Law School Case Brief
Bradley v. Hunter - 413 So. 2d 674 (La. Ct. App. 1982)
Under La. Code Civ. Proc. Ann. art. 1810(b), in an action tried by the court without a jury, after the plaintiff has completed the presentation of his evidence, any party, without waiving his right to offer evidence in the event the motion is not granted, may move for a dismissal of the action as to him on the ground that upon the facts and law, the plaintiff has shown no right to relief. The court may then determine the facts and render judgment against the plaintiff and in favor of the moving party or may decline to render any judgment until the close of all the evidence. When a motion for a dismissal is filed under such provision, the proper standard to be applied by the trial court, in ruling upon the motion, differs from the standard to be used when a motion for a directed verdict is filed in a jury trial. In a non-jury trial, the trial judge, upon a motion under art. 1810(B) for a judgment of dismissal (upon completion of the plaintiff's case), must weigh and evaluate all of the evidence presented up to that point in the trial and must grant dismissal if the plaintiff has not established proof by a preponderance of the evidence.
Plaintiff widow, individually and on behalf of her four children, sued defendant waitress and the waitress's mother for the shooting death of the deceased. After the widow presented her evidence in a non-jury trial, the Tenth Judicial District Court, Parish of Natchitoches, State of Louisiana, granted defendants' motion to dismiss. The widow appealed.
In a non-jury trial, did the district judge err in dismissing the widow's action after determining that the shooting was justified?
The appeals court agreed with the trial court that the shooting was justified, because the waitress, as a reasonable person, could have believed in good faith that it was necessary for her to shoot the deceased to prevent bodily harm to her or her mother. Thus, the trial court ruled that the widow did not prove her case by a preponderance of the evidence. The appeals court held that it could not reverse the trial court's ruling absent a manifest error or that the decision was clearly wrong, and no such error appeared in the record.
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