Appeal from the 19th Judicial District Court In and for the
Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Trial Court No.
625, 917 Honorable William A. Morvant, Judge Presiding
Charlotte McDaniel McGehee Baton Rouge, LA Attorneys for
Plaintiff -Appellant, Alex Talbert
Christopher L. Whittington Baton Rouge, LA Thomas J. Eppling
Sara P. Scurlock Metairie, LA Attorneys for Defendant
-Appellee, Ozark Motor Lines, Inc.
BEFORE: HIGGINBOTHAM, HOLDRIDGE, AND PENZATO, JJ.
personal injury case, the trial court granted summary
judgment in favor of the defendant dismissing plaintiffs
claims as to them.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
December 7, 2012, in conformance with a transportation
services agreement with Restoration Hardware, Inc., Ozark
Motor Lines, Inc. picked up an Ozark trailer from Restoration
Hardware, in Maryland, that was preloaded and sealed by
Restoration Hardware laborers. Ozark conducted a pre-trip
inspection, and then transported the trailer to Baton Rouge,
Louisiana. Ozark delivered the trailer to Exel Inc.'s
distribution facility in Baton Rouge on December 11, 2012, to
be unloaded by Exel. On that day, after the seal was broken
by Exel, Mr. Alex Talbert, an employee of Exel, was unloading
the trailer with his co-worker, Mr. Ryan August. Mr. Talbert
was removing a large box containing a table located on the
top of several other smaller boxes when the boxes below
shifted causing several boxes to fall on him. After the
incident, Mr. Talbert filed a petition for damages contending
that the trailer had been improperly loaded or loaded with
defective boxes causing boxes to fall on him, which caused
him injury. In Mr. Talbert's petition, he named
Restoration Hardware and Ozark as defendants. Eventually,
Restoration Hardware was dismissed from the suit by Mr.
October 23, 2015, Ozark filed a motion for summary judgment,
which was denied by the trial court. On January 9, 2017,
Ozark filed a second motion for summary judgment attaching
additional documents to its motion. The matter came before
the trial court on April 17, 2017, after which the trial
court granted Ozark's motion for summary judgment and
dismissed Mr. Talbert's claims. It is from this judgment
that Mr. Talbert appeals, contending that the trial court
erred in finding that Ozark's second motion for summary
judgment was not precluded under issue preclusion and in
finding that no issue of material fact remained.
reviewing summary judgments, appellate courts conduct a
de novo review of the evidence, using the same
criteria that govern the trial court's determination of
whether summary judgment is appropriate. Boudreaux v.
Vankerkhove, 2007-2555 (La.App. 1st Cir. 8/11/08), 993
So.2d 725, 729-30. After an opportunity for adequate
discovery, a motion for summary judgment shall be granted if
the motion, memorandum, and supporting documents show that
there is no genuine issue as to material fact and that the
mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. La. Code
Civ. P. art. 966(A)(3). The summary judgment procedure is
favored and is designed to secure the just, speedy, and
inexpensive determination of every action. La. Code Civ. P.
burden of proof is on the mover. La. Code Civ. P. art.
966(D)(1). Nevertheless, if the mover will not bear the
burden of proof at trial on the issue that is before the
court on the motion, the mover's burden does not require
that all essential elements of the adverse party's claim,
action, or defense be negated. Rather, the mover must point
out to the court that there is an absence of factual support
for one or more elements essential to the adverse party's
claim, action, or defense. Thereafter, the adverse party must
produce factual support sufficient to establish the existence
of a genuine issue of material fact or that the mover is not
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. La. Code Civ. P.
art. 966(D)(1). Because it is the applicable substantive law
that determines materiality, whether a particular fact in
dispute is material can be seen only in light of the
substantive law applicable to the case. The Shaw Group v.
Kulick, 2004-0697 (La.App. 1st Cir. 4/8/05), 915 So.2d
796, 800, writ denied, 2005-1205 (La. 11/28/05), 916
Talbert is asserting a claim of negligence, he has the burden
of proving the five elements of the duty-risk analysis: (1)
the defendant had a duty to conform his or her conduct to a
specific standard of care; (2) the defendant failed to
conform his or her conduct to the appropriate standard of
care; (3) the defendant's substandard conduct was a
cause-in-fact of the plaintiffs injuries; (4) the
defendant's substandard conduct was a legal cause of the
plaintiffs injuries; and (5) actual damages. Bufkin v.
Felipe's Louisiana, LLC, 2014-0288 (La. 10/15/14),
171 So.3d 851, 855. A negative answer to any of the elements
of the duty/risk analysis prompts a no-liability
determination. Joseph v. Dickerson, 99-1046 (La.
1/19/00) 754 So.2d 912, 916. Duty is a question of law. The
inquiry is whether a plaintiff has any law-statutory,
jurisprudential, or arising from general principles of fault-
to support his or her claim. Bowman v. City of Baton
Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge, 2002-1376 (La.App. 1st
Cir. 5/9/03), 849 So.2d 622, 627, writ denied,
2003-1579 (La. 10/3/03), 855 So.2d 315. In negligence cases,
there is an almost universal duty on the part of a defendant
to use reasonable care to avoid injury to another. Rando
v. Anco Insulations Inc., 2008-1163 (La. 5/22/09), 16
So.3d 1065, 1086. When no factual dispute exists and no
credibility determinations are required, the legal question
of the existence of a duty is appropriately addressed by
summary judgment. Boland v. West Feliciana Parish Police
Jury, 2003-1297 (La.App. 1st Cir. 6/25/04), 878 So.2d
808, 816, writ denied, 2004-2286 (La. 11/24/04), 888