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Landry v. National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburg

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

December 30, 2019

KRYSTYN LANDRY
v.
NATIONAL UNION FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY OF PITTSBURG, CEVA LOGISTICS U.S., INC. AND JEREMIAH ETHAN RODNEY

          ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-NINTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ST. CHARLES, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 81, 3, DIVISION "C" HONORABLE EMILE R. ST. PIERRE, JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, KRYSTYN LANDRY TAYLOR M. BURNHAM TERRY B. LOUP

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, CEVA LOGISTICS U.S., INC. RAYMOND C. LEWIS M. ELIZABETH EVANS TAMPORELLO

          Panel composed of Judges Jude G. Gravois, Stephen J. Windhorst, and Hans J. Liljeberg

          STEPHEN J. WINDHORST JUDGE

         SJW

         JGG

         HJL

         In this personal injury action seeking compensatory and punitive damages, appellant/plaintiff, Kristyn Landry, appeals the trial court's judgment granting defendant's partial motions for summary judgment and dismissing plaintiff's negligent hiring, training, supervision and entrustment claims and exemplary damages claim against CEVA Logistics U.S., Inc. ("CEVA"). For the reasons stated, we reverse in part the trial court's judgment dismissing plaintiff's exemplary damages claim against CEVA, but affirm the judgment to the extent it dismissed plaintiff's separate negligent hiring, training, supervision and entrustment claims against CEVA.

         Facts and Procedural History

         Ms. Landry was injured in an automobile accident when her car was struck by an eighteen wheeler tractor-trailer driven by Jeremiah Rodney. On March 17, 2015, Rodney, an employee of CEVA, was driving an eighteen wheeler heading eastbound on Highway 90 in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana. As he approached the traffic signal near the entrance to the Wal-Mart on Highway 90, he rear-ended two vehicles which were stopped at a red light, one in the right lane and one in the left lane. The vehicle in the right lane was being operated by Elizabeth Johnson; the vehicle in the left lane was being operated by Ms. Landry. After striking the two vehicles, Rodney veered into the westbound lane of Highway 90 and collided with a third vehicle being driven by Rebecca Matherne.

         On February 4, 2016, Ms. Landry filed a petition for damages naming Rodney, CEVA and National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh as defendants. In her petition, plaintiff asserted that (1) Rodney was negligent; (2) Rodney was operating his vehicle in an impaired or intoxicated state under the influence of Xanax and cocaine and sought exemplary damages against Rodney for the same; (3) CEVA was jointly, severally, solidarily, and vicariously liable for Rodney's negligence as his employer; and (4) CEVA was negligent in failing to properly select, train and/or supervise Rodney in entrusting its vehicle to him.

         In its answer, CEVA admitted that Rodney was its employee, but denied that he was in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident. Significantly, however, CEVA later admitted both employment and course and scope in its responses to plaintiff's discovery requests.

         On February 13, 2019, CEVA filed two motions for partial summary judgment. In one motion, CEVA asserted that it is not vicariously liable for any punitive damages which may be awarded against Rodney. In the second motion, CEVA asserted that Ms. Landry's separate claims of negligent hiring, training, supervision and entrustment against it were improper because it had stipulated Rodney was in the course and scope of his employment, thereby accepting vicarious liability for Rodney's acts. The trial court granted CEVA's motions for partial summary judgment, ruling that (1) CEVA, as Rodney's employer, cannot be held liable for exemplary damages awarded against him; and (2) because the issues of employment and course and scope have been resolved by the admissions of record, Ms. Landry may not simultaneously maintain independent tort claims against both Rodney and CEVA. The trial court dismissed with prejudice plaintiff's negligent hiring, training, supervision and entrustment claims and exemplary damages claim against CEVA.

         Assignments of Error

         Appellant presents the following assignments of error: (1) whether the trial court erred in concluding that an employer cannot be held vicariously liable for exemplary damages; (2) whether the trial court erred in concluding that plaintiff could not maintain causes of action against the defendant employer for negligent hiring, training, supervision, and entrustment after that defendant employer has admitted that the employee was acting within the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident; (3) whether the trial court erred in concluding that a defendant employer cannot be held liable for exemplary damages independently through a negligent entrustment claim; and (4) whether the trial court erred in granting defendant's motions for partial summary judgment and dismissing plaintiffs claims with prejudice.

         Law and Analysis

         Appellate courts review a judgment granting a motion for summary judgment de novo using the same criteria governing the trial court's consideration of whether summary judgment is appropriate. Rayfield v. Millet Motel 15-496 (La.App. 5 Cir. 1/27/16), 185 So.3d 183, 185. "A motion for summary judgment shall be granted if the motion, memorandum, and supporting documents show that there is no genuine issue as to material fact and that the mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." La. C.C.P. art. 966 (A)(2). To determine if summary judgment is appropriate, this Court must ask the same questions as the trial court: is there any question of material fact, and is the mover entitled to judgment as a matter of law? Curtis v. Rome, 98-0966 (La.App. 4 Cir. 5/5/99), 735 So.2d 822, 824, writ denied sub nom Rambo v. Rome, 99-1617 (La. 10/1/99), 748 So.2d 441, citing Walker v. Kroop, 96-618 (La.App. 4 Cir. 7/24/96), 678 So.2d 580, 582.

         Vicarious Liability of an Employer ...


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