Multi-Milliondollar Verdict In Wrongful Death Case

An Ascension Parish jury ordered the State of Louisiana and a negligent driver to pay a father and mother $4.4 million after a truck accident killed two of their children.

In June 2014, 9-year-old Sarai Lanus, 6-year-old Daylon Lanus, their father David Lanus, and several other people were fishing near the side of Bluff Road in Prairieville, when 47-year-old Shawnette Taylor’s UV left the road, slid down a steep embankment, and slammed into the group of fishers. The Lanus children were pronounced dead at the scene, and their father was seriously injured. In the truck accident lawsuit, the plaintiffs claimed that the road’s defective design contributed to the crash, an allegation which the state Department of Transportation and Development flatly denied. The jury disagreed, dividing fault 60-40 between the state and the tortfeasor (negligent actor). Ms. Taylor had argued that David Lanus was responsible for the deaths and another vehicle got too near the center line, forcing her to leave the road to avoid a collision, but the jury disagreed with those contentions as well.

Last October, a grand jury refused to indict Ms. Taylor for the deaths that occurred in the truck accident.

Suing the State

In a bygone era, victims could not sue the government, because from a legal and moral standpoint, the king could not make a mistake and had the divine right to rule as he pleased. This idea made it into some states’ laws early in the history of the Republic. However, Louisiana and most other states have waived their sovereign immunity, at least in most cases. Therefore, state employees can be sued if they would have been negligent as private citizens. That means city bus drivers who cause truck accidents and engineers who design unsafe highways are legally responsible for the damages they cause. Under the respondeat superior (“let the master answer”) rule, the state is ultimately responsible.

In some cases, victims may need to file written notice of claims with the government agency before they pursue negligence cases in civil court.

Multiple Tortfeasors

This situation is quite common in truck accidents. For example, a manufacturer may defectively design a tire and a driver may lose control of a vehicle. Louisiana is a modified joint and several liability state that apportions damages between multiple tortfeasors based on their percentage of fault. So, in the above story, the state must pay 60 percent of the damages and Ms. Taylor’s auto insurance company must pay the remaining 40 percent.

For prompt assistance with a truck accident or other negligence claim, contact T-Claude Devall or another of the experienced Lake Charles personal injury attorneys at Hoffoss Devall. Call right away, because you have a limited amount of time to act.