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Law School Case Brief

Riley v. Salley - 2003-1601 ( La. App. 4 Cir 04/21/04), 874 So. 2d 874


The defendant's liability for damages is not mitigated by the fact that the plaintiff's pre-existing physical infirmity was responsible in part for the consequences of the plaintiff's injury by the defendant. It is clear that a defendant takes his victim as he finds him and is responsible for all natural and probable consequences of his tortious conduct. The defendant is liable for the harm it causes even though under the same circumstances a normal person would not have suffered that illness or injury. When the defendant's tortious conduct aggravates a pre-existing condition, the defendant must compensate the victim for the full extent of the aggravation.


Plaintiff Riley was struck by another vehicle driven by defendant Salley while she driving southbound on Esplanade Avenue. Salley ran a stop sign and struck Riley's vehicle. Riley sustained injuries as a result on the accident. Riley filed a lawsuit against Salley and Salley's insurer, State Farm Mutual for damages for negligence. Prior to trial, all parties stipulated to liability on the part of Salley in causing the accident. The trial court rendered judgment in favor of Riley and against Salley and State Farm Mutual in the amount of $137,652.60. Salley and State Farm Mutual appealed, contending that the trial court erred in finding that Riley's neck injury and the resulting surgery was caused by the accident. Salley and State Farm Mutual argued that Riley failed to present any evidence to support the trial court's finding of liability on the part of Salley and State Farm Mutual for causing Riley's injuries. According to Salley and State Farm Mutual, in order for Riley to prevail, she had to establish a causal relationship between the accident and the injury of her herniated disc at C4-5 that she claimed she sustained as a result of the accident.


Did plaintiff fail to meet her burden of proving that the injuries she obtained were the result of the accident in question?




The appellate court noted that in Louisiana tort cases and other ordinary civil actions, the plaintiff, in general, has the burden of proving every essential element of his case, including the cause-in-fact of damage, by a preponderance of the evidence, not by some artificially created greater standard. In the case at bar, the appellate court found that the medical testimony during the trial proved it was more probable than not that the accident caused Riley’s injury or aggravated her previous injury to the extent that she needed surgery. According to the appellate court, the victim met her burden of proving that the physical injuries were caused by the accident. Hence, the award of damages was proper, and the amount was in no way shocking to the conscience.

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