JOSHUA L. ADAMS, ET AL.
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, ET AL.
FROM THE TWENTY-SEVENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ST.
LANDRY, NO. 14-C-3165-B HONORABLE A. GERARD CASWELL, DISTRICT
Kenneth Warren DeJean Attorney at Law SPECIAL MASTER William
H.Howard, III Alissa A. Allison Kathlyn G. Perez Laura E.
Carlisle Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell, & Berkowitz,
P.C. COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Union Pacific Railroad
Alston Johnson, III Steven J. Levine Paul LeBlanc John B.
Shortess Phelps Dunbar, LLP COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT:
Union Pacific Railroad Company
Antonio M. Clayton Clayton, Frugé & Ward COUNSEL
FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Union Pacific Railroad Company
A. Pecoraro Grant F. Freeman Anna M. Grand Pecoraro Law Firm
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Union Pacific Railroad
Blayne Honeycutt Colt J. Fore Hannah Honeycutt Calandro
Fayard & Honeycutt COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE:
composed of D. Kent Savoie, Candyce G. Perret, and Jonathan
W. Perry, Judges.
CANDYCE G. PERRET JUDGE
train derailment case, defendant, Union Pacific Railroad
Company (hereinafter, referred to as "Union
Pacific"), appeals a trial court judgment that awarded
plaintiff, Katrina Berry, damages in the amount of $750.00.
For the following reasons, we affirm the trial court
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
August 4, 2013, twenty-six railcars derailed near Lawtell,
Louisiana, causing lube oil, dodecanol, and sodium hydroxide
solution (also referred to as sulfidic caustic solution) to
spill from some of the derailed train cars. Union Pacific
owned and operated the train and tracks at issue and, as a
result of the derailment and chemical spill, authorities
implemented a one-mile radius evacuation zone that remained
in effect until August 7, 2013.
Berry filed suit against Union Pacific on July 11, 2014. On
September 12, 2016, Union Pacific stipulated to liability;
thus, causation and damages were the only issues before the
trial court. On February 8, 2017, the trial court appointed
Kenneth DeJean as the Special Master pursuant to La.R.S.
13:4165, to preside over all the trials and ordered that each
plaintiff's case be tried separately.
Pacific presented its case on June 27-28, 2017, with Ms.
Berry presenting her case on August 14, 2017. On October 20,
2017, the Special Master issued his Report and
Recommendation, which found that Ms. Berry "has proven
that, it is more probable than not, her complaints and
damages as stated at trial were caused as a result of the
train derailment and resulting chemical spill and/or the
threat of a chemical spill and the evacuation order and
associated road closures." The Special Master
"recommend[ed] that the District Court find that
causation for her complaints and damages has been
established" and recommended that the trial court award
Ms. Berry $500.00 for "Inconvenience," and $250.00
for "Mental Anguish." The Special Master's
Report and Recommendation provided the following pertinent
findings of fact as to Ms. Berry (emphasis added):
1. A train derailment occurred on August 4, 2013 between the
time of 3:20pm and 3:30pm in Lawtell, Louisiana.
2. This derailment involved a train and tracks owned,
operated and maintained by the defendant, Union Pacific
3. As a result of the derailment, Governor Bobby Jindal
issued a proclamation declaring the area a disaster area.
This was widely disseminated by the local media and news
4. The media and local news outlets reported on the
derailment and evacuation as well as the threat posed by the
chemicals being transported in the rail cars.
5. As a result of this derailment, chemicals were spilled
(including lube oil, dodecanol and sodium hydroxide) from
some of the derailed train cars.
6. The derailment and its resulting chemical spill and the
threat of the spill was the cause of an evacuation order
being issued for the residents located within an approximate
one mile radius of the derailment with the center of the
radius being the derailment site and thus potentially
extending that distance from either end of the derailment.
7. As a result of the derailment and resulting chemical spill
and/or threat of chemical spill, many of the residents in
areas near the derailment and evacuation area were displaced
and were required to be evacuated from their homes, property
and/or businesses. The result was widespread fear and
fright and/or mental anguish and anxiety for many residents
within the evacuation zone and extending to many residents
located outside of the evacuation zone based on the
perception of some ...