house-1-1225482-1024x767Below is a case of a home sale in St. Bernard Parish that didn’t go all too well. In this case, communications between the parties to the sale were delayed and the sale never went through. The case highlights the need to be diligent when buying or selling real estate and the necessity of having a good real estate lawyer.

The sellers, David and Gwendolyn Hopkins, placed a home for sale in Arabi, Louisiana. Juanita Coco, an interested buyer, contracted with a representative of Prudential Realtors in order to buy that same home. Both the Hopkins and Ms. Coco signed an Act of Sale agreement that was contingent upon Ms. Coco being able to obtain financing in the amount of $152,200. The Act of Sale, by agreement, was supposed to be completed by a deadline of April 4, 2008, with the option to extend the deadline.

Ms. Coco hired an appraiser to determine the value of the home. The appraiser told Ms. Coco that because the house was located in an area that was previously affected by Hurricane Katrina, the appraiser had to list the home at a value that was considerably less than the asking price. The original asking price of the home was $152,500 and the appraisal price was $147,000.  Since it was appraised below the asking price, Ms. Coco’s lender, Countrywide Bank, stated that it would not approve Ms. Coco’s home loan if the asking price was not reduced. The Hopkins signed an amendment to the original Act of Sale to have the original price reduced to the appraisal price. They faxed it to Dane Ruffins, a Prudential representative, after business hours on April 3, 2008. Ms. Ruffins did not receive the amendment until the morning of April 4, 2008. The same day that, Ms. Ruffins also received a letter from Countrywide Bank stating that the loan would not be approved.

medicine-5-1544051-1024x768It is no secret that a lawsuit has the potential to become a tangled web of procedural issues. This is why it is always a good idea to secure a good attorney with experience in dealing with the court system. Perhaps less common is the situation where the judge, the party responsible for ensuring an efficient and timely resolution of the dispute, gets tripped up in this procedural web. This is exactly the situation below.

The dispute centers on a medical malpractice claim. Ms. Johnson showed up to Tulane University Hospital and Clinic (Hospital) one evening suffering from a severe headache and double vision. The Hospital staff administered an IV in Johnson’s arm, which later became infected. The Hospital discharged her with some antibiotics and told her to follow up with her primary care physician. Ultimately, the infection worsened and required a more serious antibiotic treatment and even surgery. Johnson sued the Hospital and the nursing staff.

Johnson alleged six total negligence claims against the Hospital and the nurses. Pursuant to the Hospital’s summary judgment motion, the Trial Court dismissed all five allegations against the nursing staff but allowed one claim to proceed against the Hospital. That one claim pertained to the antibiotic dosage the Hospital prescribed to Johnson after her initial visit.

working-1229720-1024x783Workers’ compensation disputes often boil down to the terms of a written contract where each party asserts their own interpretation of the agreement and lets the court decide. The case below is no different as it pertains to a “third-party beneficiary,” which essentially is a party not expressly contained in the agreement, but is no less a party to the contract.

Mr. Scarberry was an employee of the Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company (OGE) and was helping Entergy Gulf States Louisiana, LLC (Entergy) restore power to residences and business in the midwest after hurricane Gustav caused damage to the area.

OGE and Entergy were members of a larger nonprofit trade association, Southeastern Electrical Exchange (SEE), and the relationship between members of SEE was governed by an Agreement, which is the backdrop of the dispute here between Mr. Scarberry, OGE, and Entergy.

life-is-a-highway-2-1174522-1024x768When you are in a motor vehicle accident, there are many issues that can arise as to the issue of fault and whose version of events is more reliable. Conflicting versions of what happened can make it difficult for the court to assign fault. It is thus important to always be aware of your surroundings and the laws of driving a motor vehicle, as illustrated in the following case.

In September 2013, in Ouachita Parish, Mr. Williams was operating a tractor on the road while traveling between two landscaping jobs. Sheriff’s Deputy Mr. Coleman attempted to pass the slow-moving tractor near an intersection, and the tractor struck the rear passenger side of the Sheriff’s van as it was passing. Mr. Williams suffered minor injury as a result.

Mr. Williams filed a lawsuit against Mr. Coleman, the Parish Sheriff, and their insurers. But the Trial Court assigned Mr. William’s 100% of the fault. It considered that he should have been able to avoid the accident had he looked before he turned and saw the Sheriff’s vehicle passing him. Mr. William’s appealed.

abandoned-mental-hospital-1543214-1024x766In November 2008, in Claiborne Parish, Mr. Fields went to Willis Knighton Claiborne Regional Health Center for complaints of diarrhea. Mr. Fields also had an extended history of medical issues, including hypertension and a kidney transplant. He saw a nurse practitioner, who consulted with a doctor and gave him a prescription for a generic antibacterial, which he took as directed. About a week later, he called his doctor’s office complaining that the medicine was making him feel worse. He alleged that he was instructed to continue taking the medicine as originally directed.

The next day, he collapsed at home and died soon after. The cause of death on his death certificate was listed as an acute cardiovascular attempt, which related to his past medical conditions. His children petitioned the Medical Review Panel (“MRP”) alleging malpractice by the hospital and its medical professionals. But the MRP concluded that the standard of care had not been breached, partly because Mr. Fields had never come back in for a follow-up. Mr. Fields’ children then filed a lawsuit against the hospital and Mr. Fields’ doctor and nurse as its employees.

The hospital filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the case should be dismissed because there were no genuine issues of material fact. The hospital supported its motion with the MRP’s findings of no breach of care and no causation. Opposing the motion, Mr. Fields’ children supported their allegations with a statement from Dr. Blanche Borzelle, a board-certified physician stating that the nurse and doctor involved had breached the standard of care and concluding that the breach led to Mr. Fields’ death.

crash-car-1309515-1024x768Kenneth White’s road trip from Monroe to Shreveport, Louisiana wasn’t exactly uneventful. The Monroe man was involved in a traffic accident that led to a legal battle between insurance companies. White’s insurance dispute led to a significant change in the law, as the Court of Appeal held that a major auto carrier’s contract provision violated public policy.

Experiencing mechanical problems with his 1999 Pontiac Grand Am, White borrowed his mother’s sports utility vehicle to make the one-hundred-mile trip on August 29, 2012. Kenneth did not live with his mother and was not included on her State Farm auto insurance policy. White had his own insurance policy with Safeway.

During the trip, White rear-ended a vehicle driven by Danny Litton. Litton suffered injuries in the accident and claimed property damage. Almost four months later, Litton filed a personal injury lawsuit that named White, Safeway, and State Farm as defendants. State Farm then filed a subrogation claim against Safeway. In the insurance context, a subrogation claim involves a carrier filing a claim against a party to collect for compensation paid out to a policyholder. State Farm claimed White’s use of his mother’s car constituted use of a temporary substitute vehicle, and they were entitled to compensation under La. R.S. 22:1296.

chest-xray-1526779-1024x1004If you are injured at work, it is imperative that you follow the appropriate procedures under workers’ compensation law to ensure that you are fully and fairly compensated for your injuries. A failure to properly report or address your injuries can result in a lesser payment or no payment at all. It is also important to keep your place of employment apprised of your injuries and treatment, and written records of your contact, so that if it becomes necessary to bring an action against your employer you have sufficient evidence to support your position. A recent case of the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal is illustrative.

On November 2010, Plaintiff Jason Montou was injured in Calcasieu Parish while employed with Boise, the Defendant. He immediately made a report of his injuries to his supervisor per company policy but referred originally only to a shoulder injury. He was sent home and told to follow up with a doctor if necessary. He went through with a doctor’s appointment a few days later and was treated for his shoulder. He was also referred to a separate doctor for treatment of a back injury. The medical records indicate that Plaintiff complained of arm, shoulder, and back pain as early as December of 2010 and March of 2011. Plaintiff’s doctors disagreed about when it was appropriate for him to return to work. He eventually stopped treatment with one of the doctors because his employer would not approve his MRI tests. In October of 2013, Defendant sent Plaintiff to a different doctor, who determined that Plaintiff could return to work immediately and that there was no connection between his neck and back injuries and the work accident. The company then immediately terminated Plaintiff’s benefits.

Worker’s compensation cases are unique because those with claims against their employer must file a claim with the Office of Workers’ Compensation before proceeding to court. In this case, the Office determined the Plaintiff was still injured and needed benefits. It ordered the Defendant to accept Plaintiff’s injuries as compensable, approve the MRIs requested by his doctors, and reimburse him for existing treatment. The Plaintiff proceeded to court because the Office of Workers’ Compensation chose not to award him penalties and attorney fees.

green-hospital-1200005-768x1024In Louisiana, when an employee suffers an on-the-job injury, the employer may be held liable. This can easily end the initial romantic period of the employment, now that the employee’s interests are at odds with the employer’s. The employer considers that it now has to take care of a non-productive employee, hurting the business’s bottom line. On the other hand, the employee argues that she should be compensated for her work-related injuries considering all the labor she put into the company, contributing to its profits. The law takes into account and draws a delicate balance between these varying interests. It goes without saying that it is important for both employees and employers to be aware of their rights under workers’ compensation law. Illustrating this point, the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal was recently called upon to decide whether a potentially expensive surgical procedure made necessary by a work-related injury should or should not be granted.

Jacquenette Guidry, a registered nurse, injured her back on June 12, 2012, in the while on the job at American Legion Hospital. The injury occurred while she transferred a patient to the bed. She developed low back pain within fifteen to twenty minutes of the transfer and American Legion sent her to the emergency room. Novare, American Legion’s workers’ compensation carrier denied Ms. Guidry coverage for a posterior lumbar decompression and fusion at L4-S1 with post-operative bracing. She then sought approval for those procedures from the Louisiana Medical Director of the Office of Worker’s Compensation. The Medical Director also denied Ms. Guidry’s requested medical procedure in a Medical Guidelines Dispute Decision dated May 27, 2014 (the “MGD”).

Ms. Guidry appealed the MGD by filing a disputed claim for compensation (Form 1008) with the Workers’ Compensation Judge (“WCJ”). The WCJ held in open court that she found clear and convincing evidence that the MGD was flawed because the Medical Director erroneously failed to consider the guidelines under which Ms. Guidry’s request was made. Ms. Guidry’s employer filed a suspensive appeal of the decision. A suspensive appeal “suspends” or delays the execution of the WCJ’s judgment until an outcome is reached on appeal.

grey-old-tractor-1450078-1024x768When an accident occurs, it’s often difficult to determine what actually happened until the aftermath, but in the justice system, piecing a puzzle together and drawing conclusions based on little remaining evidence rarely constitutes enough of a basis to file a lawsuit. As the court said in the case of Benjamin Tomaso when he attempted to file a lawsuit against Home Depot, “[s]peculation as to what caused an accident cannot supply the factual support necessary to show that a plaintiff would be able to meet his evidentiary burden of proof at trial.”

On April 18, 2012, Mr. Tomaso visited a Home Depot Store in Slidell, Louisiana. As Mr. Tomaso waited in the parking lot for his fiancé to return an item, he noticed lawn tractors on display and sat on one to “check it out.” A Home Depot employee who was returning a line of shopping carts asked Mr. Tomaso to get down from the tractor so he could move it and push the carts through. Mr. Tomaso attempted to get down from the vehicle and fell. At the time of the incident, Mr. Tomaso was unaware of what caused him to fall, but immediately after he noticed a zip tie on the step of the tractor and reasoned that it was the “only thing” that could have caused his fall.

Mr. Tomaso filed a lawsuit against Home Depot, Inc. on April 17, 2013. Mr. Tomaso alleged that his injury resulted from “a hazard that had negligently not been removed from the subject lawnmower” which caught his foot. Home Depot filed a motion for summary judgment which asserted that the zip tie was not a defective condition and Mr. Tomaso presented no evidence that his injury was foreseeable or that the Home Depot should have known the injury would occur.

police-car-1515955-1024x768Do you know your constitutional rights? In 2014 one-third of Americans were unaware of their First Amendment rights according to a Newseum Institute survey. This is an alarming truth that we, as citizens, must face. Here are some questions I pose to you: Do you know your Fourth Amendment rights? Can a law enforcement officer arrest someone without probable cause? What is probable cause? What is qualified immunity? A recent lawsuit filed against the Shreveport Police Department can help settle some of these questions.

This lawsuit originates from a verbal disagreement at a college football game between Joseph Barber Jr. and concessions stand employee. Officer Mogavero of the Shreveport Police Department arrived on the scene, which is when the situation became physical. Officer Mogavero struck Barber and left him with broken facial bones, nerve damage and rendered him unconscious. Officer Mogavero arrested Barber for public drunkenness and simple assault.

Barber filed a lawsuit against Officer Mogavero in his individual capacity. Barber alleged in his complaint that Mogavero falsely arrested him and subjected him to excessive force. In response, Officer Mogavero filed a motion for summary judgment in District Court. A motion for summary judgment is filed when there are no disagreements over the facts of the case; this is left up to the court’s discretion. Office Mogavero also argued that he was entitled to qualified immunity, which is given to government officials for the purpose of protecting them from liability for any actions when their conduct does not violate an individual’s constitutional rights. Qualified immunity as shields government officials from lawsuits while performing their job.