Plaintiff, as the surviving widow of Melvin Brown, brought suit to recover damages for the death of her husband which occurred when a taxicab in which he was riding as a passenger crashed into the rear of a truck and trailer on the Morgan City Bridge spanning the Atchafalaya River during the early hours of October 16, 1955. Plaintiff sought a solidary judgment against S. A. Bourg & Sons, Inc., hereinafter called Bourg, owner of the truck, Edward Adams, the driver thereof, the B. & H. Cab Company, a commercial partnership,
It is the contention of plaintiff that the district court and the Court of Appeal committed error in failing to find negligence on the part of the driver of Bourg's truck and in failing to grant a solidary judgment in favor of plaintiff against the owner and driver of the truck as joint tort-feasors with the owners of the cab. The negligence of the driver of the cab is no longer an issue as no appeal was taken from the district court judgment by the cab company and its members, and they have not filed any answer to plaintiff's appeal. The only issue presented is whether the defendants, Bourg and its driver Adams, were guilty of any negligence at all which had causal connection with the accident.
The specific acts of negligence alleged by plaintiff against Bourg and Adams are that the driver of the truck failed to have the truck properly lighted as provided by the mandatory provisions of LSA-R.S. 32:280, and failed to give warning that the truck was about to stop on the bridge.
The accident herein occurred before the daylight hours (between 3:00 A. M. and 3:25 A. M.) of October 16, 1955, on the Morgan City Bridge, a two lane bridge which spans the Atchafalaya River on Highway 90. The truck and taxicab were traveling east, crossing the bridge from Berwick to Morgan City when the taxicab ran into the rear of the truck on the descending portion of the bridge. The truck, a Ford Tandem Low-boy, was carrying a load of line pipes which extended a foot to a foot and a half beyond the rear of the trailer truck. Although the truck had the usual taillights and three small red lights in the middle of the rear of the truck,
Of importance to the question of negligence on the part of Bourg and its driver Adams is the following provision of LSA-R.S. 32:280:
Although defendants contend the truck was properly lighted, it is admitted that no red light was attached to the portion of pipe extending beyond the rear of the truck. The statute is specific that not only must the red light be so attached but it must be "plainly visible under normal atmospheric conditions for at least five hundred feet from the rear." These conditions were not met in the present case. Failure to comply with the mandatory provisions of a traffic law enacted in the interest of safety is negligence per se, and it is actionable negligence if it has causal connection with the accident.
In Holloway v. Pure Oil Co., 17 La.App. 584, 135 So. 381, 383, it was held that the failure to provide an effective signal as required by statute makes the owner of the truck guilty of "gross and inexcusable negligence". This case interpreted the provisions of Subsection b of Section 44 of Act No. 296 of 1928 which has been incorporated into the Revised Statutes under Title 32 as Section 277. Section 277, relative to a signal on towing vehicles, is identical in scope with Section 280. Both of these sections provide that the signal of a red light must be plainly visible under ordinary atmospheric conditions for a distance of at least 500 feet.
Adams was bringing his truck to a sudden and unexpected stop on a bridge at a point where traffic approaching from the rear would not ordinarily expect one to slow down or stop. Although he was in the act of flagging down the truck approaching from the front with a hand signal, he admits that he did not give any signal to traffic in the rear by the use of his rear signal lights although his truck was equipped with such signal lights. These lights would have been more visible at night than the waving of his hand. The extending pipes on which there was no light came in contact with the head of the deceased.
Ordinarily we remand cases for the assessment of damages, but because of the way in which the trial judge has computed them in this case, and so that there will be no misunderstanding as to how they should be computed, we will fix the amount ourselves.
In reaching his conclusion that the damages suffered by plaintiff amount to $12,800, the district judge in his opinion said:
To this amount of $12,000 the trial judge added $800 as the cost of the funeral.
The district judge was in error in computing the loss of support by multiplying the average annual contribution of the decedent to the support of his wife by the number of years of the life expectancy of the decedent. He made no allowance for discount on the advanced payments.
The monetary damages resulting from loss of support cannot be calculated with mathematical exactitude. They are speculative in nature and as in the case of damages for loss of love and companionship, mental anguish and other damages of that character, much discretion must be left to the judge or jury.
The exact amount of the funeral expenses as shown by the record is $731.
For the reasons assigned the judgment of the Court of Appeal is reversed and the judgment of the district court insofar as it dismisses plaintiff's suit against S. A. Bourg & Sons, Inc., and Edward Adams is likewise reversed, and it is now ordered that there be judgment in favor of plaintiff Ella Brown and against S. A. Bourg & Sons, Inc., and Edward Adams in solido in the sum of $8,731 with legal interest from judicial demand, and all costs, this judgment to be likewise in solido with that rendered against the other defendants.