car-buying-car-dealership-car-key-97079-1024x683In today’s world, consumers are faced with increasingly complicated contracts and waiver forms for even the simplest transactions. These contracts not only have the potential to confuse consumers, but create an opportunity for corporate exploitation. The following case illustrates an example of the courts reaffirming protections for consumers over companies. 

Andrea Weddborn and Rene Martinez (“Plaintiffs”) had two car insurance policies that covered their 2007 Toyota Camry. They purchased these policies from Affirmative Insurance Company (“Affirmative”) and National Insurance Company (“National”) (collectively referred to as “Defendants”). In December 2012, Plaintiffs were involved in an automobile accident in Orleans Parish of Louisiana. The accident was caused by an unidentified driver of another vehicle who changed lanes, struck Plaintiffs’ vehicle, and then fled the scene. 

Both Affirmative and National refused to compensate Plaintiffs for the damages suffered in the accident, arguing that Plaintiffs’ insurance policies did not include Uninsured Motorist (“UM”) coverage. Plaintiffs subsequently filed suit against the insurance companies.

bus-locomotive-transportation-system-2261702-713x1024Once a trial court determines a judgment, it is difficult to obtain a reversal, especially if the judgment is one in which a jury awards compensation for a personal injury plaintiff. In the case below, the defendant appealed the amount the Trial Court awarded the plaintiff. The Appellate Court was deferential to the Trial Court’s judgment.

Joc-Kia Wilson suffered from cerebral palsy and thus moved around on a motor scooter. While she attempted to board a bus operated by Veolia Transportation Services in New Orleans, the wheelchair lift ramp had apparently malfunctioned and caused her to fall. When she visited a hospital, an MRI revealed that various parts of her body were sprained. Ms. Wilson filed a claim against Veolia Transportation Services for compensation. The Trial Court awarded a total of $19,879.00 to Ms. Wilson for her pain and suffering and medical expenses. This amount was reduced by forty percent because of Ms. Wilson’s fault in the accident. However, Veolia Transportation Services disagreed that Ms. Wilson was only forty percent at fault. Veolia also argued that the amount awarded to Ms. Wilson was faulty because she had not presented relevant evidence for her medical injuries. Veolia asked the Appellate Court to set aside the trial court’s decision.

An appellate court may cast aside a trial court’s finding of fact only if it is “clearly wrong.” Rosell v. ESCO, 549 So.2d 840 (La. 1989). In order to rule that a finding of fact is “clearly wrong,” the appellate court must first show that it cannot find any factual basis for its decision from the trial record. Second, the appellate court must determine from the record that the trial court’s finding is clearly wrong. Mart v. Hill, 505 So.2d 1120, 1127 (La. 1987). To put it simply, the appellate court must determine whether or not the decision made at the trial court level was a reasonable one. Cosse v. Allen-Bradley Co., 601 So.2d 1349, 1351 (La. 1992).

balance-commerce-composition-261658-1024x768Trials are an economic drain on society. Though they serve an important role in our society, they are costly and time-consuming. As a result, courts cannot take every case to trial, and the judicial system must be selective. Thus, sometimes a court makes a judgment without a trial because there would be no purpose for a trial. These judgments are called summary judgments. Below is a case in which the Trial Court granted summary judgment because one of the parties did not even have a valid legal claim.

In 2002, Kimberly Moe incurred injuries from a car accident in the Orleans Parish of Louisiana. She hired Allen Borne, Jr. to be her attorney. After four months, however, Ms. Moe decided to hire a different attorney, Darryl Carimi. Mr. Carimi filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver at fault, Frank Bastian, and his insurer, Allstate. But Mr. Borne, despite no longer being Ms. Moe’s lawyer, asked Allstate to put his name on any settlement checks that were to be issued. While the litigation was ongoing, Ms. Moe died. Upon her death, her surviving spouse filed a wrongful death claim, but eventually settled with Mr. Bastian and Allstate. The settlement check did not have Mr. Borne’s name. In fact, though Mr. Borne had filed a claim against Allstate in order to receive some portion of the settlement, Allstate filed a motion for summary judgment. The Trial Court granted Allstate’s motion.

For an appellate court to consider whether a trial court properly granted a motion for summary judgment, the court must determine whether there is any genuine issue of material fact and whether the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Citron v. Gentilly Carnival Club, Inc., 165 So.3d 304, 313 (La. Ct. App. 2015); La. C.C.P. art. 966 A(3). A party wishing to defeat a motion for summary judgment must show that there are sufficient facts the party can show at trial to support its claim. La. C.C.P. art. 966 C(2).

hospital-bc-laboratory-form-with-syringe-1-1315580-1024x768Trial courts can make mistakes. Some mistakes are permanent, so a redo is impossible. In other cases, the mistakes can be reversed on appeal by an appellate court. When an appellate court reverses a trial court’s decision, the trial court could have to revisit the entire case and put things in correct legal standing between the parties.

Gordon Serou, Sr. resided at the Specialty Hospital of New Orleans, Inc. (“SHONO”), which is a long-term care facility located in the Touro Infirmary (“Touro”). He suffered from Parkinson’s disease and a number of other illnesses. Unfortunately, he was also a patient at SHONO when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005. Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Mr. Serou passed away due to a generator failure. Upon his death, Mr. Serou’s family members sued Touro, SHONO, and the manufacturer of the faulty generator, Aggreko. Touro then sued Aggreko to recover any damages that the court found Touro liable for in relation to the faulty generator. Aggreko filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming the company was not at fault for the generator failure. Though the Trial Court granted this motion, the Appellate Court reversed and sent the case back to the Trial Court. Aggreko filed another motion for summary judgment, again claiming that the company was not at fault for the generator failure. The Trial Court again granted Aggreko’s motion. Touro argued that this was inappropriate because Aggreko had submitted the motion without any alterations and the Appellate Court had already overturned the granting of this same motion.

A party whose summary judgment motion gets denied at the appellate level may be able to file the motion again. Zeno v. Colonial Mortgage & Loan Corp., 4 So.3d 93, 100 (La. Ct. App. 2008). In fact, a trial court may grant the motion even if the party does not submit new evidence. Paragon Lofts Condo. Owners Ass’n, Inc. v. Paragon Lofts, L.L.C., 32 So.3d 303, 306 (La. Ct. App. 2010). This is because a party files an initial summary judgment motion before the actual trial. Therefore, if an appellate court decides to reject an initial summary judgment motion, it is not making a final judgment on the case. Because the appellate court does not make a final judgment, the party can file a second motion for summary judgment. Hargett v. Progressive Ins. Co., 996 So.2d 1199, 1202 (La. Ct. App. 2008).

clipboard-close-up-composition-893894-1024x683Navigating a lawsuit is a difficult task. Not only do you have to prove the merits of the case, but you also have to navigate the judicial system’s complex procedural requirements. Even if your case seems likely to succeed on the merits, failure to comply with procedural requirements can leave you without recourse. 

On March 22, 2001, the Meladines’ boat struck an unknown object submerged at Lake Hermitage while they were fishing in the early morning. In 2002, the Meladines sued six companies in a lawsuit for personal injuries. In the lawsuit, the Meladines alleged that the companies were the owners and/or operators of oil and gas platforms and pipelines located in the Lake Hermitage area. The Meladines alleged that their boat collided with what seemed to be an unmarked, old gas pipeline. They alleged that the defendants had failed to adequately mark or maintain the pipeline or warn of its potential harm. All six of the defendants denied having any ownership interest or control of the object that struck the plaintiffs’ boat.

Over the next three years, the plaintiffs dismissed the claims they had brought against all the defendants except Stone Energy and Chevron USA. In 2007, the plaintiffs added Jefferson Lake and Plaquemines Parish Government (“PPG”) as defendants. A year later, Jefferson Lake filed an exception of prescription because it had not been renamed as a defendant until over six years since the accident. Jefferson Lake also argued that prescription was inappropriate because there was no solidary liability between Jefferson Lake and any original defendants. The case then proceeded to trial. 

betting-casino-casino-machine-34201-1024x683Property owners have a responsibility to maintain safe conditions on their premises. However, if you are injured on someone’s property, there are still numerous elements you must prove in order to prevail on any lawsuit you may file for injuries arising from an unsafe premises. Establishing these elements can be especially challenging when you are injured from an activity that may be considered openly and obviously risky. This was this situation facing Mr. and Mrs. Marshall following Mrs. Marshall’s accident on an escalator at Jazz Casino in the Orleans Parish of Louisiana.  

Hyecha Marshall and her husband, Loyal, were frequent patrons of the Jazz Casino (“Casino”). Mrs. Marshall used a small wheelchair that the Casino provided her as a walker and cart. While walking in an underground tunnel connecting her hotel to the Casino, Mrs. Marshall discovered the elevator was out of service. Therefore, she decided to step onto the escalator, using her wheelchair as a walker. While riding the escalator, she lost her balance and fell to the floor. Her wheelchair subsequently fell down the escalator onto her. 

After Mr. and Mrs. Marshall filed a lawsuit against the Casino alleging that the Casino failed to warn about the risks of using the Casino-issued wheelchair as a walker and failing to maintain safe premises, the Casino moved for summary judgment. The Casino argued that Mrs. Marshall had not shown that there was an unreasonably dangerous condition in the Casino that caused her accident. Additionally, the Casino argued it did not have a duty to warn Mrs. Marshall about using its wheelchair as a walker while riding the escalator because the risk of injury was obvious and apparent. Summary judgment is appropriate when all the submitted pleadings and evidence show that there is no genuine issue of material fact. La. C.C.P. art. 966. The trial court granted the Casino’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the Marshalls’ lawsuit because it found that Mrs. Marshall had not established the Casino owed her a duty, which was an essential element of her negligence action. 

advertisement-architecture-big-2380891-683x1024Around 9am on Saturday, October 12 the Hard Rock Hotel partially collapsed over Canal Street in New Orleans after the top six to eight floors buckled onto the structure. According to New Orleans Fire Department Superintendent Tim McConnel, the remaining structure of the building remains unstable and could possibly collapse entirely. In response, nearby buildings have been evacuated as the two construction cranes are also unstable. Currently, one person has been reported dead, eighteen have been taking to the hospital in unspecified conditions, and two workers are still reported missing. In terms of the next steps to be taken, it is unknown just how long it will take crews to clean up the piles of debris and get the project back on schedule. This is particularly stressful for the city of New Orleans considering the site of the collapse is a major transportation hub for the city – consisting of bus and streetcar lines in addition to the major traffic arteries of the city. An accident such as the Hard Rock Hotel accident will impact much more upon closer inspection spanning to issues such a personal injury, workers compensation, wrongful death, and much more. Considering the complex litigation that can arise out of an incident such as this one it is important to have a good attorney at the ready.

         Personal injury lawsuits can arise out of many different circumstances – car accidents, slip and falls, and even injuries on the job. When filing a personal injury case it is incredibly important to have a knowledgeable attorney because filing a personal injury claim too late or even waiting too long to collect damages can result in having your personal injury claim denied.  It is important to be persistent in personal injury cases and staying on top of filing deadlines and dates and having a diligent advocate can makes a difference in your case.

         Workers compensation is intended to pay for the medical expenses of injured workers and provide a remedy for lost wages. However, workers compensation claims are often complex from start to finish. There are cases in which it can be difficult to determine if someone is considered an ‘employee’ despite being injured while working on a project. This is especially prevalent if a contractor hires subcontractors in order to complete a project. Moreover, it can also be difficult to receive your workers compensation payments with companies often being uncooperative in the workers compensation process.

bed-empty-floor-236380-1024x678After a long and emotional lawsuit following the death of a loved one, the last thing you may want to do is to return to the courtroom. However, if you fail to appeal an award of inadequate damages, you could be leaving money on the table. 

Mr. Roark and his wife had two children, Justin and Shelby Roark. Although there was no evidence of animosity, Mr. Roark and his wife divorced in 2000. In September 2001, the mother and children moved to Connecticut. The children agreed that Mr. Roark would enjoy full summer visitation. Instead of paying monthly child support, he would cover the children’s travel expenses. Mr. Roark also called his children on the telephone and sent gifts for holidays and other special occasions. One child, Dean, spent the summer of 2001 with his father, although the other child, Shelby, did not because she was too young to fly unattended. Both Dean and Shelby spent the summers of 2002, 2003, and 2004 with their father. 

In 2004, Mr. Roark injured his neck and head. He had to be hospitalized and was then treated outpatient. Following the accident, Mr. Roark’s contact with his children decreased. He also developed both bipolar disorder as well as adult schizophrenia. However, Mr. Roark did not tell his ex-wife or children about his diagnosis. 

class-classroom-conference-716276-1024x683Opinions vary on the principles of trickle-down economics, but on December 15, 2015 the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion which affirmed a lower court summary judgement decision for Northwestern State University to take down economics, along with one of its tenured professors.

In 1994, Robert C. Jones III (“Mr. Jones”) was hired as an economics instructor at Northwestern State University (“NSU”) and later gained tenure as an associate professor. Neither his education nor his instruction could have prepared him for the state enacted public university budget cuts that cost Mr. Jones his job as a result of the Great Recession of 2008. On July 22, 2010, the administrative representatives for NSU sent Mr. Jones a letter to notify him of the end of the economics concentration and his tenure. Following the notice, Mr. Jones presented a seven-page document to a committee of NSU faculty members outlining his arguments against the notice to end his tenure. The committee subsequently rejected Mr. Jones arguments unanimously. A year later, Mr. Jones filed a lawsuit seeking reinstatement and damages against NSU and argued that the university denied his procedural and substantive due process rights. The university raised a defense of sovereign immunity, while the administrative official claimed qualified immunity. The United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana granted these immunities along with NSU’s motion for summary judgment. Mr. Jones appealed the decision to the Fifth Circuit, which ultimately affirmed the lower court’s judgment.

The Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution states that no state shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Procedurally, due process includes adequate notice as well as the opportunity to be heard. Due process becomes less clear to define, so courts often rely on case law, which is comparable to the present situation. 

backlit-crime-dark-143580-1024x683When injuries happen at work, it is often challenging to determine who is liable for damages. The question of liability is especially tricky when prison inmates are injured in work release programs. Courts must grapple not only with the employer’s potential liability, but also with the potential liability of the supervising correctional authority. The Court of Appeal for the Third Circuit faced this issue in a lawsuit brought by an inmate injured on work release in Chopin.

Edward Perkins suffered serious injuries while participating in a work release program at the MARTCO plywood facility in Chopin, Louisiana. At MARTCO, Perkins’ supervisor asked him to clean around the drop chute, which required him to get on his knees. When he got back up, Perkins slipped and attempted to brace himself by grabbing a nearby cage, which then fell on him, trapping his head under a lift.

At the time of his injury, Perkins was an inmate under the supervision of the Louisiana Department of Corrections (DOC) and living at the Rapides Parish Work Release Center. Perkins was transported to his job at MARTCO by the DOC, but while at work he was supervised only by his boss at MARTCO, not by the DOC. After he was injured, Perkins sued the DOC, the Sheriff overseeing the work release program, and MARTCO for negligence in Rapides Parish District Court. He also filed a Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis, seeking pauper status so he could avoid paying the costs of the suit. The Court determined that Perkins’ injuries did not arise out of a condition of confinement and transferred the case to Natchitoches Parish, where the MARTCO facility was located. Neither court acted on the pauper motion.