What Not to Do When a Motion for Summary Judgment is Denied in Louisiana

supreme-court-of-canada-1551191Litigation is very complicated, particularly amongst the weeds of appeals and motions. This is illustrated very well in a case out of the Louisiana state Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal.  One of the most important things it teaches is that it is invaluable to have a knowledgeable attorney who is familiar with summary judgments and appeals so the correct motions and pleadings can be filed on behalf of the client.

The case started as a seemingly straightforward personal injury case.  The plaintiff, Candace Gray, was injured when she fell in the parking lot owned by the Marrero Land and Improvement Association Limited (“Marrero Land”).  She filed a lawsuit against Marrero Land alleging damages from her injury.  Through the course of discovery and depositions, Marrero Land’s attorneys filed a motion for summary judgment.  The motion for summary judgment is used to assert that there is no issue of material fact that needs to be determined, only issues of law which can be adjudicated by the court.  Marrero Land argued that Ms. Gray was going to be unable to meet her burden of proof and the case should be determined in favor of Marrero Land.  The trial court denied the motion for summary judgment, finding that there were some genuine issues of fact.  

In its written judgment, the trial court noted that the decision was final and appealable prompting Marrero Land to file an appeal of the denial of its motion.  Before addressing the merits of Marrero Land’s appeal, the appellate court pointed out that it always has the duty to examine subject matter jurisdiction even when the parties do not raise the issue.   In other words before hearing the issue at hand, the appellate court must first determine whether the court has the right to hear the case at all.   

In this case, the court found that it did not have jurisdiction to hear Marrero Land’s appeal because the denial of the motion for summary judgment is not a final and appealable judgment per La. C.C.P. art. 968.  That article states that there is no appeal from a court’s refusal to render summary judgment. Short v. Ochello, 811 So.2d 1009 (La. Ct. App. 2002).   This is because when a motion for summary judgment is denied there is a genuine issue of material fact remaining and it should be decided by a jury.  The court of appeals sent the case back to the trial court without hearing the merits of the appeal.

This case clearly shows that it is vital and important to have an attorney who is knowledgeable and well versed in litigation procedure to avoid unnecessary and costly filings that are unable to be heard by the court. One must take the proper steps in a case to ensure all rights are preserved and needless hearings do not burden the court.

Additional Sources:   GRAY V. MARRERO LAND TRUST & IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION, LTD

Additional Berniard Law Firm Articles on Summary Judgment: Just the Facts: Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Articulates Summary Judgment Standards in Employment Lawsuit Out of Monroe