Articles Posted in Business Dispute

police_car_police_chase-1024x576There are many instances when an employer may be held liable for the actions of their employees, even when the former was completely uninvolved in the tort, or wrongdoing. This scenario is referred to as vicarious liability. The court must take several factors into consideration when dealing with a vicarious liability action, as evidenced by a Caddo Parish case involving a Sheriff and his Deputy.  

In an effort to arrest Damien Pea, who had multiple outstanding warrants, the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Department and the Shreveport Police Department put together an operation performed by members of a joint task force, referred to as Street Level Interdiction Unit (henceforth called SLIU). SLIU then requested the help of Pea’s girlfriend, Teketia Pipkins, who was told to bring Pea to a gas station and then exit her vehicle.  

On the day the operation took place, Pipkins drove Pea to the gas station and left her vehicle, as instructed, although she did not remove the keys from the ignition. Pea, who was in the passenger seat, subsequently moved to the driver’s seat and drove away. A high-speed chase between Pea and law enforcement commenced. 

wzwz_141222_munich_against_0-1024x768We all know that words matter. However, sometimes people use offensive or disrespectful words or slurs in the workplace. Workplaces often have policies in place that lay out prohibited behaviors and establish disciplinary actions for infractions, including use of disrespectful language. Such discipline can range from a write-up to termination and depends on the specific offense. Is use of a racial epithet grounds for termination?

Dustin Bonial worked as a lineman for the City of Alexandria. Bonial was accused of using a racial epithet in reference to a coworker while in the breakroom, which violated the city’s workplace conduct policy. The city terminated Bonial. Bonial filed an appeal with the Alexandria Civil Service Commission. 

At the hearing, Bonial agreed he had called his coworker by the racial epithet.  He claimed people had used the epithet in reference to the coworker multiple times before, and the coworker had been okay with it. Bonial’s supervisor testified the use of racial epithets adversely affected morale and efficient operations. 

oyster_oyster_roast_seafood-1024x683While many people enjoy oysters, few people are aware how oyster leases work. This case involves a couple who held oyster leases that were harmed when a company decided to renter a nearby oil well. Can that company be held liable for the damages to the holders of the adjacent oyster leases? 

Pero and Mary Ann Cibilic held oyster leases in a lake in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. Because of the lack of oysters following the BP oil spill and increase in prices, the Cibilics made a large investment to purchase and spread cultch, which is used for oyster cultivation. This resulted in the Cibilics having a good sized oyster crop in their leases.

Cox Operating started a project to re-enter one of its oil wells that was adjacent to the Cibilic’s oyster leases. Ships has to cross over the Cibilics’ leases in order to reach the well. To turn to the well, ships had to go down and back up with their propellers, which resulted in sedimentation harming the Cibilics’ oyster beds.

usps_post_office_building-1024x757In the bustling corridors of the U.S. Postal Service in Istrouma, Louisiana, a tale of workplace strife and legal intricacies unfolded. Catherine J. Valdry, a dedicated mail carrier, found herself entangled in a web of allegations against her supervisor, Clifton Maryland, a Customer Service Manager. What began as a refusal to join Maryland on a fishing trip soon spiraled into an alleged hostile work environment, as Valdry claimed she faced emotional distress and aggressive conduct. When she summoned the courage to report Maryland’s behavior, the situation took a turn for the worse, with ominous warnings and intensified micromanagement. Valdry’s pursuit of justice led her to the courtroom, where she aimed to prove her case, facing the challenging task of establishing a retaliatory hostile work environment. This article delves into the legal intricacies of her journey, from the district court’s initial ruling to the appellate court’s ultimate decision, which ultimately declared the case moot.

Valdry filed a retaliatory hostile work environment lawsuit. When bringing forth a prima facie case of retaliatory hostile work environment, the district court stated the harassment must be severe and affect the complainant’s employment. In response to the lawsuit, Maryland filed a motion of summary judgment. Summary judgment is appropriate when there is “no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” The facts are considered in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Galindo v. Precision Am. Corp.

The district court granted the summary-judgment motion, although the Fifth Circuit was undecided on whether the retaliatory hostile work environment claim was applicable under Title VII. The district court also presumed the motion would consider all events occurring after Valdry’s internal complaint about Maryland on September 13, 2013.

the_police_arrest_lego-1024x683In the world of litigation, there are often cases that raise questions about who should be held responsible for damages caused by certain events. Take the recent case of Christopher Blanchard, who claimed damages after his police car was hit by a stolen car. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, GoAuto Insurance Company and its insured, Demetrius J. Hicks, dismissing Blanchard’s claim for damages. The court ruled that Hicks, the vehicle’s owner, was not liable for the damages caused by an unknown thief who stole his truck and crashed it into Blanchard’s police car. To better understand how this came about, let us examine the facts and legal arguments of the case and explore the court’s reasoning for upholding the verdict.

The undisputed facts are as follows: Demetrius J. Hicks, a carpenter and subcontractor, parked his truck in front of a house he was inspecting, leaving the keys in the ignition and the engine running. Within minutes, an unknown thief stole the truck and drove off. Hicks tried to stop the thief but was unsuccessful. Eventually, the thief abandoned the truck behind Blanchard’s patrol car and fled on foot. The stolen truck collided with the police car, causing damage.

Blanchard filed a lawsuit against Hicks and GoAuto, the insurance company, seeking compensation for the accident. Hicks and GoAuto denied liability, claiming that Hicks’ truck had been stolen and the thief was responsible for the accident. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, dismissing Blanchard’s claims with prejudice.

horse_race_hippodrome_horses-1024x587Horse races represent a lot of things: money, power, competition. The outcomes of races matter a lot to those involved, and debates about those races can be pretty contentious, even getting to court. When a back-and-forth about the rightful winner of a horse race makes it to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, how does the court deal with this unique and specific area of law?

The Second Circuit had to decide which horse, “Coalport” or “Benwill”, won the Unbridled Stakes horse race at Louisiana Downs. Coalport’s owners, the Ramseys, brought a suit against the Louisiana State Racing Commission (the “Commission”) after the Louisiana Downs Stewards questioned and reversed Coalport’s win at Unbridled Stakes. Ultimately, the Board of Stewards found that Coalport had fouled Benwill and prevented Benwill from winning the race. Accordingly, Coalport was demoted to second place, and Benwill took first place. The Ramseys first appealed the Stewards’ finding to the Commission, but the Commission affirmed the decision. The Ramseys then appealed to the 26th Judicial District Court, which reversed the decision and reinstated Coalport as the race winner. In its decision, the trial court held that the Commission should have assessed the Stewards’ decision with greater scrutiny and that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that Coalport fouling Benwill changed the race outcome. 

The Commission appealed the trial court’s decision, arguing that the Commission’s evidence showed that it was more likely than not that the foul changed the race outcome, the Commission was not too deferential to the Stewards’ decision, and the trial court did not give the Commission proper deference to determine the credibility of witnesses. The primary issue for the Second Circuit to determine was whether Coalport’s foul actually changed the outcome of the race. 

the_samuel_young_house-1024x683Owning property is not easy, especially when you have to share ownership with multiple individuals. Co-ownership can present challenging issues, especially when one owner wants to make renovations or sell the property. This case examines a dispute among family members involving property in the Parish of St. Bernard in Louisiana. 

The plaintiffs, including Charles Gettys, Jr., and defendants, including William Gettys, each had a one-fifth interest in the at-issue property. The plaintiffs sued to have the property sold and the proceeds divided among the five co-owners. William responded, claiming after Hurricane Katrina, the defendants said they no longer wanted to have an interest in the property and did not want to spend any more money on the property or repairs.  William claimed he completed a property renovation and moved into the house following Hurricane Katrina. William claimed before Hurricane Katrina that he had agreed with Charles that they would renovate the property together and then sell it. Then, they would split the money they made from the sale. The renovations purportedly cost $46,000. William claimed Charles had agreed to split the renovation costs with him.  

However, Charles had not paid for his share of the renovations. William argued Charles owed him his share of the total cost of the repairs and renovations. After trial, the court ordered the parties to sell the property via auction, at a $50,000 minimum bid, or through a private sale, with the first $48,476 of the proceeds to go to William to reimburse him for the renovations he carried out in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

pregnancy_belly_9_months-1024x685Imagine waking up one day and finding yourself out of a job simply because you are pregnant. This was the reality for Eryon Luke, as she claimed that her former employer, CPlace Forest Park SNF, LLC, fired her due to her pregnancy. This case, which attracted significant attention in legal circles, presents a deep dive into pregnancy discrimination lawsuits, exploring the application of state and federal laws and their impact on the employer-employee relationship.

Luke held a position as a Certified Nursing Assistant with Forest Park before her dismissal. Her employment was terminated during her maternity leave, which she contends was an act of discrimination by her employer. She asserted that Nottingham terminated her because she was pregnant, violating federal and Louisiana state laws.

To explain, under Louisiana law concerning unlawful employment practices, an employee with covered limitations, such as in this case, is allowed to take leave under any leave law or policy of the employer if another reasonable accommodation can be provided to the known limitations for medical needs arising from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. LA Rev Stat § 23:342. Luke also claimed that Nottingham refused her request for a temporary, less strenuous role during her pregnancy, which she argued was another unlawful employment practice.

car_accident_bellingham_fire-1024x683Ordinarily, when one is involved in an automobile accident, the injured party files a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.  When a person is involved in an accident with a co-worker in the course of their employment duties, however, the injured party may collect workers’ compensation instead. Can the injured employee “double-dip” and also collect under a Uninsured/underinsured motorist policy?  This was the issue in a recent case out of Delcambre, Louisiana.   

Annique Johnson, Wanda Theriot, and Emily Laester were employees of Le Bon Manger, Inc. While acting within the course and scope of their employment; the employees were in a car accident while Laester was driving.  Laester was at fault, and the employees sustained injuries.  Johnson and Theriot filed claims for workers’ compensation benefits and settled those claims.  Later, Johnson and Theriot (Plaintiffs) filed a civil lawsuit against their employer, Laester, and State Farm under separate policies for each party.  State Farm filed a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the case because the Plaintiffs already collected under workers’ compensation law.  The plaintiffs appealed to the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal.       

Under Louisiana law, fellow employees have statutory immunity from lawsuits brought by co-employees for which workers’ compensation laws provide the sole remedy.  See La. R.S. 23:1032.  This lack of standing to bring a lawsuit automatically means there can be no lawsuit against the co-employee car insurance company.  See Hebert v. Clarendon Am. Ins. Co.  Essentially, the availability of workers’ compensation erases the existence of an uninsured/underinsured motorist and erases the availability of that coverage.  

larimer_sheriff_2014_chevrolet-1024x683Before accepting a job, it is essential to review all policies provided to you by your potential employer, as these policies may not always be in your best interest. The following East Baton Rouge case demonstrates what may or may not be considered a “wage” payable at the end of employment. 

Ely Boucher was terminated from the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office and was simultaneously provided with a copy of their Leave Policy. A provision to the Leave Policy stipulated that a certain amount of hours of paid-time-off leave were paid upon termination of employment. Subsequently, Boucher, who had over 914 paid-time-off leave hours, was paid for 300 hours per the policy provisions. Boucher then argued the Leave Policy violated La. R.S.23:631 and made a written demand on the Sheriff, for unpaid wages. When Boucher’s demand went unanswered, he filed a lawsuit against the Sheriff with the Nineteenth Judicial District Court. 

Boucher filed a motion seeking to exclude the testimony of the EBR Sheriff’s Human Resource Director concerning her interpretation of the Leave Policy. He argued the document was the best evidence of its contents. He also argued that the testimony should be excluded based on the contract interpretation laws. 

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