Location can be crucial in determining what law applies to a given situation. When an ambulance driver struck Mr. Dwight Johnson’s truck in the Marksville Taco Bell drive-through lane, Mr. Johnson and his friend were injured. His truck was damaged as well. Since this accident occurred in a parking lot, the general tort law of Louisiana applies to the case; the Highway Regulatory Act, while potentially persuasive, is not controlling in a situation like this. Relying solely on this source of law could prove detrimental to a party in a personal injury action. The defendants in this case, Smith v. Johnson, were unsuccessful for many reasons, not the least of which was that they failed to convine the court to place the blame for the accident anywhere but on themselves.
One plaintiff in this case, Mr. Johnson, testified that he saw the ambulance, noticed that it was stopped and noted that its brake lights were illuminated. Only then, according to his testimony, did he proceed. There was no testimony concerning Mr. Johnson’s view being obstructed, nor was there evidence that he was speeding presented at trial. Mr. Smith, the ambulance driver, testified that he felt the impact with the other vehicle rather than saw it and evinced that he was not paying attention to the situation in front of him while proceeding forward in his vehicle. The Highway Regulatory Act is not binding on activities in parking lots. It is, however, persuasive. In this case, it was persuasive against the defendants.
This case was not the first time that the Louisiana appellate courts have allocated fault in accidents that occurred in parking lots. The court mentioned two notable cases in its analysis in this case. In Gatheright v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., a standard of due caution was set that applied to all motorists proceeding in a parking lot. In that case, the plaintiff was traveling too fast and not applying her brakes. As a result, she was found to be 100 percent at fault for the accident giving rise to the case. The standard set forth in this case appears to have been refined and clarified in a line of cases that have come after it.
In Chenevert v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the court determined that both drivers were at fault. That case involved a driver who was driving too fast and Wal-Mart employee who drove a forklift into the path of traffic. Both motorists were found to have violated the duty of due caution because of their obstructed views. When this standard was applied to the current case, Mr. Smith was found to be at fault and Mr. Johnson was found to be free from fault in the accident that occurred.
The general tort law of Louisiana comes from the judciary. This judge-crafted law fills in situations where the statutory law does not apply. These principles are just as much the law as the Highway Regulatory Act, applicable in different situations. Knowing which law is binding can be helpful in pursuing the correct trial strategy. When you are dealing with an accident in a parking lot, citing the Highway Regulatory Act as persuasive authority can bolster your case. However, citing it as binding authority could be an error that is looked upon with disfavor by the court and is why hiring the right legal authority is crucial.
The Berniard Law Firm can help you determine which law applies to your situation. Give them a call, toll-free, at 1-866-574-8005.