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Saucier v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division

April 6, 2017

WILBERT J. SAUCIER, JR.,
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE CO.

          MAG. JUDGE JOSEPH PEREZ-MONTES

          OPINION

          ROBERT G. JAMES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff William J. Saucier, Jr. (“Saucier”), brought this personal injury lawsuit arising from a motor vehicle accident against Defendants State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and State Farm Fire and Casualty Company (collectively “State Farm”).

         A bench trial was held March 20-21, 2017. The parties made closing arguments, but waived the filing of post-trial briefs. The Court then took the matter under advisement.

         I. FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

         The Court hereby enters the following findings of fact and conclusions of law. To the extent that any finding of fact constitutes a conclusion of law, the Court hereby adopts it as such, and to the extent that any conclusion of law constitutes a finding of fact, the Court hereby adopts it as such.

         A. FINDINGS OF FACT

         On September 5, 2013, at the intersection of La. Hwy. 28 and the U.S. 167 on-ramp in Pineville, Louisiana, a motor vehicle accident occurred between a 2005 Jaguar VDP automobile operated by Saucier and a 2005 Ford Taurus operated by Aleisha Tilley (“Tilley”). Just prior to the accident, Saucier was driving in a westerly direction in the left lane of Hwy. 28 traveling thirty to thirty-five miles per hour. Tilley was driving on Hwy. 28 in an easterly direction for approximately two blocks before she merged into the left-hand turn lane to enter the U.S. 167 on-ramp.[1]

         As Saucier's vehicle approached the intersection, Tilley's vehicle yielded at the yield sign at the median of the intersection between U.S. 167's on and off ramps and Hwy. 28. Tilley waited a short period of time for oncoming traffic traveling in a westerly direction on Hwy. 28 to pass. Tilley then began crossing Hwy. 28 before Saucier had safely proceeded through the intersection.

         Saucier testified that he “stood on his brakes” in an attempt to avoid hitting Tilley's vehicle, but was unsuccessful. In the collision, the front of the vehicle operated by Saucier impacted the right rear fender of Tilley's vehicle. The damage to both vehicles was minor and no air bags deployed in either vehicle. Officer Sabrina Farace arrived on the scene and completed an accident report.

         After the accident, Saucier traveled to his office and called Dr. Robert Rush, a general practitioner, to schedule an appointment. Dr. Rush was able to examine him later that day. Saucier relayed complaints of shoulder and neck pain, specifically that his right shoulder was “popping.” Dr. Rush conducted an exam on Saucier's right shoulder and concluded he had a positive O'Brien maneuver test, which indicated Saucier may have a tissue tear in his shoulder.[2] Dr. Rush recommended conservative treatment, which included a nonsteroidal inflammatory, a muscle relaxer, and physical therapy with Oday Laverge, P.T.

         After a series of visits with Dr. Rush and physical therapy appointments with Mr. Laverge, Saucier continued to report pain in his neck and right shoulder and continued to have positive O'Brien maneuver tests.

         On December 5, 2013, Dr. Rush ordered an MRI of Saucier's shoulder. The MRI revealed that the long head of Saucier's right bicep was torn. The MRI also revealed that Saucier had tendinosis of the supraspinatus and a tear of the subscapular part of the rotator cuff. After reviewing the MRI, Dr. Rush referred Saucier to Dr. Felix Savoie.

         Dr. Savoie performed tests on Saucier and reviewed his MRI, concluding that they were consistent with a labral tear, a rotator cuff tear and a bicep injury. In February 2014, Dr. Savoie initially recommended surgery, but Saucier declined surgery at that time.

         On September 23, 2014, Dr. Rush concluded that Saucier was at or near maximum medical improvement, and it appeared that his shoulder would not regain its pre-accident status without surgical intervention. Saucier still elected to continue conservative treatment, rather than schedule surgery.

         Saucier elected to wait until July 18, 2016 to have the surgery performed. Dr. Savoie testified that the delay in surgery caused the development of a partial tear in the supraspinatus tendon. However, Dr. Savoie also testified that continuing conservative treatment was an acceptable mode of treatment.

         On October 2, 2012, prior to the September 5, 2013 motor vehicle accident, Saucier suffered an injury to his right shoulder as a result of pulling a water filter at his camp. Dr. Rush and Mr. Laverge testified that Saucier was prescribed physical therapy and subsequently discharged to at-home rehabilitation. Mr. Lavergne testified that the 2012 incident caused an AC joint strain, different from the injuries Saucier experienced after the 2013 motor vehicle accident. Also, Dr. Savoie testified that Saucier's present shoulder injuries were not consistent with the 2012 pulling incident.

         Cynthia Vallery, Saucier's sister, and Nancy Stokes stayed with and cared for Saucier after surgery. During this time, Saucier was heavily medicated on pain medication and required assistance with daily activities. Additionally, Saucier, a avid sportsman, was unable to hunt and fish.

         As a result of the accident, Saucier incurred $48, 810.69 in medical bills and $3, 320.40 in property damage. Dr. Lavergne testified that he expects Saucier to incur $7, 200 in future medical expenses for physical therapy. Mr. Joseph Wayne Gaspard, Saucier's accountant, testified that Saucier's solo law practice generated $4, 910, 327[3] in the fiscal years 2010 through 2014.

         At the time of the collision, Saucier had in full force and effect a policy of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage issued by State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., under policy number 600 1205-F18-18K, affording coverage to Saucier in the amount of $250, 000.00 dollars, to the extent that Saucier's damages exceed the underlying coverage afforded by the Go Auto Insurance Company to Tilley. Saucier also had in full force and effect a policy of umbrella uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage issued by State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, under policy number 18-BA-7476-9, and affording coverage to Saucier in the amount of $2, 000, 000.00 dollars, to the extent that Saucier's ...


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