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Louisiana Court Affirms Default Judgment in Favor of Plaintiff Hurt by Improperly Installed Lift Kit on Truck

Recently, the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal reviewed a default judgment entered against a company that allegedly improperly installed a lift kit on a truck. The plaintiff alleged that the company’s negligence led to his serious injuries when a tire came off his truck, and he was forced off the road.

truck repairsA default judgment provides for a judgment of default against a defendant that fails to answer within a set period of time.  In a personal injury lawsuit, plaintiffs are required to show competent evidence that convinces the court it is likely, or probable, that the plaintiff would prevail at trial.

The plaintiff in this case filed a Petition for Personal Injuries against a company that had installed a lift kit on the plaintiff’s truck earlier. The plaintiff suffered injuries when the front left tire of his truck allegedly came off his vehicle, forcing the car to leave the roadway and strike a group of trees. According to the plaintiff, the company failed to make him aware that during installation, they had created a dangerous situation because the shearing off of the lug bolts had taken place.

The plaintiff obtained a preliminary default judgment against the defendant, and the trial court signed a judgment of default in favor of the plaintiff.  He was awarded $11,857.50 in medical expenses and $7,900.00 in property damage, as well as $50,000 in pain and suffering/bodily injury damages. The company appealed, asserting that the record did not support a claim of negligence, and the medical records did not support an award of $50,000 in general damages.

On appeal, the court stated that reviewing default judgments requires reviewing the evidence in support of the judgment.  Plaintiffs seeking a default judgment must show the elements of their case with competent evidence.  The court stated that in this case, the plaintiff had presented evidence that included a handwritten note by the defendant company, which did not include a warning or any indication that the truck had been damaged. The plaintiff stated that after the defendant installed the lift kit on his truck, it shook, and eventually the tire fell off.

According to the plaintiff, the police who came to the scene of the accident explained that the bolts broke off the tire, causing the tire to come off. The police had stated that they had seen this type of accident before, and specifically from the particular defendant.

As a result of the accident, the plaintiff suffered a concussion, and he stated that he continued to endure headaches and back pain.

The appellate court in this case reviewed precedent and stated that when a trial court confirms a default judgment, making a credibility determination, it is not to be overturned on appeal unless it is shown to be manifestly erroneous. In this case, the defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries and damages. The court held that the default judgment was properly rendered in the plaintiff’s favor.

The defendant contended that the damages award of $50,000 was excessive and that the evidence did not support the award. The defendant’s argument was that the plaintiff received treatment for only two months following the accident, and the CT scans were normal. The plaintiff countered that argument by stating that his medical expenses were documented at over $11,000 and that he suffered and continued to suffer headaches and back pain, two years after the accident.

The court stated precedent that made clear that a damages award is a factual determination, entitled to deference on review.  Here, the accident report showed the plaintiff complained of head injuries immediately after the accident. He was diagnosed with contusions and multiple sprains, and he was later found to have suffered a concussion.

When the trial court confirmed the default judgment in the plaintiff’s favor, awarding him $50,000, they found his testimony was credible.  According to the appellate court, there was no manifest error in this finding, nor was there manifest error in the amount of general damages awarded by the trial court.

The court affirmed the default judgment in favor of the plaintiff.

At Lavis Law, our car accident attorneys represent Louisiana victims in their pursuit of damages following accidents, including motor vehicle collisions. Our office provides a free consultation and can be reached by calling 866.558.9151.

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