wrecked-1306594-1024x683Generally, when you have a car accident it is a fender bender, and it is clear to the police and the court what events took place. However, in some situations, the evidence can support different versions, and the parties do not agree on what occurred. Typically, when there are conflicting stories in a case, it is up to a fact finder to determine which version is the “truth.” A fact finder may be a judge or a jury. However, when the trial court’s determination of fact is appealed, the Louisiana Supreme Court has established a two-part test to determine if the trial courts finding was correct or must be overturned. First, the Louisiana Appellate Court must make the determination after reviewing if a reasonable factual basis exists for the finding of the trial court; second, the Louisiana Appellate Court must determine if the record establishes that the finding of the trial court is clearly wrong (manifestly erroneous). Purvis v. Grant Par. Sch. Bd., 144 So. 3d (La. 2014). In this case, the Louisiana Court of Appeals had to implement the above two-part test to determine if the trial courts accepted version of the accident was correct.

In 2013, the Plaintiff, Aisha Brown, and one of the Defendants, Kevin Fogg, were driving on Elysian Fields Ave. (“Elysian”) and Gentilly Boulevard (“Gentilly”) in New Orleans, Louisiana. Ms. Brown contends that she was hit by Mr. Fogg while her daughter and her friend’s daughter were in the vehicle, leading her and her friend to sue Mr. Fogg, his employer, and his employer’s insurance, Travelers Insurance Company (“Travelers”).

At trial, Ms. Brown testified that she was traveling on Elysian, turned right onto Gentilly, and after merging into the left lane was struck in the rear passenger door by Mr. Fogg’s vehicle. Her testimony at trial differed from what she claimed occurred in her petition and discovery response, in which she alleged that the accident occurred when she was traveling on Elysian at Gentilly when Mr. Fogg rear-ended her. According to Mr. Fogg, at the time of the accident he was traveling in the right lane of Elysian, heading to perform a work-related inspection, and as he approached Gentilly, Ms. Brown attempted to turn right in front of him from the center lane of travel, causing the collision.

construction-worker-safety-gear-1024x683Almost every adult American has thought about what would happen if they were injured at work. They ask would they receive enough to sustain their pre-injury lifestyle and if not, what remedies are available. Typically, employees are eligible for workers’ compensation, but the workers’ compensation system seems odd to some people. For example, if you lose a finger at work, you will get a set amount, but depending on what finger you may get more than someone else who also lost a finger. The question, in this case, is whether Terry Russell, who was injured on the job, is eligible for supplemental earning benefits (“SEBs”). A SEBs award is based on the difference between the claimant’s pre-injury average monthly wage, and the claimant’s proven post-injury monthly earning capacity. Seal v. Gaylord Container Corp., 704 So. 2d 1161 (La. 1997).

In 2009, Mr. Russell was employed by the Sewage & Water Board of New Orleans (“Sewage & Water Board”), when he was unfortunately injured while opening a manhole cover. The accident caused blood clotting in his upper arm and it was later found to have caused “thoracic outlet syndrome,” which injured a vein in his upper chest. To repair the damage, Mr. Russell underwent several surgeries and procedures, one of which was to remove one of his ribs to correct the thoracic outlet vein syndrome and repair the vein stint that was placed during an earlier surgery. By April of 2012, Dr. Torrence, Mr. Russell’s main doctor throughout the ordeal determined that Mr. Russell had reached maximum medical improvement, clearing him to return to work. However, he was only cleared for sedentary work, meaning he could not use his left arm, life more than five pounds, nor work more than four hours per day.

Due to Mr. Russell’s longtime employment and good work ethic, the Sewage & Water Board offered him part-time work as a mail courier, which he declined because he would not be making his pre-injury salary. After declining the position, the Sewage & Water Board stopped making disability payments to Mr. Russell, leading to the case in question. Mr. Russell asked the Louisiana Court of Appeals (the “Court”) to overturn the Office of Workers’ Compensation calculation of SEBs that Mr. Russell is entitled. To be entitled to SEBs one must not earn 90 percent of their pre-injury wages, which Mr. Russell would not had he accepted the part-time mail courier work. See La. R.S. § 23:1221. Thus, the Court correctly held that Mr. Russell was entitled to SEBs; however, they determined that the wages he would have earned as a mail courier must be imputed to him for the purposes of calculating his post-injury earnings. La. R.S. § 23:1221.

construction-workers-1215154-1-1024x738Could your contract to build a new home prevent you from bringing a negligence claim if there is negligent conduct?  While stressful, at the end of the day, buying and building a new home should be a positive thing that improves quality of life. When Glenn and Sandra Wilson designed and bought a new home, they felt otherwise. They believed their home had both design and construction deficiencies. Thus, they filed a lawsuit in East Baton Rouge Parish against several defendants involved in the design and construction of their home. Acadiana Home Design and Murry Daniels were alleged to have both provided design plans for the Wilsons’ home as well as failed to supervise construction.

Acadiana and Daniels responded to the Wilsons by filing a motion for summary judgment, which sought to dismiss the claims with prejudice (barring future action) before trial because the facts were so clearly in support of Acadiana and Daniels’ case. The motion was based on the following issues:

  1. Daniels could not be held liable as Acadiana is a limited-liability corporation;

image-2-1024x683While running errands all day, to the cleaners and the grocery store, the last thing on one’s mind is getting hurt along the way. Proving fault for an injury can sometimes be more of a pain than the injury itself. Collecting evidence like pictures or eye witness reports is the last thing you want to do after suffering a fall, but to prove your case in court, it is necessary. Failure to do so can result in not only the pain from your injury but also the bill.

In Kenner, Louisiana, Mary Upton went to get groceries with her husband. She entered Rouse’s grocery store after seeing an advertisement for the sale of watermelons. She walked around the display to find a good watermelon. As she stepped over to pick one up, she unknowingly placed her foot into the pallet openings under the box. She turned to show her husband the watermelon she had picked, but he told her he did not want that watermelon. Mrs. Upton turned back to return the watermelon to the box and as she stepped away from the display, she twisted her foot within the pallet and fell.

Mrs. Upton sued for damages of her injury. Rouse’s, along with their insurer Liberty Mutual, motioned for summary judgment on the basis that Mrs. Upton did not meet her burden of proof or provide any evidence that the grocery store acted without reasonable care. The trial court granted the motion and Mrs. Upton appealed. The Court of Appeal affirmed the summary judgment, effectively ending Mrs. Upton’s case.

image-1024x656Everyone has that one coworker that just gets under their skin. Some days even the sound of their voice feels like it will push you over the edge. However, when things turn physical in the workplace, not only is an employee at fault, but the company may be as well.

In the Parish of Tangipahoa, Towana Carr worked at Sanderson Farms along with her co-employee, Kevin Webb. According to Carr, while at work Webb deliberately struck her with a “pallet jack” that knocked her into a wall. She then claimed Webb struck her with the equipment for a second time and left her with severe injuries. Prior to the accident, Carr claimed that Webb had threatened her with bodily harm outside of work. However, when she informed her employer, Sanderson Farms, of the threat, they said they could not do anything as the threat was not made on their property. Carr sued with a claim that Sanderson Farm was vicariously liable for her injuries. Sanderson Farm filed a petition stating that Webb was not acting within the scope of his employment; thus, Sanderson Farm not liable. The trial court dismissed all claims against Sanderson Farm and Carr appealed.

An employer may be held liable for intentional acts of an employee under LA Rev Stat § 23:1032 (2014).  The courted followed Baumeister v. Plunkett, 673 So. 2d 994 (La. 1996) and used a set of  factors to determine whether an employee’s intentional conduct is closely enough connected to his employment duties to impose vicarious liability on his employer for the conduct: 1) whether the tortious act was rooted in his job duties, (2) whether the offense act was reasonably incidental to the performance of the employee’s duties, 3) whether the act at the place the place of work, and (4) whether it happened during normal business hours.

oil-platform-1336513-1024x683The term concurrent-cause is a legal doctrine that may be vital to your commercial property. If loss or damage occurs as a result of two or more causes, one event may be covered while the other is not. It would not matter if the events happened at the same time, or if one event occurred before the other. That is why [i]t is essential that the insured produce evidence which will afford a reasonable basis for estimating . . . the proportionate part of damage caused by a risk covered by the insurance policy.” Travelers Indem. Co. v. McKillip, 469 S.W.2d 160, 163 (Tex. 1971). 

The following case discusses the legal implications that a concurrent-clause can play in litigation in Louisiana.

Seahawk operated a drilling rig used in the Gulf of Mexico. In February 2010, the Rig became damaged, the legs were misaligned due to severe weather conditions.

sunset-dunes-1358916-1024x768In the law, words matter greatly. How even one word is defined can make or break a lawsuit. However, courts do not allow words to be defined willy-nilly. There are certain methods courts will use to define words. In the case below, we will see how the plaintiff’s case was rendered moot due to the court’s interpretation of a word.

Michael Smith, Danielle Schelmety, and James Johnson were friends who decided to celebrate Michael’s birthday at his home in Ruston, Louisiana. Michael’s dad, Dr. William Smith, owned an off-road vehicle called a Rhino. James and Danielle wanted to go for a ride on the Rhino. With permission, James drove the Rhino with Danielle as his passenger. Unfortunately, James was a bit reckless and flipped the vehicle over onto the passenger side while making a turn. Danielle, who was sitting in the passenger seat, received severe injuries to her left arm. Danielle sued Safeco, Dr. Smith’s insurance company, arguing it was liable for the accident. However, Safeco argued that it could not be liable because James, the driver, was not covered by the insurance company’s contract because he was not a “resident” according to the contract. The District Court agreed and denied relief for Danielle.

In Louisiana, an insurance policy is interpreted by the rules of the Louisiana Civil Code that govern contract interpretation. Marshall v. Louisiana Farm Bureau Cas. Ins. Co., 182 So. 3d 214 (La. App. Ct. 2015). If an insurance policy contract contains clear terms, then a court interpreting the contract does not need to go through a thorough analysis. La. C.C. 2046. However, if the contract contains terms that are exclusionary and also ambiguous, then the terms are interpreted in a way that is favorable to the insurance holder. Byrnside v. Hutto, 110 So. 3d 603.

hospital-02-1505482-1-1024x768When we think of the practice of law, we may think of flashy lawyers in the courtroom arguing against one another with impassioned rhetoric. In reality, the law practice is not that glamorous. In many cases, there are no trials, and a judge simply hands down a judgment without any theatrics. Summary judgment is an example. Summary judgments occur when there are no factual disputes between parties, thus forgoing the need for a trial. However, to obtain summary judgment, a party must file a motion for summary judgment. In the case below, we will see how a Louisiana Appellate Court decided that the District Court erred in granting a motion for summary judgment.

Carolyn C. Harris had terrible stomach pains and went to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center to receive treatment. Her first doctor, Dr. B, examined her on December 29, 2008, and scheduled a colonoscopy the next day. However, due to unanticipated conflicts, the colonoscopy was rescheduled for January 5. In the meanwhile, Harris began to suffer from a respiratory illness and was moved to the ICU. On January 5, 2009, her second doctor, Dr. C, performed the delayed colonoscopy. During the colonoscopy, Harris’s colon was perforated. She began to vomit, and soon after, she went into cardiac arrest and died. Harris’s representatives sued the doctors for medical malpractice, but the doctors responded with a motion for summary judgment, which the District Court granted. Harris’s representatives appealed.

In Louisiana, summary judgment is applicable only when there are no factual disputes between the parties according to the evidence submitted. Also, the person filing the motion for summary judgment must be able to obtain a judgment under the applicable law. La. C.C.P. art. 966(B)(2). The applicable law, in this case, is the list of requirements for a plaintiff to file a claim for medical malpractice. A plaintiff suing for medical malpractice must show by a preponderance of the evidence that there was a standard of care applicable to the defendant, that the defendant failed to meet that care, and the failure to meet that care led to the injury or death. La. R.S. 9:2794. For a defendant to succeed in a summary judgment motion in a medical malpractice case, the defendant has to show that the plaintiff cannot show at trial at least one of the above through the preponderance of evidence.

hospital-bc-laboratory-form-with-syringe-2-1315572-1024x768Time governs our lives. It also governs the law. If you have been injured and decide to file a claim, there is generally a time limit to do so. If you do not file within this time, you may never get your claim heard. The case below is an example.

Anthony Williams arrived at Christus Schumpert Hospital (“Hospital”) with complaints of nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. He also had a history of schizophrenia. Though Williams was supposedly watched closely by nursing staff, Williams managed to leave the hospital. An alert was issued. Unfortunately, Williams was found less than an hour later without a pulse. He died on November 1, 2011. His mother, the plaintiff, filed a medical malpractice complaint only against the Hospital on November 1, 2012. Because Louisiana law requires a medical review panel to review a medical malpractice claim, she waited to file a claim in the District Court. Once the panel’s decision was released on April 23, 2014, the plaintiff filed a claim in the District Court on July 9, 2014. In this claim, however, the plaintiff added one of the doctors of the Hospital, Dr. Davis, as a defendant. Dr. Davis responded to the claim by arguing that too much time had passed since Williams’s death, and therefore, under the legal doctrine of prescription, he could not be named as a defendant. Prescription simply means that a legal claim must be brought within a certain amount of time to be valid. The District Court agreed with Dr. Davis that he was prescribed from being a defendant.

Louisiana law states that a medical malpractice claim must be filed within a year from the alleged malpractice or within a year from the date of discovery of the alleged malpractice. La. R.S.9:5628(A). For a claim under the latter, it must still be filed within three years from the date of the alleged malpractice. However, the time to file can be extended under certain situations. For instance, if a plaintiff could not have filed a claim because of reasonable ignorance of relevant facts, the time to file begins when the plaintiff discovers or should have discovered the relevant facts to file a claim. Davis v. Johnson, 36 So.3d 439, 442 (La. Ct. App. 2010). Louisiana courts determine that a plaintiff should have discovered the relevant facts if he or she had sufficient information to seek inquiry. Abbott v. Louisiana State University Medical Center-Shreveport, 811 So. 2d 1107.

45-Email-03-13-19-1024x772When someone files a civil lawsuit in the Parish of Jefferson in Louisiana, or anywhere else in the state, it can often leave a defendant wondering how long the case will take to wrap up. In cases where neither party has a strong desire to settle, discovery procedures may take years to complete. Capitalizing on this concern, a stubborn plaintiff or defendant may use stalling tactics to leverage the other party into a settlement. How can the opposing party fight this stalling tactic? The following case discusses the rules governing what constitutes an “abandoment” of a lawsuit in Louisiana.

On September 23, 2010, a medical corporation (Claiborne Medical Corporation) and Dr. Fiaz Afzal (“Plaintiffs”) filed suit against Ellen Mullins and ABC Insurance Company (“Defendants”) for legal malpractice. On January 6, 2012, Plaintiffs took Defendant Mullins’ deposition, and the parties had a deposition for Dr. Afzal scheduled for January 31, 2012. On January 30th, at Defendant Mullins’ request, Dr. Afzal’s deposition was postponed. Three years after her own deposition, with Dr. Afzal’s deposition never taking place, Defendant Mullins filed a motion for a dismissal on grounds of abandonment. The argument was that the Plaintiffs had not taken any action in the case since January 6, 2012 (the date of her own deposition). On January 15, 2012, Plaintiffs served Defendant Mullins with discovery requests, and on February 11, 2015, they filed a motion to set aside the trial court’s dismissal.

In an effort to protect both sides of a lawsuit, Louisiana law rules a case automatically abandoned “when the parties fail to take any step in its prosecution or defense in the trial court for a period of three years…” La. C.C.P. art. 561. The Louisiana Supreme Court has recognized that this rule is not to create dismissals on a technicality, but instead to provide a resolution when a party has clearly given up on the case. La. DOT & Dev. v. Oilfield Heavy Haulers, L.L.C., 79 So.3d 978 (La. 2011). In Oilfield, a defendant’s letter to reschedule a discovery conference was considered a “step” by the defendant when the plaintiff responded to the letter and complied with the defendant’s request.