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Martin v. City of Crowley

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

March 13, 2019

VERNON MARTIN
v.
CITY OF CROWLEY

          APPEAL FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ACADIA, NO. 2016-10085 HONORABLE MARILYN CARR CASTLE, DISTRICT JUDGE.

          BEN L. MAYEAUX QUINCY L. MOUTON NEUNERPATE COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT-APPELLEE: CITY OF CROWLEY

          M. BENJAMIN ALEXANDER LABORDE EARLES LAW FIRM, LLC COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT: VERNON MARTIN

          Court composed of Elizabeth A. Pickett, D. Kent Savoie, and Jonathan W. Perry, Judges.

          ELIZABETH A. PICKETT JUDGE.

         Vernon Martin appeals the judgment of the trial court dismissing his claim for injuries arising from an incident in which he tripped after stepping into a hole on property owned and maintained by the City of Crowley (Crowley).

         FACTS

         On June 12, 2015, after leaving Gremillion's Drugstore in Crowley, Louisiana, Mr. Martin walked to his truck parked on West Fourth Street when he tripped on a hole in a grassy area between the sidewalk and the street. Mr. Martin claimed to suffer injuries to his back and his knee as a result of the incident. He filed a Petition for Damages naming as defendants Crowley, H & H Electrical Service (H & H), and H & H's insurer, Republic Underwriters Insurance (Republic). Mr. Martin alleged that Crowley was the owner of the grass strip where Mr. Martin tripped, and it may have created the hole over which he tripped. H & H had installed a utility pole for the International Rice Festival, and Mr. Martin alleged that the hole he tripped over may have been created by H & H. In a First Supplemental and Amending Petition, Mr. Martin added the International Rice Festival as a defendant, alleging that it may have created the hole.

         H & H and Republic filed a Motion for Summary Judgment alleging there was no evidence that H & H created the hole. Mr. Martin did not contest the motion, and a judgment dismissing H & H and Republic was issued. Likewise, the International Rice Festival filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, which was unopposed by Mr. Martin. Thus, a judgment dismissing the claim against the International Rice Festival was executed. The action against Crowley proceeded to trial.

         On May 7, 2018, a trial on the merits was convened. At the conclusion of Mr. Martin's case-in-chief, Crowley moved for a directed verdict. The trial court denied the motion. Crowley rested its case without presenting any evidence. The trial court then ruled in open court that Mr. Martin failed to prove that the hole in question presented an unreasonable risk of harm. Further, the trial court found that Mr. Martin failed to prove that Crowley had actual or constructive notice of the hole. The trial court dismissed Mr. Martin's claims against Crowley in a judgment dated May 17, 2018. Mr. Martin perfected this appeal.

         ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR

On appeal, Mr. Martin asserts two assignments of error:
1. The District Court erred in ruling that the hole at issue did not present an unreasonable risk of harm in light of evidence that Defendant had a reasonable expectation that pedestrians would be walking in the area where the hole was located; that the hole was several inches deep and wide, and partially obstructed by grass making it difficult for pedestrians to see from a reasonable distance; and where Defendant would not have had to incur substantial additional costs to inspect the grass strip at issue given that its already employee [sic] performed maintenance in the area on a regular basis.
2. The District Court erred in ruling that Defendant did not have actual or constructive knowledge of the hole at issue in light of evidence that Defendant's employees and representatives admitted to prior knowledge of a hole in the grass strip at issue, and admitted that by virtue of regular maintenance performed on the grass strip, they ...

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