Louisiana Intoxicated Driver Punitive Damages Statute
Louisiana Civil Code Art. 2315.4
In addition to general and special damages, exemplary damages may be awarded upon proof that the injuries on which the action is based were caused by a wanton or reckless disregard for the rights and safety of others by a defendant whose intoxication while operating a motor vehicle was a cause in fact of the resulting injuries.
New Orleans Exemplary Damages Law
Louisiana law allows for the recovery of exemplary damages (punitive damages) in cases where the behavior of the defendant was extremely dangerous. The purpose of exemplary damages is to make an example of the defendant so that others do not make the same mistake. In Louisiana, exemplary damages in vehicle accident cases are usually only awarded when the driver was intoxicated. In addition, it must be shown that the driver disregarded the rights and safety of the other drivers and pedestrians on the road. Punitive damages are rarely awarded, but they are an important part of the justice system. Your New Orleans Vehicle Accident Attorney can explain how the law of punitive damages applies to your Louisiana Car Accident case. The cases and descriptions below summarize specific points related to exemplary damages.
The Factors that a court will use in determining amount of exemplary damages are (1) the nature and extent of harm to plaintiff, (2) the wealth or financial situation of defendant, (3) the character of conduct involved, and (4) the extent to which such conduct offends sense of justice and propriety. Angeron v. Martin, App. 1 Cir.1994, 649 So.2d 40, 1993-2381 (La.App. 1 Cir. 12/22/94), rehearing denied.
In order to recover punitive damages, it must be proved that the driver acted with conscious indifference to consequences of his actions. When determining this, a court will look at the facts and circumstances of each case including, but not limited to, blood alcohol level, evidence of effect of alcohol on specific driver, and consequences of alcohol consumption. Hill v. Sampson, App. 2 Cir.1993, 628 So.2d 81.
In order to prove that person is incapable of operating motor vehicle by reason of intoxication, so as to warrant imposition of exemplary damages, it need not be shown that he was drunk, but only that he had sufficient quantity of intoxicants to make him lose normal control of his mental and physical faculties. (Per Gothard, J., with one Judge concurring and three Judges concurring in part.) Levet v. Calais & Sons, Inc., App. 5 Cir.1987, 514 So.2d 153.
The following evidence supported a jury award of exemplary damages in an automobile accident case; a blood alcohol test of tort-feasor showed a level of between .13% and .14% BAC, consistent with consuming equivalent of eight or nine ounces of 86-proof whiskey, and that quantity of alcohol consumed would impair ability to operate motor vehicle. Brumfield v. Guilmino, App. 1 Cir.1994, 633 So.2d 903, 1993-0366 (La.App. 1 Cir. 3/11/94), writ denied 637 So.2d 1056, 1994-0806 (La. 5/6/94).
A driver was properly found to be intoxicated based on testimony that he was swerving and driving in erratic manner immediately before the collision, that he smelled of beer, that he was seen drinking from an open can of beer immediately after accident, that he did not want to call police, and that he fled the scene. Because of this, exemplary damages could be awarded under the statute, even though driver's blood alcohol content was not determined. Owens v. Anderson, App. 4 Cir.1994, 631 So.2d 1313, 1993-1566 (La.App. 4 Cir. 1/27/94), writ denied 635 So.2d 1135, 1994-0462 (La. 4/7/94), writ denied 635 So.2d 1135, 1994-0494 (La. 4/7/94).
A truck driver's employer, when held vicariously liable for damages caused by the intoxicated driver, may be liable for exemplary damages. Lacoste v. Crochet, App. 4 Cir.2000, 751 So.2d 998, 1999-0602 (La.App. 4 Cir. 1/5/00).
- Exemplary damages are authorized when (1) the driver was intoxicated or had a sufficient quantity of intoxicants to make him lose normal control of his mental and physical facilities, (2) drinking was a cause-in-fact of the accident, (3) the injures were caused by a wanton and reckless disregard for the rights and safety of others. Selvage v. Robert Levis Chevrolet, Inc., App. 5 Cir.1998, 719 So.2d 1088, 98-197 (La.App. 5 Cir. 9/16/98), writ not considered 729 So.2d 587, 1998-2626 (La. 12/11/98), reconsideration denied 736 So.2d 215, 1998-2626 (La. 1/15/99).