Losing a child is one of the most horrific experiences that a parent can face in his or her lifetime. As experienced Louisiana wrongful death lawyers, we have assisted many individuals with exploring their legal rights and options after a loss of this nature. In a recent appellate case, the court considered a case in which a six-year-old child died as a result of a school bus crash in Youngsville, Louisiana. When the victim attempted to board the school bus, the door shut on his arm. He was not able to free his arm from the door, and he tripped and fell. Then, as the bus departed, it ran over him. The child was pronounced dead after being rushed to the hospital. The parents of the victim filed separate claims against the driver of the school bus, the insurance companies, and the Lafayette Parish School Board.
One insurer settled the mother’s claim for $275,000. Thereafter, the trial court granted one of the defendant insurance companies’ partial motion for summary judgment and limited the damages claim for both of the victim’s parents to a single amount of $500,000, pursuant to the cap on damages afforded the political subdivision and its insurers pursuant to the Louisiana Governmental Claims Act, La. R.S. 13:5106. Many more motions were filed, trying to adjudicate whether the damages cap applied to other defendants in the matter. Then, after a bench trial, the parties stipulated that the driver was solely at fault for the victim’s death. The trial court issued a verdict in favor of the father and awarded him $50,000 for his child’s survival claim and $250,000 for his wrongful death claim. The defendants appealed.
On review, the appellate court concluded that the statute should be interpreted as limiting the claims against the defendants to a maximum of $500,000. he court interpreted the statute as providing a cap for the total amount of damages paid by the defendants, in lieu of allowing a separate cap for each parent’s claim. The appellate court affirmed the judgment against the defendants, but it remanded the case for additional proceedings regarding whether any of the damages needed to be reduced in order to comply with the statutory cap since record contained insufficient evidence of the amount of the payment to the mother. Miller v. Thibeaux, 2013-541 (La.App. 3 Cir. 1/27/16), 184 So.3d 856, writ denied, 2016-353 (La.4/15/16), 191 So.3d 1035.