Louisiana Court of Appeal Affirms Judgment Dismissing Claims Against Middle Driver in Chain-Reaction Crash

In a decision dated February 24, 2021, the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed a district judge’s ruling dismissing all claims against a middle driver in a chain-reaction crash. Two occupants of the lead vehicle filed suit against both the middle driver and the driver of the last vehicle, claiming both of the other drivers were responsible for the crash.  The plaintiffs settled with the last driver and attempted to recover more money against the middle driver.

A Baton Rouge district judge found that the plaintiffs could not show that the middle driver was negligent. The court of appeal agreed, finding that the middle driver had shown she was driving appropriately and driving at a safe distance under the circumstances. The last driver, the driver who started the chain-reaction, was the only driver who actually did anything wrong by failing to pay close enough attention and rear-ending the middle vehicle.

This case shows that in all but the rarest of cases in which strict liability applies, a plaintiff must show a defendant was negligent in at least some way to recover against that defendant. Merely because the defendant in some abstract way played a causal role in an accident, that is not enough. The case is Louis v. Ramos et. al., docket number 2020-CA-0888 in the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal.