Bowen v. Government Employees Ins. Co.

Decision Date30 May 1984
Docket NumberNo. 83,83
Citation451 So.2d 1196
CourtCourt of Appeal of Louisiana — District of US

Robert Angelle, Henican, James & Cleveland, New Orleans, for plaintiff-appellant.

Gordon F. Wilson, Jr., Dodge, Friend, Wilson & Spedale, New Orleans, for defendant-appellee.



This is a devolutive appeal by the plaintiff, John F. Bowen, from a judgment of the lower court dismissing his suit against his liability insurer, Government Employees Insurance Company (GEICO). The suit was for alleged damages incurred as a result of GEICO's failure to post an appeal bond sufficient to suspensively appeal that portion of a judgment in excess of the policy limits. GEICO had filed a suspensive appeal bond only for that portion of the judgment for which it was in solido liable with the insured. We affirm.

The facts of this case are not disputed. Plaintiff's minor son was involved in an auto accident with Ms. Mary Messina. Prior to trial, GEICO had offered to settle the case for a nuisance value of $500.00. However, Ms. Messina would not settle for any amount less than the policy limits of $5,000.00. Unable to reach a settlement, the case was tried before the district judge who rendered judgment against GEICO and Mr. Bowen in the amount of $23,557.76. GEICO filed a suspensive appeal on behalf of itself and Mr. Bowen to the extent of its policy limits and a devolutive appeal as to the excess for Mr. Bowen. It posted an appeal bond only in the amount of its policy limits, i.e., $5,000.00.

On being consulted, GEICO's attorney recommended to its insured, Mr. Bowen, that he post an appeal bond for the amount of the judgment in excess of the policy limits. After unsuccessful attempts to obtain a surety bond, Mr. Bowen settled the case with Ms. Messina in the amount of $17,000.00. On appeal, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal reversed the trial court. See Messina v. Bowen, 415 So.2d 351 (4th Cir.1982). Thus, Mr. Bowen is, in the words of the trial judge, "in a unique and unfortunate set of circumstances". Specifically, he is now bound to a $17,000.00 settlement in a case for which he was eventually adjudicated not to be at fault.

On this appeal, Mr. Bowen contends the lower court erred in not finding GEICO liable for failure to provide a bond sufficient to suspensively appeal the entire judgment. In support of the contention, Bowen argues--an insurer is under a duty to defend its insured, hence, failure to post security for the entire amount of the judgment was a breach of that duty.

Louisiana courts have imposed a jurisprudential duty on insurance companies to adequately defend the insured's interest against judgments in excess of the policy limits. The duty encompasses an obligation not to arbitrarily or unreasonably refuse to settle a claim within policy limits prior to rendition of a judgment that casts the insured in judgment for an amount in excess of the policy limits. Younger v. Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Company, 174 So.2d 672 (3rd Cir.1965). See also Ward v. State Farm, 539 F.2d 1044 (CA 5 1976). Additionally, the duty has been extended to include the appeal of a judgment in excess of the policy limits. Reichert v. Continental Insurance Company, 290 So.2d 730 (1st Cir.1974).

On appeal the issue presented is whether the insurance company breached that duty. Bowen contends the duty of the insurance company to adequately defend the insured encompasses an obligation to post a bond sufficient to cover the excess judgment pending a suspensive appeal.

In the vast majority of states, there is no such duty...

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7 cases
  • Great Southwest Fire Ins. Co. v. CNA Ins. Companies
    • United States
    • Louisiana Supreme Court
    • 12 Marzo 1990
    ...v. American Fidelity Fire Ins. Co., 486 So.2d 233 (La.App. 3d Cir.) writ denied, 489 So.2d 917 (La.1986); Bowen v. Government Employees Ins. Co., 451 So.2d 1196 (La.App. 5th Cir.1984); Domangue v. Henry, 394 So.2d 638 (La.App. 1st Cir.1980); Champion v. Farm Bur. Ins. Co., 352 So.2d 737 (La......
  • United Specialty Ins. Co. v. Truong
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Louisiana
    • 26 Agosto 2021
    ... ... judgment if affirmed on appeal. See Bowen" v. Government ... Employees Ins. Co. , 451 So.2d 1196, 1198 (La.App. 5 Cir ... 1984)(\xE2\x80" ... ...
  • Richard v. USAA Cas. Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Louisiana
    • 22 Enero 2018
    ...not required to post an appeal bond for the entire excess judgment. See Bowen v. Gov't Emps. Ins. Co., 83-584 (La. App. 5 Cir. 5/30/84); 451 So. 2d 1196. However, Bowen goes on to hold that "the insurer's duty to act in good faith requires it to assist the insured in attempting to arrange b......
  • In re Kaiser Gypsum Co.
    • United States
    • U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Western District of North Carolina
    • 17 Agosto 2020
    ...premium Truck is required to pay—and none includes even similar policy language. For instance: a. Bowen v. Gov't Employees Ins. Co., 451 So. 2d 1196, 1198 (La. Ct. App. 5th Cir. 1984), does not identify any policy language relevant to the insurer's obligation to pay for appeal bond premiums......
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