Articles Posted in Car Accident

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. 

black-train-on-rail-and-showing-smoke-72594-1024x727Everyone has experienced or knows about a situation in which a governmental body was liable for damages or injuries caused. When suing a city in Louisiana, there must be some evidentiary support for the elements required under La. R.S. 9:2800. Otherwise, cities would be getting sued for every crack in the sidewalk that someone tripped over. While the situation in this case was more serious than a crack in the sidewalk, there are limits, all the same, to ensure that the city is not liable for another’s wrongdoing. The question in this case is who is responsible for the failure to maintain proper signage at railroad tracks? And if the signage is not enough who is held responsible?

In this case, TG was working as an engineer on a Union Pacific train that was traveling north on a path that would cross Cedar Street in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. DA was driving a road grader traveling west of Cedar Street when he attempted to cross the train tracks. Unfortunately, DA was not able to drive across the train tracks and was subsequently struck by the train, causing his death. TG was allegedly injured and filed suit for damages against the Department of Transportation and Development (“DOTD”), Mr. DA and the Union Pacific Railroad Company, alleging the defendants were at fault for the injuries sustained when the train struck the road grader. DOTD claimed that it was not at fault, but instead that the Village of Grosse Tete was at fault for a number of reasons, including failure to maintain the roadway surface and warning devices.

As a result of DOTD’s claims, Goodmond filed an amended petition adding the Village of Grosse Tete as a defendant, for which it denied liability. The Village of Grosse Tete claimed that the plaintiff lacked sufficient support to establish the required elements to find it liable for the injuries Goodmond sustained. 

blue-and-silver-stetoscope-40568-1-1024x683To many who contemplate filing a lawsuit for an automobile accident, it may seem sufficient to show that the other driver was at fault – show he ran the red light, she failed to signal, and then it’s all downhill from there. But one element of all negligence cases is causation. You must prove that the injuries you have were caused by the accident itself. Normally this is pretty simple, but preexisting conditions can muddy the waters. Wayne Bouchon found out the hard way that proving causation was critical to his case. 

Wayne and his wife, Roberta, were driving down Highway 22 near Mandeville on their way to get lunch when their vehicle was struck from behind. The Bouchons told the officer who came to the scene that they were not hurt, but later that day, Wayne started experiencing lower back pain. Despite the pain, the Bouchons did not file a lawsuit until nearly twelve months after the accident. 

Of the evidence presented at trial, Wayne’s medical records showed he had been treated for a back injury a few years before after lifting a heavy box. Also, the Trial Court heard testimony that Wayne had taken a job at Office Depot a few months after the accident, which required standing for long periods and occasionally moving furniture. His doctor testified to a correlation between his Office Depot job and the worsening of his symptoms. As a result, the Trial Court found that the Bouchons had not proved the accident was the cause of Wayne’s injuries, and awarded only $5,000 in minimal pain and suffering. The Bouchons appealed. 

blur-car-cars-163945-1024x683Is uninsured/underinsured (“UM”) coverage an automatic component of commercial auto insurance policies?  Are there instances when an insured can reject UM coverage in its entirety or select lower limits of UM coverage for a commercial auto insurance policy?  Although La. R.S. 22:1295(1)(a)(i) indicates that all auto insurance policies issued within Louisiana must include UM coverage, subsection 1295(1)(a)(iii) allows for a named insured to either reject UM coverage in its entirety or select UM coverage with lower limits.  In a recent case out of Calctsieu Parish, Louisiana, an employee learned that while his employer carried a valid commercial auto insurance policy with at the time of his accident, the employer executed a valid UM rejection form prior to the accident that remained in full effect.  

On June 21, 2013, Lonny Hayes, an employee of O’Neal’s Feeder Supply, Inc., sustained severe injuries in an automobile accident after Diana Gonzales failed to adhere to a traffic sign and collided with Mr. Hayes’ work vehicle.  Following insufficient recovery for damages from Ms. Gonzales’ insurer, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, Mr. Hayes and his wife, Melissa Hayes sued their insurer, Progressive Security Insurance Company, and O’Neal’s insurer, Penn Millers Insurance Company.  Mr. and Mrs. Hayes claimed that both policies from Progressive and Penn Millers provided UM coverage from which they could secure additional funds from to cover their damages. Penn Millers denied Mr. and Mrs. Hayes’ claims, indicating that O’Neal’s executed a UM rejection form for the commercial auto insurance policy that was in full effect on the date of Mr. Hayes’ accident.  Therefore, Penn Millers argued that there was no UM coverage available for recovery. Shortly thereafter, Mr. and Mrs. Hayes filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on the issue of whether Penn Millers’ commercial auto insurance policy provided UM coverage. On January 21, 2016, the trial court granted Mr. and Mrs. Hayes’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, finding no valid UM rejection form existed for O’Neal’s commercial auto insurance policy in full effect on the date of Mr. Hayes’ accident and therefore, UM coverage was available for recovery.  

On appeal, Penn Millers asserted that the trial court erred in finding no valid UM rejection form existed for O’Neal’s commercial auto insurance policy in full effect on the date of Mr. Hayes’ accident.  Penn Millers argued that the UM rejection form executed by O’Neal’s on June 5, 2007, remained in full effect on June 21, 2013, because the same policy had been renewed annually from 2007 thru to 2013. Pursuant to La. R. S. 22:1295(1)(a)(ii), a UM rejection form that is executed by the insured or the insured’s legal representative and initially rejects UM coverage in its entirety or selects UM coverage with lower limits remains in full effective for the life of a policy, regardless of whether the policy is renewed, reinstated, substituted, or amended.  In support of this argument, Penn Millers produced seven declaration pages that corresponded to the commercial auto insurance policy initially issued to O’Neal’s in 2007 and subsequently renewed thru to 2013. Specifically, each declaration page after 2007 included the same identification number with an exception of changing the last two digits to signify the year the policy was in effect.    

close-up-photo-of-black-car-2470657-683x1024It is undisputed that it is always important to obtain a good lawyer to fight for you in court. But when exactly should that representation begin?

For Bobby Clay, the answer to that question was the moment her Jeep collided with Jefferia Washington’s Mercury Grand Marquis. In the city of Monroe on November 19, 2015, Ms. Clay was backing out of her driveway and hit the passenger door of Ms. Washington’s car. In order to avoid the headache of dealing with police reports and insurance claims, Ms. Clay offered to pay for the damage to Washington’s Mercury Grand Marquis. The next day, the repairs were estimated at $2,061.32. Although Ms. Clay believed this was a very high amount for the damages, she paid the full amount just three days after the accident. 

Ms. Clay proceeded to file a lawsuit for fraud, per La. C.C. art. 1953. Ms. Washington countered with a suit of her own for defamation and harassment. Both parties appeared without lawyers and both cases were dismissed. Ms. Clay appealed, this time with representation. 

close-up-photography-of-silver-sports-car-1236809-683x1024Exceptions exist everywhere in law. Although people in their normal and daily lives are expected to stop at a red light and follow the speed limit, police officers need not do so when responding to emergencies. Of course, this exception makes sense. Imagine what would happen if a police officer has to respond to a shooting but has to sit in traffic. But should police officers be free from any liability for the damages they may cause while responding to an emergency? 

Near a convenience store situated on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish, Kim White met a man she knew from the neighborhood. The man asked White whether she could help him purchase heroin. White agreed and got into the man’s car, and the two drove around in search for heroin. Little did White know, the man’s car was stolen. A short while later, White and the man noticed that a police car was tailing them. Rather than stopping, the man accelerated, and a high speed chase ensued. Eventually, the man stopped the car at a parking lot. Though the man ran away, White was struck by a police cruiser. White filed a lawsuit against the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. At trial, White testified that, upon exiting the vehicle, she had her hands up and surrendered to the police. On cross-examination, however, a prior deposition revealed that White had not raised her hands at the time of crash. 

Deputy Paul Gegenheimer was the officer whose vehicle crashed into White. He testified that White appeared to be running away and that he did not intentionally run his vehicle into White. He stated that he was going around five to ten miles per hour when he hit White. Deputy Johnnie Petit, Jr., another officer who was involved in the chase, testified that he did not see Deputy Gegenheimer’s vehicle strike White. Deputy Mike Tisdale arrived at the scene two minutes after the crash and noted that White was in considerable amounts of pain. However, he did not notice any error in Deputy Gegenheimer’s driving. Major Kerry Najolia, director of training for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, testified that officers were immune under La. R.S. 32:24 from liability for any accidents they cause during pursuits of a stolen vehicle. The Trial Court denied relief for White. White appealed, arguing that La. R.S. 32:24 did not apply in her case. 

blur-car-caution-dash-163945-1024x683When a loved one is injured or dies at the hands of another, the fictitious reality that exists in movies and television often shows the protagonists immediately going to court to ensure justice is served. In real life, however, not everyone makes it to court, even when it seems like justice demands it. Sometimes parties settle, other times the case is dropped, and many times, it is decided that there just isn’t enough there to require a trial.  This was the case for a 2015 medical malpractice lawsuit filed in the 19th Judicial District Court for the Parish of East Baton Rouge. 

In May of 2010, MH—while pregnant with twins—was in a severe motor vehicle accident. She was first taken to a hospital from the scene of the accident. Tragically, MH died at the hospital on August 25, 2010. She was survived by her three minor children, RH, Jr., AH, and DH. On behalf of these three, their tutor, SS, filed a malpractice lawsuit on March 2, 2015 against the State of Louisiana, through the Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, doing business as Earl K. Long Medical Center.

The plaintiff claimed that Ms. MH died of an overdose of meperidine while at Earl K. Long Medical Center. On December 16, 2015, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment—a motion for judgment as a matter of law rather than on the merits—and the District Court granted the motion and dismissed the case. The plaintiff appealed the ruling by the trial court.

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