HANOVER INSURANCE COMPANY, ET AL.
RICELAND AVIATION, INC., ET AL UNITED STATES AIRCRAFT INSURANCE GROUP
GLOBAL TOWER, LLC., ET AL.
SUPERVISORY WRIT FROM THE THIRTY-FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT
COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON DAVIS, NO. 83-14 C/W 93-14
HONORABLE C. STEVE GUNNELL, DISTRICT JUDGE.
H. Ryan, Deutsch Kerrigan, L.L.P., Counsel for
Defendants/Respondents: Global Tower, LLC GTP Investments,
LLC GTP Infrastructure I, LLC
Kendall J. Krielow, Block Law Firm, APLC, Counsel for
Defendants/Applicants: United States Aircraft Insurance Group
Riceland Aviation, Inc.
composed of John D. Saunders, Billy H. Ezell, and Jonathan W.
D. SAUNDERS, JUDGE.
Riceland Aviation, Inc. (Riceland) and its insurer, United
States Aircraft Insurance Group (USAIG), seek writs regarding
several evidentiary rulings rendered by the trial court.
OF THE CASE
February 15, 2013, a plane owned by Riceland and flown by
William "Billy" Precht, Jr. (Precht), crashed while
spraying herbicide on a field near Jennings. The plane was a
total loss, and Precht died in the crash.
contend that the crash was caused by unmarked guy wires
supporting a communications tower, LA-5136, owned by Global
Tower, LLC; GTP Infrastructure I, LLC; and GTP Investments,
LLC (collectively referred to as "GTP"), which was
located adjacent to the field. Relators contend that GTP
violated Jefferson Davis Parish Ordinance 5.5-107, which
requires that all tower guy wires be marked with TANA
markers to enable pilots to identify the location
of the wires. GTP contends that the crash occurred because
Precht was purposely flying very close to the tower wires in
order to cover as much of the field as possible.
Insurance Company (Hanover), as the subrogee of GTP, filed
suit against Relators to recover the $125, 830.00 it paid to
GTP for damages to the tower caused by the crash. USAIG filed
suit against GTP; Telcom Rentals, Inc.; American Tower
Corporation; Hanover; and CNA Insurance Company to recover
the $560, 000.00 in property damages and $9, 100.00 in
expenses to clean up the debris that it paid to Riceland. The
two suits were consolidated.
case has previously been before this court on Relators'
writ application regarding the trial court's ruling that
excluded the testimony of their expert in visibility studies,
Paul Kayfetz, and his visibility study. Hanover Ins. Co.
v. Riceland Aviation, Inc., 18-783 (La.App. 3 Cir.
10/12/18), writs denied, 18-1847 (La. 1/14/19), 260
So.3d 1218 (unpublished writ decision). That writ application
was denied. There are no other cases pending in this court
that are related to the subject accident; however, there is a
case filed by Precht's widow in the United States
District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Lake
filed two motions in limine. The first motion sought the
following pre-trial evidentiary determinations: (1) that
Relators would be allowed to offer and introduce evidence of
GTP's installation of TANA markers after this incident;
(2) that any reference to the National Transportation Safety
Board's (NTSB) investigation's conclusion and its
accident identification number would be excluded; (3) that
any reference to Precht's knowledge or familiarity with
the tower, guy wires, or the adjacent property would be
excluded; and (4) that any reference to trees/vegetation that
existed around the guy wire anchors on the date of the
accident but are no longer in existence would be excluded.
The second motion sought to exclude the testimonies of
Colonel J. F. Joseph (Colonel Joseph), GTP's aviation
expert, and Robert D. Bartlett (Bartlett), GTP's expert
in accident reconstruction.
motions came for hearing on October 10, 2018. The trial court
denied the motion as to numbers (1), (3), and (4) above and
denied the motion to exclude the testimony of Colonel Joseph.
The motion was granted as to evidence regarding the
NTSB's investigation. The argument and ruling on the
motion to exclude the testimony of Bartlett was postponed,
and this is not included in the writ application.
written judgment was signed on October 12, 2018. Written
reasons for the rulings were issued on October 1, 2018, and
October 23, 2018. Relators gave timely notice of their intent
to apply for supervisory writs in open court when the rulings
were issued and later in writing. The trial court set a
return date of November 24, 2018. This writ application was
timely filed in accordance with that order.
filed an opposition to the writ application, and Relators
filed a reply.
in this matter is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, June 25,
2019. There are no other hearings scheduled.
argue that they are entitled to a de novo review because the
trial court committed legal errors. However, the correct
standard of review is abuse of discretion. "A trial
court has great discretion in evidentiary matters, and its
decisions regarding motions in limine are reviewed using the
abuse of discretion standard." Sonnier v. State,
Dept. of Trans. & Dev., 18-73, 18-74, 18-75, p. 4
(La.App. 3 Cir. 6/6/18), 249 So.3d 51, 54.
of Colonel Joseph
aviation expert, Colonel Joseph,  opines that Precht failed to
maintain sufficient wing-tip clearance with the fixed and
known communication tower and allowed the aircraft to collide
with one of the tower's guy wires. Colonel Joseph further
stated that no number of colored spheres or wire sleeves
would have prevented the accident because the failure to
maintain sufficient clearance was due to Precht's loss of
situational awareness and his failure to maintain a proper
lookout. Important to Colonel Joseph's conclusion were
the facts that Precht had been flying for over ten hours at
the time of the crash and that Precht had successfully
avoided the guy wires on several past occasions. GTP contends
that Colonel Joseph used the same methodology as that