City of Shreveport’s Actions Inspected by Judge in Fire Department Tragedy

On February 21, 2009, Shreveport Fire Department Chief Tommy Adams fell from the top of a ladder while preparing a fire truck for service for the Gemini Mardi Gras parade. As a result, Tommy Adams sustained severe trauma to his spinal column and died ten months after the date of the incident. Chief Adams’ wife, Traci Lee Adams, filed suit on behalf of herself and her two minor children seeking compensation for her husband’s accident-related damages and contending that the City’s response to her husband’s injuries fell below the reasonable standard of care that should have been provided.

In response to Mrs. Adams’ petition, the City of Shreveport filed an exception of no cause of action and argued that the Louisiana Worker’s Compensation Act provided the exclusive remedy. The trial court granted the City’s exception, but allowed Mrs. Adams thirty days to amend her original petition. As a result Mrs. Adams submitted an amended petition stating that the City knew or should have known that Chief Adams’ injuries were substantially certain to occur as a result of the City’s actions. Ultimately, the City filed a motion for summary judgment and the trial court judge granted the City’s motion finding that neither the pleadings, depositions, nor briefs supported an exception to the exclusive remedies provided by the Louisiana Worker’s Compensation Act.

The case went up on appeal.

The Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeal addresses two legal issues in this case: the trial court (1) failed to recognize that the City’s motion for summary judgment was “a cleverly disguised peremptory exception of no cause of action which had already been denied by the previous trial judge” and (2) erroneously granted the City’s motion for summary judgment.

According to the Second Circuit Court of Appeal, there was no indication that the City’s motion for summary judgment was merely a disguised exception of no cause of action. After Mrs. Adams’ first amended petition, the trial court properly denied the City’s exception of no cause of action. Further, the record below showed that the trial court’s review and analysis of the City’s motion for summary judgment covered more than the pleading and included consideration of discovery. As such, the Court of Appeal determined that the trial court clearly treated the motion for summary judgment appropriately and not merely as another exception of no cause of action.

The second issue that the Court of Appeal addressed was whether the trial court erred in granting the City of Shreveport’s motion for summary judgment. Mrs. Adams contends that the decision by the Shreveport Fire Department not to supply “quick-trach kits” to all paramedic units substantiates a genuine issue of material fact. Pursuant to La. C.C.P. art. 966, “[t]he plaintiff or defendant may move for a summary judgment in his favor for all or part of the relief for which he has prayed … [t]he summary judgment procedure is designed to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and is favored by the courts and construed to accomplish these ends.” “The party opposing summary judgment cannot rest on the mere allegations or denials in his pleadings, but must show that it has evidence which, if believed, could satisfy its evidentiary burden of proof at trial. If there is no such evidence, then there is no genuine issue of material fact, and the movant is entitled to summary judgment.” Accordingly, the Court of Appeal determined that the trial court properly granted the City’s motion for summary judgment as Mrs. Adams failed to establish that her husband’s injuries resulted from an intentional act by the City pursuant to the Louisiana Worker’s Compensation Act. Further, the Court of Appeal found that the trial court correctly concluded that Mrs. Adams had not produced any evidence, which would support a finding that the City knew its actions were substantially certain to result in the injuries suffered by her husband.

Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no dispute as to a material fact and where there is no factual support for one or more of the essential elements of the claim. Therefore, because the claimant did not provide evidence to show she could meet the burden of proof at trial, specifically that the City of Shreveport knew its actions were certain to result in the injuries suffered by her husband, there is no genuine issue of material fact and the claims are dismissed. Quality representation is vital in making sure that your case is brought to court with the proper evidence and the best arguments are made for your side.

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