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Brown v. Affirmative Casualty Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

January 16, 2019

MERCEDES BROWN Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
AFFIRMATIVE CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, ET AL Defendant-Appellees

          Appealed from the Monroe City Court for the Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana Trial Court No. 2015-CV-02026 Honorable Tammy D. Lee, Judge

          ANTHONY J. BRUSCATO Counsel for Appellant

          TOMMY G. ZENTNER, JR. Counsel for Appellees

          Before MOORE, STONE, and COX, JJ.

          MOORE, J.

         Mercedes Brown appeals a Monroe City Court judgment that rejected her claim for damages arising from a two-car accident. For the reasons expressed, we affirm.

         FACTS

         The accident occurred shortly before 6:00 pm on November 5, 2014. Ms. Brown was driving her 2003 Dodge Intrepid and carrying two passengers. They had just shopped at Advance Auto Parts, on Winnsboro Road, and were leaving to go to Ms. Brown's mother's house, on Marx Street, about five blocks west. This entailed making a left turn out of the Advance Auto Parts parking lot and onto Winnsboro Road, a four-lane, east-west artery. Ms. Brown successfully crossed the two eastbound lanes and entered the left westbound lane. However, she then collided with a 1998 Ford Mustang being driven west by Archie Keaton. Ms. Brown and Keaton gave vastly different accounts of exactly where the impact occurred, and this is essentially the issue on appeal.

         Ms. Brown testified by deposition that before she left the Advance Auto Parts parking lot, she stopped, looked to make sure the road was clear, and noticed the Mustang in the parking lot of Mac's Fresh Market, almost directly across from Advance Auto Parts. However, she saw the road was clear, made her left turn, and got halfway into the left westbound lane when the Mustang hit her. She admitted she did not see the Mustang coming until it hit her; she assumed the driver had been pulling out of the driveway of Mac's, making a right turn. After impact, she could not move the Intrepid because the axle was broken.

         Keaton, a 78-year-old retired trucker, testified by deposition that he was driving home from his brother's house, in Richwood, and had not been in the Mac's parking lot that evening. Driving in the right westbound lane, he saw the Intrepid trying to exit from Advance Auto Parts; he thought the driver was cutting straight across to ABC Auto Parts, directly across the street (and next to Mac's). When he saw her continuing to move through the left lane, he slowed almost to a stop. Even so, she ran into his left front, breaking his Mustang's headlight and parking light and bending its strut and hubcap. Keaton was somewhat ambiguous about whether he came to a complete stop, or just to a slow crawl, and would not say that the Intrepid "fully entered" the right lane before impact. However, he was consistent that he was always in the right lane, and if Ms. Brown had stayed in the left lane, there would have been no collision. He also testified that by the time police arrived, about seven minutes later, both vehicles were still in place.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Ms. Brown filed this suit in Monroe City Court against Keaton and his liability carrier, Affirmative Casualty Insurance Co. Affirmative Casualty went into receivership; its claims are now being administered by Louisiana Insurance Guaranty Association ("LIGA"). In September 2017, LIGA moved for summary judgment. In support, it offered the depositions summarized above. It also offered the deposition of Officer Tarra Smith, who worked the accident and wrote the accident report. Her diagram, on page 7 of the report, showed the Intrepid turning left and crossing 3½ lanes before striking the Mustang in the far right lane. Ofc. Smith also stated that she ticketed Ms. Brown for failure to yield and no driver's license. Ms. Brown, in deposition, admitted that she paid the ticket.

         Ms. Brown opposed the MSJ, offering her affidavit to reiterate that she saw Keaton backing out of a parking space at Mac's but did not feel she needed to "keep him under observation." She also asserted that Keaton must have tried to make a right turn into the "inside" lane, and if he had stayed in the right lane, there would have been no accident.

         The City Court denied summary judgment, ruling that it "cannot determine in what lane of traffic ...


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