Appealed from the Twenty-Sixth Judicial District Court for
the Parish of Bossier, Louisiana Trial Court No. 149, 515
Honorable Michael O. Craig, Judge
YANCEY, KING & GALLOWAY By: Brian A. Homza Robert
Kennedy, Jr. Jena Bourgeois Hogan Counsel for Appellants
MORRIS, DEWETT & SAVOIE, LLC By: B. Trey Morris G. Adam
Savoie Meagan E. Shadinger Counsel for Appellee Tammy Bloxham
CHRISTOPHER A. OGDEN In Proper Person
MOORE, STONE, and STEPHENS, JJ.
defendants, Andy L. Gibbs Jr., his employer, 31 Energy
Services LLC, and the employer's insurer, HDI-Gerling
America, appeal a partial summary judgment in favor of the
plaintiff, Tammy Bloxham, on the issue of liability only, in
this tort suit arising from a rear-end collision. For the
reasons expressed, we reverse and remand.
accident occurred on May 18, 2015, in Bossier City. Ms.
Bloxham was driving her Honda Pilot west on Hwy. 511 (Jimmie
Davis Hwy.). She alleged that she stopped at the red light at
Sunflower Blvd., and was in the left lane when she was struck
from behind by Gibbs, who was driving 31 Energy's
Freightliner tractor and Dragon tanker trailer.
Bloxham filed this suit in March 2016, individually and on
behalf of her minor son. In addition to vicarious liability,
Ms. Bloxham alleged that 31 Energy was negligent in hiring
Gibbs and in failing to inspect the brakes on its rig. The
defendants answered asserting plaintiff fault, and requested
a jury trial. The defendants filed a motion for summary
judgment on grounds that Ms. Bloxham failed to report this
claim as an asset in her pending bankruptcy case, and both
sides have engaged in vigorous discovery, but these issues
are not currently before the court.
August 2017, Ms. Bloxham filed the instant motion for partial
summary judgment as to Gibbs's liability and her own lack
of comparative fault. She cited Louisiana's
"following too close" law, La. R.S. 32:81 A, and
the presumption of negligence when a following vehicle
rear-ends another vehicle, Brewer v. J.B. Hunt Transp.
Inc., 2009-1408 (La. 3/16/10), 35 So.3d 230. She
attached Gibbs's deposition, in which he admitted he
"ran into the back of this car" and that he was
"not blaming anybody but" himself, and the
deposition of Gibbs's supervisor, Mike Cummings, who
agreed with Gibbs's statement. She argued that the
defendants would not be able to allege any facts that would
support a showing that she was at fault, La. C. C. P. art.
defendants opposed the motion. In support, they cited another
portion of Gibbs's deposition: he admitted he would not
be able to stop in time to avoid hitting the car in front of
him, so he tried to move to the other lane, "and when I
swerved over to change lanes it looked like she tried to
change too, but I bumped the back of her car." The
defendants also cited the incident form Gibbs filled out for
31 Energy: "I swerved to miss her[;] she got in the same
lane and I Bumped [her] car[, ]" and the official state
crash report: "The vehicles in front of him stopped
suddenly and he could not stop fast enough to keep from
hitting Vehicle #1." The defendants argued that Ms.
Bloxham's attempted lane change and sudden stop rebutted
the presumption of Gibbs's negligence, Robinson v.
Flowers, 41, 798 (La.App. 2 Cir. 1/24/07), 949 So.2d
549. They submitted that this evidence created a genuine
issue that she was comparatively negligent, thus precluding
OF THE DISTRICT COURT
hearing on September 25, 2017, the district court granted Ms.
Bloxham's motion for partial summary judgment. The court
cited R.S. 32:81 and the "bright-line presumption"
of the following driver's negligence, Mart v.
Hill, 505 So.2d 1120 (La. 1987), found that Gibbs was
the rear-following driver who struck the back of Ms.
Bloxham's SUV, and accepted Gibbs's admission that he
was the sole cause of the accident. The court recognized the
exception to R.S. 32:81, but reasoned that if both Ms.
Bloxham and Gibbs were changing lanes at the same time,
"the tailing vehicle * * * had a duty to watch for any
lead vehicles and operate his vehicle safely," which he
failed to do. The court concluded that Ms. ...