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Louisiana Court Upholds Damages Award in Favor of Victim Who Met Her Burden of Proof in an Intersection Motor Vehicle Accident 

The Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeal recently affirmed an award in favor of an injured
plaintiff in a car accident case.  The case involved an intersection collision, and the trial court found the defendant and his insurance company liable to the plaintiff for personal injuries and property damage. On appeal, the court upheld the lower court’s finding and stated the incorporation of evidence relating to the traffic signal was relevant, despite the defendants’ contentions that the inclusion of this evidence was improper.

Jacob Griffin and USAgencies Casualty Insurance appealed a trial court judgment holding Mr. Griffin negligent and 100% liable for causing an automobile accident.

Plaintiff Vicke Mosley alleged that on the morning of March 27, 2014, while  traveling in her car, Mr. Griffin failed to stop at a red light intersection and collided with her vehicle.  She brought a lawsuit against Mr. Griffin and his insurance company, USAgencies, on the grounds that he caused her personal injuries and property damage.

After a bench trial, the parties stipulated that the insurance policy limits were $15,000 in bodily injury for one individual, $30,000 for two or more, and $25,000 for property damage.  Ms. Mosley’s property damage was $2,000.

The lower court had heard testimony from the two drivers involved in the collision. Mr. Griffin testified that he proceeded into the intersection where the accident took place when the light had turned green.  Ms. Mosley claimed that while approaching the intersection, she saw a car traveling fast, and she had the green light. She had been traveling in the right lane and attempted to maneuver to the left lane.  When she was struck in the intersection, she lost consciousness.  She was taken to the hospital and suffered injuries, including a scar, a hand injury, and an aggravation of a pre-existing hernia.

A witness who had been driving behind Ms. Mosley testified that Ms. Mosley’s vehicle attempted to make it through the intersection, but the light had already turned red. Another witness testified that Mr. Griffin’s light was red when the collision occurred.  An officer who had arrived on the scene of the accident confirmed that pavement marks corroborated Ms. Mosley’s statement that she swerved to avoid colliding with Mr. Griffin.

The trial court held in favor of Ms. Mosley.  They stated that after examining a traffic signal inventory (TSI) and contacting the city traffic engineer, it appeared the light for Mr. Griffin had been red at the time of the accident. If it had changed from green, Ms. Mosley had priority in the intersection. Ms. Mosley was awarded bodily injury damages in the amount of the policy limit of $15,000 and property damage for $2,000.

The defendants appealed on the ground that the trial court mistakenly found Mr. Griffin solely liable for causing the collision. They contended that a reversible error took place when the trial court engaged in ex parte communication and considered evidence not in the record.

The appellate court stated that to reverse the factual findings of the trial court, the appellate court must find a manifest error.  The law holds that evidence is not to be reweighed. Factual findings are not disturbed when there is a conflict in the testimony.

In a lawsuit for damages, Louisiana law holds the degree of fault of all people causing the accident must be determined.  The plaintiff has the burden of proving negligence by a preponderance of the evidence.  Determining the relative fault of the parties is a question of fact.

In this case, the accident took place in an intersection controlled by traffic signals.  The appellate court stated the protocol for different colored lights, stating that a vehicle facing a green signal may proceed through the intersection but must yield the right of way to other vehicles lawfully within the intersection.  All motorists have a duty to look for other vehicles already in the intersection.  The law requires that to preempt an intersection, a motorist must show he lawfully entered the intersection at a proper speed and under the belief that he could safely cross.

Here, the appellate court stated that Ms. Mosley proved by a preponderance of the evidence that she had preempted the intersection.  The court looked at Ms. Mosley’s testimony and the testimony of Mr. Griffin, noting that he was less credible as a witness because he was a convicted felon. Mr. Griffin had a duty to look for other vehicles already in the intersection and failed to do so.  The trial court properly concluded Mr. Griffin was solely at fault.

The appellate court also rejected the defendants’ allegations that the lower court committed a reversible error when considering the TSI for the intersection.  The parties had stipulated to the admissibility of the TSI, and the document contained relevant evidence to the accident. Under Louisiana law, “relevant evidence” means the evidence tended to prove a fact of consequence to the determination of the action. The information admitted into evidence was admitted without objection and available to defense counsel during the trial.

The trial court judgment was affirmed.

At Lavis Law, we help Louisiana residents pursue injury claims and seek the compensation they deserve. Our office provides a free consultation and can be reached by calling 866-558-9151 or using our online form.

More Blog Posts:

Louisiana Court Holds Doctrine of Contra Non Valentem Does Not Suspend Prescriptive Period of Claim Against Automobile Insurance Company, Louisiana Insurance Lawyer Blog, December 28, 2015

Louisiana Court Affirms Judgment in Favor of Car Accident Victim Receiving Maximum Coverage From Insurance Company, Louisiana Insurance Lawyer Blog, November 24, 2015

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