APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH
OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 726-691 C/W 727-529,
DIVISION "O" HONORABLE DANYELLE M. TAYLOR, JUDGE
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, BRIDGET ARLIE GREENE Robert
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, MARK GERARD LOVISA AND THE
STATE OF LOUISIANA, THROUGH THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND
FORESTRY Valerie E. Fontenot Jeffrey M. Landry Gerald
Hampton, Jr. Thomas M. Brahney
composed of Susan M. Chehardy, Robert M. Murphy, and Stephen
M. CHEHARDY CHIEF JUDGE
personal injury action arising out of an automobile
collision, defendants, the State of Louisiana and Mark Gerard
Lovisa, appeal the district court's March 3, 2016
judgment granting a directed verdict on the issue of
liability in favor of plaintiff, Bridget Arlie Greene, and
the court's May 25, 2016 judgment awarding damages. For
the reasons that follow, we reverse the May 3, 2016 judgment,
vacate the May 25, 2016 judgment, and remand the matter for a
January 11, 2013, Bridget Arlie Greene was driving on
Clearview Parkway in Jefferson Parish when she was rear-ended
by a pickup truck owned by the Louisiana Department of
Agriculture and Forestry and driven by Mark Gerard Lovisa, a
department employee. In turn, Ms. Greene's vehicle
rear-ended the vehicle in front of her driven by Ivan Huerta.
Both Ms. Greene and Mr. Huerta sustained injuries.
6, 2013, Ms. Greene filed a petition seeking damages for her
injuries against Mr. Lovisa and the State of Louisiana
through its Department of Agriculture and Forestry ("the
State"). On June 3, 2013, Mr. and Mrs. Huerta
likewise filed a petition against these defendants seeking
damages for injuries sustained as a result of the
collision. These two suits were consolidated in
matter proceeded to a jury trial on February 29, 2016. After
the close of evidence on March 3, 2016, both Ms. Greene and
defendants orally moved for directed verdicts on the issue of
liability. After a brief recess, the court granted Ms.
Greene's motion and denied defendants' in open court.
Defense counsel objected.
issue of damages proceeded to the jury. The jury was tasked
with resolving two questions. First, "Was the negligence
of Mark Gerard Lovisa a proximate cause of Bridget Arlie
Greene's injuries?" The jury answered yes. And
second, "[I]n terms of dollars, how much in damages, if
any, did Bridget Arlie Greene suffer as a result of this
accident?" The jury was instructed to "state what
sum of money, if any, would reasonably and fairly compensate
Bridget Greene for each category of damages listed
below." The jury made the following findings: Past and
future physical pain and suffering, $400, 000; past and
future mental pain and suffering, $400, 000; past medical
expenses, $520, 875.66; future medical expenses, $310, 000;
loss of past earnings, $55, 828; future earning capacity,
$626, 642; and loss of enjoyment of life, $200, 000. This
totaled $2, 513, 345.66.
written judgment that followed on March 24, 2016, the court,
pursuant to La. R.S. 13:5106(B)(1), reduced the jury's
award for the three categories of past and future physical
pain and suffering, past and future mental pain and
suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life from $1, 000, 000 to
the statutory maximum of $500, 000. This reduced the total
award to $2, 013, 345.66, which the court adopted as its
judgment. The court also ordered the award of future medical
expenses ($310, 000) to be paid from the Future Medical Care
Fund in accordance with La. R.S. 39:1533.2, with medical care
and related benefits to be paid directly to the provider as
they are incurred pursuant to La. R.S. 13:5106(B)(3)(c). And
the court assessed costs against defendants, to be determined
in accordance with La. R.S. 13:5112(B).
April 1, 2016, Ms. Greene filed a motion for new trial and/or
judgment notwithstanding the verdict, seeking an award of
judicial interest from date of judicial demand. That same
date, defendants also filed a motion for new trial, arguing
the court's judgment of March 24, 2016 was contrary to
the law and evidence. Following a hearing on these motions,
the court rendered judgment on May 25, 2016, in which the
court granted in part Ms. Greene's motion for new
trial/JNOV to amend the judgment to award judicial interest
pursuant to La. R.S. 13:5112, denied defendants' motion
for new trial, and assessed costs in the amount of $21,
192.65. Also on May 25, 2016, the court issued its
amended judgment in which the court deducted the amount of
the award of future medical expenses ($310, 000) from the
jury's award, as previously amended, to yield a total
award of $1, 703, 345.66. The court further ordered legal
interest to accrue at 6% per annum from the date service is
requested following judicial demand until the judgment is
signed, plus legal interest accruing at the rate fixed by La.
R.S. 13:4202 from the date of the judgment until paid, plus
costs assessed in the amount of $21, 192.65.
Gerard Lovisa has been employed by the Louisiana Department
of Agriculture and Forestry as a weights and measures
inspector since 2010. In this position, which requires a lot
of travel, Mr. Lovisa estimates that he spends at least half
of every day in his state vehicle, a 2007 Dodge Ram 2500
pickup truck. Mr. Lovisa was driving this vehicle when the
collision occurred on January 11, 2013; and it was not
disputed that he was employed by the State and was acting
within the course and scope of his employment at the time of
to Mr. Lovisa, the streets were wet from a rainstorm earlier
that day. He was driving southbound on Clearview Parkway in
the left lane and was approaching a red light at the
intersection with Veterans Boulevard. He "was keeping a
good distance" from the Nissan Pathfinder directly in
front of him. As the traffic slowed at the red light, the
Pathfinder slowed, and so did Mr. Lovisa. At the time he
began to brake, he approximated he was traveling 35 miles per
hour, "maybe less, " and was "maybe five or
six truck lengths" behind the Pathfinder. When he
observed the Pathfinder come to a complete stop, Mr. Lovisa
estimated he had decelerated to about 10 or 15 miles per
hour. At this moment, Ms. Greene merged into the lane about
one-and-a-half to two truck lengths in front of Mr. Lovisa
and two to three truck lengths behind the Pathfinder. Mr.
Lovisa "slammed" on his brakes and skidded into the
back of Ms. Greene's vehicle, a 2012 Suzuki SX4. He
explained "a few seconds" lapsed between her
entering the lane and the collision.
Greene described the collision differently. She testified
that she was driving southbound on Clearview Parkway in the
right lane when she realized she needed to get into the left
lane to make a left turn onto Veterans Boulevard. She flipped
on her left blinker and looked to her left, where she saw Mr.
Lovisa in the left lane. She made eye contact with him, waved
at him, and pointed to the left lane, asking if he she could
merge into the lane. She saw him nod his head affirmatively.
Mr. Lovisa denied that he made eye contact with Ms. Greene or
that he gestured for her to merge into his lane. But,
according to Ms. Greene, Mr. Lovisa stopped to permit her to
merge. She did, traveled three or four blocks, heard the
squealing of tires, and was impacted from behind by Mr.
Lovisa. This forced her into the rear of Mr. Huerta. She
experienced whiplash from both impacts, though the initial
one was more forceful. She immediately felt pain in her
collarbone from the impact against her seat belt. She also
had pain in her wrist and neck, and was experiencing
shortness of breath. An ambulance was called and transported
her to the emergency room at East Jefferson General Hospital.
Ms. Greene testified that Mr. Lovisa apologized for
rear-ending her, but Mr. Lovisa denied this.
Huerta testified that he was stopped at the red light when he
heard squealing and a collision before he was impacted from
behind. He experienced whiplash and sustained injuries to his
neck and lower back.
Greene's fiancé,  Michael Perdue, arrived at the
scene. After checking on her, he spoke with Mr. Lovisa, who
described the collision to him. According to Mr. Perdue, Mr.
Lovisa stated that he waved Ms. Greene into his lane, but
that when he slowed to come to a stop at the red light, he
skidded on the wet roadway into the rear of her vehicle.
Zlatko Brujic with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office
also responded to the scene of the collision. At the time of
trial, Deputy Brujic was retired after a 38-year career in
law enforcement, 28 years of which he spent in the traffic
division, investigating motor vehicle collisions. Deputy
Brujic estimated that he had investigated roughly 16, 000
collisions in his career. He was tendered and accepted as an
expert in the field of motor vehicle collision investigation.
investigation of this scene, Deputy Brujic spoke with each of
the three drivers. His report reflected that Mr. Lovisa
advised the officer that "he was southbound on Clearview
Pkwy in left lane and as he had observed that traffic ahead
of him had suddenly slowed down he had applied his brakes but
his vehicle…slid on wet roadway and before he was ...