What happens if the trial court makes a mistake? The case can work its way through the court of appeals and even the state supreme court just to be sent back to trial court to begin again. This case involves a lawsuit filed in Louisiana court by a transportation company (“Star”) against another corporation (“Pilot”). Star is a national trucking company and Pilot owns a collection of truck stops that supply fuel to Star.
In 2014, the trial court decided to deny Pilot’s motion to dismiss the case for forum non conveniens, to grant Star’s motion in limine to exclude a certain promissory note from evidence, and to deny Pilot’s exception of prematurity and motion to stay proceedings pending arbitration. Forum non conveniens is a power the court can decide to use to dismiss a case where another court would be better suited to hear the case. A motion in limine is a motion filed by a party to a lawsuit which asks the court for an order or ruling limiting or prevent certain evidence from being presented in the case. Pilot appealed these decisions as well as applying for a supervisory writ challenging the rulings. A writ of supervisory control is issued to correct an erroneous ruling made by a lower court either when there is no appeal or when an appeal cannot provide adequate relief and the ruling will result in gross injustice.
In 2015 the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal denied Pilot’s writ application and Pilot sought a review of this decision in the Louisiana Supreme Court. The appeal was continued pending the decision of the Louisiana Supreme Court. The issue was then sent back to the court of appeals for an opinion.
Pilot claimed that the trial court made an error when it granted Star’s motion in limine to leave the promissory note between the parties out of evidence. In this case, the court of appeals decided that the trial court abused its discretion by granting the motion to exclude the promissory note without at least having an evidentiary hearing on the matter of whether or not it was relevant to the case. As evidence for the agreements between Star and Pilot and the fact that the arbitration clause contained in the promissory note is the basis for Pilot’s exception of prematurity and motion to stay, the promissory note would most likely have been a relevant part of the case.
The last issue that the court of appeals looks at is whether the trial court made an error by denying Pilot’s exception of prematurity and motion to stay pending arbitration. To determine this the court simply needs to decided whether the trial court was legally correct. Star argues that the arbitration clause itself is not valid because they were led to sign the promissory note by fraud on Pilot’s part. The court of appeals concluded that the trial court made an error in denying the exception of prematurity without having first held an evidentiary hearing to determine whether there was fraud in the signing of the prommisroy note with the arbitration clause. The court decided to remand the matter to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing and a decision upon the issue of the validity of the arbitration provision.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that The trial court made a mistake in granting the motion in limine leaving the promissory note out of evidence and sent the case back to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing to decide whether the promissory note is relevant and whether the arbitration clause is valid in this matter. In this case the possible mistakes that the trial court made have a chance to be fixed even after the case went to higher courts.
Written by Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer: Emily Temple
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