FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF
LAFAYETTE, NO. C-2015-6014 HONORABLE MICHELLE M. BREAUX,
Jeffery F. Speer George A. Wright Doucet-Speer, APLC COUNSEL
FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT: Oliver Rabon
Brendan P. Doherty, Bradley J. Schwab, Geiger, Laborde &
Laperouse, LLC COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANTS/APPELLEES: James
Smithkors and ABC Supply Company
composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, John D. Saunders and Candyce G.
R. COOKS, JUDGE
appeal arose out of a motor vehicle accident that occurred in
Lafayette, Louisiana on August 26, 2015. On that date, at
around 10:30 a.m., Plaintiff, Oliver Rabon, was driving his
Chevrolet Tahoe eastbound on Southpark Drive in Lafayette
Parish. Defendant, James Smithkors was driving westbound on
Southpark Drive in a thirty-five foot International truck
with a forklift attached to its rear. The truck was owned by
Defendant, ABC Supply Company, who Smithkors was driving for.
record established Smithkors, who testified he was lost and
looking for a place to turn his truck around, attempted to
make a left turn across the oncoming lane of traffic to turn
into a parking lot. During the execution of the turn,
Rabon's vehicle struck the very rear of the forklift
attached to the back of the ABC Supply truck. The details
surrounding the attempted left turn, the actual location of
the collision, i.e., whether it was on the roadway or off,
and whether any injuries allegedly suffered by Rabon were
caused by the accident were disputed.
filed suit against Smithkors and ABC Supply for the injuries
he allegedly incurred as a result of the accident. On
December 12, 2016, a bench trial was held on the matter.
Rabon and Smithkors presented different versions of the facts
surrounding the accident.
testified he was driving at a legal speed when suddenly the
truck driven by Smithkors turned in front of him. Rabon
stated he immediately applied his brakes and quickly steered
his vehicle to the left side of his lane in an attempt to
avoid any collision. Rabon stated that, had he driven to the
right, he would have then broadsided the truck, which would
have led to significantly greater damage. He also noted had
he gone any further left he would have been in the other lane
and subject to colliding with oncoming traffic. He maintained
his decision to steer to the far left of his lane lowered the
overall damage sustained in the accident.
stated immediately following the collision, he pulled his
vehicle off the side of the road and was preparing to
exchange information with the driver of the truck. However,
upon stopping his vehicle and preparing to exit, he saw the
truck had completed its turn and was reentering Southpark
Drive to head away from the scene. Rabon then followed the
truck and upon stopping it, called the police.
after the accident, Rabon testified he felt increasing pain
and stiffness in his neck and back. He went later that day to
Lafayette General Medical Center to seek medical attention.
After being examined, Rabon was told to take a few days off
of work and then report to his primary care physician if
things did not improve. Rabon took the remainder of the week
off and returned to work the following Monday. After he
continued to experience significant pain in his neck and
back, Rabon went to see Dr. Robert Franklin for further
treatment. Rabon was treated conservatively by Dr. Franklin
with medication and physical therapy.
testified he continued to work as best he could while
attending three therapy sessions per week. By the beginning
of October 2016, Rabon testified he was unable to continue
performing his work duties as a welder due to severe pain.
Dr. Franklin determined Rabon should be placed on light duty;
however, Rabon's employer did not have any light duty
positions available and Rabon was forced to stop working.
October 20, 2015, Dr. Franklin concluded physical therapy was
not providing any meaningful relief to Rabon, and referred
him to Dr. Mark McDonnell, a spine surgeon. Dr. McDonnell
performed a lumbar steroid injection in an attempt to
alleviate Rabon's pain, with limited success. A MRI was
performed, which revealed degenerative changes. Dr. McDonnell
also wanted Rabon to undergo a discogram of the lumbar spine
to fully determine the extent of his injuries. At trial,
Rabon testified his degenerative changes were made
symptomatic by the trauma he suffered in the accident,
causing him significant pain and requiring him to stop
testimony differed from that of Rabon. Smithkors testified he
made a wrong turn that morning. After realizing that, he
continued driving down Southpark Drive until he saw an area
where he believed he could turn his truck around. He stated
he saw a parking lot big enough to turn around in, but needed
to make a left turn across the eastbound lane to enter a
private driveway leading to the parking lot.
stated he activated his left turn signal and checked the
eastbound lane for oncoming traffic. He testified he saw
Rabon's vehicle about 300 to 500 feet away but believed
he could safely complete a left turn of his truck prior to
Rabon's vehicle traveling that distance. Smithkors also
testified it was his opinion Rabon had ample ...