Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

An interesting case recently arose out of the Northern District of California. A ferry boat captain was found partially responsible for a collision in which he was using his cell phone in the minutes before his boat wrecked into a speedboat on the San Francisco Bay.

In February of 2013, Harry Holzhauer and David Rhoades were traveling by speedboat in the San Francisco Bay when a ferry crashed into their boat. The driver, Holzhauer, was killed in the collision and Rhoades, who owned the boat, was seriously injured. The widows of Holzhauer and Rhoades both filed claims against the ferry captain and the ferry owner, alleging the captain negligently used his cell phone immediately before the accident occurred.  At the trial, Plaintiffs presented evidence that showed that the ferry made a course and speed change about two minutes before the collision and that the captain of the ferry made a two-minute cell phone call at 4:07 pm, just before the 4:09 pm collision.

After hearing the evidence, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs in the amount of $5,276,306, broken down as $3,729,559 to Rhoades and $1,546,747 to Holzhauer. Further, the jury found the ferry Captain to be 30% at fault and Holtzhauer 70% at fault, reducing Holtzhauer’s award to $464,024.00.

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.

Last month, the Court of Appeal for Louisiana’s Third Circuit affirmed a jury verdict of $125,000.00 in compensatory damages and $23,000,000.00 in punitive damages in favor of the plaintiff, Ron Warren, in a maritime products liability case.

The incident at the heart of the case took place over ten years ago. On May 7, 2005, Derek Hebert was riding in a small boat operated by David Vamvoras. They were traveling from Mr. Vamvoras’ home to the Lake Charles Country Club via a former channel of the Calcasieu River. During the trip, the boat’s steering system completely shut down, ejecting Hebert from the craft and into the path of the propeller. The propeller struck Hebert approximately nineteen times, killing him almost instantly.  A subsequent investigation of the accident revealed that the loss of a relatively small amount of hydraulic fluid resulted in the craft’s total loss of steering.  As a result, Warren filed suit for wrongful death and survival damages against numerous parties, including the manufacturer and designer of the boat’s steering system, Teleflex.

Warren alleged that Teleflex failed to warn boat owners and passengers of the potentially catastrophic danger caused by losing just a small amount of hydraulic fluid. At trial, evidence showed that Teleflex performed tests in 1989 and 2004 which revealed that the loss of only a few teaspoons of hydraulic fluid would result in the total failure of the steering system. Plaintiff further showed Teleflex had received thousands of complaints regarding hydraulic fluid loss, but Teleflex believed the problem occurred infrequently enough that a more specific warning was not justified. The jury disagreed and awarded Warren $23,000,000.00 in punitive damages.

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.

A two-car collision in Baton Rouge last Saturday resulted in the death of a Memphis man and an injured local preacher.

George Mabon and Reverend John Pitzer were passengers in a Mercedes when it was stuck at the intersection of South Acadian Thruway and North Boulevard.  Authorities believe that a southbound Nissan ran the red light and struck the back of the west-traveling Mercedes.  Pitzer suffered fractured ribs and was transported to a local hospital.  Mabon did not survive the crash.

The unidentified Nissan driver has yet to be charged, pending an ongoing investigation that involves accident reconstruction and the driver’s blood test. However, charges have already been filed on the driver of the Mercedes, John Baur of Memphis, after officers observed visible signs of intoxication at the time of the accident.  Responding officers reported that Baur’s eyes were red, his balance unsure, and his breath and person smelled of alcohol.  A field sobriety test was conducted and Baur’s blood-alcohol level registered 0.13 percent.  In Louisiana, a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher is considered presumptive evidence of drunk driving.  Baur was booked on counts of first-offence DWI and reckless operation, with other possible charges pending. 

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The first annual Bicycle Safety Festival will be held on June 4th from 9am-12pm at Parc Sans Souci in downtown Lafayette. The Bicycle Safety Festival is presented by Lafayette Consolidated Government, Bike Lafayette, and Broussard & David, LLC. There will be free adult and youth bicycle helmets for the first 300 participants, free bike registration, free safety training and instruction, and participants are eligible to win a free bicycle (valued at $300 – courtesy of Hub City Cycles). Additionally, there will be food, refreshments and musical entertainment by Zydeco Radio.

In Acadiana, there have been far too many cyclists injured in preventable bicycle accidents. The aim of this event is to help cyclists and motorists become more knowledgeable about bicycle safety and the rules of the road. As Lafayette Consolidated Government embraces more bicycle lanes and smarter growth, bicycle awareness is becoming even more essential.

Broussard & David, LLC, a law firm located in downtown Lafayette, has a great deal of experience in representing people catastrophically injured in bicycle related accidents. In sponsoring this event, the partners at Broussard & David, LLC hope that — through education and training — the roads will be safer for bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians alike.

After a routine mosquito abatement flight, an airplane crash that left two dead will likely lead to changes at a Slidell airport.

Wayne Fisher, 68, and Donald Pechon, 59, were found dead after another pilot reported seeing a spark of electricity from high-power transmission lines near the Slidell Municipal Airport followed by a plume of flame just north of a runway.  The pilots collided with the transmission towers, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board.  The report notes that it was a calm, clear night at the time of the crash, with visibility at 10 miles.  According to Airport manager Richard Artigue, both men were experienced pilots and Fisher was a reserved deputy with the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office and flew helicopters in that capacity.

The primary factor in the crash, appears to be the location of the towers in relation to the airport.  Even though the towers conform to Federal Aviation Administration regulations, Artigue reported that local officials have long recognized the potential safety hazard.   While the only other fatal crash at Slidell Municipal Airport occurred in 1974, the April 19 crash has compelled officials to address the relocation of the transmission lines. As Artigue noted, the airport is used by far less experienced pilots than Fisher and Pechon and is heavily utilized for student pilot training.

Duck Commander Inc., the company behind Duck Dynasty, and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development have been named defendants in a lawsuit filed by Jennifer Young, the mother of Madison Welch.

Filed in St. Martin Parish, the suit maintains that Madison Welch’s accident was not simple user error, but rather the result of an 18-wheeler operated “by agents, employees and/or licensees of Duck Commander Inc.” cutting into Welch’s lane and forcing her off the road.  This allegation evidently arises from a phone conversation Welch was engaged with at the time of the incident.  The friend who was on the other end reported that Welch exclaimed something about a nearby truck and then the line went silent.  Shortly after being told by the friend of what occurred, Welch’s family was notified of the accident. Welch’s Toyota Tacoma left the road and flipped, ejecting her.  Welch later succumbed to her injuries and died.

Young’s case additionally relies on the testimony of William Kirksey, who claimed to have witnessed the entire event and was one of the first people on the scene.  Kirksey stated that two 18-wheelers were exiting the freeway at the same time as Welch.  Both were in line, but at one point, one of them swerved into Welch’s lane, apparently causing her to veer off the road.

An Oklahoma woman has filed suit against Rolls-Royce over the death of her husband, alleging that the engine of the helicopter he was piloting was defective and caused the fatal crash.

Collen Ricks of Grady County, Oklahoma, along with her two minor children, sued the Rolls-Royce Corporation on March 30 in the United States Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.  The complaint alleged that the defendant aircraft engine provider defectively designed and/or manufactured turbine systems that would develop cracks in the exhaust system.

According to the suit,  Brandon Ricks was piloting a Model 206 L-1 Bell Helicopter on a public use flight near Saucier, Mississippi pursuant to a contract with the U.S. Forest Service.  At some point during this flight, the helicopter suddenly lost power, causing the fatal crash in question.

On March 29, suit was filed in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana by Kathryn Swanson, both individually and as special administrator of Denis I. Swanson, her late husband.  Swanson has alleged breach of duty and negligence on the part of McDermott International Inc. and McDermott Inc., claiming that they are at fault for the death of her husband.

According to the suit, Denis Swanson work on derrick barges owned by the defendants and was under their employ for approximately twenty years, from 1977 to 1997.  The suit posits that it was during this time that Swanson was exposed to asbestos, suffering personal injuries and eventually death due to the negligence of the defendants and the unseaworthiness of their vessels.

The complaint states that the defendants failed to maintain their vessels and equipment in a safe and reasonable condition, failed to warn of the dangers of asbestos exposure, failed to provide safe and proper protective equipment, and failed to design, construct, repair, and maintain their vessels in a safe manner.