This post continues from yesterday:
The trial court relied on the testimony of Mr. Williams’ account of events leading up to his injury in making its conclusion of what occurred. While the trial court did hear testimony from an IESI employee who stated that the garbage trucks did not have flaps on the top of the garage truck capable of causing the damage to the cable box, the trial court felt that the demeanor and testimony of Mr. Williams made him a credible witness. Though there were a few inconsistencies with Mr. Williams’ story, the trial court was confident in his consistency with the major details of the incident to rely on Mr. Williams’s testimony about the garage trucks flap. The appellate court concluded that there was no manifest error in the trial court’s ruling that there was a flap rising form the top of the truck.
The appellate court dismissed IESI’s second argument because the court failed to again find any clear error made by the trial court in its conclusion that Mr. Williams had in fact met his burden to show that IESI had breached their duty. Benjamin v. Housing Authority of New Orleans notes that, through the question of whether a defendant had a duty to the plaintiff is a question of law, the question of whether the defendant breached that duty is a question of fact. IESI did not dispute that they owed a duty to Mr. Williams, only that the evidence was insufficient to show that IESI had breached that duty. Again, the appellate court is required to apply the manifest error doctrine to determine whether a trial court clearly erred in its factual determination of breach.
The court once again determined that IESI failed to show sufficient evidence that a clear error occurred in the trial courts conclusion. The court of appeals noted that the trial court was highly suspect of the garbage truck workers who, immediately after the incident, returned to the office so that they could “chit chat” before resuming their route in Mansura. The suspicious behavior, coupled with the factual finding that there was indeed a flap on the truck that caused the accident, was enough information for the appellate court to find that the trial court had made a reasonable conclusion in their factual finding of breach.
IESI’s final argument, an interesting one to say the least, was unsuccessful because IESI failed to meet the burden of proof required to hold a third–party liable for injury. In filing its answer to the court prior to the trial, IESI claimed “third party fault” by asserting that it was in part the fault of the cable company for the accident. IESI argued that the cable company was at fault for the incident for failing to maintain their cable box in compliance with Louisiana regulations, and therefore should have been apportioned fault for the injuries to Mr. Williams. When a defendant believes that a third-party to a suit is at fault, the burden is then on the defendant to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the third party was a cause in fact of the damage. As stated in Terro v. Casualty Reciprocal Exchange, a party who attempts to utilize a comparative fault defense bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that such negligence was a cause-in-fact of the accident. Like the prior arguments to the appellate court, the manifest-error standard shapes the appellate court’s review of a trial court’s ruling as to whether sufficient evidence was presented to rule in favor of the claimant-defendant.
Unfortunately for IESI, like the prior arguments before it, the appellate court saw no manifest error made by the trial court in its determination that IESI failed to meet its burden of fault on the cable company. No evidence was presented to suggest that the cable company had any duty to maintain the wires which caused the accident, makings IESI argument completely baseless. Therefore, the appellate court had no problem in finding that no manifest error existed in the trial court’s refusal to assign any percentage of fault to the cable company.
Reversal by the appellate court is a tough sell, and with the manifest error standard in place, an appellant’s argument must show clear error in order to receive a judgment in their favor. Too many questions were raised against IESI’s actions during Mr. Williams’ injury for there to be a clear error made by the trial court, and IESI now faces a $50,000 pay-out because of it.
Injuries to yourself or a loved one should not be taken lightly. If you believe that an injury was the result of some defect, you should consult with a lawyer, as you might be entitled to compensation.
If you have been injured, call the Berniard Law Firm at 1-866-574-8005 and speak with an attorney who can help you apply the most effective trial strategy to your case and obtain the recovery you deserve.