What are Lejeune Damages, and how do they apply in Louisiana Lawsuits?

laocoon_statue_greek_vatican-1024x609If you prevail in a lawsuit, you might be entitled to various damages. One type of damages available in Louisiana is Lejeune damages, under La. C.C. art. 2315.6. Lejeune damages allow an individual to recover damages from the mental anguish of witnessing the injury of a third party. 

Louise Theresa Doty and her husband, Homer Doty, were at Prien Lake Mall in Lake Charles, Louisiana. While on a crosswalk, Brittany Nicole Fontenot hit Mr. Doty. Ms. Doty heard him yell and saw him lying on the ground with severe injuries. Mrs. Doty filed a lawsuit against Fontenot, her insurer, GoAuto, and her under/uninsured motorist insurer, State Farm. Mrs. Doty claimed her Lejeune damages under her State Farm insurance policy was a separate “bodily injury.” As such, she claimed she was entitled to recover beyond the money State Farm had already paid her husband for his injuries. 

Mrs. Doty settled her claims against everyone besides State Farm. State Farm filed a summary judgment motion claiming it had exhausted its policy limits with his payment of $50,000 to Doty. Mrs. Doty claimed she was entitled to recover her Lejeune damages under a separate limit. After a trial, the court awarded Mrs. Doty $50,000 in general damages and a $25,000 penalty for State Farm’s failure to pay her claim within thirty days under La. R.S. 22:1892(B)(1), and her expenses. State Farm filed an appeal.

On appeal, State Farm claimed the trial court erred in denying its summary judgment motion because its payment to Mr. Doty had already exhausted the applicable policy limits, so Mrs. Doty was not entitled to additional Lejeune damages. The appellate court disagreed, explaining Lejeune damages compensate for mental anguish, which is its own bodily injury. Therefore, it was subject to different policy limits, and Mrs. Doty was entitled to recover. 

State Farm also argued that Mrs. Doty had not suffered sufficient mental anguish severe enough for her to receive Lejeune damages. The appellate court pointed to evidence about the severity of Mr. Doty’s injuries, which Mrs. Doty had observed at the time of the accident, including his bleeding and tire tracks on his leg. He also had a history of serious medical issues and conditions, which affected Mrs. Doty’s perception of the accident. Therefore, the appellate court held the trial court did not err in finding Mrs. Doty was entitled to Lejeune damages. 

State Farm also argued on appeal that the trial court had awarded Mrs. Doty excessive Lejeune damages. The appellate court held that based on the evidence of the effect of the accident on Mrs. Doty, including her severe anxiety and distress, the trial court had not erred in the amount of damages it awarded her. Therefore, the appellate court found the trial court did not error in awarding Mrs. Doty $50,000 in Lejeune damages. The appellate court also awarded Mrs. Doty an additional $4,000 for attorney’s fees related to the appeal.

This case highlights the availability and significance of Lejeune damages under Louisiana law, specifically under La. C.C. art. 2315.6. These damages allow individuals to seek compensation for the mental anguish they experience while witnessing the injury of a third party. Mrs. Doty’s case stemmed from a tragic accident at Prien Lake Mall, where her husband was struck by Brittany Nicole Fontenot, resulting in severe injuries. Through a legal battle, Mrs. Doty pursued her entitlement to Lejeune damages under her State Farm insurance policy, contending that mental anguish constituted a separate “bodily injury.” An experienced attorney can help you evaluate a potential lawsuit and determine what type of damages you might be entitled to, including Lejeune damages.

Additional Sources: Louise Theresa Doty v. GoAuto Ins. Co., et al.

Article Written By Berniard Law Firm

Additional Berniard Law Firm Article on Damages: Challenging Damages Awards: Why Courts Tend to Defer to Juries in Personal Injury Lawsuits

What happens if you are involved in a car accident where your damages exceed the auto insurance policy limits of the person responsible?

Contact Information