50-50 Fault Allocation: The Complexities of Determining Fault in Workplace Accidents

tilt_trucks_truck_kieswerk-1024x768Workplace accidents can be devastating, and determining fault can be complex and challenging. Clark Nixon, a dump truck driver, recently found himself in this situation after a workplace accident left him injured. While working at a job site for the Terrebonne Levee & Conservation District (“TLCD”), Nixon was involved in an accident with David Danos, an employee of TLCD, acting within the course and scope of his employment. The Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the Trial Court’s holding of both parties at fault, and the defendants filed an appeal challenging the allocation of 50% fault to Danos and TLCD. 

At the time of the accident, Nixon was hauling dirt to the job site, where dirt was being stockpiled to build a levee at a later date. The dump truck drivers backed their trucks to unload dirt, and a bulldozer operator would then push the dirt from the pile up a ramp, travel in reverse back down the ramp, and then repeat the process. TLCD also employs a spotter who verifies the dump truck’s load of dirt, documents it, and directs the dump truck drivers where to dump the load of dirt.

Under Louisiana law, courts have adopted a duty-risk analysis in determining whether to impose liability under the general negligence principles. La. C.C. art. 2315. Nixon alleged negligence on the count that he was injured because of the accident and that Danos and TLCD’s negligence was the cause of his injuries. The defendants had denied liability and claimed the accident occurred because of Nixon’s fault. 

After a trial on the merits, the Trial Court issued written reasons for judgment, finding that the accident was caused by the fault of Nixon, Danos, and TLCD and allocating 50% fault to Nixon and 50% fault to Danos and TLCD. To satisfy its apportionment of fault, the Trial Court reduced Nixon’s total damages by 50%. In response, Nixon filed an appeal, challenging the Trial Court’s apportionment of fault and arguing that the defendants should have been allocated 100% of the fault in causing the accident. 

Likewise, the defendants also appealed the Trial Court’s judgment, challenging the Trial Court’s allocation of 50% fault to Danos and TLCD. However, the Court of Appeals found no manifest error in the Trial Court’s determination of fault. It upheld the Trial Court’s decision regarding 50% fault to Nixon and 50% fault to Danos and TLCD. Under Louisiana law, the allocation of fault for the parties is considered a factual finding within the trier of facts discretion. It should not be changed on appeal without a clear error. Dickens v. Commercial Union Ins. Co.,

Ultimately, because workplace accidents can be shared, it’s necessary for everyone involved to be held accountable for their role. Additionally, in such accidents, it is crucial for anyone involved to seek legal advice from a good attorney and take the necessary steps to ensure they receive proper compensation for their injuries.

Additional Sources: Nixon v. Terrebonne Levee & Conservation District

Written by Brian Nguyen

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