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Weaver v. City of Shreveport

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

August 14, 2019

DANNY C. WEAVER, ET AL. Plaintiffs-Appellants
CITY OF SHREVEPORT, ET AL. Defendants-Appellees

          Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 589, 217 Honorable Ramon Lafitte, Judge

          DUNAHOE LAW FIRM By: Jared Dunahoe Counsel for Appellants, Rebecca Weaver Martin, Danny C. Weaver, Delores Weaver Winderweedle, Terri Weaver Escude, and Linda Kay Weaver Pharr

          LAW OFFICE OF REGINALD W. ABRAMS, LLC By: Reginald W. Abrams Counsel for Appellees, City of Shreveport, Sgt. Larry J. Scott, Sgt. Jeff Peters, Corp. Joel Davidson

          MARY KATHERINE CRYAR Counsel for Appellee, Columbia Casualty Company

          Before STONE, STEPHENS, and McCALLUM, JJ.

          STEPHENS, J.

         The plaintiffs, Danny C. Weaver, Delores Weaver Winderweedle, Terri Weaver Escude, Linda Kay Weaver Pharr, and Rebecca Weaver Martin (collectively, the "Weavers"), appeal from the trial court's judgment granting the motion for partial summary judgment in favor of the defendants, the City of Shreveport, Sergeant Lee Scott, Sergeant Jeff Peters, and Corporal Joel Davidson (collectively, the "City"). For the following reasons, we reverse the trial court's judgment.


         This matter arises out of the deaths of Linda and Obie Weaver, who were victims of a motor vehicle collision with Damian Pea that occurred on December 18, 2014. On that date, the Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office (the "CPSO") and the Shreveport Police Department (the "SPD") were attempting to arrest Pea on various outstanding warrants issued by the State of Oklahoma. The record reflects some dispute whether the Street Level Interdiction Unit (a unit of the Caddo-Shreveport Narcotics Unit consisting of both SPD officers and CPSO deputies) was officially involved in the operation. There is no question some CPSO deputies and SPD officers were engaged in the operation, which culminated in a high-speed pursuit of Pea and the deaths of Linda and Obie Weaver.

         Prior to the incident, Teketia Pipkins had been in an exceedingly abusive relationship with Pea in Oklahoma. In connection with their relationship, Pea had been arrested several times in that state, and there were various outstanding warrants for his arrest. Pipkins' children were in the state's custody as a result of the abuse. She moved back to Shreveport, and Pea followed her. While in Shreveport and fearful for her safety, Pipkins contacted a personal acquaintance, Deputy Lifford Jackson of the CPSO, who referred her to SPD officer Sgt. Scott. As a result of that contact between Sgt. Scott and Pipkins, on December 18, Pipkins picked Pea up and drove with him to a Circle K gas station on West 70th Street. Sergeant Scott had arranged for law enforcement officers to approach and arrest Pea at the Circle K, but when Pipkins exited her vehicle, she left the keys inside it. At that point, CPSO Deputy Earlton Parker, SPD Officer Ryan Holley, and other agents approached the vehicle from the rear. Deputy Parker exited Ofc. Holley's vehicle. At the same time, Pea moved from the passenger seat to the driver's seat and turned on the vehicle's ignition. The vehicle containing Pea was not blocked in, and he was able to drive away from the Circle K gas station. A high-speed pursuit of Pea ensued.

         The police chase of Pea was over 11 minutes long. Pea and law enforcement units sped in excess of 90 miles per hour through several residential and commercial neighborhoods at night and in the rain. At some point during the pursuit on Jewella Avenue, Pea's vehicle struck a civilian vehicle, causing Pea to have a flat tire and cross the median. Pea continued to drive against the flow of traffic until he struck, head on, the vehicle occupied by Linda and Obie Weaver. As a result of the injuries sustained from the impact of the crash, Linda and Obie both died shortly thereafter. Pea was pronounced dead on the scene.

         On December 3, 2015, the Weavers (who are the children of Linda and Obie) filed suit against the City of Shreveport, SPD Sgt. Larry Scott, SPD Sgt. Jeff Peters, Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator (the "Sheriff"), CPSO Dep. Sheriff Earlton Parker, and CPSO Dep. Sheriff Joel Davidson. The Weavers alleged the joint operation to arrest Pea and resulting pursuit was negligently planned and executed. In their second amending petition, the Weavers added as defendants the parties' respective insurers and Pipkins, alleging she "was operating as an employee, representative, agent and/or volunteer" of the City and/or Sheriff Prator, as well as being under their direction and/or control. In their third amending petition, the Weavers alleged (among other additional allegations) that the City and Sheriff Prator were vicariously liable for the actions of Pipkins.

         The City filed an exception of no cause of action and motion for partial summary judgment on September 28, 2017. The City moved for summary judgment on the basis that no master-servant relationship existed between it and Pipkins such that the city would be vicariously liable for Pipkins' actions (i.e., leaving the keys in the vehicle that allowed Pea to initiate the chase). The Weavers filed an opposing motion for summary judgment on the same issue, arguing conversely that the City was vicariously liable for ...

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