Articles Posted in Semi Truck Accident

semi-truck-4-1518489-1024x651During litigation, a party may attempt to claim some form of privilege as an avenue not to produce certain evidence.  There are various types of privileges that may be asserted.  One that is familiar to many is attorney-client privilege.  One that is not as familiar is work-product privilege.  Work-product privilege is claimed in civil cases and is used to keep materials that are created in anticipation of litigation from being discovered by opposing counsel.  However, to assert work-product privilege the party claiming it must be an adverse party in the lawsuit.  A non-party is not entitled to work-product privilege, as Louisiana State recently learned when the Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed that work-product privilege can only be claimed by an adverse party.

In 2011, Ramanand Naik was in a car accident on highway 84 in De Soto Parish, Louisiana.  Mr. Naik was driving a Ryder box truck when a semi-truck, driven by Nathaniel Anthony, hauling a flatbed trailer carrying a boom lift veered across the center line, jackknifed, and crashed into Mr. Naik’s truck.  The impact of the crash caused the boom lift to fall off the trailer and onto the cab of the Ryder truck essentially crushing Mr. Naik and his passenger, Norman Latcha.  Following the accident, Naik filed a lawsuit against various parties and their insurance company.  Mr. Naik did not name Louisiana State as a defendant and the named defendants did not bring Louisiana State in as a third-party defendant.

Despite being a non-party to the lawsuit, ORM was brought into the case during discovery when Mr. Naik filed a notice to have ORM produce all the documents that they had pertaining to the accident. The named defendants in the case did not oppose Mr.Naik’s request.  ORM did not produce the documents leading Mr. Naik to file a motion to compel: a request to have the court force ORM to produce the documents.  ORM filed a motion to quash: a request to invalidate the motion to compel and avoid producing the documents asserting the documents were protected by the work-product privilege. The First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana denied ORM’s motion, requiring the production of the documents based on ORM’s non-party status thus the lack of available work-product privilege.  

toes-1438916-1024x683As if having car troubles was not bad enough, imagine also losing your toe in the process. Well, that exact scenario happened to Valerie Babin. After her vehicle broke down in Gonzales, Louisiana, Ms. Babin called American Towing Enterprises to tow her vehicle. An American Towing Enterprises’s employee, Floyd Russo, arrived to help Ms. Babin. At this point, Ms. Babin’s day went from bad to worse. As Mr. Russo partially loaded the vehicle onto the truck’s flatbed, Ms. Babin went to turn off her vehicle’s emergency flashers. At the same time, Mr. Russo lowered the truck bed, which landed on Ms. Babin’s foot, crushing her big toe. Despite attempts to save her big toe, Ms. Babin eventually required surgery to remove it.

Ms. Babin filed a lawsuit against Mr. Russo and American Towing Enterprises. At trial, the court awarded $673,380.35 in damages, finding Mr. Russo and American Towing Enterprises 60% at fault and Ms. Babin 40% at fault. When the injured individual is found partially at fault for his or her injury, his or her damages are reduced by the amount he or she was at fault. In Ms. Babin’s case, her fault reduced the total amount of damages to $404,028.21. Ms. Babin appealed the trial court’s determination of damages, claiming that the awarded amount was insufficient. Conversely, Mr. Russo and American Towing Enterprises appealed the trial court’s determination claiming that the amount awarded was excessive.

The Louisiana Court of Appeals (“the Court”) was tasked with determining whether the damages were insufficient or excessive. The Court examined two types of damages, general damages, and special damages. General damages often include mental or physical pain, suffering, inconvenience, loss of gratification or intellectual or physical enjoyment, or other losses of lifestyle. McGee v. A C And S, Inc., 933 So. 2d 770, 774 (La. 2006). The goal of general damages is to make the injured party whole. In other words, put the injured party in the same position he or she was at prior to the injury. Special damages are damages that the injured person will experience in the future. Ms. Babin argued that at minimum she should have received $400,000 for general damages and $557,028 in special damages for future medical care. The Court found that the trial court’s determination of general and special damages was reasonable. When addressing the amount of special damages for future medical care, the Court noted that the trial court awarded Ms. Babin $223,77.00 based on the testimony of two doctors at trial. When seeking future medical expenses, “the appellate record must establish that future medical expenses will be necessary and inevitable.” Bass v. State, 167 So. 3d 711, 716 (La. 2014). In addition, future medical expenses will not be supported when there is not medical testimony. The Court found the trial court’s determination of special damages was reasonable and disregarded the defendants’ argument that the awarded amount was unsupported by evidence. Lastly, the Court examined the loss of future wages. The loss of future wages requires the trial court to determine how much work the injured party will miss in the future because of his or her injury. For Ms. Babin, the trial court determined that Ms. Babin will lose $81,735.00 in future wages. The Court also found this amount reasonable.

desertic-road-1446241-1024x768Employees can pit employers against each other just like children do with parents. If permission is limited by one person the employee/child will simply repeat their request to the other party.  What an employee is permitted to do can be ambiguous.  In a recent automobile accident case out of Shreveport however, the Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed that employer “permission” in Louisiana provides a wide berth to an employee and can result in unexpected liability.  

A former employee of Water Works Irrigation Inc. (“Water Works”), Lovell Ellis, used his assigned company truck to pick up his girlfriend, Raquel Coleman, outside of his normal service area.  While the two were in the truck, Mr. Ellis ran off the road, wrecking the truck and injuring Ms. Coleman. Ms. Coleman claimed that Mr. Ellis was texting while driving and ran off the road. In his deposition, Mr. Ellis denied being on his phone but explained his swerving to avoid a log caused the accident. Later Mr. Ellis pled guilty to Driving While Intoxicated (“DWI”) but claimed that he drank only one beer.

As a result of the accident, Ms. Coleman sustained fractured vertebrae as well as other injuries. In January of 2012, Ms. Coleman filed a personal injury lawsuit against Mr. Ellis, Water Works, and Water Works’ Insurance company, United Fire Insurance (“United Fire”), seeking damages. After the dismissal of Water Works, the trial proceeded against Mr. Ellis and United Fire. The District Court found Ellis 100% at fault and United Fire liable for coverage.  The District Court awarded damages of $47,449.67 to be paid by either or both defendants.

electrical-towers-1230495-1024x683When an employee is injured on the job they often have extensive medical bills and less money to pay those bills because they may not be able to work. While workman’s compensation, insurance, and disability benefits are available to cover those costs, there is another form of compensation available to those who are injured as a result of negligence or other bad acts. The injured party can file a lawsuit against those responsible. Of course, there are often questions surrounding who is in fact legally responsible, e.g., for maintenance of a job site, and it takes an experienced lawyer to navigate such complicated legal questions.

Glenn Chesney pursued the latter route by filing a lawsuit after he was injured by coming into contact with an uninsulated, sagging power line at the Magnolia landfill in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana. Glenn was driving his truck through the landfill facility to weigh and unload the removable trash container on his flatbed truck. A power outage created a backlog of trucks waiting for the scale to come back online. Glenn, in the meantime, decided to take the tarp off of his load so that he could unload faster when he got to the front of the line. The truck Glenn was driving had mechanical arms that could raise to a maximum height of approximately 17 feet off the ground. Ordinarily, Glenn used the mechanical arms of the truck to take the tarp off of the trash container so it could be unloaded. However, this time when those arms raised they came into contact with the sagging and uninsulated power line. By this time, the power had been restored to the landfill facility and Glenn was injured as a result. The main issue that Glenn had to deal with on his latest appeal was whether the electrical contractor, Copeland Electric Company, could be held liable for failing to maintain the electrical line.

Copeland originally installed the electrical line in 1994 and the accident that injured Glenn Chesney occurred 16 years later on August 13th 2010. Because of the length of time between the installation and the incident, the lawyers for Copeland attempted to have the action dismissed under La. R.S. 9:2772. This Louisiana statute provides that deficiencies in immovables from construction, surveying, design, or supervision have a 10-year peremptive period for actions. That means that even if Copeland was negligent in constructing the electrical line, the Glenn had no cause of action because the time period for bringing such action lapsed. See Rando v. Anco Insulations, Inc., 16 So.3d 1065 (La. 2009). These time limits on when you can file a lawsuit are an attempt by the legislators to strike a balance between vindicating victims of past injustices and flooding the courts with untimely lawsuits based on stale evidence, which makes a court’s job of assessing the facts of a case much more difficult.

ski-sign-1525674-1024x768When asserting a cause of action or maintaining certain legal defenses in court, parties bear the burden of proving their case. This is done by presenting evidence to the court such as documents and witness testimony. Often, certain issues will require the court to make findings of fact which require scientific expertise or specialized knowledge. Expert witnesses assist the trial court in understanding complex issues of fact that could be determinative to the outcome of a case. A recent decision discusses how a court qualifies experts and utilizes their testimony.

The dispute, in this case, arose when a utility trailer pulled by John Guidry (Mr. Guidry) crossed an electric line owned by Beauregard Electric Cooperative, Inc. (BECi). In October 2013, Mr. Guidry and his colleague, Karen Gorum (Ms. Gorum) left a property in Edgerly, Louisiana, traveling east on Houston River Road with a utility trailer in tow. According to Mr. Guidry, the truck suddenly went in the air and stopped in mid-air. After emerging from the truck, Mr. Guidry, and Ms. Gorum saw an electrical line lying in the roadway. Both Mr. Guidry and Ms. Gorum suffered various injuries in the accident.

Several lawsuits were filed. In the first lawsuit, Mr. Guidry sought damages from BECi and its insurer, Federated Rural Electric, for the injuries he sustained. BECi answered alleging that Mr. Guidry was negligent and contributed to the accident. In the second suit, Ms. Gorum alleged that BECi and Mr. Guidry were both negligent in causing the accident and the injuries she sustained. She also sued Federated. In the third suit, Mr. Guidry and his insurer, State Farm, alleged that BECi was negligent in causing the accident. State Farm sought to recover the amount it paid Mr. Guidry for his property damages pursuant to the automobile policy it issued to him. Mr. Guidry sought to recover the $250 deductible required by State Farm’s policy. BECi moved to consolidate the three cases and all three parties agreed. The three suits were consolidated and tried together.

truck-on-hwy-1615510You are driving down a highway in Louisiana minding your own business when all of the sudden an eighteen wheeler pulls out of nowhere.  BAM, you slam into the side of it, your back aches, your car is wrecked and now you are involved in a lawsuit.  Who is at fault for this unfortunate circumstance?  While this might seem like a no brainer many times great car accident lawyers will argue that the driver who was just driving down the road somehow caused the accident.  The following case out of Port Allen, Louisiana demonstrates how the Courts assess liability when accidents happen between cars traveling down the highway and those that are entering into the highway.

In 2010 a motor vehicle accident occurred on Lobdell Highway. The highway is a four-lane stretch of road in Port Allen, Louisiana. Leroy Edmond was driving a GMC Sierra truck when he struck a flatbed trailer that was being pulled by an eighteen wheeler driven by Sherbaston Wilson. Wilson was attempting to make a lefthand turn out of a truck stop and at the time of impact Wilson’s trailer had not cleared the northbound lane. Edmond filed a lawsuit against Wilson, his employer, Jowin Express, Inc., and their insurer, Cherokee Insurance Company. Edmond alleged that Wilson was negligent in failing to yield to oncoming traffic while exiting from a private driveway and that Edmond sustained permanent injuries from the accident.

A trial occurred and the jury returned a verdict assessing 95% fault or the accident to Wilson and 5% to Edmond. The damages awarded in favor of Edmond were as follows:

truck-on-hwy-1615510-1-1024x682Renting a U-Haul truck can be a necessary burden when you are tasked with moving a lot of stuff from place to place. During the rental process you might be asked whether or not you want supplemental insurance policies.  But who do you sue when an accident happens?  In the following case out of New Orleans, Louisiana one plaintiff finds out who definitely cannot be sued when a U-Haul and Fedex truck collide.

JR was driving a rented commercial truck (U-Haul), when his truck crashed into a delivery truck (Fedex)  in New Orleans. JR filed a lawsuit against the delivery truck and also named the insurer of the company he rented the truck from as a Defendant as well. JR named the company from whom he rented a truck as a Defendant because he claimed to have purchased “risk protection” from that company in the course of his rental agreement with the company.  JR believed that the risk protection insurance would provide him with uninsured motorist coverage. The plaintiffs went on to add RW Insurance Company as another defendant, apparently believing that RW was the commercial company’s insurer.

However, RW insurance apparently is only a claims administrator for the commercial company and not an insurance company.  Upon receipt of the lawsuit RW wanted out as soon as possible.  To do so they filed a motion for summary judgment (MSJ).  If RW could prove that there was no genuine issue as to the material fact that they were not an insurer for the commercial company and thus owed no coverage to JR they could be dismissed from the case.  See Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure article 966.  They did just that and the trial court granted their motion.

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When chain reaction accidents occur it can sometimes feel like mayhem on the highway.  One car hits another, then another one hits another and so on and so on.  But who’s at fault for all the injuries and wrecked cars?  The car that initially caused the accident?  The one after that which ran into another car that was trying to stop to avoid the accident?   The following case out of Avoyelles parish sheds some light on who’s at fault for what in multi-car pile ups.

Lacey Berthiaume was driving on a Louisiana highway when ahead of her a car entered the roadway without yielding to oncoming traffic.  The car in front of Ms. Berthiaume suddenly stopped.  Ms. Berthiaume successfully stopped her automobile within a foot of colliding with the car in front of her.  However, the truck behind Ms. Berthiaume was not able to stop, and the truck rear-ended her vehicle causing injuries to Ms. Berthiaume.  Ms. Bethiaume filed a lawsuit in the Twelfth Judicial District Court, Parish of Avoyelles, alleging the driver of the truck, Mr. Gros, was negligent and caused the accident.

In the trial court, Ms. Bethiaume filed a motion for summary disposition.  Ms. Bethiaume argued that Mr. Gros rear-ended her vehicle, and under Louisiana law, in a rear-end accident, the following motorists is presumed to have violated La R.S. 32:81(A), and therefore presumed negligent.  In summary, La 32:81(A) states a driver shall not follow another motorist too close to react to traffic and highway conditions.  Mr. Gros admitted he caused the accident, but he also argued that the motorist that entered the roadway causing Ms. Berthiaume, and the motorist in front of her, to stop short was also at fault.  In short, Mr. Gros argued that this other driver shared some of the fault underlying this accident.  The trial court disagreed with Mr. Gros and held he was solely at fault for this accident.

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When seeking legal relief, plaintiffs will face procedural hurdles during litigation. Defendants can and will often use procedural mechanisms to avoid liability for claims brought against them. This is the nature of the game, and skilled attorneys are masters of the rules governing the conduct of civil trials. Procedural law differs from substantive law (i.e. torts, contracts, property) in that the former provides the rules for applying substantive law for live disputes. Procedural mechanisms set guidelines for what evidence the court may hear, how evidence should be interpreted, and burdens of proof. One such procedural mechanism commonly used by litigants is the “motion for summary judgment.” A recent decision of the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal discusses the motion for summary judgment and the requisite burdens of proof for parties filing or opposing such motions.

On March 11, 2006, a tanker truck belonging to John Williams was delivering fuel to Mr. Preston Payton’s dredging operation near Independence, Louisiana when it picked up a cable securing the dredge in the gravel pit. The dredge sunk beneath the murky water. Mr. Payton filed a lawsuit against named defendants Mr. Williams; Republic Vanguard Insurance Company, Mr. Williams’ insurer; Texas General Agency, Republic Vanguards adjusting agency; and Randy Anny, who leased the gravel pit where the accident took place. Mr. Payton’s Petition claimed that the defendants entered into a settlement agreement with him and agreed to pay him $256,714.86 as replacement for his dredge. Mr. Payton’s Petition also claimed that instead of paying him directly, Republic Vanguard and Texas General made the settlement check payable to Mr. Anny, who was obligated to pay Mr. Payton. According to Mr. Payton’s petition, the check used by Mr. Anny to pay him was drawn from an account with insufficient funds.

The Trial Court granted Republic Vanguard’s and Texas General’s motion for summary judgment which alleged that Mr. Payton failed to produce sufficient evidence showing that Mr. Anny acted as their agent. Mr. Payton appealed.

i-haul-1450942-1024x642When a person is injured and left in a condition where they cannot handle their legal claims, their family may act on the incapacitated person’s behalf. If a family member is handling claims on behalf of the incapacitated, it is very important for them to find a good lawyer to help navigate the legal processes. The following appeal of a lawsuit arising out of New Orleans discusses what can occur when multiple lawsuits are filed as a result of disastrous injuries caused by an eighteen wheeler.

Connie Marable was injured in an accident when her husband’s freight truck allegedly shifted into gear and dragged her underneath the vehicle. Connie was rendered comatose and she was subsequently interdicted. Her husband, Wayne, was appointed as her curator. Wayne filed a lawsuit against Empire Truck Sales and its general manager Curtis Hudspeth in Orleans Parish Civil District Court on behalf of his wife. Wayne alleged that Empire’s faulty work or failure to work on the truck is what caused the accident which injured Connie.

Connie’s adult children from a previous marriage, Bill and Engelique Jones, later filed a lawsuit on their own behalf in Orleans Parish District Court against not only Empire and Hudspeth, but also Wayne; Great West Casualty Company, Wayne’s insurer; and DTNA and KLLM. The petition claimed that DTNA was negligent in the defective design of the truck and that KLLM, as Wayne’s employer and lessor of the truck, was responsible for the defective condition of the truck. The Jones’ lawsuit was consolidated with the Marable’s suit at some later time.