JOSHUA L. ADAMS, ET AL.
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY
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 LeBlancJr. 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 COUNSEL FOR
DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Union Pacific Railroad Company
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
case is one of several stemming from a train derailment in
Lawtell, Louisiana ("Lawtell Derailment") and those
injuries suffered by members of the surrounding community.
Defendant-Appellant Union Pacific Railroad Company
("Union Pacific") appeals the trial court judgment
that awarded Plaintiff, Pauline Beam, damages in the amount
of $4, 500.00. For the following reasons, we amend the award
to $1, 000.00 and affirm as amended.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND:
August 4, 2013, a train derailed near Lawtell, Louisiana.
Twenty-six railcars derailed, causing lube oil, dodecanol, and
sodium hydroxide solution (also referred to as sulfidic
caustic solution) to spill from three of the derailed train
cars. The derailment prompted a one-mile radius evacuation
zone that remained in effect until August 7, 2013. Many of
those evacuated were directed to Evangeline Downs and were
housed there at the hotel for several days.
residents, including Plaintiff, Pauline Beam, filed suit on
July 11, 2014, against Union Pacific. In the April 1, 2016
case management order, all cases pending in the Louisiana
Twenty-Seventh Judicial District Court related to the Lawtell
Derailment were consolidated into one division for the
purpose of determining liability. Union Pacific stipulated to
liability on September 12, 2016, but reserved its causation
and damages defenses.
February 8, 2017, the trial court appointed Kenneth DeJean as
Special Master to preside over the causation/damages trials
of the pending claims pursuant to La.R.S. 13:4165.
cases were not consolidated and, therefore, each
plaintiff's case was tried separately and resulted in
Beam presented her case-in-chief on June 26, 2017, with Union
Pacific presenting its case on June 27-28, 2017. The Special
Master issued his report and recommendation on Ms. Beam's
case on October 11, 2017. The Special Master's report
summarized Ms. Beam's testimony as follows: "The
testimony establishes that Ms. Beam is an 87-year-old woman
who was in poor health at the time of the derailment and was
limited physically." Ms. Beam did not testify and
instead a stipulation regarding her age and the length of
time she was evacuated was entered into the record for her
case on June 27, 2017, specifically: "Ms. Beam is an 87
year old lady. We're just going to stipulate she was
evacuated for three days. That's the extent of her
claim." Ms. Beam's daughter, Rebecca Miller, and
son-in-law, Robert Miller, with whom Ms. Beam lives, also
testified that for the first night of the evacuation the
three of them went to a relative's house where Ms. Beam
slept in a recliner. The second night, the three went to
Evangeline Downs where Ms. Beam slept in a bed.
Special Master made the following factual findings:
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