In a very recent Louisiana Court of Appeals Case, the Court took a rare action to uphold summary judgment when considering whether the lead vehicle in multi car pileup was negligent. The Court found the lead driver, Martin Lopez, was not negligent because he acted with ordinary care. This idea of ordinary care is extremely important
The accident in question occurred in Shreveport, Louisiana. Adam Parisy was driving north on I-49 with 3 passengers. He exited on a high rise ramp that curved over I-49 to Highway 3132, behind a freightliner driven by Lopez. The turbocharger on the 18 wheeler exploded, engulfing the area in smoke. Lopez pulled the liner over, unaware of any collission. Parisy stopped at the top of the ramp because he couldn’t see and was rear ended by another drive, who was also rear ended.
Parisy and two of his passengers were seriously injured. Several separate lawsuits were filed, including against Lopez, his insurer, and his employer, which were dismissed via summary judgment.
Under the Sudden Emergency Doctrine, someone who finds themselves in imminent peril, without time to consider all the circumstances or the best steps to take to avoid danger, is not guilty of negligene if he fails to adopt which subsequently appears to be the better method of action, unless the emergency is brought by his own negligence.
Here, plaintiffs argue that the second driver’s truck slammed into their vehicle and drove it into Lopez’s rig. Because the collision was so severe, they remember only seeing smoke and stopping. The plaintiffs also allege that there are questions of fact as to whether Lopez stopped his vehicle after the turbocharger blew. However, they have no direct testimony to support the theory and only offer proof of a scratch on Parisy’s vehicle that was not there before. Lopez’s testimony that he did not stop is corroborated by the other two drivers. Additionally, the police report does not indicate there was a collision between Parisy’s vehicle and Lopez’s truck.
The plaintiffs also argue that Lopez was negligent because his truck caused the smoke and white out. However, the record shows that the turbocharger had been replaced two months before the blowout – there was no advanced warning that the new turbocharger would malfunction and everything indicates that Lopez and his employer exercised ordinary care. It is also argued that Lopez acted negligently in his reaction to the blowout. Lopez was faced with loss of power and visibility and had to make an instance decision, which he did, to put the vehicle and neutral and coast it to a safe location. Now that we are far removed from the accident, the plaintiff’s suggest this was not the best course of action, however, Lopez acted with ordinary care in attempting to remove the danger by getting off the ramp.
If you have been in an accident and believe another driver’s negligence was to blame, it is important you have an attorney with enough experience to know whether the Sudden Emergency Doctrine or some other law applies that may negatively impact your ability to be successful in your case. One of our talented lawyers would be happy to answer any questions you might have.