CINDY PEREZ, THROUGH HER NATURAL TUTRIX AND ADMINISTRATRIX OF HER ESTATE, EDIS MOLINA
MARY B. GAUDIN AND LM GENERAL INSURANCE COMPANY
APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH
OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 715-551, DIVISION
"C" HONORABLE JUNE B. DARENSBURG, JUDGE PRESIDING
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, CINDY PEREZ Ivan A. Orihuela
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, MARY B. GAUDIN AND LM GENERAL
INSURANCE COMPANY Pamela S. Croft
composed of Judges Robert M. Murphy, Stephen J. Windhorst,
and Hans J. Liljeberg
STEPHEN J. WINDHORST JUDGE.
appeal, Plaintiff, Cindy Perez, seeks review of the trial
court's judgment, which found in favor of Defendants and
dismissed her claims with prejudice. For the reasons that
follow, we affirm the trial court's judgment.
and Procedural History
3, 2012, Ms. Perez filed suit against Defendants, Mary B.
Gaudin and LM General Insurance Company, claiming that she
had been injured as a result of a car accident. Ms. Perez's
Petition alleged that on June 4, 2011, she was a passenger in
a vehicle which was rear-ended by a second vehicle, driven by
Mary B. Gaudin. Ms. Perez's Petition further alleged that
Mary B. Gaudin was insured by LM General Insurance Company at
the time of the accident.
case proceeded to trial on July 20, 2016. In his opening
statement, counsel for Ms. Perez conceded that "[t]he
only real issue before the Court today is whether or not Ms.
Perez was an occupant in the vehicle that was rear-ended by
Ms. Gaudin at the time of the accident." At trial, three
witnesses testified: Ms. Perez, Ms. Gaudin, and Edis Molina,
Ms. Perez's mother, who was a passenger in the car at the
time of the accident. Deputy Zlatko Brujic, who investigated
the accident shortly after it happened, was unavailable to
testify at trial. However, Deputy Brujic was deposed prior to
trial and his deposition was entered into evidence.
deposition, Deputy Zlatko Brujic testified that he had been
employed by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office
("JPSO") for over thirty years, twenty eight of
those in JPSO's traffic division. During his tenure with
JPSO, Deputy Brujic estimated to have investigated between
forty and sixty crashes per month. On the day of the accident
in question, Deputy Brujic testified that he arrived
approximately thirteen minutes after the accident. He
testified that when he came to the scene of the accident, he
observed two vehicles. The first vehicle was operated by Mary
B. Gaudin, who was the sole occupant. The second vehicle was
operated by Reinaldo Martinez-Perez, and was also occupied by
a passenger, Edis Molina. Deputy Brujic testified that there
were no other passengers in the second vehicle when he
arrived on the scene. Deputy Brujic acknowledged that he did
not have any independent recollection of the accident, and
that his testimony was based on his written report. He
emphasized, however, that had another person been in the
vehicle, or if a witness had told him that another person had
been in the vehicle, "it would have been added into the
report accordingly." He further testified that he
recalled an unidentified older woman coming to the scene of
the accident after he arrived, but had no recollection of a
person matching Ms. Perez's description being present at
any point during his investigation.
trial, Edis Molina testified that she was a passenger in a
vehicle driven by her husband, Reinaldo Martinez-Perez, at
the time of the accident. She also testified that her
daughter, Cindy Perez, was sitting in the back seat of the
vehicle at the time of the accident. Ms. Molina, who speaks
limited English, testified that Ms. Perez, who is bilingual,
helped her communicate with Deputy Brujic. She testified that
after Deputy Brujic arrived, her sister-in-law brought her
insurance cards to the scene of the accident.
trial, Ms. Perez testified that at the time of the accident,
she was a passenger in the vehicle with her parents.
According to Ms. Perez, she was injured when a propane tank
situated in the back seat of the car hit her arm at the time
of the impact. Ms. Perez testified that she stayed in the
vehicle until the police arrived, and then began translating
for her mother, who was speaking to Deputy Brujic. She
testified that the police officer "was Spanish …
but he didn't want to speak Spanish." Ms. Perez gave
inconsistent answers about whether she was inside or outside
of the vehicle when Deputy Brujic arrived. She further
claimed that Deputy Brujic asked what her name was, but did
not ask her for identification or any other information. She
could not remember what Deputy Brujic looked like, and also
testified that she "didn't really talk" to him.
Gaudin testified at trial that following the accident, she
immediately moved her vehicle to the side of the road and
motioned the driver of the second vehicle to do the same. Ms.
Gaudin testified that after calling the police, and her
daughter, she approached the other vehicle and "saw two
people, the man driving and the lady sitting in the front
passenger seat." According to Ms. Gaudin, after Deputy
Brujic arrived, he approached her vehicle first to speak with
her concerning the accident. She testified that Deputy Brujic
subsequently approached the other vehicle. She testified that
Deputy Brujic spoke to the occupants of the other vehicle
while they were "in the car." She testified that
she never saw anyone matching Ms. Perez's description in
the other vehicle at any point following the accident.
the trial, the trial court rendered written judgment in favor
of Ms. Gaudin and LM General Insurance Company, dismissing
Ms. Perez's ...