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Virgil v. American Guar. Liability Ins. Co.

Supreme Court of Louisiana
May 29, 1987
507 So. 2d 825 (La. 1987)

Summary

In Virgil v. American Guar. Liab. Ins. Co., 507 So.2d 825 (La. 1987), a per curiam opinion, this court reversed the court of appeal, holding that Louisiana's three-tiered court system allocates the fact finding function to the trial court, and that because of this institutional function great deference is accorded to the trial court's factual findings, even when the record consists solely of documentary evidence.

Summary of this case from Shephard v. Scheeler

Opinion

No. 87-C-0810.

May 29, 1987.

APPEAL FROM 24TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA, HONORABLE LIONEL R. COLLINS, J.

Edmond R. Eberle, New Orleans, for applicant.

Thomas L. Gaudry, Jr., Windhorst, Pastorek Gaudry, Harvey, for respondent.


Granted. The court of appeal erred in holding that the manifest error standard of appellate review does not apply when the evidence before the trier of fact consists solely of written reports, records and depositions. The court further erred in assessing credibility and weighing medical evidence as if the court of appeal were the trier of fact.

The manifest error standard and its purpose were stated succinctly in Canter v. Koehring Co., 283 So.2d 716 (La. 1973), as follows:

"When there is evidence before the trier of fact which, upon its reasonable evaluation of credibility, furnishes a reasonable factual basis for the trial court's finding, on review the appellate court should not disturb this factual finding in the absence of manifest error. Stated another way, the reviewing court must give great weight to factual conclusions of the trier of fact; where there is conflict in the testimony, reasonable evaluations of credibility and reasonable inferences of fact should not be disturbed upon review, even though the appellate court may feel that its own evaluations and inferences are as reasonable. The reason for this well-settled principle of review is based not only upon the trial court's better capacity to evaluate live witnesses (as compared with the appellate court's access only to a cold record), but also upon the proper allocation of trial and appellate functions between the respective courts." (emphasis supplied)

Louisiana's three-tiered court system allocates the fact finding function to the trial courts. Because of that allocation of function (as well as the trial court's normal procedure of evaluating live witnesses), great deference is accorded to the trial court's factual findings, both express and implicit, and reasonable evaluations of credibility and reasonable inferences of fact should not be disturbed on appellate review of the trial court's judgment.

Accordingly, the judgment of the court of appeal is set aside, and the case is remanded to the court of appeal to review the record under the manifest error standard of appellate review.

DENNIS, J., concurs. In my opinion the trial judge's decision is always entitled to at least some deference by a reviewing court. Even a deposition may be susceptible to more than one reasonable reading. If the trial judge's interpretation is reasonable it should be respected. Furthermore, if the trial evidence is a mixture of both deposition and live testimony, the trial judge's interpretation of the deposition may be entitled to even greater deference because his opportunity to see and hear the live witnesses may well have given him greater insight into the testimony of the deposition witnesses than that of a reviewing judge who did not participate in the trial.

DIXON, C.J., and MARCUS, J., dissent and would deny the application.


Summaries of

Virgil v. American Guar. Liability Ins. Co.

Supreme Court of Louisiana
May 29, 1987
507 So. 2d 825 (La. 1987)

In Virgil v. American Guar. Liab. Ins. Co., 507 So.2d 825 (La. 1987), a per curiam opinion, this court reversed the court of appeal, holding that Louisiana's three-tiered court system allocates the fact finding function to the trial court, and that because of this institutional function great deference is accorded to the trial court's factual findings, even when the record consists solely of documentary evidence.

Summary of this case from Shephard v. Scheeler

In Virgil v. American Guarantee & Liability Insurance Co., 507 So.2d 825 (La.1987), and Shephard v. Scheeler, 96–1690 (La.10/21/97), 701 So.2d 1308, our supreme court held that even when a case is submitted to the trial judge for decision on record evidence only with no live testimony, we are nonetheless obligated to apply the manifest error standard when reviewing the case on appeal. When reviewing a summary judgment, likewise submitted on only record evidence with no live testimony, we are to use the less restrictive de novo standard.

Summary of this case from Johnson v. Foret

In Virgil v. American Guarantee and Liability Insurance Co., 507 So.2d 825 (La.1987), and Shephard v. Scheeler, 96–1690 (La.10/21/97), 701 So.2d 1308, our supreme court has held that even when a case is submitted to the trial judge for decision on record evidence only with no live testimony, we are nonetheless obligatedto apply the manifest error standard when reviewing the case on appeal. When reviewing a summary judgment, likewise submitted on only record evidence with no live testimony, we are to use the less restrictive de novo standard.

Summary of this case from Highsmith v. Foret

In Virgil v. American Guarantee and Liability Insurance Company, 507 So.2d 825, 826 (La. 1987), the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that the manifest error standard of review applies to a trial court's factual findings even when the evidence before it consists solely of written reports, records and depositions.

Summary of this case from 701 Corp. v. Moran

In Virgil v. American Guarantee and Liability Insurance Company, 507 So.2d 825 (La. 1987), the Louisiana Supreme Court made it clear that the manifest error standard of review does apply even when the evidence before the trier of fact consists solely of written reports, records and depositions.

Summary of this case from McCartney v. Columbia Nurs.

In Virgil v. American Guarantee and Liability Ins. Co., 507 So.2d 825 (La. 1987), our Supreme Court held that the manifest error standard of appellate review applies when the record consists solely of written reports and depositions as well as when there is live testimony.

Summary of this case from Equitable Life Assur. Soc. v. Watsky

In Virgil, as in the case before us, the trial court did not consider the testimony of witnesses, but rather considered written evidence (there, written reports, records, and depositions).

Summary of this case from Pierce v. Ellis
Case details for

Virgil v. American Guar. Liability Ins. Co.

Case Details

Full title:LARRY JOE VIRGIL v. AMERICAN GUARANTEE AND LIABILITY INSURANCE COMPANY, ET…

Court:Supreme Court of Louisiana

Date published: May 29, 1987

Citations

507 So. 2d 825 (La. 1987)

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