United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division
THOMAS F. HEBERT, ET AL.
TITAN INTERNATIONAL, INC., ET AL.
ELIZABETH ERNY FOOTE JUDGE
Thomas and Dawn Hebert, brought this products liability suit
against Defendant, Titan International, Inc.
(“Titan”), arising out of an incident involving
Thomas Hebert (“Hebert”) in July 2014. Hebert
alleged that on that date he was asked by his employer to
inflate a tire on a multi-piece wheel manufactured by Titan.
While inflating the tire, the multi-piece wheel explosively
separated, causing the wheel components to strike Hebert in
the head and torso area. As a result, he suffered serious
injuries, including a face fracture, a cervical spine injury,
and a brain injury. Plaintiffs filed suit against Titan under
the Louisiana Products Liability Act (“LPLA”),
alleging that the multi-piece wheel was unreasonably
dangerous due to defective design and an inadequate warning.
Dawn Hebert also asserted a claim for loss of consortium. A
jury trial was held from August 14-21, 2017, resulting in a
judgment in favor of Defendant, Titan. Now pending before the
Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding
the Verdict (“JNOV”), or, Alternatively, For New
Trial [Record Document 200].
Fifth Circuit has held that a court exercising diversity
jurisdiction must apply Louisiana law to JNOV and new trial
motions. Brown v. Wal-Mart Louisiana, L.L.C., 565
Fed.Appx. 293, 295 (5th Cir. 2014) (citing Fair v.
Allen, 669 F.3d 601, 604 (5th Cir. 2012)). Under
[A] JNOV is warranted when the facts and inferences point so
strongly and overwhelmingly in favor of one party that the
trial court believes that reasonable persons could not arrive
at a contrary verdict. The motion should be granted only when
the evidence points so strongly in favor of the moving party
that reasonable persons could not reach different
conclusions, not merely when there is a preponderance of
evidence for the mover. The motion should be denied if there
is evidence opposed to the motion which is of such quality
and weight that reasonable and fair-minded persons in the
exercise of impartial judgment might reach different
conclusions. In making this determination, the trial court
should not evaluate the credibility of the witnesses, and all
reasonable inferences or factual questions should be resolved
in favor of the non-moving party.
Joseph v. Broussard Rice Mill, Inc., 2000-0628 (La.
10/30/00), 772 So.2d 94, 99 (internal citations omitted).
Code of Civil Procedure article 1972 provides that a new
trial “shall be granted . . . [w]hen the verdict or
judgment appears clearly contrary to the law and the
evidence.” “Unlike the standard applicable to a
JNOV, in considering whether to grant a new trial under La.
C.C.P. art. 1972(1), a trial judge may evaluate the evidence
without favoring either party, and draw its own inferences
and conclusions.” Pitts v. Louisiana Med.
Ins. Co., 2016-1232 (La. 3/15/17), 218 So.3d 58, 66.
Additionally, under Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure article
1973, a court has the discretionary authority to grant a new
trial “in any case if there is good ground therefor,
except as otherwise provided by law.” “When the
trial judge is convinced by his examination of the facts that
the judgment would result in a miscarriage of justice, a new
trial should be ordered pursuant to La. C.C.P. Art.
1973.” Pitts, 218 So.3d at 65. However, the
Louisiana Supreme Court has also stated:
The fact that a determination on a motion for new trial
involves judicial discretion, however, does not imply that
the trial court can freely interfere with any verdict with
which it disagrees. The discretionary power to grant a new
trial must be exercised with considerable caution, for a
successful litigant is entitled to the benefits of a
favorable jury verdict. Fact finding is the province of the
jury, and the trial court must not overstep its duty in
overseeing the administration of justice and unnecessarily
usurp the jury's responsibility.
Davis v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2000-0445 (La.
11/28/00), 774 So.2d 84, 93 (quoting Gibson v. Bossier
City Gen. Hosp., 594 So.2d 1332, 1336 (La. Ct. App.
move for JNOV on the grounds that the jury's verdict was
against the weight of the evidence. Plaintiffs previously
moved for judgment as a matter of law on three specific
issues that it raises again here: (1) whether Plaintiffs'
damages arose from a “reasonably anticipated use”
of the product; (2) whether there was an alternative design
for the product; and (3) whether Plaintiffs' damages were
proximately caused by a characteristic of the product.
Plaintiffs insist these issues should have never been
submitted to the jury. Alternatively, Plaintiffs move for a
new trial on the grounds that the jury's verdict was
against the weight of the evidence and because evidence of
Hebert's positive drug screen was admitted.
claims arise under the LPLA, which sets forth the exclusive
theories of liability for manufacturers for damage caused by
their products. La. R.S. § 9:2800.52. The Act provides,
“The manufacturer of a product shall be liable to a
claimant for damage proximately caused by a characteristic of
the product that renders the product unreasonably dangerous
when such damage arose from a reasonably anticipated use of
the product by the claimant or another person or
entity.” § 2800.54(A). As explained by the Fifth
To maintain a successful products liability action under the
LPLA, a plaintiff must establish four elements: (1) that the
defendant is a manufacturer of the product; (2) that the
claimant's damage was proximately caused by a
characteristic of the product; (3) that this characteristic
made the product “unreasonably dangerous”; and
(4) that the claimant's damage arose from a reasonably
anticipated use of the product by the claimant or someone
Stahl v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., 283 F.3d 254, 260-61
(5th Cir. 2002). A product may be unreasonably dangerous in
one of four ways: (1) construction or composition, (2)
design, (3) inadequate warning, and (4) failure to conform to
an express warranty. § 2800.54(B). Here, Plaintiffs
argued that the wheel was ...