Law School Case Brief
Bouton v. Allstate Ins. Co. - 491 So. 2d 56 (La. Ct. App. 1986)
For a plaintiff to succeed in a negligence action, the court must find that the defendant's action was a cause in fact of the injury. The court must also determine what duty was imposed on the defendant under the particular circumstances, whether there was a breach of that duty that resulted in damages, and whether the risk which resulted in the damages was encompassed within the scope of the protection extended by the imposition of that duty. Resolution of the duty issue requires: a policy inquiry into whether the defendant's duty to the victim included protection against the particular injury, that is, the ease of association with this plaintiff under these circumstances.
Jeffrey Scott Trammel, aged 15, Robert Martin Landry, Jr., aged 13, and Daniel Breaux, aged 13, went trick-or-treating one evening. About 6:30 p.m., Trammel and Breaux rang Plaintiff Robert Bouton's front door bell while Landry waited at the sidewalk. Plaintiff opened the door and saw Breaux standing before him. Breaux was dressed in military fatigues and was holding a plastic model submachine gun. Plaintiff shut the door immediately and locked it, then armed himself with a .357 magnum pistol. Plaintiff then returned to the door, opened it, and saw a flash of light, caused, he alleges, by Trammel's triggering a photographic flash. Plaintiff's pistol then discharged, the bullet striking and killing Breaux. Plaintiff brought this suit against Allstate Insurance Company (Allstate), insurer of Landry and Breaux, and Independent Fire Insurance Company (Independent), insurer of Trammel. He alleged that the three boys' actions were tortious and caused him to be indicted and tried for second-degree murder, incur substantial attorney fees, lose his job, and suffer unfavorable publicity. Allstate filed motions for summary judgment, and Independent raised the peremptory exception of no cause of action. The trial court granted the summary judgment motions and sustained the exception of no cause of action. Bouton appealed.
Did the court err in granting summary judgment in the insurance companies' favor?
The court affirmed the judgment granting summary judgment to the insurance companies. The court noted that Bouton's claim that he was frightened by the boys' actions was meritless as it was Halloween and one should have expected to see scary people show up at his doorstep. The court therefore found no grounds to believe the tortfeasor's assertions.
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