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Hebert v. Barry's Air Conditioning, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

August 31, 2017

TRACI L. HEBERT
v.
BARRY'S AIR CONDITIONING, INC., ET AL.

         APPEAL FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF LAFAYETTE, NO. C-2013-3473-B HONORABLE JULES D. EDWARDS, III, DISTRICT JUDGE

          Staci Knox Villemarette Cloyd, Wimberly & Villemarette, LLC Defendants/Appellees - State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company Barry's Air Conditioning, Inc., and BrianMeaux

          Gregory A. Koury Andrew P. Hill Koury & Hill, LLC Plaintiff/Appellant - Traci L. Hebert

          Court composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Sylvia R. Cooks, John D. Saunders, Marc T. Amy, and John E. Conery, Judges.

          ULYSSES GENE THIBODEAUX CHIEF JUDGE

         As Traci Hebert attempted to execute a right turn, a collision occurred between her vehicle and a Barry's Air Conditioning vehicle. Ms. Hebert filed suit alleging Barry's Air Conditioning was at fault and sought recovery for personal injuries and damage to her vehicle. Pursuant to a bench trial, the trial court allocated 70 percent fault to Barry's Air Conditioning and 30 percent to Ms. Hebert. However, the trial court also held that Ms. Hebert failed to establish a causal relationship between the accident and her injures and dismissed her claims. It also awarded costs to Barry's Air Conditioning. Ms. Hebert appeals the trial court's judgment regarding causation and costs. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the trial court's judgment and award $50, 000.00 in damages to Ms. Hebert.

         I.

         ISSUE

         We must decide:

1. whether the trial court erred in finding that Ms. Hebert failed to establish that the accident caused her injuries;
2. whether the trial court's judgment awarding "costs associated with this matter" conflicted with its previous ruling awarding Ms. Hebert costs for her Motions in Limine that were granted in her favor.

         II.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This action is a vehicular accident that occurred between Ms. Hebert and Brian Meaux, a Barry's Air Conditioning's employee. Mr. Meaux was driving a company vehicle in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident. The accident occurred as Ms. Hebert was driving on a single lane road and attempted to make a right turn into a parking spot. To avoid hitting a utility pole, she veered to the left and made a wide right turn. Mr. Meaux falsely assumed Ms. Hebert was making a left turn and attempted to pass her on the right. The two vehicles collided. Photographs from the scene reflect that Ms. Hebert's vehicle was damaged on the passenger's side, and the company's vehicle was damaged on the driver's side. The damage is consistent with Mr. Meaux attempting to pass Ms. Hebert on the right side.

         The responding officer, Tyler Ebling, did not issue a citation at the scene. However, his supervisor, Sergeant Brent Taylor, later ordered him to revise his report, assign fault to Mr. Meaux, and issue a citation to him for careless operation. At the scene, Ms. Hebert reported to Officer Ebling that the accident caused her to hit her head on her driver's side window. She testified that she suffered a headache because of the accident, and experienced back and neck pain later that night.

         A day after the accident, Ms. Hebert visited her chiropractor, Dr. Tiffany Pratt, complaining of pain in her neck, back and shoulder, and headaches. Dr. Pratt had treated Ms. Hebert numerous times in the past for various ailments, including neck and back pains. The day after the accident was her first visit with Dr. Pratt in nearly eight months. Dr. Pratt reported that Ms. Hebert had a "good prognosis" before the accident and ...


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