This action is a suit in contract against two uninsured motorist (UM) insurers.
In January of 1984, Thomas Henson enlisted in the United States Army and was subsequently stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. On June 3, 1984, he was still stationed in Virginia and, while riding as a passenger in a vehicle driven by a friend, was involved in an automobile accident which resulted in serious physical injuries to him. The vehicle in which Henson was a passenger was uninsured under Louisiana law.
Thomas Henson is the major son of Willie Henson, who at the time of the accident resided in Monroe, Louisiana. At the time of the accident, Willie Henson had a personal liability insurance policy issued by International with a split limit of liability of $100,000 per person/$300,000 per accident. Willie Henson's business, Henson Pipeline Construction, Inc., had a business liability insurance policy issued by Safeco with a limit of liability of $500,000 per accident.
NATURE OF THE JUDGMENTS APPEALED
(Safeco's assignment of error number 1)
Safeco contends that when a judgment is rendered that only addresses the issues of coverage and limits of liability, the judgment is not a final appealable judgment. Safeco asserts that the judgment in favor of Henson holding that Safeco provided UM coverage for him in the amount of $25,000 does not determine Safeco's liability, this judgment is not appealable, and the appeals of this judgment should be dismissed.
La.C.C.P. art. 2083 defines appealable judgments as (1) final judgments and (2) interlocutory judgments which may cause irreparable injury. A judgment that does not determine the merits, but only preliminary matters in the course of the action is an interlocutory judgment; a judgment that determines the merits in whole or in part is a final judgment. La.C. C.P. art. 1841; Lamana v. LeBlanc, 558 So.2d 685 (La.App. 1st Cir.1990); Washington v. Washington, 506 So.2d 845 (La.App. 1st Cir.1987). The right of appeal is limited to appeals of final judgments and interlocutory judgments causing irreparable injury to prevent dilatory misuse of the appeal process and fragmentary adjudication of issues by sporadic review. Washington v. Washington, 506 So.2d at 846. The test for determining whether an interlocutory judgment may cause irreparable injury is whether any error in the judgment may be corrected as a practical matter in an appeal
The relief requested in the prayer of Henson's petition is a money judgment against Safeco and International. The trial court judgment in favor of International finds that the International policy does not provide UM coverage for Thomas Henson and dismisses International as a party defendant. This judgment is a partial final judgment because it dismisses a party from the suit. See La.C.C.P. art. 1915(A)(1). It is a final judgment because it decides the merits, in part, and denies the relief requested by Henson against International. As a partial final judgment, the judgment as to International is appealable and properly before this court.
The judgment in favor of Henson against Safeco states that Safeco "provides uninsured motorist coverage only in the limits of" $25,000; it does not award a money judgment in favor of Henson. Thus, this judgment does not determine the merits of the case, in whole or in part. It does not grant the relief Henson sought. Because it does not determine the merits of the case, the judgment as to Safeco is interlocutory, rather than final. In W. Forrester, Developments in the Law, 1986-1987—Civil Procedure, 48 La.L.Rev. 241, 244 (1987) appears the following:
No irreparable injury has been claimed or shown. The issue of coverage can be reviewed and any errors can be corrected in an appeal following a determination of the merits (the liability of Safeco). Thus, the judgment as to Safeco is not appealable pursuant to La.C.C.P. art. 2083. An appellate court may dismiss an appeal on its own motion where there is no right to appeal. La.C.C.P. art. 2162; Lamana v. LeBlanc, 558 So.2d at 688. Since Safeco and Henson had no right to appeal this judgment, we will dismiss the appeal as it relates to Safeco.
This assignment of error has merit.
REJECTION OF UM COVERAGE ON THE INTERNATIONAL POLICY
(Henson's assignment of error number 1)
Henson contends the trial court erred in finding that Willie Henson rejected UM coverage in his application for insurance with International.
La.R.S. 22:1406(D)(1)(a), as it read at the time of the accident, stated the following:
In Roger v. Estate of Moulton, 513 So.2d 1126, 1130-1132 (La.1987), the Louisiana Supreme Court discussed UM coverage and how to reject it as follows:
(Emphasis added, citations omitted.)
See also Smith v. Travelers Insurance Company, 560 So.2d 472 (La.App. 1st Cir.), writ denied, 564 So.2d 325 (La.1990); Schwoch v. Sutor, 559 So.2d 552 (La.App. 2nd Cir.1990).
Willie Henson testified that he bought a 1982 Chevrolet pickup truck from Crane Chevrolet and financed it through GMAC. GMAC required that the truck be insured before it left the dealer's lot, so he called his bookkeeper from Crane's and told her to call Perkins Insurance Agency and get full coverage on his new truck. A few days later, an agent from Perkins came by his office with an application for insurance with International for him to sign. He did not remember much about the application because he only glanced at it. He remembered the application being filled out at the time he signed it.
Both International and plaintiff submitted into evidence copies of the application for insurance signed by Willie Henson which purports to reject UM coverage. This application on its face meets the requirements of the Roger case for a valid rejection of UM coverage. International has made out a prima facie case of a valid rejection of UM coverage.
The fact that Willie Henson just glanced at the application before signing it does not make the rejection invalid. A person who signs a written instrument is presumed to know its contents and cannot avoid its obligations by contending that he did not read it, that it was not explained, or that he did not understand it. Tweedel v. Brasseaux, 433 So.2d 133 (La.1983); Ciaccio v. Cazayoux, 519 So.2d 799 (La.App. 1st Cir.1987); Bonck v. Bonck, 500 So.2d 798 (La.App. 1st Cir.1986), writ denied, 501 So.2d 774 (La. 1987); Jackson v. Lambert, 492 So.2d 498 (La.App. 1st Cir.), writs denied, 496 So.2d 1045, 1046 (La.1986). The plaintiff failed to produce sufficient evidence to rebut this presumption of knowledge. See La.C.C. arts. 1849-1852; La.R.S. 15:432; Turner v. Turner, 455 So.2d 1374 (La.1984); Crockett v. Crockett, 525 So.2d 304 (La.App. 1st Cir.), writ denied, 532 So.2d 117 (La.1988).
International sustained its burden of proving a valid rejection of UM coverage. The trial court did not err in finding that Willie Henson had validly rejected UM coverage in his application for insurance with International. See for example, Cuccia v. Clark, 557 So.2d 989 (La.App. 4th Cir. 1990); Guilbeau v. Gabriel, 553 So.2d 1078 (La.App. 3rd Cir.1989), writ denied, 559 So.2d 138 (La.1990).
This assignment of error is without merit.
For the foregoing reasons, the judgment in favor of International dismissing Henson's claim against it is affirmed and Henson's and Safeco's appeals of the judgment defining Safeco's coverage are dismissed. The costs of the Safeco and Henson appeals shall be divided equally between them. The trial court costs shall be assessed in a final judgment on the merits in the trial court.
AFFIRMED IN PART; APPEAL DISMISSED IN PART.