APPEAL FROM THE NINETEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT NUMBER
C635322, SECTION 24, PARISH OF EAST BATON ROUGE STATE OF
LOUISIANA HONORABLE R. MICHAEL CALDWELL, JUDGE
Christopher Whitmore Lawrence Blake Jones Stephen Francis
Armbruster New Orleans, Louisiana Counsel for
Plaintiff-Appellant James A. Ritchey
T. Roethele Megan E. Perkins Denham Springs, Louisiana
Counsel for Defendants-Appellees State Farm Mutual Automotive
Insurance Company and Dawn Bonvillain
BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C.J., McDONALD AND CHUTZ, JJ.
an appeal from a summary judgment dismissing
plaintiff-appellant, James A. Ritchey's (Mr. Ritchey),
personal injury suit against defendants-appellees, State Farm
Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (State Farm) and Dawn
Bonvillain (Ms. Bonvillain). For the following reasons, we
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
litigation arises from a vehicular accident that occurred at
the intersection of Farrel and Kaliste Saloom Roads in
Lafayette, Louisiana. Shortly before 12:36 p.m. on November
27, 2013, Mr. Ritchey was traveling west on Farrel Road,
which is controlled by a stop sign at its intersection with
Kaliste Saloom. When he stopped at the stop sign, the traffic
at the intersection was congested, with multiple cars in the
left-turn lane on Kaliste Saloom waiting to turn onto Farrel
Road. Mr. Ritchey intended to go straight across Kaliste
Saloom and continue west on Farrel Road. He proceeded into
the intersection when the driver of the first vehicle in the
left-turn lane on Kaliste Saloom "waved him out."
Mr. Ritchey was unfamiliar with the intersection and did not
realize there was a traffic lane to the right of the
left-turn lane. He did not see Ms. Bonvillain's vehicle
prior to the collision.
approximately the same time, Ms. Bonvillain was proceeding
southbound on Kaliste Saloom, which was the favored roadway,
at an estimated speed of 25-35 m.p.h. There was no traffic
control device on Kaliste Saloom at its intersection with
Farrel Road. Ms. Bonvillain was driving a vehicle owned by
her employer, State Farm, and was returning to work after
lunch. As she approached the intersection, she first saw Mr.
Ritchey's vehicle as it emerged from in front of the
vehicles waiting in the left-turn lane and entered her lane
of traffic from the left. At that point, she was
approximately half-way past the first vehicle in the
turn-lane. According to her deposition testimony, she quickly
applied her brakes, but was unable to avoid colliding with
the rear, passenger-side of Mr. Ritchey's vehicle.
Bonvillain placed a 911 call at 12:36 p.m., immediately after
the accident. Both Mr. Ritchey and Ms. Bonvillain indicated
to the responding police officer that they were not injured.
The officer issued a traffic citation to Mr. Ritchey for
failure to yield the right-of-way at an intersection
controlled by a stop sign. Mr. Ritchey testified in his
deposition that Ms. Bonvillain was present on the scheduled
court date for his ticket, and he assumed she spoke to the
prosecutor on his behalf since the charge was dropped. Ms.
Bonvillain was not issued a traffic citation.
Ritchey thereafter filed this personal injury suit in the
19th Judicial District Court against State Farm and Ms.
Bonvillain seeking to recover personal injury and property
damages. In his petition, Mr. Ritchey alleged Ms. Bonvillain
was negligent in "driving in a reckless and careless
manner, failing to see what she should have seen, failing to
maintain proper control and lookout, failing to apply brakes
or take evasive action to avoid a collision when she had the
last clear chance, [and] failing to act as a reasonable and
prudent person under the circumstances."
answering the petition, defendants filed a motion for summary
judgment seeking dismissal of Mr. Ritchey's claims on the
grounds that he would be unable to "meet his burden of
proving that Dawn Bonvillain caused or contributed to the
accident." In opposing the motion for summary judgment,
Mr. Ritchey argued genuine issues of material fact existed
regarding whether Ms. Bonvillain was comparatively at fault
for failing to take "reasonable steps" and not
exercising "the very slightest of care" in avoiding
Following a hearing, the district court granted
defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismissed Mr.
Ritchey's suit with prejudice. Mr. Ritchey now appeals.