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Cay v. State of Louisiana, Dep’t of Transportation and Development

Louisiana Supreme Court
631 So.2d 393 (1994)


Keith Cay, a 27-year-old offshore worker, left a bar late one evening intoxicated, walked across a bridge traversing a waterway on his way home, moved sharply toward the railing, and fell over the side. Keith’s body was discovered five days later. There were no witnesses to the event, and investigating officials could not say with certainty what caused Keith to fall. Keith’s parents, James and Annie Cay (plaintiffs), filed a wrongful death action against the State of Louisiana’s Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) (defendant), the state agency responsible for construction and maintenance of the bridge. The Cays alleged that the guardrails on either side of the bridge were 32 inches high, which was four inches lower than required by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) for bridges allowing pedestrian crossovers. At trial, evidence was presented that Keith had been wearing dark clothes, was intoxicated, and had been walking on the wrong side of the road for pedestrian traffic on the night he died. There was also evidence that DOTD knew pedestrians used the bridge to cross from one side to the other and failed to correct the height of the guardrails. The trial court held for the Cays. In its ruling, the trial court concluded that while Keith had contributed to the accident by being intoxicated, the DOTD had breached a duty to pedestrians by failing to correct the height of the guardrails. DOTD appealed. The court of appeals affirmed and held that the inadequate railings were a cause in fact of Keith’s death. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari to review.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Lemmon, J.)

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