APPEAL FROM THE FOURTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF CALCASIEU, NO. 2012-5086 HONORABLE SHARON D. WILSON, DISTRICT JUDGE
Christopher P. Ieyoub Plauche, Smith & Nieset, LLC COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT-APPELLANT: Market Basket Stores, Inc.
Jason R. Bell Cox, Cox, Filo, Camel & Wilson COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE: Sheneatha Stevens
Court composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, Shannon J. Gremillion, and David Kent Savoie, Judges.
DAVID KENT SAVOIE JUDGE
This case involves a Plaintiff's slip and fall at a grocery store. After bench trial, the trial judge found the Defendant grocery store 100% liable, and awarded general damages in the amount of $5, 000 to the Plaintiff, as well as the Plaintiff's medical expenses. The Defendant appeals, and argues that the Plaintiff's claim was fraudulent and/or that the Plaintiff should be found 100% at fault. The Plaintiff also appeals and argues that the amount of general damages awarded was too low. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the decision of the trial court in part, reallocate fault to 60% to the Plaintiff and 40% to the Defendant, and affirm the amount of general damages awarded.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
On January 15, 2012, Plaintiff Sheneatha Stevens ("Ms. Stevens") fell on rice that was on the floor at a Market Basket grocery store located on 3rd Avenue in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The rice was on the floor at the end of an aisle near a refrigerator/cooler containing cold drinks.
Following the incident, Ms. Stevens was transported by ambulance from Market Basket to Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, complaining of back pain. She received treatment from Lake Charles Memorial Hospital that same day and was released. On February 1, 2012, she began treatment for low back pain with a chiropractor, Dr. Steven Caraway, and continued treatment with him through April 2, 2012.
Ms. Stevens filed suit against Market Basket on December 10, 2012. Market Basket filed an answer on March 21, 2013, denying liability and affirmatively pleading the fault of Ms. Stevens. On April 4, 2014, Market Basket filed a supplemental and amending answer wherein it affirmatively alleged fraud on the part of Ms. Stevens.
A bench trial was held on May 29, 2014. Evidence at trial consisted of testimony from Ms. Stevens, Market Basket's surveillance video of the incident, deposition testimony of two Market Basket employees, deposition testimony of Ms. Stevens, and Ms. Stevens' medical records.
The trial judge rejected Market Basket's allegations of fraud, and rendered judgment against Market Basket and in favor of Ms. Stevens for:
[G]eneral damages in the amount of $5, 000.00, special damages as follows: Lake Charles Memorial Hospital . . . in the amount of $56.78 (reimburse Medicaid), Acadian Ambulance . . . in the amount of $389.33 (reimburse Medicaid) and Caraway Branch Chiropractic Clinic . . . in the amount of $2, 374.00, legal interest from the date of judicial demand, and for all costs of these proceedings.
ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR
Market Basket appealed and argues that the trial court erred in (1) failing to find fraud on the part of Ms. Stevens, and (2) allocating 100% of the fault to Market Basket. Ms. Stevens answered the appeal and seeks an increase in the amount of general damages awarded.
Standard of Review: