Geismar family awarded millions after June 2014 fatal Bluff Road accident

Leslie D. Rose @Editor_Citizen
Shayla and David Lanus hold their only surviving child, Dyson, at the annual Kool Kids Day 2016.

On Friday Nov. 4, 2016 an Ascension Parish jury awarded $4.4 million to a Geismar mother and father for the wrongful death of their two children -Sarai,9, and Daylon, 6 - who were struck and killed by an SUV on June 24, 2014 onLa. 928 -Bluff Road, a few miles south of I-10.

The SUV was driven by Shawnette Taylor, who lost control when her vehicle’s wheel veered off the road and could not recover from a steep embankment. The embankment caused the vehicle to drive into a group of people fishing in a nearby bayou killing the children and sending the three adults to the hospital.

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has been asked to pay a total of about $6 million to the affected parties including parents Shayla and David Lanus, and Mitchell Johnson Jr. who was injured during the accident.

Records at the Ascension Parish Clerk of Court’s Office show the jury awarded Lanus family $4,233,324. Mitchell Johnson Jr., a family friend, received $1,042,193.

The family alleged that La. 928 was defective because the road design was a primary cause of the accident and ensuing deaths. The drivers of the vehicles were not seriously injured in the accident.

Judge Jason Verdigets of the 23rd Judicial District Court oversaw last week’s long days of testimony. The family was represented by Eulis Simien, Jr. and Jimmy Simien of the Simien & Simien, LLC Law Firm with offices in Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and New Iberia.

We are very happy to have been part of having justice served on behalf of the Lanus family," said trial attorney Eulis Simien, Jr. a Partner in the Simien & Simien, LLC Firm. "They can now hopefully begin the process of closure as the Louisiana Department of Transportation has been told by a jury that its dangerous and negligent design and maintenance of the roadway embankment at a popular site was the primary cause of this horrible accident and needs to be addressed before others are seriously hurt or killed.

Despite the fact that Department of Transportation and Development pointed fingers everywhere else, including at the Lanus family -the obviously dangerous manner in which the embankment was constructed and maintained should have never been allowed and, despite the denial of the Louisiana Department of Transportation, the jury sent a message, which was a mandate for improved safety for the citizens using the highways of Louisiana.”

The Lanus family has honored their late children each year since the accident with a day long program for area children called Kool Kids Day.Named for how cool everyone though the Lanus children were, Shayla said she and her husband wanted a way to uplift their community while recognizing their late children.

"Instead of being sad about today, we're celebrating their lives instead," Shayla Lanus said during the 2016 event. "It's a pretty big deal - it's fun - no tears, everybody is having a good time in memory of Sarai and Duce."

This year the festivities, which took place in late June, began at Malco Cinema with a 45-minute film produced by 2KFILMS that chronicled Sarai and Daylon's short lives. The children then went for games, bowling and bumper cars at Premier Lanes Entertainment Center. After which everyone moved over to Jambalaya Park to continue the celebration.

"I'm thankful for everybody who came out," David Lanus said. "I'm grateful for all the kids who made it here, because that's what it's all about - the kids. It gives us the opportunity to pour out some of this love that we would have been giving to our kids to other kids."