Louisiana DOTD Can Not Hide Behind 23 U.S.C. §409 and Still Claim an Absence of Prior Accidents

In Quinn v. State of Louisiana, DOTD, 2009-0085 (La.App. 1 Cir. 12/23/09), writ denied, 2010-358 (La.4/23/10), the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal, in an opinion not designated for publication, held that once the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) chooses to exercise the privilege set forth in 23 U.S.C. §409, that protects from discovery any reports, surveys, schedules, lists or data compiled or collected for the purpose of identifying, evaluating or planning the safety enhancement of potential accident sites and hazardous roadway conditions, and which prevents the plaintiff from discovering any evidence of prior accidents at a location involving an alleged highway defect, that it follows that DOTD is then precluded from offering any evidence establishing an absence of other accidents at the same location at trial.

According to Baton Rouge, Louisiana highway defect attorney Scott Andrews, this is a major development in the law relating to road hazards and finally levels the playing field. In order to impose liability on DOTD for Louisiana’s defective highways and roads, the accident victim must prove that DOTD had actual or constructive notice of the defective condition. For years, DOTD has consistently argued that the lack of prior accidents at certain locations proved that the highways and roads at the locations did not contain defects. Yet, the accident victims and their attorneys are prohibited from discovering and introducing at trial, evidence of prior accidents. DOTD cannot have its cake and eat it too. If plaintiffs cannot discover and use the evidence of prior accidents, then DOTD should not be able to use evidence of the lack of prior accidents to prove no defect, all the while preventing plaintiffs from verifying the accuracy of DOTD’s representation that no accidents occurred.

This personal injury legal update is provided by Baton Rouge, Louisiana injury lawyer Scott Andrews of the Louisiana accident and injury law firm, Dué, Guidry, Piedrahita & Andrews.

If you or a loved one was injured or suffered a wrongful death due to the defective condition of a highway, contact the experienced Baton Rouge, Louisiana highway defect attorneys at Dué, Guidry, Piedrahita & Andrews. Call (800) 929-7481 or Email Louisiana injury lawyers to schedule a free consultation.