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Antley v. Rodgers

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

June 27, 2018

MICHAEL ANTLEY Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
LATOYA RODGERS, MARCUS COLEMAN AND GO AUTO INSURANCE COMPANY Defendants-Appellants

          Appealed from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana Trial Court No. 2015-0439 Honorable Robert C. Johnson, Judge

          NEAL LAW FIRM Counsel for Appellants, By: Mark J. Neal Marcus Coleman and Go Auto Insurance Company

          GUERRIERO & GUERRIERO Counsel for Appellee By: Jeffrey D. Guerriero Shonda D. LeGrande

          Before WILLIAMS, STONE, and McCALLUM, JJ.

          WILLIAMS, J.

         The defendants, Marcus Coleman and the insurer, Go Auto Insurance Company, appeal a trial court's judgment in favor of the plaintiff, Michael Antley, finding that Coleman was at fault in causing an automobile accident. The defendants also appeal the trial court's award of damages to the plaintiff in the amount of $23, 429.43. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS

         On February 13, 2014, at approximately 7:00 a.m., the plaintiff, Michael Antley, was operating a 2004 Chevrolet Avalanche pickup truck and was traveling eastbound on Interstate 20 ("I-20") in Monroe, Louisiana. The defendant, Marcus Coleman, was the permissive driver of a 2008 Chevrolet Equinox owned by Latoya Rodgers and insured by Go Auto Insurance Company ("Go Auto"). Coleman was also traveling eastbound on I-20.

         Due to freezing temperatures the previous night, ice had accumulated on the three-lane Interstate. The plaintiff was driving in the far left lane at a speed of approximately 62-63 miles per hour ("mph"); Coleman was traveling in the center lane at approximately 40-50 mph.[1]

         It is undisputed that at some point, Coleman hit a patch of ice in the roadway and momentarily lost control of his vehicle. However, the plaintiff's version of the events that followed vastly differed from Coleman's version. The plaintiff testified that when Coleman began to swerve, he (Coleman) veered into his (the plaintiff's) lane of travel and struck the right front end of his truck. The plaintiff also asserted that when Coleman failed to stop after the collision, he pursued Coleman, flashing his lights and honking his horn. However, Coleman refused to stop. While pursuing Coleman, the plaintiff called the Monroe Police Department ("MPD") to report the accident. The plaintiff provided the police dispatch operator with Coleman's license plate number. The operator advised the plaintiff to discontinue his pursuit of Coleman, pull over his vehicle and wait for the arrival of a police officer. The plaintiff and Coleman exited I-20 and merged onto Highway 165-North. The plaintiff pulled into the parking lot of a hotel and waited for a police officer to arrive. He maintains that he never lost sight of Coleman's vehicle from the time of the collision and when he pulled into the parking lot of the hotel.

         Conversely, Coleman testified that his vehicle "swayed," but he did not swerve into the plaintiff's lane of travel. He insisted that his vehicle did not make contact with the plaintiff's vehicle. Coleman maintained that he did not feel an impact, he did not see anyone flashing their lights, and he did not hear anyone honking their horn on the morning of February 13, 2014. Coleman stated that he arrived at his job per his usual routine, and he did not learn of the alleged accident until later that morning.

         Following the incident, the plaintiff was met by Officer Rodrick Banks of the MPD, who prepared a report of the incident. The plaintiff informed the officer that he did not feel injured, and he proceeded to his job, where he worked a full day as a plumbing apprentice. He later stated that he began experiencing pain in his neck, shoulders and back later that day.[2]

         During the investigation of the accident, Officer Banks learned that the license plate number provided by the plaintiff belonged to a Chevrolet Equinox owned by Rodgers. Officer Banks contacted Rodgers by telephone; she confirmed that she was the owner of the vehicle and identified Coleman as the driver of her vehicle that morning. Thereafter, Rodgers called Coleman and informed him that she had been contacted by Officer Banks regarding an automobile accident. Rodgers and Coleman went to the police department and met with Officer Banks. The officer inspected the rear bumper of Rodgers' vehicle but did not see anything that he would consider "fresh damage." Officer Banks was unable to determine whether Rodgers' vehicle had been involved in a collision.[3]

         Subsequently, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit naming Coleman, Rodgers and Go Auto as defendants.[4] He alleged that he sustained personal injuries and property damage as a result of the automobile accident. The defendants answered the lawsuit, denying the plaintiff's allegations.

         During a bench trial, the parties stipulated to the authenticity and the admissibility of the plaintiff's medical records. The parties further stipulated as follows: the medical services provided by Dr. Dan Holt, the plaintiff's treating chiropractor, were reasonable and necessary; the medical care provided by Dr. Holt resulted from the February 13, 2014, automobile accident; the medical expenses charged by Dr. Holt amounted to $5, ...


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