ALLEN B. MINIX, ET AL.
CITY OF RAYNE, ET AL.
FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ACADIA,
NO. 2014-11006 HONORABLE MICHELLE M. BREAUX, DISTRICT JUDGE
J. Falgoust Falgoust, Caviness & Bienvenu, LLP COUNSEL
FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: City of Rayne
D. Granger, Christopher D. Granger, Granger Law Firm COUNSEL
FOR PLAINTIFFS/APPELLANTS: Allen B. Minix, Kendra Minix, Cora
composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Sylvia R.
Cooks, Marc T. Amy, Elizabeth A. Pickett, and Billy Howard
ELIZABETH A. PICKETT, JUDGE
plaintiffs, Allen B. Minix and Kendra Minix, filed suit on
behalf of their minor child Cora Minix after she fell on a
sidewalk in front of her high school and sustained multiple
injuries. The plaintiffs alleged that the concrete on the
sidewalk was cracked and that it shifted underneath the child
as she walked, causing her to lose her balance. The trial
court found in favor of the defendant, City of Rayne,
concluding that the plaintiffs failed to prove that the
sidewalk was unreasonably dangerous. The plaintiffs appeal.
to the record, on the morning of November 19, 2013, Cora
Minix, who was fifteen years old at the time, was walking to
Rayne High School when she fell on a sidewalk that ran along
the street in front of the school. She stated that while she
had occasionally walked to school before this incident, this
was the first time she walked on this sidewalk. At trial, she
explained, "[A]s I stepped on the concrete, I felt like
the concrete shifted and I lost my balance and I fell."
She added that her "ankle rolled" and that she
landed on her right knee, then on her hands. She then noticed
"cracks in the sidewalk" where she fell but
maintained that she had not seen them prior to the fall. She
also related that there were "pieces of grass in various
places in the cracks" and that there was a water meter
and a light pole to her left where she fell. She alleged that
it was a dry, sunny day and that she had not been carrying
anything in her hands, had not been distracted, and that she
had been looking "straight ahead" as she walked.
She also indicated that she had been aware of height
deviations on the other sidewalk she had previously used when
she walked to school, which also ran adjacent to the school
but on the opposite side of the street from the instant
alleged that following the incident, she immediately felt
pain in her right hip, right leg, right knee, and right foot,
and that she was unable to walk due to the pain in her knee.
She testified that she was taken into the school in a
wheelchair, but that she only stayed "a couple of
minutes" due to "excruciating pain." She
explained that her father then took her to the hospital. She
was subsequently diagnosed with a right knee contusion and a
strained right ankle, and prescribed crutches and medication.
Cora further alleged that she continued to feel pain after
her fall, and that for two months, she walked with crutches,
was homeschooled, and was unable to perform household chores.
She further alleged that she still has occasional pain when
standing, walking, climbing stairs, and lifting objects. Her
pediatrician testified that he believed the fall was the
"only explanation" for Cora's symptoms, as she
had never complained of pain in these areas prior to her
parents, Allen B. Minix and Kendra Minix, filed suit on her
behalf against the Acadia Parish School Board, which was
dismissed by summary judgment, and the City of Rayne. The
plaintiffs alleged damages including medical expenses, mental
pain and suffering, physical pain and suffering, and loss of
enjoyment of life. The City denied liability, asserting that
the condition of the sidewalk was open and obvious and
therefore did not present an unreasonable risk of harm.
bench trial, the trial court dismissed the plaintiffs'
claims. Performing a risk-utility analysis, it found that the
defect in the sidewalk was open and obvious, that it did not
present an unreasonable risk of harm, and that the City of
Rayne lacked actual or constructive notice of the defective
sidewalk at the time of the fall. The plaintiffs appeal.
appeal, the plaintiffs assert three assignments of error:
1. The trial court erred in finding that the City of Rayne
did not have actual or constructive knowledge of the
defective sidewalk at the time of the subject accident.
2. The trial court erred in finding that the defective
sidewalk was "open and obvious" at the time of the
3. The trial court erred in dismissing all of
Plaintiff-Appellant's claims and awarding her no damages
for the injuries she sustained as a result of her fall on the
Law and Standard of Review
legislature has limited the liability of public bodies for
damages caused by things in their custody or control by
enacting La.R.S. 9:2800, which states in relevant part:
A. A public entity is responsible under Civil Code Article
2317 for damages caused by the condition of buildings within
its care and custody.
. . . .
C. Except as provided for in Subsections A and B of this
Section, no person shall have a cause of action based solely
upon liability imposed under Civil Code Article 2317 against
a public entity for damages caused by the condition of things
within its care and custody unless the public entity had
actual or constructive notice of the particular vice or
defect which caused the damage prior to the occurrence, and
the public entity has had a reasonable opportunity to remedy
the defect and has failed to do so.
D. Constructive notice shall mean the existence of facts
which infer actual knowledge.
. . . .
G. (1) "Public entity" means and includes the state
and any of its branches, departments, offices, agencies,
boards, commissions, instrumentalities, officers, officials,
employees, and political subdivisions and the departments,
offices, agencies, boards, commissions, instrumentalities,
officers, officials, and employees of such political
subdivisions. Public entity also includes housing
authorities, as defined in R.S. 40:384(15), and their
commissioners and other officers and employees and sewerage
and water boards and their employees, servants, agents, or
(2) "Public site or area" means any publicly owned
or common thing, or any privately owned property over which
the public's access is not prohibited, limited, or
restricted in some manner including those areas of
unrestricted access such as streets, sidewalks, parks, or
Chambers v. Village of Moreauville, 11-898, p. 5
(La. 1/24/12), 85 So.3d 593, 597, the supreme court explained