Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Adams v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

May 29, 2019

JOSHUA L. ADAMS, ET AL.
v.
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, ET AL.

          APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-SEVENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ST. LANDRY, NO. 14-C-3165-B HONORABLE A. GERARD CASWELL, DISTRICT JUDGE

          Kenneth Warren DeJean Attorney at Law, SPECIAL MASTER William H. Howard, III Alissa A. Allison Laura E. Carlisle Kathlyn G. Perez Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz, P.C. COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Union Pacific Railroad Company

          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

          Elena A. Pecoraro Grant F. Freeman Anna M. Grand COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Union Pacific Railroad Company

          D. Blayne Honeycutt Colt J. Fore Hannah Honeycutt Calandro Fayard & Honeycutt COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE: Catherine Carriere

          Court composed of D. Kent Savoie, Candyce G. Perret, and Jonathan W. Perry, Judges.

          CANDYCE G. PERRET JUDGE

         In this train derailment case, defendant, Union Pacific Railroad Company (hereinafter, referred to as "Union Pacific"), appeals a trial court judgment that awarded plaintiff, Catherine Carriere, damages in the amount of $6, 840.00. For the following reasons, we find that the trial court abused its discretion in awarding Ms. Carriere $5, 500.00 for her evacuation and inconvenience damages and we hereby amend this award to $1, 000.00. We affirm the $1, 200.00 award for mental anguish and the $140.00 award for clothes, for a total damage award of $2, 340.00.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:

         On August 4, 2013, twenty-six railcars[1] 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.

         Ms. Carriere 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.[2]

         Union Pacific presented its case on June 27-28, 2017, with Ms. Carriere presenting her case on June 27, 2017. On October 11, 2017, the Special Master issued his Report and Recommendation, which found that Ms. Carriere "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." 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. Carriere $5, 500.00 for "Evacuation/Inconvenience," $1, 200.00 for "Mental Anguish," and $140.00 for "Other (Clothes)." The Special Master's Report and Recommendation summarized Ms. Carriere's testimony, as follows (citations to the record omitted):

At the time of the derailment, Catherine Carriere was living with her husband and two children at 104 Pine Loop. She did not hear or see the derailment. She found out about the derailment when a police officer came to her door and told her she had to evacuate right away. She did not suffer any physical injuries as a result of the derailment. While they were evacuated, the plaintiff and her two children ultimately went to Evangeline Downs to stay until Tuesday when they returned to their house. The plaintiff and her family were evacuated for a total of three days.
On the Tuesday morning after the derailment, the plaintiff drove her daughter to Shreveport for an MRI and then found out that her daughter had to have her fourth surgery for brain tumors. She testified that when she was on her way back from Shreveport on Tuesday morning, the hotel at Evangeline Downs called her three times and told her that they had to get their stuff out of the hotel. The plaintiff testified that this was frustrating and nerve-racking. She testified that she had to buy clothes as a result of the evacuation because she was told it was only supposed to be an overnight evacuation and the clothes cost about $140.00.
She testified that when she got back home, she witnessed the clean-up process and this made her worried about her health and her children's health. She testified that she was inconvenienced by the road closures after the derailment. She testified that she still worries as a result of the derailment. She testified that she was dealing with a lot of other stuff during the time of the evacuation and the evacuation compounded it and made it worse.
Ms. Carriere testified that Union Pacific paid for their hotel room and food while they were evacuated. She testified that she did not seek any medical treatment as a result of the derailment, nor did her children or husband. She testified that for about two weeks after the derailment, her family had to boil water to bathe in it because it was discolored. She testified at trial that her fear did not go away when she returned home after the evacuation order was lifted; however, she testified during her deposition that her fear lasted only until she got back home.
She testified that she did not lose any wages as a result of the derailment. Ms. Carriere testified that there is no evidence that she was exposed to any chemicals. When questioned on cross-examination about any inconvenience the derailment caused her, Ms. Carriere testified as follows:
Q: As a matter of fact, in your deposition, you said that this derailment had no other effect on your daily life, other than the hotel maybe throwing your clothes away, is that correct?
A: Correct.
Q: So in terms of inconvenience, and he said were you inconvenienced as a result of it, in essence, Ms. Carriere, this is a derailment, nobody wants a derailment to happen, but it didn't affect you and your family, thank God. Am I correct with that?
A: Correct.
She testified that when she went back home after the evacuation, a DEQ representative tested the air quality of her home and everything was safe. She testified that the derailment caused her inconvenience and that it led to an increase in her emotional distress.

         On October 23, 2017, Union Pacific filed an objection to the Report and Recommendation with the trial court arguing for a de novo review on the basis that the Special Master's "findings of fact and conclusions of law are erroneous." Following a hearing on July 27, 2018, the trial court issued an oral ruling affirming the Special Master's Report and Recommendation and subsequently rendered a written judgment in favor of Ms. Carriere and against Union Pacific. Notably, the trial court awarded Ms. Carriere a lump sum in the amount of $6, 840.00.[3]

         Union Pacific now appeals this judgment, alleging the following five assignments of error: (1) the trial court erred in awarding damages to Ms. Carriere for mental anguish, absent any accompanying physical injury or property damage; (2) the trial court erred in awarding damages to Ms. Carriere for mental anguish concerning injury to other persons, when the conditions of La.Civ.Code art. 2315.6 were not satisfied; (3) the trial court erred in awarding damages to Ms. Carriere on the basis of negligent infliction of inconvenience, absent any accompanying physical injury or property damage; (4) the trial court abused its discretion by awarding $5, 500.00 for inconvenience; and (5) the trial court erred in awarding $140.00 for out-of-pocket expenses, absent any accompanying documentary support or corroboration for such expenses.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW:

         In this case, the trial judge sat as the trier of fact.[4] In order for this court to reverse the factual findings of the trial judge, manifest error must exist. Stobart v. State, Dep't of Transp. and Dev., 617 So.2d 880 (La.1993). Under a manifest error standard of review, this court can only reverse if it finds, based on the entire record, that there is no reasonable factual basis for the factual finding and that ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.