In New Orleans, you don’t need an excuse to parade or party. Mardi Gras is one of the biggest holidays in New Orleans generating an estimated $840 million dollars each year. Mardi Gras draws millions of people, according to the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, the city’s 37,000-plus hotel rooms are traditionally filled during Mardi Gras. Add the mass amounts of tourists in with the locals, and copious amounts of alcohol and partying – and you are bound to have a few accidents.
This year approximately 2 dozen people were injured when a drunk driver hit two vehicles and then plowed into the Endymion parade crowd at the intersection of Carrollton and Orleans Avenue. This article will discuss our legal analysis of the rights of those injured in the crash and special laws in Louisiana limiting liability of Mardi Gras Krewes under certain circumstances.
The largest Mardi Gras Parade Krewe in New Orleans is the Krewe of Endymion. By way of background, here are some facts about the Krewe of Endymion that are pertinent to our legal analysis:
- To New Orleans locals, Endymion is known as a Super Krewe because of the large number of members in the Krewe and the size of its floats, some of which are triple deckers.
- It is tradition for many to venture out to the parade route and hunker down for hours so they can have a prized viewing spot saved when the parade finally rolls by. While waiting, many consume alcoholic beverages to pass the time.
- As noted by CNN and NOLA.com, Endymion is the only parade to travel from mid-city to downtown New Orleans. The route is on some of the most traveled thoroughfares in New Orleans. The parade ends with the floats rolling into the Superdome where the riders exit and then proceed to party at the Endymion Extravaganza. This year headliners for the Endymion Extravaganza included KC and the Sunshine Band, KISS and Flo-Rida. Endymion had a budget of approximately $7 million dollars this year.
LOUISIANA LAW ON PARADE LIABILITY
In Louisiana, there is a special law which provides Mardi Gras Krewes, such as Endymion, are not liable for any injuries parade participants may receive during the course of the parade. This special law provides no person shall have any rights to sue any Mardi Gras Krewe organization or any of its members for any loss or damage caused by any member of the Krewe during, in conjunction with or related to any Mardi Gras parade. However, a person may sue for injuries sustained during the course of a Mardi Gras parade if:
- The loss or damage was caused by the deliberate and wanton act or gross negligence of the Krewe or any member thereof; or
- The parade participate was injured by a person operating a motor vehicle within the parade and the person operating the motor vehicle was a compensated employee of the Krewe.
This special law is not intended to limit the liability of a compensated employee of a Mardi Gras Krewe for their individual acts of negligence. The law goes on to provide anyone who attends a Mardi Gras parade assumes the risk of being struck “by an missle whatsoever which has been traditionally thrown, tossed or hurled by members of the Krewe” and these items shall include but are not limited to “beads, cups, coconuts and doubloons.” You can read the full text of the special law here.
THE ENDYMION CRASH & LIMITATION OF LIABILITY
Since the accident, reports have surfaced the 25 year-old drunk driver who caused the accident had a blood alcohol content of nearly over 3 times the legal limit. It is likely, the 25 year-old will not have adequate insurance to compensate all of those injured. The drunk driver was not a member of the Krewe or a paid employee of the Krewe. That leaves us with the question, can any legal liability be imposed on the paid organizers of the Endymion parade?
To answer that question, we must first determine whether the special immunity law would exclude liability of Endymion under these circumstances. It could be argued Endymion and its employee organizers were grossly negligent in failing to take adequate precautionary measures to protect parade goers from traffic traveling on the main thoroughfares nearby. It could be argued Endymion should have taken greater steps to ensure no vehicular traffic could come into contact with such a large group of parade participants, and that it could have blocked off areas in close proximity so vehicular accidents like this would not occur. With an organization of this size with such a hefty budget and all of the apparent dangers of drinking and driving during Mardi Gras, one wonders which vehicle safety/traffic considerations Endymion organizers took into account.
Whether any liability could be placed on Endymion is yet to be known and more facts would need to be investigated and developed. We would likely need to know whether Endymion had any involvement or took into consideration any vehicular traffic proximity when considering which areas to shut down to traffic. We would also need to know whether it would be feasible to shut down these main thoroughfares nearby, and what additional negative impacts that action may have. For example, would blocking off access to main thoroughfares nearby hinder access of emergency vehicles?
OTHER AVENUES OF RECOVERY FOR THE INJURED PARADE PARTICIPANTS
Whether there is a viable claim against Endymion, there are still other avenues of recovery to those injured in the Endymion parade crash. Those injured will have a claim against the drunk driver and his personal insurance company. If the vehicle was not owned by the drunk driver, those injured may have a claim against the owner of the vehicle and their auto insurance policy. If those injured have their own auto policies with underinsured and/or uninsured motorist coverage, and/or medical payments coverage, they may also call on their personal policies to compensate them for their injuries and medical expenses. Any personal excess or umbrella policies issued to the individuals injured would also likely come into play here.
Those injured in the crash will be bound by the law of Louisiana, even if they are tourists from other states. Early investigation of the facts and putting all insurance carriers on notice of your injuries is critical in a case like this. If you were injured in the Endymion crash and have any questions about your right to recovery, please phone us for a free confidential no-obligation legal consultation at 504-522-3333 or visit our website to chat with us at www.cardonelaw.com.