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Edwards v. Geico Indem. Co.

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Third Circuit

March 18, 2015

TIRAS EDWARDS, ET AL.
v.
GEICO INDEMNITY COMPANY, ET AL

Page 958

APPEAL FROM THE PINEVILLE CITY COURT, PARISH OF RAPIDES, NO. 2012CV00608. HONORABLE J. PHILLIP TERRELL, JR., CITY COURT JUDGE.

REVERSED IN PART, AMENDED IN PART, AND RENDERED.

Russell L. Potter, Stafford, Stewart, & Potter, Alexandria, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANTS/APPELLANTS: GEICO Indemnity Company, Patricia Breaux.

David A. Hughes, Hughes Law Firm, Alexandria, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANTS/APPELLEES: Shelter Mutual Insurance Company, Sean Mayhair, Helena Theils.

S. Aaron Siebeneicher, Johnson & Siebeneicher, Alexandria, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company.

Byron O'Neal, O'Neal Law Firm, Alexandria, LA, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFFS/APPELLEES: Tiras Edwards, Kevin Wardsworth.

Court composed of Jimmie C. Peters, Marc T. Amy, Shannon J. Gremillion, Phyllis M. Keaty, and John E. Conery, Judges.

OPINION

Page 959

[14-606 La.App. 3 Cir. 1] SHANNON J. GREMILLION, J.

Geico Indemnity Company, the insurer of Patricia Breaux (hereinafter referred to as Breaux), appeals the judgment in favor of the plaintiffs for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. For the following reasons, we reverse in part, amend in part, and render.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This appeal arises out of a February 24, 2012 motor vehicle accident on an exit ramp from I-49 in Alexandria, Louisiana. The accident involved at least three vehicles. In the lead vehicle were plaintiffs, Tiras Edwards and Kevin Wardsworth, followed by a vehicle driven by Sean Mayhair, which was followed by a vehicle driven by defendant-appellant, Breaux.[1] The Mayhair vehicle rear-ended the plaintiffs' vehicle, and the Breaux vehicle rear-ended Mayhair's vehicle. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that " the plaintiffs proved their burden of proof by preponderance of the evidence as to liability." Mayhair and Breaux were each found fifty percent at fault, and the trial court awarded each plaintiff $30,000 in general damages. Geico was cast with $15,000 in general damages for each plaintiff for a total of $30,000. Breaux now appeals.

ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR

Breaux assigns as error:

1. The trial court was manifestly erroneous or clearly wrong in finding that Patricia Breaux was fifty percent at fault in causing the accident or impact as to the plaintiffs' vehicle and thus being responsible for or causing fifty percent of the plaintiffs' damages.
2. The trial court was manifestly erroneous in failing to assign any fault to Tiras Edwards for rear-ending the unknown driver and [14-606 La.App. 3 Cir. 2] stopping suddenly, thus causing Sean Mayhair to impact his vehicle.[2]

3. The trial court was manifestly erroneous in failing to find fault upon the unknown leader driver for stopping suddenly and causing Tiras Edwards to stop suddenly, resulting in the impact by Mayhair and allegedly Patricia Breaux.
4. The trial court was manifestly erroneous in awarding $30,000 in general damages to each plaintiff.

DISCUSSION

Testimony

Officer Sammy Dauzart of the Alexandria Police Department investigated the accident. Officer Dauzart testified that he had no independent recollection of the accident but reviewed his accident report. He stated that Edwards reported that the vehicle in front of him suddenly stopped, which caused him to stop. Mayhair reported that after he rear-ended the Edwards' vehicle, the Breaux vehicle rear-ended him. Both Mayhair and Breaux

Page 960

were ticketed for following too closely. Officer Dauzart testified that Edwards did not report a second impact occurring. The following exchange occurred:

Q. And if I read your report correctly Mr. Edwards only described one impact with his vehicle, that being from the Mayhair vehicle correct?
A. Based on my report it only reflects one impact. Yes, sir.

Officer Dauzart also testified that no injuries were reported at the scene of the accident. He reported the damage to the vehicles as minor/moderate, meaning there was noticeable damage, but all the ...


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