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Lawrence v. Sanders

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Second Circuit

June 24, 2015

ANGELA LAWRENCE, Plaintiff-Appellant

Page 791

Appealed from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana. Trial Court No. 2013-1171. Honorable Robert C. Johnson, Judge.

M. RANDALL DONALD, Counsel for Appellant.

HUDSON, POTTS & BERNSTEIN, By: Jay P. Adams, Sarah G. White, Counsel for Appellees.



Page 792


[49,966 La.App. 2');">966 La.App. 2 Cir. 1] In this personal injury case, the plaintiff, Angela Lawrence, appeals from a summary judgment granted in favor of the defendants, Dorothy Dell Sanders and Allstate Insurance Company, and the dismissal of her claims. For the following reasons, we affirm the trial court judgment.


The only evidence presented to the trial court in connection with the motion for summary judgment was the deposition of Ms. Lawrence taken on February 19, 2014, which provides the following description of the incident giving rise to this lawsuit. Ms. Lawrence is employed by the office of the Ouachita Clerk of Court as a deputy clerk. She is the granddaughter of Ms. Sanders. On April 15, 2012, Ms. Sanders asked Ms. Lawrence to come to her house, climb up on the roof, and remove limbs and debris. Ms. Lawrence, who was 37 years old at that time, frequently performed this chore for her grandmother. She usually used an extension ladder to get on the roof, but the ladder had been stolen. Ms. Sanders also had an A-frame ladder. This ladder, stored in a shed, had belonged to Ms. Lawrence's grandfather, who is deceased. According to Ms. Lawrence, she had seen the ladder before and it had been at the house for at least nine years. Ms. Lawrence said she thought they should wait to get an extension ladder. Ms. Sanders was not upset at this suggestion. However, Ms. Lawrence said her grandmother told her to use the A-frame ladder, so she complied. Ms. Sanders remained in the house while Ms. Lawrence proceeded with her [49,966 La.App. 2');">966 La.App. 2 Cir. 2] task.[1] The plaintiff's aunt, who lived at the residence, was in the yard at the time.

The ladder was six feet tall. Ms. Lawrence is five feet four inches tall and the roof was eight to nine feet high. Ms. Lawrence checked the braces on the ladder before going onto the roof. No one held the ladder during her ascent, which was uneventful. After spending 20 minutes cleaning off the roof, she attempted to climb down. As she placed her foot on the top of the ladder, it shifted, causing her to fall to the ground, resulting in injuries.[2]


Page 793

April 12, 2013, Ms. Lawrence filed suit against her grandmother and her grandmother's insurer, Allstate Insurance Company (" Allstate" ). She alleged that she was injured due to the dangerous and defective condition of the ladder, that it did not properly stabilize, and that it slipped, causing Ms. Lawrence to fall, resulting in injuries to her wrist, neck and back. Ms. Lawrence asserted that the defendants were negligent in failing to have safe equipment for her use, failing to maintain the equipment in a safe condition, providing faulty and damaged equipment, and any other acts of negligence that might be revealed through discovery.

On April 16, 2014, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment and included portions of Ms. Lawrence's deposition. Ms. Lawrence opposed the motion and included other portions of her deposition. [49,966 La.App. 2');">966 La.App. 2 Cir. 3] A hearing on the motion for summary judgment was held on July 18, 2014. Both parties introduced Ms. Lawrence's entire deposition in support of their claims, and this was the only document offered.

In addition to recounting the accident, Ms. Lawrence stated in her deposition that she did not look at the ladder after the accident to determine if it was damaged. She stated that personnel from Allstate looked at it and, " They didn't say it was damaged or anything." Ms. Lawrence was asked what she thought caused the ladder to fall. She said " someone not holding it" and her grandmother should have waited until an extension ladder could be obtained. However, she also stated that she did not ask her aunt or her grandmother to hold the ladder. Ms. Lawrence was later asked if she thought her grandmother did anything to cause the accident. She again responded that Ms. Sanders should have waited until Ms. Lawrence could have borrowed an extension ladder from a friend.

At the hearing, the defendants argued that Ms. Lawrence brought a claim under La. C.C. art. 2317.1, the only theory of recovery urged in the petition, and was required to prove that her grandmother knew or should have known of a defect in the ladder, that the damage could have been prevented with the exercise of reasonable care, and that her grandmother failed to exercise reasonable care. She was also required to show that a vice or defect in the ladder constituted a dangerous condition reasonably expected to cause injury to a prudent person with ordinary use. The defendants maintained that there was no showing of any defect in the ladder making it unreasonably dangerous when used with ordinary care. The [49,966 La.App. 2');">966 La.App. 2 Cir. 4] defendants claimed that Ms. Lawrence was in the best position to determine if it was unsafe to use the ladder to clean off the roof.

Ms. Lawrence argued for the first time at the hearing that she also presented a negligence claim.[3] According to Ms. Lawrence, the main question was whether Ms. Sanders was negligent in failing to furnish an extension ladder or not having someone hold the A-frame ladder while it was being used. She asserted that a ...

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