Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

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.

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.

Three parties have sued a truck driver and his employer for injuries and damages sustained in a crash earlier this year.

On June 24, Plaintiffs Marvin Gaitlin and Tasha Bodie, both individually and on behalf of her minor daughter Mykalia Collins, brought suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana against Sam Grace, EPES Transportation Systems Inc., and National Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh. The suit alleges that Grace negligently operated his vehicle and that EPES negligently entrusted the tractor-trailer to Grace.

On February 25, Gaitlin was stopped in traffic on Manhattan Boulevard, near the intersection of Ute Drive in Jefferson Parish. Bodie and Collins were Gaitlin’s passengers at the time, and their vehicle was directly behind the tractor-trailer driven by Grace and owned by EPES Transportation. According to the suit, Grace suddenly reversed his tractor-trailer and backed into the front of Gaitlin’s vehicle, leaving him no time to avoid the collision. Grace then proceeded to back up his vehicle again, striking Gaitlin’s vehicle a second time. As a result, the parties suffered severe and debilitating mental and physical injuries.

LAFAYETTE, LA – October 27, 2016

A Lafayette Parish jury awarded $30,438,225.00 to Rayne native Ronald Stutes, who was paralyzed when an R+L Carriers 18-wheeler failed to yield at a stop sign causing a crash.

On January 23, 2013, R+L Carriers employee, Gerald Pitre, was operating an eighteen-wheeler loaded with hazardous cargo when he failed to yield at a stop sign and red flashing light at the intersection of Austria Road and U.S. 90 (Cameron Street) near Duson, Louisiana. Ronald Stutes, a master carpenter, was on his way to work at 5:30 a.m. when the 18-wheeler pulled directly into the path of his pick-up truck.

In November of 2012, Carrie Marchiafava, 85, parked her car in the parking lot of Casey Jones Supermarket and went inside. When Mrs. Marchiafava returned to her vehicle, she found someone had parked too close to her passenger side door, making it difficult for her to back out.

Store employee William Sarradet attempted to assist Mrs. Marchiafava by backing her car out for her, but left the driver-side door open as he reversed the vehicle out of its parking spot. The open door knocked Marchiafava down and the car rolled over her. According to court records, Mrs. Marchiafava was dragged under the car for a distance. Sarradet then put the car back into drive and accelerated into the parking spot, rolling over Marchiafava again.

Mrs. Marchiafava was taken to a New Orleans hospital where doctors attempted to save her life. She suffered numerous broken bones and her skin was torn away from the tissue in several places.  Mrs. Marchiafava underwent multiple surgeries and survived for over a month before succumbing to her injuries.

On July 8, 2009 Hyundai Elantra, was involved in a low-speed collision in Newfoundland, Canada, spurring investigations into air bag inflators made by ARC Automotive, a Tennessee-based company.  Canadian officials contend that the driver would have likely survived had the ARC-manufactured airbag inflator not ruptured and sent shrapnel flying through the passenger compartment. This incident, the latest of several, lead both Canadian and American auto safety regulators to investigate ARC inflators, which are installed in roughly 8 million cars in the United States alone.  The products are mostly found in older cars made by General Motors, Fiat, Chrysler, Hyundai, and Kia.

This incident underscores the importance of a probe already underway by the United States’ National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That investigation began in July 2015 after the agency received reports that an Ohio woman was seriously injured in a 2009 accident where her 2002 Chrysler Town & Country minivan crashed, rupturing its inflator. The injured woman’s husband complained in writing to NHTSA, informing the agency that his wife was hurt by shrapnel when the air bag deployed following a collision with a snowmobile. “Most of the shrapnel went into her chest, with the air bag plate breaking apart, striking her in the chin, breaking her jaw in three places,” her husband wrote.

The NHTSA also found  a similar injury involving someone in a 2004 Kia Optima. In both cases, the inflators were manufactured in ARC’s factory in Knoxville, TN.

A multi-car accident at a traffic jam in St. Martin Parish gave rise to a lawsuit filed in Lafayette earlier this month. Ronald P. Clauhs and Joseph Dimitri sued to recover damages for personal injuries against Scott J. Liriano and Liriano Motors, LLC. Suit was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Lafayette Division on June 6, 2016.

According to the complaint, the accident occurred on December 23, 2015 when Clauhs was driving a vehicle owned by Dimitri, who was the passenger at the time of the wreck. While travelling on I-10 eastbound in St. Martin Parish, Clauhs observed traffic congestion ahead and stopped behind the line of cars in his lane. Two more vehicles stopped behind plaintiffs’ vehicle. At that point, a company truck owned by Liriano Motors and driven by Liriano collided with last car in line behind the plaintiffs’ vehicle. The force of the impact triggered a chain reaction, which caused the plaintiffs’ vehicle to be rear-ended by the vehicle behind them. Liriano was cited by the Louisiana State Police for careless operation.

Plaintiffs’ complaint makes allegations against both Liriano and his employer, Liriano Motors. The allegations against the employer include that Liriano was working at the time of the accident and was therefore in the course and scope of his employment with Liriano Motors. Because Liriano was on a mission for his employer when the accident occurred, plaintiffs allege that Liriano Motors is vicariously liable for the accident. Plaintiffs also allege that Liriano Motors, as the owner of the truck, negligently entrusted the company vehicle to Liriano.

A suit has been filed against the United States government and their employee, Gilbert Yribe Jr., as the result of a vehicular accident.

Cristian Chestnut filed a lawsuit on May 24 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, stating that Yribe failed to maintain control of his vehicle and caused injury. The petition alleges that on June 2, 2014, Yribe, an employee of the United States Navy, rear-ended Chestnut’s vehicle in a manner which lead to injury.  The accident occurred in St. Tammany Parish.  On April 28, 2015, Chestnut reportedly submitted an SF95 (Standard Form 95) to the Department of the Navy.  An SF95 is used to present claims against the United States under the Federal Torts Claims Act (FTCA) for injury to self or property allegedly caused by a federal employee’s wrongful act or omission, so long as that act occurred within the scope of the employee’s federal employment.

The amount of damages sought is$5,010,000.  The plaintiff has requested trial by jury and seeks damages plus interests, costs, and all general and equitable relief the court deems proper.

Two Baton Rouge siblings were killed last week when their vehicle was struck by an oncoming train. Byron Henderson, 41, and Myra Henderson, 42, were driving their SUV westbound on Dorcy Road in White Castle, LA when it came to a complete stop while atop of the railroad tracks. The crossing is not outfitted with warning lights or crossing guards.

Union Pacific, the owners and operators of the train, allege that the train’s horn was blown continuously for  forty seconds prior to the collision. The Iberville Sheriff’s Office is still looking into why the vehicle was parked on the railroad tracks.  Investigators are hoping that footage from the train’s front-mounted cameras will shed more light on this event.

Union Pacific is cooperating with the Sheriff’s Office by conducting their own investigation into the events of that day.  While it is not currently know what speed the train was traveling at the time of impact, Union Pacific spokesperson Jeff DeGraff confirmed that their trains’ speed is limited to 60 mph in that area.