United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division
R. SUMMERHAYS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the court is the Defendants' Motion for Summary
Judgment [doc 27] which relates solely to the issue of the
Plaintiffs claim for punitive damages and attorneys'
fees. The parties have fully briefed the matter.
lawsuit involves a traffic incident which occurred on U.S.
Highway 171 in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Plaintiff alleges was
injured riding his motorcycle due to the negligence of
defendant, Willard Honea, Jr. in maneuvering his tractor
trailer rig into a parking lot. Honea, who was driving the
tractor trailer rig in the course of his employment with
Harco, was attempting to back into a parking lot and
initially blocked several lanes across the highway. Plaintiff
believed the tractor trailer was stopped and proceeded to
pass behind the rig. According to Plaintiff, Honea
unexpectedly started backing his rig up just as Plaintiff was
passing. In order to avoid crashing into the rig, Plaintiff
was forced to lay down the motorcycle. Plaintiffs maneuver to
avoid a crash resulted in a broken leg and other injuries.
is a Louisiana resident. Defendant, Honea, is a resident of
Georgia and Harco Services, LLC is an entity domiciled in
Georgia. Plaintiff asserts he is entitled to punitive damages
under Georgia law. Defendants seek summary judgment
dismissing the claims for punitive damages and attorneys'
fees as Louisiana law does not provide a basis for these
Summary Judgment Standard
court should grant a motion for summary judgment when the
movant shows "that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The party moving for
summary judgment is initially responsible for identifying
portions of pleadings and discovery that show the lack of a
genuine issue of material fact. Tubacex, Inc. v.
M/VRisan, 45 F.3d 951, 954 (5th Cir. 1995). The Court
must deny the motion for summary judgment if the movant fails
to meet this burden. Id.
movant makes this showing, however, the burden then shifts to
the non-moving party to "set forth specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986) (quotations omitted). This requires more than mere
allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleadings.
Instead, the nonmovant must submit "significant
probative evidence" in support of his claim. State
Farm Life Ins. Co. v. Gutterman, 896 F.2d 116, 118 (5th
Cir. 1990). "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is
not significantly probative, summary judgment may be
granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249 (citations
may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence
in ruling on a motion for summary judgment. Reeves v.
Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150
(2000). The court is also required to view all evidence in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all
reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Clift v.
Clift, 210 F.3d 268, 270 (5th Cir. 2000). Under this
standard, a genuine issue of material fact exists if a
reasonable trier of fact could render a verdict for the
nonmoving party. Brumfield v. Rollins, 551 F.3d 322,
326 (5th Cir. 2008).
Choice of Law Analysis.
law prohibits an award of punitive damages and/or
attorney's fees unless expressly authorized by statute.
International Harvester Credit Corp. v. Seale, 518
So.2d 1039 (La. 1988); Egan v. Kaiser Aluminum &
Chemical Corp., 677 So.2d 1027, 1037-38 (La.App. 4th
Cir. 5/22/96). No. Louisiana statute authorizes punitive
damages in this case. Georgia law, however, permits the
imposition of attorney fees and punitive damages in certain
circumstances. Plaintiff contends Georgia law governs the
question of punitive damages in this case. Based upon this
conflict, the court must determine which state's law to
apply on this issue.
diversity cases, the law of the forum state governs the
proper choice of law. Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg.
Co.,313 U.S. 487, 496-97, 61 S.Ct. 1020, 85 L.Ed. 1477
(1941). As such, the court must apply Louisiana's choice
of law provisions to determine which state's law will
apply to the issue of ...