BATON ROUGE –The Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal on April 13 upheld a ruling of the 16th Judicial Court in granting summary judgment in favor of Acme Truck Line Inc.
The lower court had dismissed the claims of Bridget Jackson for damages arising out of an accident involving a truck driven by Troylond M. Wise and leased to Acme. The appeals court also affirmed the trial court’s judgment that denied Jackson’s motion for a new trial.
The case of Bridget Jackson v. Troylond M. Wise, Acme Truck Line Inc., and First Guard Insurance Company was based on an accident that occurred on Feb. 17, 2015, during a Mardi Gras parade in Franklin, Louisiana.
Wise owned a 1999 Peterbilt 18-wheeler truck that he had leased to Acme on a five-year basis. He also drove the truck to transport cargo for Acme. Takisha Welch had asked Wise to pull a trailer in the parade for the Alpha of Charisma Carnival Club. Welch had paid Wise $100 for use of his tractor-trailer.
During the parade, Jackson was a passenger on the float. When the tractor-trailer attempted to make a right turn, Jackson was thrown from the float and Wise ran over her twice, causing severe injuries, according to court records.
Jackson sued Wise, Acme and First Guard Insurance Company, the non-trucking liability insurer for the tractor-trailer. Jackson negotiated a settlement with the insurance company.
Acme disputed any liability on its part because when Wise and Acme entered into a five-year lease agreement on Sept. 1, 2011, Wise agreed to lease his tractor-trailer to Acme to transport cargo. As quoted in the court’s ruling, the terms of the lease stated that “It is understood and agreed that Acme shall have exclusive possession, control and use of the leased equipment for the duration of the lease agreement.” The agreement also said that, “Equipment shall not be operated for any purpose other than the transportation of Acme authorized shipments. Further, owner is specifically prohibited from entering into any trip-lease, or other agreement or contract involving the leased equipment during the lease term.”
The key clause in the agreement stated, “The owner agrees that the leased equipment shall not be used for any parades, social events or any private use whatsoever.”
Citing the terms of the agreement, Acme filed a motion for summary judgment, saying that it was not the owner of the tractor-trailer, but even if it was, it could not be liable based on ownership. In addition, Acme asserted that it had no liability as a lender of the tractor-trailer because under Louisiana law anyone who lends a vehicle to another is not responsible for the negligence of the driver.
The appeals court concurred, saying, “We agree with the trial court that because Mr. Wise was acting outside the scope of his employment, the mandatory provisions do not apply to Acme in this situation to hold it vicariously liable for the actions of Mr. Wise.”
Judge Allison H. Penzato upheld the trial court’s summary judgment, which Jackson protested, saying, that Acme filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that it had no vicarious liability for the actions of Wise who was not in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident. Acme said the reason federal regulations did not apply in this matter was because the trip Wise was on at the time was an intrastate trip not covered by the federal regulations
Regarding Jackson’s motion for a new trial, Penzato ruled, “A new trial shall be granted when the judgment appears clearly contrary to the law and the evidence. When a motion for new trial is filed, it is the mover's burden to prove to the trial court that he is entitled to a new trial for one of the grounds listed in the Code of Civil Procedure. Given our opinion that the trial court correctly granted summary judgment in this matter, Ms. Jackson did not carry her burden that she was entitled to a new trial.”
Judge Guy Holdridge and Judge Toni M. Higginbotham concurred with this ruling.