In Arceneaux v. Turner, et al., the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal reversed a Lafayette trial court’s ruling that denied uninsured motorist coverage to a plaintiff. The plaintiff, Gerald Arceneaux, owned a towing company. In November of 2014, he was involved in a car accident while driving a 2012 Ford F250. In a sworn affidavit, Arceneaux stated that he was “on call” when the accident occurred and that the truck he was driving was outfitted with all tools and equipment necessary for any road side service request. Typically, Arceneaux would drive a Ford F450, but that vehicle was in need of repairs. After the accident, Arceneaux filed suit and sought uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage from his insurer. The insurer defended by filing a motion for summary judgment claiming that the policy did not provide coverage for the plaintiff’s claims.  The trial court granted the motion and Arceneaux appealed to the Third Circuit.

On appeal, the issue before the court was whether the F250 Arceneaux drove on the day of the accident could be considered a “temporary substitute vehicle” for Gerald Towing’s Ford F450 Wrecker. Citing Louisiana law, the defendant-insurer argued that Arceneaux could not recover, because he was operating his personal vehicle at the time of the accident and that the F250 was not a covered vehicle under the policy.  However, Arceneaux countered that under the policy the Ford F250 was a “replacement motor vehicle covered under the terms of the policy.” Moreover, the policy states that insureds are anyone occupying a “covered auto” or a “temporary substitute for a covered auto.” To support his claim, Arceneaux pointed to his sworn affidavit in which he stated that the F450 was in need of repairs on the date of the accident, and that he used the Ford F250 to perform work that could or would have been completed by the F450, if it was in service.

Turning to the facts and evidence, the Third Circuit agreed with the plaintiff that the Ford F250 served as a temporary substitute for a covered vehicle, specifically the Ford F450 Wrecker. Therefore, Arceneaux was an insured under the policy at the time of the accident and could potentially recover under his UM coverage. The Third Circuit reversed the trial court’s grant of the insurer’s motion to summary judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings.

On the morning of Sunday, May 20, 2018, a helicopter crash in a marsh in St. Charles Parish claimed the life of one crew member and injured two others. None of the victims resided in Louisiana. One passenger died from his injuries in the crash and was pronounced dead at the scene. Another crewman suffered severe injuries possibly a fractured spine, but the pilot sustained less severe injuries. The pilot and crewmen worked for a company that Entergy subcontracted with to conduct routine inspections on transmission lines. According to the investigation, the helicopter’s landing gear caught on one of the power lines and caused the crash.

Three friends preparing for a cookout heard the crash and jumped into action to rescue any survivors. Due to the marshy terrain, the three men jumped into an amphibious vehicle to get to the crash site. Upon approaching the crash site, the men described a “frightening” scene with smoke billowing and the marsh grass ablaze around the downed helicopter. The rescuers took the crew’s helmets and started scooping marsh water onto the flames. One of the men took the pilot to a nearby road in order to direct first responders to the crash site. First responders were able to access the crash site via airboat and rescue the two survivors.

After an unfortunate crash like this one, Louisiana Law provides remedies for victims to recover for their injuries. Since the crash occurred during the course and scope of the passengers’ employment, the injured victims may seek worker’s compensation. Moreover, the family of the deceased crewmen may bring a wrongful death action pursuant to Louisiana Civil Code article 2315.2. The family members have one year from the date of this crash to bring the action to recover.

In Freeman v. Fon’s Pest Management, Inc., the Louisiana Supreme Court found that the lower courts erred in granting the defendant’s motions in limine and striking the expert testimony of four of the plaintiff’s experts. The lawsuit alleged that the defendant used a pesticide which contained a chemical called fipronil to treat plaintiffs’ home for termites. Following the treatment, plaintiffs began to suffer headaches, nausea, dizziness, and confusion. To prove causation, plaintiffs retained four different experts – three toxicologists and one Certified Industrial Hygienist. In response, the defendant pest management company filed pre-trial motions to exclude the testimony of plaintiffs’ experts, claiming their testimony did not meet the standard for admissibility under Louisiana Code of Evidence article 702 and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

The district court granted the defendant’s motions in limine, striking plaintiff’s experts because it found: 1) none of the proposed experts had expertise regarding fipronil; 2) none of the four experts had written or contributed to any peer-reviewed articles regarding the effects of fipronil (or any pesticides) in humans; 3) none of the four experts attempted a dose reconstruction to determine the amount of exposure to fipronil allegedly suffered by the plaintiffs; 4) none of the experts reviewed any biological or air quality data to establish the plaintiffs were exposed to fipronil; and 5) no articles or studies reviewed by the experts proved any causal connection between fipronil and the plaintiff’s claimed injuries. In addition, the testimony of all four experts conflicted on the effects of fipronil exposure.

The court of appeal affirmed.

A jury in the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana-Lafayette Division returned a verdict of $4,271,300.00 to an Iberia Parish resident who was injured while working at a Cameron facility at the Port of Iberia. Jerome Moroux, partner at Broussard & David, LLC, was lead counsel for the plaintiff. This is the fourth consecutive seven or eight figure verdict by Broussard & David, LLC.

The plaintiff was an employee of a trucking company/contractor on the day of the accident. Plaintiff’s employer had been contracted by Cameron to assist Cameron in loading a 300,000 pound piece of equipment on to plaintiff’s employer’s transporter. The job was shared between the companies, with Cameron performing the crane lift and Cameron/plaintiff’s co-employees working on securing the load. At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was kneeling on the transporter and in the process of using a ratchet binder to secure the equipment to the transporter. While operating the binder, the ratchet binder came apart and plaintiff fell four feet to the ground. There was evidence that one of Cameron’s employees had handled the ratchet binder and given it to plaintiff’s co-employee before the accident.

Cameron denied liability completely, arguing that they had hired plaintiff’s employer to perform the work based on its experience and expertise; further, Cameron argued, that the failure of the ratchet binder was Bayard’s employer’s  fault—not Cameron’s. The evidence proved that Cameron actively participated in the job and was operating the crane while the accident happened. At trial, plaintiff offered expert and lay testimony confirming that, under both company and industry standards, the crane operator had several duties and responsibilities, including insuring that the proper tools for the job were examined before the job began and that the plaintiff’s employer performed and attended pre-job safety briefings. Secondly, Cameron failed to follow its own company rules with respect to pre-job planning. Plaintiff’s safety expert was Mr. Robert Borison.

In November of 2017, Galvan Alejandro Jr. and William Rhodes were traveling in Vernon Parish, Louisiana when Alejandro, the driver, lost control of the vehicle, went off the road, struck a culvert, and hit several trees. Despite wearing a seatbelt, Rhodes, the passenger, was ejected from the vehicle and killed. The driver sustained only moderate injuries. Suspecting alcohol and excessive speeding as causes for the crash, in January, Louisiana authorities arrested the driver for vehicular homicide and reckless operation.

Louisiana law defines “vehicular homicide” as “the killing of a human being caused . . . by an offender engaged in the operation of . . . any motor vehicle” when the driver is under the influence of alcoholic beverages or other intoxicants. If convicted of vehicular homicide, the driver can be fined and imprisoned for no less than five years and no more than thirty years. In addition to facing possible jail time, under Louisiana law, a drunk driver can face liability for punitive damages, which can be awarded in addition to compensatory damages in some cases. Louisiana Civil Code article 2315.4 states, “exemplary damages may be awarded upon proof that the injuries on which the action is based were caused by . . . a defendant whose intoxication while operating a motor vehicle was a cause in fact of the resulting injuries.”

Punitive damage awards can vary depending upon the facts of each case and even the location of the trial. For example, Broussard & David, LLC partner Blake R. David was lead counsel in Thibodeaux v. AFTCO, where a Lafayette Parish jury awarded punitive damages of nearly $15,000,000.00 against an intoxicated driver. In Calcasieu Parish, Broussard & David, LLC partner Blake R. David was also lead counsel in Tingle v. American Home Assurance Co., where the jury returned a verdict which included $5,000,000.00 in punitive damages where an intoxicated driver caused the death of a family’s two-year-old daughter. In Thistlethwaite v. Gonzalez, another case in which Blake David was lead counsel, a St. Charles Parish trial court awarded over $25,000,000.00 total in punitive damages against an intoxicated defendant driver.

LAKE CHARLES, LA – November 16, 2017

A Calcasieu Parish jury awarded $5,451,395.00 to a Venezuelan native who injured his neck and back when his Hummer SUV hit a cow on a rural state highway.

On the night of May 28, 2014, the plaintiff was driving on Louisiana Highway 27, headed home after a hitch working offshore as a petroleum engineer. Multiple cows appeared in the road as he was passing another vehicle on a dark and unlit stretch of Highway 27 which was adjacent to property owned by defendant Sweet Lake Land & Oil Company, LLC.

The U.S. Coast Guard and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are calling for stronger safety measures aboard oil platforms after an explosion on a Lake Pontchartrain oil rig left multiple workers injured and one worker missing. Five workers sustained critical burns from the blast, while two others sustained trauma-related injuries. A search-and-rescue mission was sent out for the missing employee, whose body was recovered five days after the explosion. The explosion occurred on October 15th, two miles from Kenner and around twenty miles north of New Orleans in an incorporated area of Jefferson Parish.

According to the City of Kenner Government, the platform (used for the transfer of oil) ignited because of cleaning chemicals that were not sufficiently hosed off. The explosion could be heard from miles away and houses up to 10 blocks away “actually shook from the boom.” Many of the employees on the platform were rescued subsequent to the explosion as fires continued to burn on the platform.

The environmental impact of the explosion is yet to be determined. The Coast Guard will continue to test the surrounding waters to determine if large amounts of oil were deposited into Lake Pontchartrain. Many Kenner residents have gone to social media to voice their concerns about the potential future environmental impacts of the explosion. Lake Pontchartrain is part of a larger ecosystem called the Pontchartrain Basin, an area consisting of many rivers, bayous, and swamps that could potentially be impacted by oil from the explosion. South Louisiana citizens are fearful of a similar situation to the Deepwater Horizon disaster seven years ago.

In an important maritime law decision protecting seaman all over the county, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the Louisiana verdict secured for an injured maritime worker. Attorney Blake R. David (lead counsel) and J. Derek Aswell of Broussard & David represented the plaintiff. Guidry v. Tanner Marine, 16-61 (La. App. 3rd Cir. 10/19/16), 206 So.3d 378, writ denied (La. 1/23/17) 209 So.3d 90; writ denied (U.S. 6/12/17) 2017 WL 1494663.

In Guidry v. Tanner Services, a St. Landry Parish trial court found Ernest Guidry to be a seaman under the Jones Act and awarded general and special damages of $3,885,911.69. A 16,000 pound vibrating hammer fell on Guidry causing the amputation of his four fingers, a crushed foot, herniated discs in his neck and back, concussion, depression, post-traumatic stress, and total and permanent disability. The verdict was upheld by the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court of Louisiana, and the Supreme Court of the United States — the final judgment with judicial interest totaled over $4,280,000.00.

Defendant, Tanner Services, LLC, was awarded a contract to construct a bulkhead in Grand Isle, Louisiana beginning in January 2012. The Defendant used three barges and two tugboats to move the equipment, supplies, and store materials, as well as to act as “floating docks” or “work stations” for a crane and preparatory welding. The project also used floating mats described as a large piece of wood similar to a “raft.” Guidry spent the majority of his time on the floating raft. Previously, Guidry had been strictly a land-based shop welder for Tanner. The trial court found that he was reassigned to do maritime work, and that this reassignment changed his status to a Jones Act seaman who can recover for his catastrophic losses from his at-fault employer. The court also found that the raft was an appurtenance to the crane barge.

Jerome Moroux of the law firm Broussard and David, recently obtained a settlement of over $3.2MM on behalf of an offshore worker who sustained  an injury while entering a vessel in Vermilion Parish. The incident was unwitnessed and occurred as the worker was crossing the gangway that was not properly secured on the vessel.

Initially, the worker believed he had sustained only a twisted ankle. As he continued working offshore, however, plaintiff’s pain continued to worsen. He was ultimately diagnosed with CRPS in his right ankle and received a spinal cord stimulator in his low back for right ankle pain. Plaintiff also treated for depression following his injury.

The case was defended by ABC Boats and Doe’s employer, which denied liability and the extent of damages claimed. As to liability, defendants asserted that plaintiff misjudged the step from the gangway to the deck; defendants focused on the fact that plaintiff had provided multiple accounts of the accident to his various doctors and company representatives. Additionally, ABC Boats’s Captain testified that he observed the gangway one hour before the accident and it was properly secured; also, three passengers boarded the vessel in the hour before plaintiff and had no problems with the gangway. Concerning damages, defendants questioned the diagnosis of CRPS and denied that plaintiff’s psychological trauma were in any way related to the accident.

A slip and fall accident in Las Vegas, Nevada resulted in an eleven-day trial where the jury returned a verdict of more than $16 million to a plaintiff who fell in a Lowe’s Home Center, fracturing her skull and causing a hemorrhage in the front of her brain. Because of her injuries, she has suffered from multiple long-term medical issues such as chronic neck pain, headaches, anxiety and depression, issues with balance, and she has forever lost her senses of taste and smell.

On the date of the fall, the plaintiff, Kelly Hendrickson, was walking through a Lowe’s garden department when she was purchasing plants for her new home. At the same time, the watering system for the plants in the store created puddles in the areas where customers walked. Although a warning cone was placed within the puddle itself, there were no warnings in the surrounding areas of the puddle and the cone was not visible to Hendrickson when she turned the corner into the aisle where she fell.

After plaintiff’s fall, three different Lowe’s employees passed her without offering to help. Another customer and her daughter came to her aid. As Hendrickson waited for further help to arrive, she asked for a bottle of water, which the cashier required her to purchase. Help arrived and she was taken to the hospital. Upon examination in the emergency room, medical professionals discovered her injuries, including a skull fracture and subarachnoid hemorrhage.