejection of UM coverage in this case was ineffective because Mr. Bertrand was never informed of his option to select UM coverage in limits less than the bodily injury limits, e.g. Carlson v. Safeco Insurance Co., 499 So.2d 664 (La.App. 3d Cir.1986), writ denied, 503 So.2d 477 (La.1987); Cheadle v. Francois, 470 So.2d 255 (La.App. 4th Cir.1985); Aramburo, supra. We have reviewed these cases and find them to be inapposite. All of these cases dealt with situations where an insured purchased UM limits less than the bodily injury limits and then later claimed that the selection was invalid because he was not informed that there was an option to purchase higher limits. However,
Plaintiffs lastly argue that it was error for the trial court to grant summary judgment to defendant because there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether or not UM coverage was explained to Mr. Bertrand. In his affidavit, Mr. Bertrand states that the insurance agent, Gerald Doumite, never explained to him the nature of UM coverage, nor did Mr. Doumite explain that he could select such coverage in an amount less than bodily injury limits. Gerald Doumite, in his affidavit, states that he informed Mr. Bertrand of his right to have UM coverage equal to liability limits, select lower limits, or reject UM coverage altogether. Mr. Doumite further states that Mr. Bertrand elected to reject UM coverage outright.
In Rushing v. Frazier, 477 So.2d 1317 (La.App. 3d Cir.1985), reversed, 480 So.2d 736 (La.1986) and 483 So.2d 1011 (La.1986) this court held that there is no fiduciary duty owed by the insurer of its agent to explain all the legal ramifications of UM coverage. Rushing was reversed and remanded by the Louisiana Supreme Court, and, as of the time of this writing, there has been no published decision in that case. The reversal of Rushing has no bearing on this case. The plaintiffs in Rushing alleged that they were confused as to the meaning and purpose of UM coverage. There is no such allegation in this case. In fact, plaintiffs allege only that Mr. Bertrand was unaware that lower limits could be selected and not that he was unaware of the nature of UM coverage in general. Since we have decided that Mr. Bertrand did not have to be apprised of the option to select lower limits for there to be a valid outright rejection of UM coverage, plaintiffs' argument does not raise a genuine issue of material fact.
For the reasons expressed herein, we affirm the trial court's grant of summary judgment to defendant. Plaintiffs are cast for all costs.