Articles Posted in Car Accident

the-path-among-the-trees-6037-683x1024Trees can add aesthetic value to your property and provide benefits such as shade in the summer heat and place for birds to nest. However, under certain circumstances, property owners can be held liable for injuries resulting from a fallen tree limb. This is exactly the situation homeowners and the Town of Delhi, Louisiana found themselves in after a tree limb fell on a car, causing severe injuries to a passenger. 

In May 2012, Cheryl Wells was riding in the front seat of a vehicle that Natasha Hamilton  was driving. There were also three other passengers in the car. A thunderstorm unexpectedly developed, causing a tree to fall across the road they were driving on. As a result, Hamilton had to take a different route using Charter Street. While driving along Charter Street, a large tree limb broke off and fell onto the vehicle. The tree limb crushed the vehicle’s roof and struck Wells on her head, rendering her a quadriplegic. Fortunately, no one else in the car suffered serious harm.

The tree whose limb fell onto the vehicle was located on the property line between Kristi and Chad Morgan’s home and the right of way owned by the Town of Delhi. After the accident, Wells filed a lawsuit against the Morgans and Delhi under La. C.C. arts. 2315 and 2317.1, claiming that her injuries resulted from the defective and dying tree on the Defendants’ property. 

green-car-2265634-1-1024x683In some legal situations, there will be conflicting laws and a question of which law correctly applies to the situation at hand. For that reason, Louisiana has developed a mechanism to determine what to do when there are conflicting laws. First, when determining what law to use, the court must look at each state’s relationship to the lawsuit, the people involved in the case, and the person whose status is at issue. La. C.C. art. 3519. Second, the court must consider the policies and needs of the interstate and international system, to ensure that justified expectations are upheld and  the decision minimizes the consequences of subjecting parties to the laws of more than one state. La. C.C. 3515. Third, Louisiana law asks the courts to consider whether the application of a conflicting law would protect a child, minor, or others in need of protection. La. C.C. art. 3519.

In this case, Mississippi resident Kalyn Barber (“Kalyn”) was 18 years old when she was involved in an accident in Louisiana, resulting in Doy Cothern (“Cothern”) being injured. Cothern filed a lawsuit attempting to hold her parents vicariously liable for her actions, because, under Mississippi law, a “minor” includes any person under the age of  21. Mississippi Code Section 1-3-27. However, under Louisiana law, a father’s administration of his minor’s estate terminates at the time of majority, which is attained upon reaching the age of 18. 

When considering the first factor listed above, the court must look at the nonexclusive list of factors laid out in Louisiana Civil Code article 3519 to determine which of the multiple laws should apply (i.e., Mississippi vs. Louisiana). The court found that the plaintiff, Cothern, lived in Louisiana, the accident occurred in LA, and all the injuries sustained occurred in LA. Therefore, the only connection to Mississippi in the dispute was that the defendant, Kalyn, was a resident of MS at the time of the accident, so the first factor favors the implementation of Louisiana law.

green-car-2265634-1024x683Life can be upended in an instant. One person’s negligent act can change the trajectory of multiple people’s lives.  How much monetary compensation should this negligent, life-altering person be required to pay? Often after a trial court determines a damage award, the award stays the same. But what about when this award does not really compensate for the injuries?  Recently, the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal determined that an injured party was entitled to far more than the trial court awarded in a car accident lawsuit out of Iberia Parish.    

June Anupat was in a car accident along with her husband and four children.  Her vehicle was rear-ended by Gabriel Castillo after Castillo was rear-ended by Zachary Louviere.  At the scene, Ms. Anupat professed that she and her children seemed unharmed. While filling out paperwork for the police officer working the incident, however, Ms. Anupat started to experience dizziness and pain in her back, neck, and head, accompanied by vomiting.  She was taken to the hospital where she started to recover but remained in pain. For the six months following the accident, Ms. Anupat frequented the doctor’s office for medical treatment on her back, shoulders and arm.  

What Ms. Anupat could not receive treatment for was the complete disruption to her daily life as a result of the accident.  Prior to the accident, she was the primary caretaker for her four young children with her youngest child being just a year old.  Her husband was unable to work as a result of the accident, requiring Ms. Anupat to seek employment outside of the home. In turn, this required her grandmother to come to Louisiana all the way from Thailand.  Her grandmother could not indefinitely remain in the United States, so Ms. Anupat’s mother then also came from Thailand to care for the children. Once her family’s time in the United States was up, Ms. Anupat was still not able to quit her outside employment to return to caring for her children.  Sadly, Ms. Anupat was forced to send her youngest child to Thailand with Ms. Anupat’s family. Moreover, Ms. Anupat’s job as a restaurant cook aggravated the injury to her arm. One person’s negligence drastically altered several lives in this case.  

blur-car-cellphone-contemporary-230554-1024x684How often do you drive distracted? Text messaging, studying the GPS, or even checking Facebook; every person reading this has probably engaged in at least one of these distractions while driving. How often are you the one doing the distracting as a passenger? The car can become an excellent opportunity to air one’s grievances to a captive audience.  But when would a fight in a car, text messaging, or something else rise to passenger liability in the event of a car accident? The Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal recently grappled with this question choosing to limit impositions of passenger liability to almost everyone’s relief.  

In October 2013, Joseph Zeno picked up Christy Robinette from Blue Cliff College in Lafayette for a lunch date.  Shortly after she got in the car, the pair started to argue. The argument became so intense that Mr. Zeno intended to drop Ms. Robinette back at her school rather than continue on their journey.  Mr. Zeno put his car in reverse and then collided with the car behind him. Ms. Robinette filed a lawsuit for her injuries, but Mr. Zeno asserted that she was at least partially at fault for distracting Mr. Zeno with her screaming and cursing just prior to the accident. 

Before the Judicial District Court for the Parish of Lafayette, Ms. Robinette won a motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability.  The District Court agreed that there was no issue of material fact regarding Mr. Zeno being at fault for the accident. Because Mr. Zeno and the insurance company believed Ms. Robinette to be partially, if not completely, at fault because of her behavior in the car, they appealed to the Third Circuit seeking to expand passenger liability in Louisiana.  

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).

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