Mardi Gras Parade Mishap Leads to Complex Liability Battle

parade_festival_irish_parade-1024x683The vibrant spirit of Mardi Gras parades, with their kaleidoscope of colors and joyous revelry, often paints a picture of unadulterated celebration. Yet, beneath the surface of these festivities, unexpected tragedies can unfold, turning the jubilation into a legal labyrinth. Such was the case in Franklin, Louisiana, where a moment of revelry took a distressing turn as a float participant was tragically injured during a parade. What followed was a legal showdown, entangling federal regulations, contractual intricacies, and the question of liability. Amidst the sparkle and confetti, a courtroom drama unfolded, revealing the complex legal considerations surrounding the incident.

Troylond Wise was driving an 18-wheeler he owned but had leased to ACME Truck Line when he was involved in an accident during a parade. Before the accident occurred, Takisha Welch asked Wise to pull a truck for a Mardi Gras parade in Franklin, Louisiana. Welch paid $100 to Wise to use his tractor-trailer. On the parade day, Bridget Jackson was riding in the floating Wise was pulling. When Wise tried to turn right, Jackson was thrown from the float. Wise then ran over her twice. 

Jackson filed a lawsuit against Wise, ACME, and First Guard Insurance Company, the tractor-trailer’s liability insurer. Franklin subsequently settled with First Guard, so the claims against it were dismissed. Before the accident, Wise had a five-year lease with ACME, whereby Wise leased ACME his tractor-trailer. 

ACME filed a summary judgment motion, claiming it was undisputed that it did not own the tractor-trailer.Further, based on the exclusive use provision of the lease, even if they did own it, they could not be held liable. ACME also claimed under Louisiana law, it could not be liable because it was a lender of the tractor-trailer. See Jones v. Western Preferred Casualty Co., et al. 

ACME also argued it was not vicariously liable for Wise’s actions because he was not in the course and scope of his employment when the accident occurred. Jackson countered, arguing ACME was required to assume complete responsibility for the tractor-trailer during the term of the lease under 49 CFR § 376.12(c).  The trial court granted ACME’s summary judgment motion and dismissed Jackson’s claims against ACME. Jackson filed an appeal.

On appeal, Jackson argued the trial court erred in not applying the “complete responsibility” provisions under 49 CFR § 376.12(c)(1). ACME countered that federal statute did not apply because it is limited to interstate travel, whereas the at-issue incident occurred solely in Louisiana. Jackson also argued ACME was liable for Wise’s actions because the accident involved a leased vehicle with a valid lease. 

The appellate court agreed that based on the applicable statutes and regulations, 49 CFR § 376.12(c) did not apply because Wise acted outside his employment scope when the accident occurred.  It explained carrier-lessees are not liable for actions by the owner-lessor outside the scope of their employment. Therefore, ACME was not vicariously responsible for Wise’s actions. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s grant of ACME’s summary judgment motion.   

Amid the glittering chaos of Mardi Gras parades, this case serves as a reminder that even amidst the celebration, the arm of the law can extend its reach. As the legal battle traversed through intricate clauses, federal regulations, and state-specific interpretations, the courts ultimately illuminated the boundaries of liability. This case underscores the critical importance of legal expertise, particularly in scenarios involving leased vehicles and employer-owned trucks. Navigating the legal landscape can be as intricate as the most elaborate parade float, and having a skilled attorney by your side becomes crucial to understanding the nuances of applicable statutes and regulations. 

Additional Sources: Bridget Jackson v. Troylond M. Wise, ACME Truck Line, Inc., and First Guard Ins. Co.

Article Written By Berniard Law Firm

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