ROBERT G. MURPHY AND PAMELA MURPHY
SHAUNTAL SAVANNAH; STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, A.K.A. STATE FARM; STATE OF LOUISIANA, THROUGH THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION AND DEVELOPMENT
WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEAL, SECOND CIRCUIT,
PARISH OF CADDO
case, we are called upon to decide whether the district court
erred in granting summary judgment in favor of defendant on
the ground that plaintiff failed to establish any genuine
issues of material fact regarding whether the intersection at
issue was unreasonably dangerous. Finding no error in the
ruling of the district court, we now reverse the judgment of
the court of appeal and reinstate the summary judgment.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Murphy was operating his motorcycle on a two-lane stretch of
Louisiana Highway 538, known as Old Mooringsport Road, which
runs in a north-south direction. Mr. Murphy was proceeding on
same time, Shauntal Savannah was driving her Nissan Maxima in
the northbound lane of Old Mooringsport Road. As Ms. Savannah
approached the intersection of Old Mooringsport Road and
Ravensdale Drive, she pulled into the southbound lane with
the intent to turn onto Ravensdale Drive. As she did so, she
entered Mr. Murphy's lane of travel. Mr. Murphy's
motorcycle struck the passenger-side door of Ms.
Savannah's vehicle, causing injury to Mr. Murphy.
Mr. Murphy and his wife (hereinafter referred to as
"plaintiffs") filed the instant suit against the
State of Louisiana through the Department of Development and
Transportation ("DOTD"). Plaintiffs alleged DOTD
failed to warn of a dangerous condition and failed to remedy
the defective design of the intersection.
discovery, DOTD filed a motion for summary judgment. In
support, DOTD relied on the affidavit of Kevin Blunck, a
civil engineer employed by DOTD, who averred that at the time
of the accident, DOTD did not have a record of any repairs,
maintenance, or construction projects that were being
performed in the section of Highway 538 located at or near
the intersection. Mr. Blunck stated DOTD had no record of any
complaints within 180 days prior to the accident with respect
to the intersection.
DOTD attached Ms. Savannah's deposition testimony. Ms.
Savannah, who was familiar with the intersection, admitted
she was at fault for the accident because she did not see Mr.
Murphy's motorcycle before making her turn. Ms. Savannah
also denied that a curve on Old Mooringsport Road prevented
her from seeing the oncoming motorcycle.
further attached an excerpt from Mr. Murphy's deposition.
When asked if there were any type of sight obstructions that
would have kept a driver from seeing approaching vehicles at
or near the intersection, Mr. Murphy responded, "No sir.
It was wide open."
also relied on an affidavit from Dr. Joseph Blaschke, a civil
engineer licensed in Texas, Louisiana and
Mississippi. Dr. Blaschke indicated he was asked to
address whether the traffic devices that were present at the
time of the crash on La. Hwy. 538 at or near its intersection
with Ravendale Drive were in compliance with the Manual on
Uniform Traffic Control Devices and also whether there were
sufficient sight distances available for motorists traveling
along this route to be able to observe safely both the
traffic control devices that were present and any on-coming
prepare his affidavit and render an opinion, Dr. Blaschke
advised he "personally viewed and inspected the crash
site on two separate occasions and the surrounding areas of
both La. Hwy. 538 (a/k/a Old Mooringsport Road) and Ravendale
Drive in Shreveport, Caddo Parish, Louisiana." Dr.
Blaschke conducted lines-of-sight and time/distance
evaluations (relative to available sight distances) for
motorists operating vehicles in the vicinity of the
intersection at issue and reviewed multiple pleadings,
depositions, reports, and demonstrative evidence in
connection with his investigation. Based on this review, he
My review of the records mentioned and my evaluation of both
roadways revealed that at the time of the crash, there were
no roadway abnormalities or design deficiencies on Louisiana
Highway 538, at or near its intersection with Ravendale
Drive, that would be considered in violation of or
inconsistent with any roadway design standards or guidelines
at the time of original construction. There were sufficient
lines-of-sight (or sight distances) available for both
drivers to observe the various traffic control devices that
were in place along their respective travel routes. There
also was sufficient stopping sight distances available for
both drivers to observe the approaching intersection, see any
vehicle present at or approaching the intersection, and
negotiate the intersection safely.
Dr. Blaschke concluded the area of roadway at issue that was
being traveled upon by plaintiff was not unreasonably
dangerous. He explained that all the physical evidence as
well as the testimony of the two drivers revealed the sole
cause of the crash was Ms. Savannah's failure to yield
the right-of-way to the on-coming motorcycle driven by Robert
Murphy. Both drivers testified there were no sight distance
restrictions relative to the geometry of the roadway that
prohibited either driver from seeing the other respective
vehicle prior to the crash. Additionally, he noted Ms.
Savannah clearly testified that she was "at fault"
and her actions were the cause of the crash.
opposition to DOTD's motion, plaintiffs relied on the
affidavit of V.O. Tekell, Jr., a traffic operations engineer.
Mr. Tekell's affidavit indicated he received his Bachelor
of Science in civil engineering from the University of
Louisiana at Lafayette in 1980. His post-graduate training
includes traffic institute courses and federal highway
prepare his affidavit and render an opinion, Mr. Tekell
reviewed multiple pleadings, depositions, accident reports,
excerpts from the American Association of State Highway
Officials ("AASHO") publications, and certain DOTD
daily work reports.
Tekell stated that in a 1940 publication, AASHO opined that
regardless of the type of intersection, for safety and
economy, intersecting roads should meet at or nearly at right
angles. Mr. Tekell notes the AASHO made repeat affirmations
in 1965, 1973, 1984, 1990, 2001, 2004, and 2011. According to
Mr. Tekell, based on his review of a 2012 aerial photo of the
intersection at issue and the AASHO guidelines, it was his
opinion the "Y" intersection at issue was
constructed at an acute angle of less than twenty degrees.
Mr. Tekell further states that "while it is not yet
known when this particular intersection was constructed there
has been over ½ century of notice that the design is
flawed and accident prone." Finally, Mr. Tekell
concluded the layout of the intersection was a
"contributing factor" to the crash at issue.
hearing, the district court granted DOTD's motion for
summary judgment, finding there were no genuine issues of
material fact in dispute. In oral ...