Articles Posted in Civil Matter

car_accident_accident_dig-1024x775After being involved in a motor vehicle accident, you will likely be left with various damages, including medical injuries. Although you may assume insurance will cover all of your injuries and related damages, this is not always the case. The following Ouachita Parish case demonstrates the importance of understanding your policies and legal rights when it comes to motor vehicle insurance claims and of hiring an experienced attorney if you are left unsure of these rights.  

Alcender Williams, Jr. was injured while crossing an intersection and being hit by a motor vehicle. Williams subsequently filed a claim to the insurance company of the vehicle’s owner, Sharon Davis, where he and the company, Progressive Security Insurance (hereinafter referred to as Progressive), agreed to a settlement amount; Williams, however, resided with his mother, Bernadene Hubbard, at the time of the motor vehicle accident, and reserved his rights under her uninsured/underinsured motorist insurer Affirmative Casualty Insurance Company (hereinafter referred to as Affirmative). He then filed a claim asserting the limits of the Progressive policy was not enough to compensate him for his various damages. Williams’ claim was then rejected by Affirmative, who argued he was not included as a driver under the policy.  

Williams then filed a lawsuit against Affirmative, where the trial and appeal courts found in favor of his claims for coverage. Affirmative was subsequently declared insolvent and, as a result, Louisiana Insurance Guaranty Association (hereinafter referred to as LIGA) took over the discharge of its obligation with regard to claims as provided by law. 

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. 

us_navy_021209_n_6-1024x672Countless people are at risk of being in a car accident every day. Imagine you are on your usual morning commute to work, but suddenly someone rear-ends you causing injuries that change your life forever. You deserve to be compensated as much as you can to restore yourself to the state you were in before the accident. However, what happens when the defendants appeal the amount of damages you are supposed to receive?

On December 9, 2013, a traffic accident occurred when the automobile operated by the defendant, Justin Wascom, Jr., owned by his employer, Clean Water Opportunities, Inc. (“Clean Water”), and insured by Hallmark Specialty Insurance Company (“Hallmark Insurance”), rear-ended the automobile operated by the plaintiff, Evette Neal. Mr. Wascom was driving the automobile when he rear-ended Ms. Neal’s vehicle. Her vehicle hit the side concrete wall, left the roadway, flipped over, hit a tree, and finally stopped in a canal. Ms. Neal filed suit against Mr. Wascom, Clean Water, and Hallmark Insurance, seeking damages for injuries to her neck, back, shoulders, legs, chest, sternoclavicular (“SC”) joint, collarbone, hands, and fingers allegedly sustained as a result of the accident. 

On March 15, 2016, a trial was conducted as to the issue of damages. At trial, the parties stipulated to liability and insurance coverage. On April 1, 2016, Ms. Neal was awarded various amounts for general damages, medical expenses, future medical expenses for continued operations, lost wages, and all costs of the proceedings. However, Mr. Wascom and Hallmark Insurance appealed stating there was an error as to the amount of general damages awarded to the plaintiff. The defendants argued that the trial court abused its discretion in awarding $700,000 to Ms. Neal for her injuries. These injuries included a partially dislocated SC joint, a strained shoulder, a strained neck, and a strained back. However, the defendants assert that Ms. Neal already had neck and shoulder injuries prior to the accident and they were only made worse by the accident. The defendants also asserted that she only missed one month of work and she now has full range of motion in her shoulder and arm. 

working_office_desk_busy-1024x830When you select someone to serve as a trustee or executor, you expect they will act in your best interest. If someone in such a position of trust breaches that obligation, they might be liable for a breach of fiduciary duties. 

Fred Houston’s wife died, leaving him a life insurance policy. Hanh Williams helped Houston collect the insurance proceeds and over time, became involved in all aspects of his financial affairs, including his oil and gas interests. Houston gave Williams his power of attorney the next year. 

Then, approximately two years later, Houston formed a trust and made Williams the trustee. The trust contained almost all of Houston’s assets. If either Houston or Williams died, the trust would terminate. Houston then executed a will that left a few specific bequests, with the remainder of his estate to go to Louisiana State University (“LSU”). Houston subsequently passed away, and Williams filed for probate. 

interview_paperwork_quill_law-1024x768A difficult part of dealing with a family member’s death is balancing your grief with having to deal with the practical considerations of administering their estate. This can lead to family conflict, especially when there is disagreement about who gets what. Although clear language in a will or testament can help avoid such disagreement, what happens when the language of the testament and related documentation are unclear about who the deceased wanted to receive specific bank accounts?

When Elizabeth Perritt died, she left a notarial testament. The testament named the executrix of her estate, bequeathed several specific items to specific people, and left the remainder of her property to three specific individuals (the “Residuary Recipients”). The testament stated she had designated beneficiaries for certain unnamed bank accounts pursuant to the “payable on death” provisions of La. R.S. 6:314. 

The Residuary Recipients and Carroll Toms all argued they were entitled to the deposit accounts. Peritt’s executrix filed a motion to determine who was entitled to two of Perritt’s deposit accounts held at Home Federal Bank. The trial court held the Residuary Recipients were entitled to split the deposit accounts. Toms filed an appeal.

driving_school_driving_car-1024x685If you want to decline uninsured/underinsured (“UM”) coverage, you might think it is sufficient to merely tell your insurer you do not want UM coverage. However, under Louisiana law, there are strict requirements with which you must comply in order to validly waive UM coverage. What happens if the insured does not follow those formal requirements?  

Joey Higginbotham worked as a truck driver for Dupre Logistics. He was involved in a car accident while on the job. He filed a lawsuit against the other driver and his insurer, USAgencies. He also added Dupre’s liability insurer, Zurich, and sought UM coverage under its policy. 

Zurich claimed Dupre had waived its UM coverage and moved for summary judgment. Higginbotham also filed a summary judgment motion, arguing Dupre’s supposed waiver was not valid under Louisiana law. 

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. 

transportation_manila_philippines_388826-1024x768We all expect the government to take appropriate measures to keep roads safe. If you or a loved one has been harmed from an unsafe road condition, you might be able to file a lawsuit against the Department of Transportation and Development. 

Lacy Johnson was driving a car that was involved in a tragic accident near Oakdale, Louisiana. While driving through a curve on the road, she went into the opposing lane of traffic and hit a tree stump. The accident killed Johnson and Breann Sonnier, who was a passenger in the car. 

Sonnier’s surviving family members filed lawsuits against the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (“DOTD”), alleging there was faulty construction and maintenance of the road. Before trial, the court ruled that plaintiff’s traffic experts could not testify about whether the DOTD project was a “major reconstruction” and if the roadway where the accident occurred was an unreasonable risk of harm. The trial court also ruled a lab report showing Johnson had a 0.10% blood alcohol concentration at the time of her death would be admissible. The jury ruled against plaintiff and found the roadway where the accident occurred did not have defects that created an unreasonable risk of harm. Sonnier’s mother filed an appeal.

love_castle_castle_symbol_1-1024x683When you are in love, you might make purchases for your loved ones without giving them much thought. But what happens to big ticket purchases, like a car, if your relationship sours?

William Redmon and Leisha Lindsey were acquaintances from high school. They started seeing each other. Lindsey said she just wanted to be friends with Redmon, but Redmon wanted a romantic relationship. 

Redmon gave Lindsey several gifts during the time, including cash, a fishing pole, various tools, and appliances. Redmon planned a surprise birthday party for Lindsey. Three days later, he bought an engagement ring, which Lindsey never wore, and a Chevrolet Camaro for Lindsey. 

new_zealand_accident_insurance_0-1024x768If you are injured on the job, you might be entitled to compensation through the workers’ compensation system. What happens if your employer denies your claims for treatment recommended by your treating physicians? Can your employer be required to pay you penalties and fees?

Betty Citizen hurt her back while she was trying to move a bike while working at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart denied her physical therapy that her treating neurosurgeon recommended. She filed a 1009 Form, which the Medical Director denied for being untimely. Citizen then filed a 1008 Form, claiming she was entitled to receive attorney fees and penalties because Wal-Mart had arbitrarily and capriciously handled her claims. 

Once Wal-Mart formally denied her physical therapy, Citizen filed another 1009 Form. The Medical Director denied that request as well, finding there was no required documentation about the results of prior therapy. On the day of the hearing, Wal-Mart approved the recommended physical therapy. Therefore, the only issue was whether Wal-Mart had acted arbitrarily and capriciously in denying Citizen’s physical therapy. 

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