Louisiana Appellate Court Reverses Summary Judgment for Defendants in Lawsuit Involving a Car Accident that Resulted in Quadriplegia

When it comes to evidence presented at trial, there are different categories. A witness to an accident is considered a layperson witness, while an accident reconstructionist, doctor, or lab technician can be classified as an expert witness. A recent Louisiana Court of Appeal opinion demonstrates how retaining an expert witness to testify on your behalf during trial can be vitally important to your claim. An expert witness can help you establish liability, or show that a defendant’s lack of appropriate conduct was the cause of the injuries that you sustained. An experienced Louisiana car accident lawyer can assist you with locating the appropriate expert witness.

In the case, the plaintiff was traveling as a passenger in a vehicle passing through Northeastern Louisiana when a thunderstorm erupted and caused serious roadway hazards. The driver was forced to take a detour, and while traversing that unanticipated pathway, a tree fell across the driver’s car. It crushed the roof, striking the passenger in the head. As a result of the blow, the passenger was rendered a quadriplegic.

The tree limb that fell onto the vehicle was from a tree located on a property line. Part of the tree was on a parcel of private property, while the remainder was on a city-owned parcel. The passenger filed suit against both the private parcel owner and the city. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, stating that they did not know or have reason to know that there was a defect or issue with the tree. They alleged that the tree had looked fairly healthy, producing green foliage. In a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must show that there are no genuine issues of material fact, alleviating the need for a jury and allowing the court to decide the dispute as a matter of law. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff appealed.

On review, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s grant of summary judgment. Although the defendants had offered testimony that the tree appeared healthy, the plaintiff had offered testimony from an expert witness specializing in tree health who indicated that the oak tree was suffering from a disease called heart rot. Additionally, the expert testified that there were visible signs that this disease was present, including a thinning crown, knots along the trunk, and more. Since the expert witness testimony created a material issue of fact regarding whether the defendants knew or should have known that the tree was unhealthy, summary judgment dismissing the case was inappropriate.

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in a car accident or another accident, you may be entitled to compensation. At Dué Guidry Piedrahita Andrews Courrege L.C., we pride ourselves on providing client-centric legal counsel, ensuring that each client receives the personal dedication and compassion they deserve during this difficult time. We serve clients and their families throughout Louisiana and provide a free consultation to help you learn about your legal options and how we may be able to assist you. To set up your appointment, call us now at (225) 929-7481.

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