Negligence

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Driver who kicked out drunken friend is liable for 3rd-party hit-and-run death

What duty do you have to a drunk and belligerent passenger in your car?  Louisiana’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal has recently held that a driver has a duty of care to all passengers in their car.

The facts were that John Cefalu traveled to New Orleans with four friends to celebrate his birthday.  It probably goes without saying, but there was alcohol involved in the celebration in New Orleans.  One of his friends, Piero Larrea, apparently got quite drunk and had to pulled away from a fight that was brewing in the club where they were partying.  When they piled into the car for the drive home, Larrea complained that his friends didn’t “have his back” at the club.  Larrea continued “acting up” during the drive, at one point asking to be let out of the car with one of the others so they could fight.  Larrea even grabbed the arm of Cefalu while he was driving.  So Cefalu kicked him out of the car and left him by the side of the road.  Larrea died in a hit-and-run accident shortly after Cefalu pulled away.  The driver who hit him was never found.

Sued by Larrea’s father, Cefalu was found liable for 28 percent of a $317,000 wrongful death award.  The appeals court affirmed the jury verdict, reports Courthouse News.

Although Cefalu argued that he had no special duty to get his friend home safely because Larrea interfered with his driving by grabbing his arm, the Court of Appeals said Cefalu owed a duty of care to both Larrea and the other passengers in the car. The court also rejected an argument by Larrea’s father that the jury erred by holding the hit-and-run driver 18 percent responsible. Larrea himself was accountable for the other 54 percent.

Appeals court: Driver who kicked drunken friend out of his car is liable for 3rd-party hit-and-run.