Louisiana Record

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Louisiana appellate court affirms ruling to dismiss suit brought by woman involved in car accident

By Tomas Kassahun | Apr 7, 2018

NEW ORLEANS — In a ruling issued on March 21, the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed a trial court’s ruling to dismiss a suit involving a woman who claimed she was injured in a car accident.

Homer Sargent, who was working for Evans Environmental and Geological Science and Management LLC at the time of the accident, struck Brenda Brown’s car from behind while she was stopped at a redlight in 2007, according to the appeals court's decision.

Brown later filed suit, and Sargent, Evans Environmental and Geological Science and Management LLC, Discovery Property and Casualty Insurance Co. and Enterprise Leasing Co. were listed as defendants.

Brown alleged that she suffered injuries that entitled her to damages for past, present and future physical pain, present and future lost wages and earning capacity, as well as damages for diminished quality of life and severe emotional and mental distress, according to the appellate court's decision.

“After many years of litigation, this matter went to trial on June 20, 2016, with Ms. Brown representing herself,” the appeals court said. “At the close of [the] plaintiff’s case, the defendants moved for an involuntary dismissal.”

After the trial court granted the motion, Brown appealed the ruling, the appeals court said.

“Ms. Brown argues that the trial court erred in failing to find that she should be compensated under the Louisiana Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Law,” the appeals court said.

The trial court cited the Louisiana Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Law, which requires a “mandatory, comprehensive scheme to provide financial protection to those involved in motor vehicle accidents.”

As described by the court, “the statutes require that the owner of every motor vehicle registered in this state, with limited exceptions, obtain proof of security prior to registration, renewal of registration, application for an inspection certificate and/or application for a driver's license.”

“As these statutes clearly have no application to the case at hand, we find no merit to Ms. Brown’s assignment of error,” the appeals court said. 

Still, the appeals court analyzed the trial court’s decision to grant an involuntary dismissal. 

The appeals court said the trial court was extremely lenient with Brown, allowing her to enter medical records for evidence without proper certification and agreeing to meet with Brown before trial to agree on stipulations for admission of certain evidence.

“The trial court explained to Ms. Brown that cut-off dates for discovery are necessary to prevent prolonged litigation and denied Ms. Brown’s requests to enter medical records obtained after the cut-off,” the appeals court said.

According to the court, the defense counsel also tried to settle the case.

The defense’s statement, as noted by the appeals court, stated that “there is no evidence that has come forward that’s going to justify the two and a half million dollar demand we have.”

Brown said she was not interested in discussing a settlement, according to the court.

Keiotia Brown Watson, Brown’s daughter, who was in the car during the accident, was called as a witness.

According to the court, Watson knew Brown had seen a physician and that she claimed to have back and neck injuries, but she knew nothing beyond that.

Craig Kuhns, a certified orthopedic surgeon who treated Brown in Missouri, said he doesn’t have any of Brown’s prior medical records or x-rays, and he didn't know if Brown needed surgery because of the accident or because of pre-existing conditions, according to the appeals court.

The trial court cited Kuhns’ statement and said Brown didn't prove that she suffered injuries because of the accident.

The appeals court affirmed the ruling.

“Based on our review of the record and the factual findings of the trial court, we cannot say that the trial court’s findings were manifestly erroneous,” the appeals court said. “Accordingly, we affirm the judgment granting the defendants’ motion for involuntary dismissal.”  

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Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal