Car Accident Victim Gets Appeal Dismissed Because Lack of Valid Final Judgment

building-in-city-against-sky-256490-977x1024You lose your case. However, your lawyer tells you not to despair. She tells you that you can appeal the trial court’s judgment at the appellate court. However, it is not always that simple. Appellate courts, like trial courts, do not just accept every single case that comes their way. They must first have jurisdiction over a case, which simply means that they must meet certain requirements to hear the case. Without jurisdiction, an appellate court will be unable to take your case even if your claim may be legitimate. 

A multi-vehicle accident occurred on a highway in Jefferson Parish on December 25, 2014. The accident began when the vehicle driven by Max Beagle struck the vehicle driven by Elridge Thompson, Jr. Shadid Chaudry, who witnessed the collision between Beagle and Thompson, stopped his vehicle nearby to render assistance. Carrie Thiele was in the passenger seat of Chaudry’s vehicle. However, upon exiting the vehicle, Thiele was struck by a motorcycle driven by David Casse, who had swerved to avoid Chaudry’s vehicle. Upon hitting Thiele, Casse was thrown off his motorcycle while his motorcycle continued to move towards Thompson’s vehicle, eventually crashing into it. 

Thompson filed a lawsuit against both Beagle and Casse and their respective insurance companies. Casse in turn filed a lawsuit against Thiele. In Casse’s lawsuit, he claimed that his collision with Thiele caused him severe injuries. Thiele filed a motion, stating that Casse’s lawsuit was barred because Casse’s lawsuit was filed more than a year after the accident. The Trial Court, without giving any written opinion, agreed with Thiele and dismissed Casse’s lawsuit. 

For an appellate court to hear a case on appeal, it must first have jurisdiction over the case. Moon v. City of New Orleans, 190 So. 3d 422 (La. Ct. App. 2016). For an appellate court to have jurisdiction, the case must have a final valid judgment. Bd. of Supervisors of La. State Univ. v. Mid City Holdings, L.L.C., 151 So. 3d 908 (La. Ct. App. 2014). A valid final judgment is one that contains language that names the winning party and the losing party and whether the requested relief is granted or denied. Palumbo v. Shapiro, 81 So.3d 923, 927 (La. Ct. App. 2011). The requested relief should be obvious in the judgment. There should be no need to look at extrinsic documents to determine the requested relief. 

In this case, the Appellate Court determined that it did not have jurisdiction over the case because a final valid judgment did not exist. It first looked at the Trial Court’s judgment, which only stated that Thiele’s motion was granted. It did not include whether by granting Thiele’s motion, the Trial Court dismissed all or only partially Casse’s claims. Though the Appellate Court inferred that the Trial Court intended to dismiss Casse’s claim against Thiele by looking at a transcript of the Trial Court’s hearing, it noted that it could only rely on the written judgment, which did not mention anything about Casse’s claim against Thiele. As a result, the Appellate Court did not have jurisdiction over Casse’s case and dismissed Casse’s appeal. 

Unfortunately for Casse, he was unable to get his appeal heard because of the Trial Court’s failure to provide a final valid judgment. What Casse’s case should teach us is that we cannot assume that a trial court will rule a case in manner such that you will be immediately be able to appeal. Therefore, be sure to double check a trial court’s judgement before filing an appeal. 

Additional Source: Thompson, Jr. v. Beagle

Written by Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer:  Peter Lee

Additional Berniard Law Firm Article on Appellate Court Jurisdiction: Bogalusa Police’s Partial Summary Judgment Request Denied For Lack of Appellate Jurisdiction