time-s-slipping-away-2-1419474-683x1024When an employee is injured on the job, workers’ compensation is often a faster and more efficient method to seek damages than other judicial remedies. Once a judgment is entered, it is important for the injured party to promptly collect damages because this judgment could prescribe, or no longer be enforceable.

Deborah Beebe was injured while working at Paul Eikert’s store in 2002. Two years later on November 16, 2004, a Worker’s Compensation Judge (“WCJ”) awarded Ms. Beebe damages of $7,666.25 in medical bills, $6,000 in penalties an attorney fees, and any future medical bills relating to the accident, all of which Mr. Eikert had to pay. Ms. Beebe waited until 2014 to seek payment from Mr. Eikert for these damages, of which Mr. Eikert was unaware. He filed to nullify the WCJ’s judgment on August 20, 2014, due to lack of notice. On September 4, Ms. Beebe filed an exception to his petition, one month later Mr. Eikert filed an opposition to her exception, Ms. Beebe then filed another exception, and on December 17, 2014, Mr. Eikert filed a motion arguing that the 2004 judgment had prescribed because ten years had passed.

Ms. Beebe filed a petition to revive her Worker’s Compensation judgment on January 7, 2015. In the alternative, she argued that her judgment was not a money judgment and thus needed no revival. The pertinent rule here is La. C.C. art. 3501 which states that “a money judgment rendered by a trial court of this state is prescribed by the lapse of ten years from its signing . . . .” La. C.C. art. 3501. Accordingly, Ms. Beebe argued that the judgment was not a money judgment (and thus the statute did not apply), while Mr. Eikert argued that it was a money judgment and thus had prescribed.

writing-1238365-1024x768Plaintiffs cannot litigate multiple lawsuits brought over the same cause of action. For example, if a company wrongfully terminates someone’s employment, the employee can traditionally bring only one lawsuit addressing this issue and not a second or third after a court decides the first. This barring is called res judicata. Former Southern University System President Dr. Ralph Slaughter’s lawsuit against the Board of Supervisors of Southern University A&M in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was dismissed because of this bar.

Dr. Slaughter and the Board settled a case in 2007 where Dr. Slaughter was fired after bringing workplace sexual harassment claims in federal court. Dr. Slaughter then dropped these claims because the Board signed him to a two-year employment contract running from July 1, 2007, to June 30, 2009. The Board reserved the right to terminate his employment on or before April 1, 2009, and on March 27, 2009, The Board exercised this right, voting not to extend Dr. Slaughter’s employment past the contract’s expiration.

Dr. Slaughter brought his first lawsuit addressing this termination on April 2, 2009, in a Baton Rouge District Court. He claimed that his employment termination was void because the Board did not adhere to Open Meetings Law. The Board filed to dismiss for no cause of action, and Dr. Slaughter himself also filed a motion to dismiss, which the trial court granted with prejudice on May 26, 2009.

american-flag-1629938-1024x522The Berniard Law Firm and Martzell, Bickford and Centola Law Firm have made strides in a multidistrict litigation lawsuit against 3M Company concerning the 3M dual-ended Combat Arms™ earplugs supplied to the United States military personnel from 2003-2015. After a whistleblower lawsuit alleging a defect in the earplugs, 3M agreed to pay over 9 million dollars to end litigation surrounding the case. However, 3M did not admit to any defect in the product. Considering the vastness of this case spanning to courts in Indiana, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, and Louisiana and many others, the case has been centralized to be litigated in the United States District Court of Florida Pensacola Division as of April 9, 2019.

The Berniard Law Firm and the Martzell, Bickford and Centola Law Firm are already involved in the multidistrict litigation process representing hundreds of veterans and their interests, and the firms expect to file hundreds of these lawsuits in the coming months. Moreover, Jeffery P. Berniard is seeking a leadership position in this multidistrict litigation case and will be appointed as a member of a committee to work on behalf of all of the Plaintiffs who file cases into the consolidated litigation. The leadership position would entail being part of a team that is responsible for coordinating discovery and other pre-trial work in this MDL. As of April 19, 2019, the Court began the process of appointing the plaintiff leadership structure. Considering Mr. Berniard’s participation in past mass litigation cases and the high volume of clients signed onto this case it is expected that Berniard Law Firm and Martzell, Bickford and Centola Law Firm will be active in this litigation.

A recent Order by the Court task with dealing with the Pretrial concerns of these consolidated cases allows for “Direct Filing” into the MDL. Usually, the procedural rules of Federal Court do not allow Plaintiffs to file lawsuits in Districts where they have no jurisdiction or venue. However, in order to promote efficiency the transferee district, Judge M. Casey Rodgers, is allowing Plaintiffs to direct file their 3M Tinnitus and hearing loss lawsuits into her district. This was a great decision by the Court and The Berniard Law Firm and the Martzell, Bickford and Centola Law Firm will file hundreds of lawsuits on behalf of their clients into this district in the coming months. The “Direct Filing” Order does point out that filing into the transferee district has no effect on the Defendant’s ability to allege a statute of limitations defense. This means that if your case is filed late you could lose all rights that you have to go after 3M or any party who could be held responsible for your hearing loss or tinnitus. You should act immediately in order to ensure you protect your rights.

emergency-hospital-sign-1024x683Deadlines matter. They matter in all areas of life, but in the legal world, missing a deadline can determine whether legal action will move forward or not. With every cause of action, there are time frames for filing claims and appeals and oftentimes—even in situations where recovery seems necessary or deserved—courts will dismiss cases filed outside these time frames. In a lawsuit against Rapides Regional Medical Center (Rapides Regional), Mrs. Susanna Duckering learned this lesson the hard way.

After being treated at Rapides Regional in August of 2011, Mrs. Duckering filed a complaint for medical malpractice. In response, Rapides Regional filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, a motion for judgment as a matter of law rather than on the merits. The basis for this motion was that Mrs. Duckering did not have any evidence that Rapides Regional diverted from the standard of care or caused her injury. The medical review panel for Rapides Regional supported this by stating there was no evidence of a breach to the applicable standard of care. Mrs. Duckering did not oppose this motion, did not provide evidence that opposed the motion, and did not come to the hearing. After the hearing, Ninth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Rapides granted the Motion for Summary Judgement and on February 9, 2015, Mrs. Duckering’s lawsuit was dismissed.

In response, Mrs. Duckering filed a Motion for a New Trial, believing a new trial was necessary since the Motion for Summary Judgement was granted by default all because her counsel did not have the hearing scheduled on his calendar, and missed the hearing due to this mistake. After a hearing on March 23, 2015, the Trial Court denied the Motion for a New Trial and Mrs. Duckering appealed this to the Court of Appeal for the Third Circuit.

marcelo-leal-664865-unsplash-1024x683Every medical professional has a standard of care he or she must adhere to. No one wants to deal with the failure to meet this standard of care, but oftentimes, life puts us in unfortunate situations. When we suffer injuries—or worse—at the hands of those who are supposed to treat, heal, or diagnose us, medical malpractice can help provide compensation. In a recent case appealed to the Court of Appeal for the Third Circuit of Louisiana, a medical malpractice claim was made against the Louisiana State University Health Systems Moss Regional Medical Center (“Moss Regional”).

On July 13, 2009, Geranda Matthews went to Moss Regional where she underwent tests that revealed a mass in the right upper lobe of her right lung. Physicians Dr. Arnold Kent Seale and Dr. Ping Kok Lie ordered a biopsy to see if the mass was cancerous. The biopsy was performed on July 15, 2009, but there insufficient tissue for a diagnosis, so a second biopsy was performed that October. Like the first biopsy, it did not have enough tissue for the pathologist and so Mrs. Matthews was not diagnosed or treated for cancer at Moss Regional. Unfortunately, in April of 2009, Mrs. Matthews was admitted to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital as the mass in her lung was cancerous, had spread, and was causing pain and paraplegia. Though she was treated for cancer, Mrs. Matthews passed away.

Her husband, William Matthews, filed a medical malpractice claim against Rapides Regional, claiming that the doctors failed to diagnose her cancer, therefore decreasing her chance of receiving successful treatment. Mr. Matthews filed a motion for summary judgement—a motion for judgment as a matter of law rather than on the facts—claiming it was appropriate because the damages Mrs. Matthews suffered were greater than the $500,000.00 cap for medical malpractice. La. C.C.P. art. 966(B)(2).

memorial-day-1446659-1024x683A report from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers shows that Tinnitus and hearing loss are the number one and two health conditions among military veterans. In 2017, almost two million Veterans were receiving disability compensation for tinnitus and over a million were receiving compensation for hearing loss. Recently a whistleblower lawsuit was settled that could shed some light on why so many of our Veterans are having hearing related issues even though they were supplied earplugs. While 3M did not admit any guilt in settling the lawsuit, many new lawsuits are being filed on behalf of the individual Veterans who have hearing loss or Tinnitus in order to seek compensation for 3M allegedly knowingly supplying faulty earplugs to the United States Government for use by members of the Armed Services.

The Berniard Law Firm and Martzell, Bickford and Centola Law Firm have already taken steps to protect veterans that are suffering from hearing loss and/or tinnitus at the hands of the 3M Company. As a whistleblower lawsuit alleges in 2016, 3M dual-ended Combat Arms™ earplugs supplied to soldiers from 2003-2015 contained a dangerous design defect. The lawsuit alleges that when the earplug was used as it was intended to be used, the plug can become loose in the ear — thus leading to a failure in providing vital hearing protection. Moreover, this lawsuit alleges that 3M employees were aware of these dangerous defects as early as 2000, three years before 3M became the sole provider of earplugs to the United States military.

The lawsuits that have been filed by numerous law firms alleging that 3M knowingly sold faulty earplugs to the U.S. Department of Defense have all been consolidated in one centralized court by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. The Northern District of Florida has been selected as the transferee district, with Judge M. Casey Rodgers presiding over the centralized cases. This means that any case filed by an individual that alleges 3M caused them harm due to use of the dual-ended Combat Arms™ earplugs will be transferred to Judge Rodgers court where she will rule on issues related to the cases.  The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation decided to consolidate all of the cases in Judge Rodger’s Court in order to eliminate duplicate discovery, to eliminate inconsistent pretrial rulings as well as to generally conserve the resources of all the parties involved include the judiciary. The Berniard Law Firm and Martzell, Bickford and Centola Law Firm are actively participating in these coordinated proceedings in Judge Rodger’s court and will continue to work on behalf of all the Plaintiffs with cases filed into the transferee district.

alvaro-serrano-133360-unsplash-1024x683What happens when you file a lawsuit and then fail to file any pleadings beyond the initial Petition for Damages? Is the case eligible for a new trial? Or is simply determined abandoned? Typically, when you wait too long to respond after a lawsuit has been filed, the case will be considered abandoned, and it will be dismissed. There are two types of case dismissals: (1) dismissal with prejudice, and (2) dismissal without prejudice. Generally, when a case is dismissed with prejudice, you cannot get a new trial even if the statute of limitations has not run out, and there is no right to appeal. See La. C.C.P. art. 2162.

In August 2005, Tyrone Johnson filed a tort claim against his employer, Pacarini, and his co-employee, Mr. Gay, alleging that he was injured at work when a t-bar weighing 4000 pounds rolled onto his right leg and ankle. In November 2008, a subpoena duces tecum was issued to Pacarini, meaning Mr. Johnson subpoenaed Pacarini to either have an agent appear in court or provide relevant documents to Mr. Johnson. Subsequently, Mr. Johnson failed to file another pleading until September 2014, when he filed an amended petition adding another defendant.

On January 30, 2015, Mr. Gay and Pacarini filed an ex parte motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that Mr. Johnson abandoned the case by failing to file any pleadings between 2009 and 2013. The motion to dismiss was granted with prejudice, which, as discussed above, means Mr. Johnson is not entitled to a new trial, although he did file a motion for a new trial which was subsequently denied. As a result, Mr. Johnson appealed, alleging that he intended to appeal the merits of the final judgment of the motion to dismiss. He alleged that the motion to dismiss should have been denied because he sent a letter to defense counsel regarding setting the case for trial.

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;