Kicked-Out Passenger’s Fate Pinned on Driver | Courthouse News Service
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Kicked-Out Passenger’s Fate Pinned on Driver

(CN) - A Louisiana man owes damages after the drunken, belligerent friend he kicked out of his car was killed by a hit-and-run driver, an appeals court ruled.

John Cefalu traveled from Slidell to New Orleans with four friends to celebrate his birthday on Oct. 28, 2011.

It was early the next morning when Cefalu helped pull one of his friends, Piero Larrea, away from a possible fight in the club where they were partying.

As they piled into the car for the roughly 33-mile drive home, Larrea complained that his friends didn't "have his back" at the club. Cefalu drove on as Larrea continued "acting up," asking to be let out of the car with one of the others so they could fight.

While approaching the Irish Bayou exit, about two-thirds of the way home, Larrea caused the car to swerve off the road by grabbing Cefalu's arms. Cefalu decided to kick Larrea out of the car.

After Cefalu drove away, Larrea was killed by a hit-and-run driver. Despite a $5,000 reward from Larrea's mother, the driver was never found.

Miguel Larrea, Piero's father, sued Cefalu and his insurer, USAA Casualty Insurance Co.

The jury awarded Larrea $317,000, of which if found Cefalu responsible for 28 percent. Piero took 54 percent of the blame for his own demise, and the other 18 percent went to the unknown driver.

Cefalu argued on appeal that they jury should have been charged that he did not have a special duty to Piero because the friend had belligerently interfered with Cefalu's driving.

Miguel Larrea meanwhile said that Cefalu had an increased duty to the intoxicated Piero because he took responsibility for driving Piero home.

Affirming the verdict last week, the Louisiana's Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal found that the trial court properly instructed the jury.

"The jury was aware that Larrea was intoxicated, and that Cefalu was not only responsible for Larrea's safety, but also that of his other passengers," Judge Daniel Dysart wrote on for a three-judge panel.

Miguel Larrea failed to sway the court that the hit-and-run driver did not share in the blame.

"If the jury made the factual finding that Larrea was struck on the shoulder of the road, and because the record contains sufficient evidence for the jury to make that finding, we cannot say that the jury's allocation of fault to the phantom driver was manifestly erroneous," the judge wrote.

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