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Pritchard v. GEICO Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

November 8, 2017

BRENDA PRITCHARD
v.
GEICO INSURANCE COMPANY, ET AL. TOBICE PRITCHARD
v.
GEICO INSURANCE COMPANY, ET AL.

         APPEAL FROM THE SEVENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF CONCORDIA, NO. 48392 C/W 48393 HONORABLE JOHN C. REEVES, DISTRICT JUDGE, AFFIRMED AS AMENDED.

          Jack F. Owens, Jr. Law Office Of Owen & Lemke COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFFS/ APPELLEES: Brenda Pritchard, Tobice Pritchard

          J. Morgan Passman Law Office of J. Morgan Passman, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANTS/APPELLANTS: GEICO Casualty Company, Bryce Ratcliff

          Court composed of John D. Saunders, Billy Howard Ezell, and Phyllis M. Keaty, Judges.

          JOHN D. SAUNDERS JUDGE

         This matter arises out of an automobile collision with Defendants' minor child, as a result of the minor's failure to yield at an intersection. The trial court found Plaintiffs to be free of fault, and the minor to be 100% at fault. The judgment incorrectly cast him in judgment for damages and court costs, as he was a minor at the time of the accident and not a named defendant in the suit. Plaintiffs' attorney subsequently presented to the trial court an amended judgment and order with regard to the quantum and court costs assessed to the minor with no opposition filed by any party. However, that amended judgment and order never got filed into the record.

         Defendants now appeal the trial court's ruling. Their argument is that the trial court erred in rendering judgment against a minor, in its allocation of fault and in its award of general damages.

         FACTS AND PROCEDUREAL HISTORY:

         Plaintiffs, Brenda and Tobice Pritchard ("Pritchards"), filed suit against Defendants, Edwin and Carla Ratcliff ("Ratcliffs") and their insurer, GEICO Casualty Company ("GEICO"), for injuries they sustained as a result of an automobile collision that occurred on May 27, 2013, in Natchez, Mississippi. The accident occurred when the Pritchards' vehicle, driven by Tobice Pritchard, in which Brenda Pritchard was a passenger, struck the vehicle being driven by the Defendants' minor child as he attempted to make a left-hand turn across a four-lane intersection in front of the Pritchards' vehicle. Initially, the Pritchards filed separate lawsuits, but the suits were later consolidated.

         The Defendants' insurer, GEICO, by stipulation has insurance coverage of $50, 000.00 per person, $100, 000.00 per accident.

          After a bench trial, the trial court awarded general damages in the amount of $26, 000.00 to Brenda Pritchard and awarded general damages in the amount of $50, 000.00 to Tobice Pritchard against the Defendants' minor child and GEICO.[1]

         Defendants timely filed a motion for suspensive appeal. Pursuant to that motion, Defendants are presently before this court alleging two assignments of error.

         ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR:

         1. The trial court committed both legal error in rendering judgment against a minor and manifest error in its assessment of fault.

         2. The trial court committed manifest error in its award of general damages.

         ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NUMBER ONE:

         In their first assignment of error, Defendants make two contentions, the first being that the trial court committed legal error in rendering judgment against a minor at the time of the accident. We find merit to this contention.

         Under the de novo standard of review, the appellate court assigns no special weight to the trial court and, instead, if possible, when it finds that the trial court made a reversible error of law, then conducts a de novo review and renders judgment on the record. Roberts v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 05-1178 (La.App. 3 Cir. 4/5/06), 926 So.2d 121, writ denied, 06-1056 (La. 6/23/06), 930 So.2d 984. We find that the trial court made a reversible error of law in rendering judgment against a minor.

         In the instant case, the trial court rendered judgment against a minor at the time of the accident, who was not a named defendant in the suit. All parties agreed that the court erroneously included the minor in the judgment, thus, Plaintiffs' attorney subsequently submitted an amended judgment and order ...


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