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Thibodeaux v. Gulfgate Construction, LLC

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

November 22, 2017

JOHN THIBODEAUX AND AMY THIBODEAUX, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF EMILY THIBODEAUX AND GABRIELLE THIBODEAUX
v.
GULFGATE CONSTRUCTION, LLC, ET AL.

         APPEAL FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF LAFAYETTE, NO. 2015-4167 HONORABLE JULES D. EDWARDS, III, DISTRICT JUDGE

          Melvin A. Eiden Rabalais & Hebert, Counsel for Defendant/Appellant: J. M. Drilling LLC

          Max J. Cohen, Melanie Lockett, Lowe, Stein, Hoffman, Allweiss & Hauver, L.L.P., Counsel for Defendant/Appellee: Water & Wastewater Utilities, Inc.

          Janice M. Reeves, Maricle & Associates, Counsel for Defendant/Appellee: Gulfgate Construction, LLC

          Max Michael Menard, Attorney at Law, Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellees: John Thibodeaux, Amy Thibodeaux, Gabrielle Thibodeaux, Emily Thibodeaux

          Edward Taulbee, Attorney at Law, Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellees: John Thibodeaux, Amy Thibodeaux, Gabrielle Thibodeaux, Emily Thibodeaux

          Pierre M. Legrand, Marshall G. Weaver, Legrand Law Firm, Counsel for Intervenor/Appellee: Bellsouth Telecommunications, LLC

          Court composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Phyllis M. Keaty, and Candyce G. Perret, Judges.

          PHYLLIS M. KEATY JUDGE.

         Defendant/Appellant, J. M. Drilling LLC (J. M. Drilling), appeals the trial court's granting of a motion for summary judgment in favor of Defendant/Appellee, Water & Wastewater Utilities, Inc. (Wastewater). For the following reasons, the trial court's judgment is affirmed.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This negligence matter arose on June 9, 2015, when Plaintiff, John Thibodeaux, injured his right leg while splicing fiber optic cable on behalf of his employer, American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T), at 114 Meadow Gate Drive in the Sawgrass subdivision in Lafayette, Louisiana. Thibodeaux had to access hand holes, which are rectangular, underground vaults where fiber optic cables come together and are spliced. The two hand holes at issue were equipped with covers that rested on top of the ground. They were located near a rectangular, pre-cast slab which held an AT&T cabinet. On the day of his accident, Thibodeaux lifted a hand hole cover and placed it by the AT&T cabinet when the ground beneath him gave way, causing his right leg to fall into a hole, sustaining injury.

         Prior to Thibodeaux's accident, Gulfgate Construction, LLC (Gulfgate Construction), and J. M. Drilling performed work on the property pursuant to separate contracts with AT&T. Gulfgate Construction's job, which was the F1 part of the project, consisted of preparing a pre-cast slab, installing a cabinet on top of the pre-cast slab, digging two hand holes, and feeding fiber optic cable into hand hole number two. After Gulfgate Construction finished its job, J. M. Drilling performed the F2 part of the project, which consisted of installing fiber optic cable by accessing the hand holes and feeding the cable out to the rest of the subdivision.

         It is alleged that during operations, Gulfgate Construction and/or J. M. Drilling struck and damaged an underground sewer force main line. The main line purportedly began leaking and caused a washout under the pre-cast slab upon which the AT&T cabinet was situated, ultimately forming the hole into which Thibodeaux fell. The main line, which ran from a sewer lift station on the property to the street, belonged to Wastewater, the owner and operator of the lift station. Gulfgate Construction repaired Wastewater's broken main line after Thibodeaux's accident. Wastewater had not marked its main line prior to the ...


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