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Court Denies Plaintiff Compensation Following Accident in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, Since Plaintiff’s Conduct Violated the Law and Created Higher Level of Risk

Recently, a Louisiana Court of Appeal addressed the issue of liability in a personal injury lawsuit following injuries to a bicyclist struck by a car.  The bicyclist plaintiff and the defendant driver presented their own versions of the incident, since there were no witnesses. In their opinion, the appellate court stated the rules of tort liability in Louisiana and the requirement that a plaintiff prove fault, causation, and damages in a negligence claim. Here, the lower court had found that the plaintiff failed to meet this burden, since there had not been physical evidence introduced by either party, and the court did not necessarily find the testimony of either party credible. Procedurally, when the trial court judge held the plaintiff had failed to meet his burden of proof and dismissed his claim, the plaintiff appealed that judgment. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the lower court should have applied Louisiana law regarding comparative fault, among other issues. The defendant countered by stating that the judge had not researched the issue of fault when she had found the plaintiff did not meet his burden of proof. The appellate court stated that tort liability is set forth in La. CC. art. 2315. When a plaintiff brings a negligence action under Louisiana law, they must prove fault, causation, and damages. The court also stated that causation is a factual finding. On appeal, the standard is that of manifest error, meaning that the issue is whether the judge’s conclusion was reasonable. Here, the question was whether […]

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Judgment Against Defendants in Consolidated Cases Following Truck Accident in Louisiana was Not Valid, Appealable Judgment

In order for appellate courts to have jurisdiction, or the ability to review and determine the merit of an appeal, there must first be a valid final judgment from a lower court. In a recent opinion, the Fourth Circuit made clear that a judgment must contain specific, “decretal” language in order to be considered valid. In this opinion, the issue was whether the judgment was in fact valid, since two lawsuits had been consolidated and judgment rendered against multiple defendants. The appellate court made clear that in order to have jurisdiction, they must have specific language that makes clear against whom the judgment has been rendered, and in which amount.  When the court lacks jurisdiction to consider the merits of an appeal, it will be dismissed without prejudice or converted to an application for a supervisory writ. The facts indicated that Larry Spencer’s tractor-trailer collided with a truck in which Joseph Urquhart was a passenger. Urquhart filed a Petition for Damages against Spencer, as well as Mr. Spencer’s employer (the owner of the rig) and their liability insurer.  Urquhart then amended his Petition to add the driver of the vehicle in which he was traveling, James Nye, as well as his insurer. Then, Mr. Nye filed a Petition for Damages against Spencer, the owner of the rig, and the liability insurer. The lawsuits were consolidated, and Urquhart’s claims against Mr. Nye and his insurer were dismissed after reaching a settlement.

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Louisiana Appeals Court Apportions Fault in Multi-Vehicle Car Accident, Finding Decision to Tow Vehicle at High Rate of Speed Contributed to Ultimate Collision

The Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal recently issued a decision in a multiple-vehicle automobile lawsuit involving issues of fault and damages.  The court held that the trial court had erroneously allocated fault, and based on the evidence, the two individuals previously without fault were in fact negligent and partly responsible for the collision. Specifically, the court analyzed whether two individuals had breached a duty of care by agreeing to tow a vehicle at a high rate of speed. In their discussion, the court stated that the fault issue centered on State Farm alleging that the 95% apportionment of fault to Ms. Decuir had been an error.  State Farm asserted Mr. Jacobs should have been at least partially at fault, since he operated the towed truck.  Additionally, State Farm contended that a larger percentage of fault should have been assigned to Mr. Sampson because he did not safely regulate his speed, as the driver of the lead truck.

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Louisiana Appellate Court Finds Trial Court Erred in Making Credibility Determination, and Questions of Material Fact Existed Regarding Driver’s Liability in Single-Car Accident

In a recent personal injury lawsuit following a car accident in downtown New Orleans, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal reversed a lower court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of a driver and her automobile insurance company following a single-car accident.  The appellate court found that the trial court had improperly made a credibility determination when reviewing the summary judgment motion, and this error required reversal. Plaintiffs Dana Williams and Derrick Sykes were passengers in Eileen Maldonado’s vehicle when she drove through an excavated portion of a street in downtown New Orleans.  At about 10:30 p.m., as Ms. Maldonado drove through the intersection of Elks Place and Cleveland Avenue, the passenger side of her car fell into the excavated portion of the street. The plaintiffs alleged that Archer Western Construction, the company that was excavating the site, or Ms. Maldonado caused the accident. Mr. Sykes settled with Archer Western. Ms. Maldonado and Imperial, her car insurer, moved for summary judgment. They asked that the plaintiffs’ claims be dismissed on the ground that there was no genuine issue of material fact that Ms. Maldonado was without fault.  The trial court granted the motion, dismissing the plaintiffs’ claims against both Ms. Maldonado and Imperial.

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