A three-judge panel from the FirstCircuit Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s ruling finding the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development at fault for the severe injuries suffered by Evelyn “Joy” Menard when her vehicle struck an out-of-service signal wire hanging under the Essen Lane overpass.
The accident occurred in 2004 but the wire had been hanging under the I-12 bridge for decades, having been installed by the DOTD in 1967 and decommissioned in 1976. The wire had sagged over time and, by the time of the accident, was low enough that it was pulled down by a passing 18-wheeler. Ms. Menard was travelling behind the 18-wheeler and her car became entangled in the downed wire, pulling her vehicle violently sideways, injuring her lower back and leaving her totally disabled.
At trial, DOTD acknowledged that following the decommission of the signal in 1976, it had no record of inspecting or servicing the wire, the pole, traffic signal, or any other component part of the signal governing the entrance to the intersection where the accident occurred. Ms. Menard’s expert testified that DOTD’s abandonment of the wire without inspection or any effort to maintain it rendered the wire unreasonably dangerous, especially in light of the risk of the wire sagging over time.