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Boudreaux v. Am. Ins. Co. - 262 La. 721, 264 So. 2d 621 (1972)

Rule:

In describing the burden of proof, the courts sometimes speak of proof to a reasonable certainty or to a legal certainty or of proof by evidence that is of greater weight or more convincing than that offered to the contrary or (in the case of circumstantial evidence) of proof that excludes reasonable hypotheses other than defendant's tort with a fair amount of certainty. Whatever the descriptive term used however, proof by direct or circumstantial evidence is sufficient to constitute a preponderance when taking the evidence as a whole such proof shows that the fact or causation sought to be proved is more probable than not.

Facts:

Plaintiff children brought a suit against the defendant insurer for the wrongful death of their father, who was killed as a result of a fire at the insured restaurant. Their father was suffocated while sleeping in his apartment that was next to the restaurant. The trial court dismissed the complaint. The ruling was upheld by the circuit court of appeals. Plaintiffs further appealed.

Issue:

Were the plaintiff children required to present a preponderance of evidence that the restaurant’s negligence was the cause of their father’s death?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court concluded that the courts below had required a heavier burden of proof of the children than was required by law. Proof by direct or circumstantial evidence could amount to a preponderance, and res ipsa loquitur applied to this case. To the court, the evidence in toto showed that the restaurant's negligence was the most plausible or likely cause of the fire that led to the death. Ruling in favor of the children and against the insurer, the court reversed both the trial court's judgment and the court of appeal's judgment in so far as they dismissed the children's demands.

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