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Sepulvado v. Travelers Insurance-The Charter Oak Fire Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

November 8, 2018

JOSEPH AND CHRISTY SEPULVADO Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
TRAVELERS INSURANCE - THE CHARTER OAK FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY AND YOKEM MOTORS, INC. Defendants-Appellees

          Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 590, 948 Honorable Michael A. Pitman, Judge

          GILMER & GIGLIO, L.L.C. By: Sarah R. Giglio Counsel for Appellant

          PETTIETTE, ARMAND, DUNKELMAN, WOODLEY, BYRD & CROMWELL, L.L.P. By: Donald J. Armand, Jr. Joshua P. Monteleone Counsel for Appellees

          Before MOORE, STONE, and COX, JJ.

          COX, J.

         Joseph Sepulvado and Christy Sepulvado ("Mr. and Mrs. Sepulvado," respectively) brought a personal injury suit against The Charter Oak Fire Insurance Company and Yokem Motors, Incorporated[1] (collectively referred to as "Yokem") in the First Judicial District Court, Caddo Parish, Louisiana. The district court granted Yokem's motion for summary judgment. The Sepulvados now appeal. For the following reasons, we affirm the district court's judgment.

         FACTS

         Mr. Sepulvado was injured while exiting his vehicle at Yokem, a car dealership in Shreveport, Louisiana. On February 24, 2015, Mr. Sepulvado drove his 2007 GMC truck from DeSoto Parish to Shreveport. Mr. Sepulvado was going to meet with a Geico employee to get a repair estimate for the tailgate of his truck. At the time, Geico was renting a building on the Yokem premises.[2] Mr. Sepulvado was accompanied by Mrs. Sepulvado and their son, Aaron. Aaron's school was closed that day due to icy weather conditions.

         While driving on the lot, Mr. Sepulvado was directed where to park by a Yokem employee. Mr. Sepulvado claims a Yokem employee by the name of Paul motioned for him to get out of his truck to meet him. Mr. Sepulvado claims that upon exiting his truck, he took three steps, his feet slid out from underneath him, and he fell on a thin layer of ice, injuring his back and head. Mrs. Sepulvado took Mr. Sepulvado to the emergency room at Christus Schumpert Highland Hospital. While waiting in the emergency room, Mr. Sepulvado claims he talked to two Yokem employees who slipped on the same patch of ice earlier in the morning.

         In his deposition, Mr. Sepulvado stated the weather was bad and icy on the day of the accident. He recalled seeing spots of ice on the side of the road while he was on his way to Geico that morning. When asked if there was any ice on the road, Mr. Sepulvado answered, "Probably. I can't really remember. Probably." He said he was the only car in the parking lot where he fell. He stated he did not see ice on the pavement until after he fell, when the people running to help him were sliding around. Mr. Sepulvado said that he did not see any ice on the ground where he fell. He assumed that ice caused him to fall because of the way his feet slid from underneath him. He further stated that his wife did not fall while checking on him and his truck did not slide while he was driving it on the lot.

         Mrs. Sepulvado confirmed Mr. Sepulvado's recollection of the truck not sliding around on the lot. She also stated that she did not see any ice while assisting her husband after the fall. At the time she was running around the truck to check on Mr. Sepulvado, she did not know he fell because of ice.

         Paul Bentzler was a Yokem employee who was working the morning of the accident. Mr. Bentzler stated he arrived to work at 6:30 a.m. and the back lot, where the employees park, was pretty much solid ice and "pretty slick." He said he saw Mr. Sepulvado pull up and park his truck, but he did not see Mr. Sepulvado fall. He only saw Mr. Sepulvado lying beside his truck. Mr. Bentzler stated that he helped Mr. Sepulvado get back on this feet because "it was slick." He also stated that Mr. Sepulvado drove straight to the Geico building after the fall and was there for about 30 minutes before leaving. Mr. Bentzler heard later that day that another employee had fallen in the back lot, but he did not see the fall.

         On February 23, 2016, Mr. Sepulvado petitioned for both general and special damages, including past and future medical expenses; past, present, and future pain and suffering; and, past, present, and future mental anguish and distress. Ms. Sepulvado petitioned for damages for loss of consortium, services, and society.

         Yokem and its insurer, The Charter Oak Fire Insurance Company, filed a motion for summary judgment because the Sepulvados could not meet their burden of proof as to the existence of an "unreasonable risk of harm." The district court granted ...


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