Articles Posted in Car Accident

2-man-on-construction-site-during-daytime-159306-1024x683Construction is a necessary inconvenience. No one enjoys having their travel rerouted due to road construction, but nonetheless, drivers must follow construction signs to safely avoid the temporary hazards road work creates. What happens when a driver doesn’t see the construction signs and drives her car into a large hole in the street? Even if the path down the street isn’t clear, what’s clear to the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is that a trial judge isn’t allowed to determine which party is telling the truth.

A single car accident happened the night of December 6, 2012 around 10:30 p.m. when Eileen Maldonado, her daughter, Dana Williams, and their friend, Derrick Sykes, were heading to Harrah’s Casino in downtown New Orleans. With Ms. Maldonado behind the wheel, their vehicle went through the under-construction intersection of Elks Place and Cleveland Avenue. Since it was dark, Ms. Maldonado did not see the large hole in the road which had been dug by Archer Western Construction, and the passenger side of her car fell into the hole.

Ms. Williams and Mr. Sykes initially brought a lawsuit against Ms. Maldonado and her insurer along with Archer Western Construction and their insurer. They blamed the accident on the negligence of both Ms. Maldonado and Archer Western, claiming that there were no barriers around the hole or general signs saying to not go through that intersection. An amendment to their lawsuit added Ms. Maldonado’s negligent driving to the case.

cards-casino-chance-chip-269630-1024x683People generally expect to be safe from injury on the premises of a hotel or other such business.  Thus, the owners and operators of these premises are required by law to do what is reasonably necessary to keep their guests safe.  However, this obligation does not generally extend to incidents outside the property. For instance, a car accident that occurs on the road near the hotel is likely not the fault of the hotel itself.  In 2017, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals considered such a situation.

In February 2015, Terry James was staying at the Eldorado hotel in Shreveport.  There was an ice storm at the time that made traveling on the roads difficult. The State Police had, in fact, warned people not to drive on the interstate unless necessary.  During his stay at the hotel, however, Mr. James apparently violated the casino rules. As a result, a security guard informed him he could leave the hotel voluntarily or otherwise be forcefully removed.  Mr. James chose to leave the hotel. On the interstate, he lost control of his car and wrecked. Mr. James then sued the Eldorado hotel for his accident, claiming it was the fault of the hotel personnel for forcing him to leave in the bad weather.  The hotel filed to have this case dismissed on the basis that they were not responsible for Mr. James’ safety once he had exited the premises. The trial court agreed with the hotel and dismissed the lawsuit. Mr. James appealed this dismissal. 

The issue for the Second Circuit was whether the hotel would be responsible for injuries that occurred outside the hotel’s property on a state road.  In order to make a decision on this issue, the Second Circuit considered the legal concept of negligence. Mr. James argued that the hotel had a duty to protect him from injuries that he received after he was intentionally made to leave the hotel.  Indeed, hotels have a duty to act in a reasonable manner to protect their guests from injury. Spencer v. Red River Lodging, 865 So. 2d 337 (La. Ct. App. 2004).

blue-and-silver-stetoscope-40568-1024x683Health insurance is extremely important and often a vital key to keeping both financial and physical health.  When insurance payments collide with lawsuit payouts, things can become confusing. There are certain parts of Louisiana law that serve to protect  those that have been injured in such instances. The Second Circuit Court of Appeal considered such a protection in 2017.

In 2014, Dustin Patterson was injured in a car accident.  He settled his claims against the other driver as well as the owner of the driver’s vehicle and the driver’s insurance company.  Mr. Patterson’s insurance company, American National Property and Casualty Insurance (“ANPAC”), remained in the lawsuit and went to trial in Caddo Parish.   At trial, Mr. Patterson was only permitted to present, as evidence of his medical expenses, the discounted amount paid by his health insurance. This was factored into his total recovery of $23,632.63.  Believing himself entitled to a higher amount, Mr. Patterson appealed.

The issue for the Second Circuit was whether the plaintiff’s recovery could be reduced due to “write-offs” by his insurance company.  Through negotiations with the health insurance company, the cost of Mr. Patterson’s healthcare was reduced by the providers. The difference between the original amount of his care and the negotiated amount was “written off”.  Mr. Patterson argued he should be awarded the “written off” amount since he had paid health insurance premiums. The Second Circuit considered this argument under the collateral source rule. This is a principle of Louisiana law that prevents a plaintiff from being denied any portion of their monetary awards in a lawsuit just because they received money from an independent source.  Bozeman v. State, 879 So. 2d 692 (La. 2004).  One reason for the implementation of this rule is to prevent a defendant from benefiting from the plaintiff’s decision to obtain insurance.  This is balanced, though, with the desire to prevent a plaintiff from receiving an undeserved “windfall” of excess payments.  

white-volvo-semi-truck-on-side-of-road-2199293-1024x684An occurrence such as a bad motor accident will almost likely aggravate any pre-existing injuries of an injured party. This, of course, depends on the seriousness of the accident in question. In this particular case, Mr. Urquhart and Mr. Nye were involved in a motor accident with a truck belonging to Sysco Food Services of New Orleans (“Sysco”), and driven by its employee, Mr. Spencer. This accident resulted in bodily injuries to Urquhart and Nye and further aggravated their already existing health challenges.

On May 9, 2012, along East Judge Perez Drive, Mr. Spencer collided with another vehicle containing two passengers, Mr. Urquhart and Mr. Nye. A witness to the accident, Mr. Straub, testified that both his vehicle and the vehicle containing Urquhart and Nye were in the right-hand lane when Mr. Spencer moved from the left lane of travel and collided with Urquhart and Nye’s vehicle. The difficulty in this lawsuit arises because  Urquhart and Nye had separately been involved in a series of accidents that left them with injuries still existing at the time of the May 2012 accident.

Mr. Urquhart and Mr. Nye filed an action in tort against Mr. Spencer, Sysco Food Services of New Orleans and Zurich American Insurance Company in January 2015 for this accident. Mr. Urquhart’s sons testified that he became a “couch potato” after the May 2012 accident and suffered on-going effects from the accident until his death. Mr. Nye’s sons also testified to his fitness and activities and stated that he had planned to go back to work prior to the accident. Mr. Nye’s neurosurgeon, a vocational rehabilitation expert, testified to the grievous effects the accident has on his health while his expert economist testified that his injuries and inability to return to work would result in his loss of wages and capacity to earn wages. Mr. Nye’s chiropractor also testified that the accident caused the most neurological damage to his lumbar spine.

close-up-photo-of-black-car-2470657-683x1024Summary judgments are a common tool in litigation to not only expedite the drawn out trial process, but they can also be used to cut down on the cost of a lawsuit. Yet, there are different standards about what kinds of documents can and cannot be considered when a party makes a motion for summary judgment. For two Baton Rouge individuals, their claims against an insurance company survived because of this technicality.

In June 2015, Brenda Jones was driving with her step-son, Mario Jones, Jr., when she stopped at an intersection on Florida Boulevard. Her car was rear-ended by Mr. Jason Anderson, a driver in another vehicle.  After the accident, Mr. and Ms. Jones both sued Mr. Anderson for damages arising from the accident. GoAuto Insurance Company (GoAuto), Mr. Anderson’s car insurance provider, was also included in the lawsuit. In response to the lawsuit, GoAuto filed a motion for summary judgment and sought to have the claims against them dismissed. GoAuto claimed that Mr. Anderson’s car insurance had been cancelled in May 2015, a month prior to the accident, because Mr. Anderson had failed to  pay for his insurance. Because of this, GoAuto said that it should not be liable since it was not Mr. Anderson’s car insurer when the car accident occurred. 

Further, GoAuto claimed that Mr. Anderson’s insurance was financed through an insurance premium finance agreement between Mr. Anderson and Auto Premium Assistance Company (APAC).  To support their claim, GoAuto provided the court with several documents, including affidavits by the company’s operations manager, Mr. Anderson’s insurance finance agreement, and email notices that were sent to Mr. Anderson informing him his insurance would be cancelled.  In August 2016, the Nineteenth Judicial District Court granted GoAuto’s summary judgment, finding that GoAuto correctly cancelled Mr. Anderson’s insurance after he failed to pay and affirming that he did not have insurance when the accident occurred. Additionally, the trial court found that GoAuto did not have a legal duty to give Mr. Anderson a defense in the still-pending case against him. Mr. and Ms. Jones appealed.

photo-of-broken-red-car-on-grass-3368844-1024x768Car accidents are often difficult to sort out. Blame is not always easy to establish, and conflicting evidence is often prevalent. Good lawyers and judges are then called in to try to accurately present the evidence to a jury so that the jury can apportion blame to the proper parties. Such a seemingly confusing situation occurred in Baton Rouge, Louisiana when a Swiss tourist, Patrick Gisler,  was driving a rental car and collided with a car driven by Lance Boudreaux. 

Brian Ross Richard, a passenger in Mr. Boudreaux’s car, was severely injured and subsequently brought a lawsuit for his injuries against both Mr. Gisler and Mr. Boudreaux and their insurers. The jury found that Mr. Boudreaux was 100% at fault and awarded damages based on that finding. Mr. Boudreaux’s insurer, USAA, appealed, arguing principally that the court erred in allowing a certain piece of evidence, and testimony about that evidence, into the trial. That piece of evidence challenged was a hand-drawn diagram by Mr. Boudreaux purporting to demonstrate his view of the accident. The Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal, however, did not find any error with regard to the admittance of that evidence and affirmed the trial court’s verdict.

This case centered around the two parties’ conflicting accounts of the accident. Mr. Boudreaux was exiting a parking lot and making a left turn onto Highland Road in Baton Rouge when he collided with Mr. Gisler who was already on that road and traveling in the opposite direction. Mr. Gisler had been merging into the left hand turning lane at the time of the accident. The vehicles collided head-on. Mr. Richard supported Mr. Boudreaux in arguing that Mr. Gisler was at fault for the accident. Both parties argued their case to the jury, who weighed the evidence and concluded that Mr. Boudreaux was 100% at fault for the collision. Part of the evidentiary display was a hand-drawn diagram created by Mr. Boudreaux during his deposition. The diagram was accompanied by a photograph of the location where the accident took place and was purported to show Mr. Boudreaux’s account of the collision. The diagram was admittedly not to scale, and Mr. Boudreaux testified as much at the trial. Nevertheless, following the verdict against Mr. Boudreaux and USAA, USAA appealed, with its principle argument centering around this diagram. USAA argued that the diagram was misleading and had no value. It argued that it should not have been admitted into evidence and only served to confuse the jury.  USAA argued that this confusing diagram was the only reason for the verdict, which it felt was inconsistent with the bulk of the evidence. Thus, USAA demanded a new trial or a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV).

alcohol-bar-black-background-close-up-602750-972x1024The majority of states have what are known as “dram shop laws”.  These laws address liability if someone is injured by a drunk person after consuming alcohol at an establishment.  Most of these laws allow for the bar or other entity that served alcoholic beverages to be sued. Louisiana’s version of the law is quite unique, actually doing the opposite.  The bar or other business must meet certain requirements to be afforded this essential immunity. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal in Louisiana recently considered such a situation.  

In 2013, Arthur Tregre, Jr., the plaintiff, was driving in Lake Charles Parrish.  The car ahead of him, driven by Dallas Veillon, was making a left turn when it was struck by a police car coming the opposite direction.  This caused the same police car to crash into Mr. Tregre, killing the officer and injuring Mr. Tregre. Mr. Veillon had been intoxicated at the time of the accident.  In fact, he had been just forcibly removed from the premises of a nearby bar, Boogie’s Lounge. Mr. Tregre sued the Sheriff, the bar and its bartender, and the bar’s insurance company.  The officer’s widow was also a plaintiff in the case. Both the insurance company and Boogie’s Lounge filed summary judgment motions to have the case dismissed. In 2016, the trial court granted these motions, dismissing the claims against the bar and its insurer.  Mr. Tregre, as well as the officer’s widow, appealed.

The law in Louisiana, fittingly called the “Anti-Dram Shop Act”, serves to remove the burden from establishments that serve alcohol.  The issue for the Fifth Circuit was whether or not there was any reason this law should not be applied. The law in question specifically provides that no person or employee of the person that holds a valid liquor permit and serves alcohol is liable for any injuries caused by a customer while off the premises.  La. R.S. 9.2800.1.  It also states that the proximate, or legal, cause of any such injury is the action of the intoxicated person.  The accident occurred on a nearby road, well outside the premises of Boogie’s. Still, Mr. Trevor argued that the employees of Boogie’s should have known better than to eject Mr. Veillon to the road where he would most likely drive and cause an accident.  Here, the Fifth Circuit applied the Anti-Dram Shop act, stating that it was Mr. Veillon’s actions of imbibing in large quantities of alcohol and then choosing to drive that caused the accident. Indeed, the law in Louisiana was enacted in order to put the blame on the intoxicated person.  Aucoin v. Rochel, 5 So.3d 197, (La. Ct. App. 2008).

photo-of-blue-sedan-parked-on-the-side-of-the-road-1213293-1024x683In certain situations, car owners and their insurance companies may be liable for a death caused by a non-owner driving the car. However, that liability only arises when the car owner expressly or implicitly grants permission to the driver. A common fear for car owners is that someone borrows their car and is involved in some horrible situation. 

The Leger family found themselves in just such a nightmare situation when their car was taken from their driveway in Scott, Louisiana after midnight one summer night and involved in a fatal accident. Sanchez Walters was one of three people in that car during its fateful ride and was killed when the car was involved in a one-car accident. The Legers knew they needed the assistance of an excellent attorney when they were notified of a wrongful death lawsuit brought against them, one of the other people present in the car during the accident, and their insurance company, on behalf of Mr. Walters. Fortunately for the Legers and the other passenger, the wrongful death suit against them was dismissed before trial. The suit was maintained, however, against the insurance company, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, for insurance coverage. KC brought the lawsuit on behalf of her minor daughter, AW, contending that the car was taken that night with express or implied permission, giving rise to insurance liability. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of State Farm due to a lack of evidence supporting Ms. C’s claim. Ms. C subsequently appealed to the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal. Nevertheless, the Court of Appeal affirmed the summary judgment, similarly finding that Ms. C was unable to provide sufficient evidence to establish a factual question as to whether express or implied permission to use the car was granted.

The facts of this case are pretty sparse and that lack of concrete factual certainty led directly to Ms. Cs inability to provide enough evidence that showed that the car was taken with the owners’ express or implied consent. All that is known is that sometime in the early morning hours the Legers’ car was taken by Kylor Broussard, Nicholas Ledet, and Mr. Walters. The Legers each provided affidavits stating that they did not give express or implied permission to the three occupants to take the car. After the car was taken, it was involved in a single car accident that caused fatal injuries to Mr. Walters. Evidence could not even be supplied establishing who was driving the car at the time of the accident. Ms. C argued that Mr. Walters was a passenger in the car. She alleged that negligent entrustment by the Legers led to his death. Ms. C originally brought lawsuits against Broussard, Mr. and Mrs. Ledet on behalf of their minor son, Mr. Leger, and State Farm. Ms. C dismissed the lawsuit against Broussard and the Ledets on her own, and the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Mr. Leger, dismissing all of the claims against him with prejudice due to the lack of evidence supporting negligent entrustment. That left the lawsuit against State Farm as the only remaining portion of the original lawsuit. State Farm responded by motioning for summary judgment, arguing that all of the evidence pointed to a lack of express or implied consent from the Legers allowing use of the car.  Ms. C failed to provide any exhibits of evidence to challenge the motion for summary judgment. She instead argued that Broussard’s deposition testimony and a police statement raised a genuine issue of material fact as to who the driver was at the time of the accident and whether they had permission to drive the car. The trial court agreed with State Farm that the evidence was severely lacking and granted summary judgment. Ms. C subsequently appealed only the lawsuit against State Farm to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal, however, affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of State Farm.

blur-car-caution-dash-163945-1024x683Sometimes, there are situations that appear to have an obvious result. Person A causes injury to Person B and B sues A. All the evidence points to A being at fault and B being hurt and in need of recovery.  However, what if in the middle of the case, the court held that B was not hurt at all and therefore did not need to recover? How does a result like this even come about? What does B do? This situation is illustrated in a case arising from a New Orleans motor vehicle accident from 2014.

On January 7, 2014, Michael Mirandy (“Mirandy”) was driving down Interstate 10 in New Orleans on his way home from a doctor’s appointment where he had been treated for injuries from a car accident the previous year. Unfortunately for Mirandy, he was rear ended by a car driven by Gary Walters, Jr (“Walters”). Three days after the accident, Mirandy returned to his physician, Dr. Chad Domangue (“Domangue”) with complaints of pain in his neck and back. Domangue ordered an MRI that month and compared it to previous MRI Mirandy underwent on July 13, 2013. When he compared the two MRIs, it was clear that many discs and vertebrae that had been normal in 2013 were now injured, and those that were already inflamed or displaced in 2013 were now in worse shape.

Mirandy and his wife then sued Walters for damages in the Civil District Court for Orleans Parish. Both Domangue and Mirandy’s orthopedic surgeon testified that many of Mirandy’s injuries were not present before the 2014 accident and because of that accident, he needed surgery. During the jury charge conference, one of the jury charges suggested that the accident was a “minimal or minor collision.” Mirandy’s counsel objected to this language and the court agreed to modify it. However, the charge was not modified and after four days of trial, the jury held that while Walters was at fault for causing the accident, Mirandy was not injured. As a result of this judgment, Mirandy did not received damages. He appealed to the Court of Appeal for the Fourth Circuit, arguing that the unmodified jury charge improperly instructed the jury, and that the District Court erred when it found that he was not injured in the car accident.

building-in-city-against-sky-256490-977x1024You lose your case. However, your lawyer tells you not to despair. She tells you that you can appeal the trial court’s judgment at the appellate court. However, it is not always that simple. Appellate courts, like trial courts, do not just accept every single case that comes their way. They must first have jurisdiction over a case, which simply means that they must meet certain requirements to hear the case. Without jurisdiction, an appellate court will be unable to take your case even if your claim may be legitimate. 

A multi-vehicle accident occurred on a highway in Jefferson Parish on December 25, 2014. The accident began when the vehicle driven by Max Beagle struck the vehicle driven by Elridge Thompson, Jr. Shadid Chaudry, who witnessed the collision between Beagle and Thompson, stopped his vehicle nearby to render assistance. Carrie Thiele was in the passenger seat of Chaudry’s vehicle. However, upon exiting the vehicle, Thiele was struck by a motorcycle driven by David Casse, who had swerved to avoid Chaudry’s vehicle. Upon hitting Thiele, Casse was thrown off his motorcycle while his motorcycle continued to move towards Thompson’s vehicle, eventually crashing into it. 

Thompson filed a lawsuit against both Beagle and Casse and their respective insurance companies. Casse in turn filed a lawsuit against Thiele. In Casse’s lawsuit, he claimed that his collision with Thiele caused him severe injuries. Thiele filed a motion, stating that Casse’s lawsuit was barred because Casse’s lawsuit was filed more than a year after the accident. The Trial Court, without giving any written opinion, agreed with Thiele and dismissed Casse’s lawsuit.