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Caruso v. Academy Sports and Outdoors

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

April 24, 2019

ELSA CARUSO
v.
ACADEMY SPORTS AND OUTDOORS

          ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 754-274, DIVISION "M" HONORABLE HENRY G. SULLIVAN, JR., JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, ELSA CARUSO Arthur O. Schott, III Ivan A. Orihuela Joseph A. Interiano

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, ACADEMY SPORTS AND OUTDOORS James M. Garner Ryan O. Luminais

          Panel composed of Judges Jude G. Gravois, Marc E. Johnson, and John J. Molaison, Jr.

          MARC E. JOHNSON JUDGE

         Defendant/Appellant, Academy Ltd. d/b/a/ Academy Sports and Outdoors (hereinafter referred to as "Academy"), appeals a judgment finding it solely at fault for injuries incurred by Plaintiff/Appellee, Elsa Caruso, and accompanying damages awards from the 24th Judicial District Court, Division "M". For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On October 7, 2015, Ms. Caruso filed a "Petition for Damages" against Academy. In her petition, she alleged that, as she proceeded through the store located in Gretna, Louisiana on October 8, 2014, she was struck by falling merchandise and/or shelving on her head, face, and other body parts. She further alleged that, as a direct consequence of Academy's negligence and/or reckless actions from the falling merchandise and/or shelving, she suffered severe injuries to her muscular, skeletal, and nervous systems. Academy answered the petition, denying Ms. Caruso's allegations and arguing Ms. Caruso was the sole or contributing proximate cause of the accident by failing to watch where she was walking or mitigating her damages. Academy further argued that the accident may have been caused by the fault of a third party.

         The matter proceeded to a bench trial on February 28, 2018. At the beginning of the trial, the parties stipulated to various exhibits, which included photographs[1], Ms. Caruso's medical records, and an affidavit from Ferdinand Gettridge.[2] Ms. Caruso was the only witness called for live testimony at the trial. At the close of Ms. Caruso's case-in-chief, Academy orally moved for an involuntary dismissal[3] of Ms. Caruso's action.

         In its motion, Academy argued that Ms. Caruso failed to present any evidence that it controlled the premises where the accident allegedly occurred or any evidence that Academy was involved in the accident in any manner. The trial court denied Academy's motion then allowed it the opportunity to present its casein-chief, to which Academy declined and rested its case. The trial court took the matter under advisement. However, prior to concluding the proceeding, the trial judge orally noted that the certified medical records reported Ms. Caruso was in Academy Sports when the accident occurred.

         In a written judgment dated April 5, 2018, the trial court found that Academy was 100% at fault and was the legal cause of Ms. Caruso's damages. The court awarded Ms. Caruso $24, 750 in damages against Academy, which included $21, 250 in general damages and $3, 500 in special damages. The instant suspensive appeal by Academy followed.

         ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR

         On appeal, Academy alleges the trial court was manifestly erroneous by: 1) finding it to be 100% at fault for Ms. Caruso's injuries, despite her failure to present any testimony or evidence to meet her burden of proof; 2) finding it to be 100% at fault for Ms. Caruso's injuries when she failed to testify where she was injured; 3) failing to find comparative fault on the part of Ms. Caruso; and 4) awarding Ms. Caruso $21, 250 in general damages and $3, 500 in special damages.

         LAW ...


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