Appeals Court Declares Contractor Owes Special Duty in Work Zone DeathAbstract:
A Louisiana Court of Appeals upheld a lower court judgment in favor of the plaintiffs against the State Department of Transportation and Development, and then extended the original judgment and found that a local contractor was also negligent. The appeal in question was lodged by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development’s Highway Department after a judgment rendered against it in favor of Mr. and Mrs. Jimmy Murphy for the death of their son, Michael Murphy. The Highway Department contended that the lower court erred in not finding the contractor as negligent as it was. The Court of Appeal addressed two basic issues: the liability of the Highway Department, and whether Coastal Contractors, Inc., was equally liable for the death.
The lower court found the Highway Department responsible for the accident, relieving Coastal Contractors of any liability. The Court of Appeal agreed that the State was liable because of substantial and material deviations from good engineering practice at the site of the accident, such as the absence of effective “channelization” in detouring traffic, and that painting over the center and edge stripes on the highway was an inadequate method of obliteration.
Finally, the Court found that both the State Highway Department and Coastal Contractors had the ability to correct the problems at the work site and therefore both must share in the liability.