Articles Posted in Litigation

adult-city-democracy-2422395-1024x679Parties are entitled to immediately appeal during litigation as long as a decision has been properly designated as the final judgment. However, the Louisiana First Circuit of Appeal (“the Court“) also has a policy against multiple appeals and piecemeal litigation. So, how does a system balance the right of parties to immediately appeal while considering the workload of the court? The following case discusses this issue regarding the appellate jurisdiction (the legal authority of a court to decide on a particular case).

The claimant, Timothy Stewart (“Stewart”) was injured in the course and scope of his employment of the Bogalusa Police Department on July 9, 2013. The City of Bogalusa paid Stewart workers’ compensation medical and temporary total disability benefits. On March 17, 2015, Stewart filed a lawsuit seeking compensation for permanent total disability, as well as statutory penalties and attorney’s fees for the late payment of temporary total disability benefits. The City of Bogalusa timely denied Stewart’s claims and filed a motion for partial summary judgment regarding the permanent disability issue. The workers’ compensation judge (“WCJ”) granted this motion and dismissed Stewart’s claim for permanent total disability on August 4, 2015. Stewart then filed a motion for devolutive appeal (in which the appellate courts can determine on some issues while the trial court continues on separate issues) and requested that the August 4, 2015 judgment be made final and appealable pursuant to La. C.C.P. art. 1915(B). On September 4, 2015, the WCJ granted Stewart’s request and designated the August 4, 2015 judgment as final and appealable.

The court has a duty to decide whether the court has appellate jurisdiction to review the partial summary judgment, because the designation of WCJ is not determinative of the court’s jurisdiction. Stewart argues that the appellate process should not be delayed. The Appellate Court found that the WCJ did not provide a reason as to the determination of a final judgment, so it must re-evaluate the designation before hearing an appeal. The Appellate Court should consider two factors: (1) the goal of the Workers’ Compensation Act as achieving speedy resolution of injured workers’ claims, and (2) allowing piecemeal appeal causes delay and inefficiency. Marquez v. Jack Ussery Construction, 965 So. 2d 400 (La. Ct. App. 2007). The immediate appeal is justified if it can speed up the adjudicative process. Partial judgment should not prolong and complicate the process. 

beauty-body-hands-56884-1024x683An automobile accident is not a lottery ticket. It is not an opportunity to take a negligent party to court and “sue their pants off” in an effort to win a hefty money judgment sufficient to pay for a bed-and-breakfast getaway in Natchitoches. But it should not leave the plaintiff in the lurch, either, without enough money to even cover medical bills. And sometimes, when you strive for one, you end up missing out on the other. One Louisiana couple learned the limits of revenue-generating potential for automobile accidents the hard way.

Eureka Ellis was driving up the onramp to the I-20 in East Monroe when she was sideswiped by Gregory Brown’s vehicle. Ellis also had her three children in the car with her. Brown apparently merged into Ellis’ lane prematurely. Brown did not deny he was at fault, but he asserted that the impact was minimal, reportedly asking after the collision if they even needed to call the police. The resultant “tap” of Brown’s vehicle left a few scratches on the driver’s side quarter panel of Ellis’ Charger; whether or not there was even a dent was a matter of dispute. When police arrived at the scene, none of the parties reported injuries, and no ticket was issued.

Despite the mild nature of the collision, 12 days later, Ellis and her children all went to see a chiropractor. This chiropractor, Dr. Holt, diagnosed them with neck and back pain. Over the course of the next three months, Dr. Holt saw Ms. Ellis and her three children twice a week, over 20 times each, billing them in excess of $15,000. The Ellises then filed a lawsuit against Brown and his insurer for general damages, special damages arising from the chiropractor visits, loss of consortium, and lost wages. Though the Trial Court denied a few of the claims, it determined that some damages were in order, and awarded the Ellis family a grand total of $7,692.50. This figure was far below their total claim requested and barely half of what they owed the chiropractor. 

balance-commerce-composition-261658-1024x768Trials are an economic drain on society. Though they serve an important role in our society, they are costly and time-consuming. As a result, courts cannot take every case to trial, and the judicial system must be selective. Thus, sometimes a court makes a judgment without a trial because there would be no purpose for a trial. These judgments are called summary judgments. Below is a case in which the Trial Court granted summary judgment because one of the parties did not even have a valid legal claim.

In 2002, Kimberly Moe incurred injuries from a car accident in the Orleans Parish of Louisiana. She hired Allen Borne, Jr. to be her attorney. After four months, however, Ms. Moe decided to hire a different attorney, Darryl Carimi. Mr. Carimi filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver at fault, Frank Bastian, and his insurer, Allstate. But Mr. Borne, despite no longer being Ms. Moe’s lawyer, asked Allstate to put his name on any settlement checks that were to be issued. While the litigation was ongoing, Ms. Moe died. Upon her death, her surviving spouse filed a wrongful death claim, but eventually settled with Mr. Bastian and Allstate. The settlement check did not have Mr. Borne’s name. In fact, though Mr. Borne had filed a claim against Allstate in order to receive some portion of the settlement, Allstate filed a motion for summary judgment. The Trial Court granted Allstate’s motion.

For an appellate court to consider whether a trial court properly granted a motion for summary judgment, the court must determine whether there is any genuine issue of material fact and whether the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Citron v. Gentilly Carnival Club, Inc., 165 So.3d 304, 313 (La. Ct. App. 2015); La. C.C.P. art. 966 A(3). A party wishing to defeat a motion for summary judgment must show that there are sufficient facts the party can show at trial to support its claim. La. C.C.P. art. 966 C(2).

hospital-bc-laboratory-form-with-syringe-1-1315580-1024x768Trial courts can make mistakes. Some mistakes are permanent, so a redo is impossible. In other cases, the mistakes can be reversed on appeal by an appellate court. When an appellate court reverses a trial court’s decision, the trial court could have to revisit the entire case and put things in correct legal standing between the parties.

Gordon Serou, Sr. resided at the Specialty Hospital of New Orleans, Inc. (“SHONO”), which is a long-term care facility located in the Touro Infirmary (“Touro”). He suffered from Parkinson’s disease and a number of other illnesses. Unfortunately, he was also a patient at SHONO when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005. Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Mr. Serou passed away due to a generator failure. Upon his death, Mr. Serou’s family members sued Touro, SHONO, and the manufacturer of the faulty generator, Aggreko. Touro then sued Aggreko to recover any damages that the court found Touro liable for in relation to the faulty generator. Aggreko filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming the company was not at fault for the generator failure. Though the Trial Court granted this motion, the Appellate Court reversed and sent the case back to the Trial Court. Aggreko filed another motion for summary judgment, again claiming that the company was not at fault for the generator failure. The Trial Court again granted Aggreko’s motion. Touro argued that this was inappropriate because Aggreko had submitted the motion without any alterations and the Appellate Court had already overturned the granting of this same motion.

A party whose summary judgment motion gets denied at the appellate level may be able to file the motion again. Zeno v. Colonial Mortgage & Loan Corp., 4 So.3d 93, 100 (La. Ct. App. 2008). In fact, a trial court may grant the motion even if the party does not submit new evidence. Paragon Lofts Condo. Owners Ass’n, Inc. v. Paragon Lofts, L.L.C., 32 So.3d 303, 306 (La. Ct. App. 2010). This is because a party files an initial summary judgment motion before the actual trial. Therefore, if an appellate court decides to reject an initial summary judgment motion, it is not making a final judgment on the case. Because the appellate court does not make a final judgment, the party can file a second motion for summary judgment. Hargett v. Progressive Ins. Co., 996 So.2d 1199, 1202 (La. Ct. App. 2008).

clipboard-close-up-composition-893894-1024x683Navigating a lawsuit is a difficult task. Not only do you have to prove the merits of the case, but you also have to navigate the judicial system’s complex procedural requirements. Even if your case seems likely to succeed on the merits, failure to comply with procedural requirements can leave you without recourse. 

On March 22, 2001, the Meladines’ boat struck an unknown object submerged at Lake Hermitage while they were fishing in the early morning. In 2002, the Meladines sued six companies in a lawsuit for personal injuries. In the lawsuit, the Meladines alleged that the companies were the owners and/or operators of oil and gas platforms and pipelines located in the Lake Hermitage area. The Meladines alleged that their boat collided with what seemed to be an unmarked, old gas pipeline. They alleged that the defendants had failed to adequately mark or maintain the pipeline or warn of its potential harm. All six of the defendants denied having any ownership interest or control of the object that struck the plaintiffs’ boat.

Over the next three years, the plaintiffs dismissed the claims they had brought against all the defendants except Stone Energy and Chevron USA. In 2007, the plaintiffs added Jefferson Lake and Plaquemines Parish Government (“PPG”) as defendants. A year later, Jefferson Lake filed an exception of prescription because it had not been renamed as a defendant until over six years since the accident. Jefferson Lake also argued that prescription was inappropriate because there was no solidary liability between Jefferson Lake and any original defendants. The case then proceeded to trial. 

advertisement-architecture-big-2380891-683x1024Around 9am on Saturday, October 12 the Hard Rock Hotel partially collapsed over Canal Street in New Orleans after the top six to eight floors buckled onto the structure. According to New Orleans Fire Department Superintendent Tim McConnel, the remaining structure of the building remains unstable and could possibly collapse entirely. In response, nearby buildings have been evacuated as the two construction cranes are also unstable. Currently, one person has been reported dead, eighteen have been taking to the hospital in unspecified conditions, and two workers are still reported missing. In terms of the next steps to be taken, it is unknown just how long it will take crews to clean up the piles of debris and get the project back on schedule. This is particularly stressful for the city of New Orleans considering the site of the collapse is a major transportation hub for the city – consisting of bus and streetcar lines in addition to the major traffic arteries of the city. An accident such as the Hard Rock Hotel accident will impact much more upon closer inspection spanning to issues such a personal injury, workers compensation, wrongful death, and much more. Considering the complex litigation that can arise out of an incident such as this one it is important to have a good attorney at the ready.

         Personal injury lawsuits can arise out of many different circumstances – car accidents, slip and falls, and even injuries on the job. When filing a personal injury case it is incredibly important to have a knowledgeable attorney because filing a personal injury claim too late or even waiting too long to collect damages can result in having your personal injury claim denied.  It is important to be persistent in personal injury cases and staying on top of filing deadlines and dates and having a diligent advocate can makes a difference in your case.

         Workers compensation is intended to pay for the medical expenses of injured workers and provide a remedy for lost wages. However, workers compensation claims are often complex from start to finish. There are cases in which it can be difficult to determine if someone is considered an ‘employee’ despite being injured while working on a project. This is especially prevalent if a contractor hires subcontractors in order to complete a project. Moreover, it can also be difficult to receive your workers compensation payments with companies often being uncooperative in the workers compensation process.

class-classroom-conference-716276-1024x683Opinions vary on the principles of trickle-down economics, but on December 15, 2015 the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion which affirmed a lower court summary judgement decision for Northwestern State University to take down economics, along with one of its tenured professors.

In 1994, Robert C. Jones III (“Mr. Jones”) was hired as an economics instructor at Northwestern State University (“NSU”) and later gained tenure as an associate professor. Neither his education nor his instruction could have prepared him for the state enacted public university budget cuts that cost Mr. Jones his job as a result of the Great Recession of 2008. On July 22, 2010, the administrative representatives for NSU sent Mr. Jones a letter to notify him of the end of the economics concentration and his tenure. Following the notice, Mr. Jones presented a seven-page document to a committee of NSU faculty members outlining his arguments against the notice to end his tenure. The committee subsequently rejected Mr. Jones arguments unanimously. A year later, Mr. Jones filed a lawsuit seeking reinstatement and damages against NSU and argued that the university denied his procedural and substantive due process rights. The university raised a defense of sovereign immunity, while the administrative official claimed qualified immunity. The United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana granted these immunities along with NSU’s motion for summary judgment. Mr. Jones appealed the decision to the Fifth Circuit, which ultimately affirmed the lower court’s judgment.

The Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution states that no state shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Procedurally, due process includes adequate notice as well as the opportunity to be heard. Due process becomes less clear to define, so courts often rely on case law, which is comparable to the present situation. 

close-up-court-courthouse-534204-1024x569When a lawsuit fails, there are certain situations where the party who brought the failed lawsuit is responsible for the costs to the other party. Where that line is drawn is generally based on a judge’s discretion and views on the reasonability of those costs. Without excellent attorney work, procedural and legal roadblocks may make it impossible for a court to award the fees that a party should be entitled to. That was the case for three dentists after winning a lawsuit against a Baton Rouge plaintiff.

Tara Lorraine lost a lawsuit against three dentists she accused of malpractice. The jury found that she did not prove that her treatment breached dental treatment standards and her claim was dismissed with prejudice. When a claim is dismissed with prejudice, the dismissal was based on the merits and the facts of the case and it cannot be brought again by that plaintiff.

In response to their favorable verdict, the three dentists then asked the court to award them with the costs of the defense, totaling $9,555.14. This was asked to cover the costs of various things to prepare for trial, such as jury panels and expert witnesses. The Trial Court held a hearing and determined that Ms. Lorraine was liable to the dentists for the full amount requested. Ms. Lorraine then appealed.

adult-chores-flora-1453499-1024x683If you get hurt due to someone else’s negligence and they agree to cover the costs, how much time do you have to sue for damages? According to Louisiana’s Second Circuit Court of Appeal, you have one year from when the injury occurred or when prescription is interrupted. Typically, prescription refers to land rights, but in Mr. Bethley’s case, it concerns the defendant’s agreement to pay his medical bills.

In July 2012, Mr. Bethley and his father were cutting tree limbs when Ms. Simmons came over and asked to use the saw. Bethley allowed Simmons to try the saw for about fifteen minutes, and then asked him to stop. With the saw in hand, Simmons turned towards Bethley and cut his ankle, which began to bleed to the point where Bethley needed medical attention. On the way to the hospital, Simmons said he would pay for the medical bills as long as Bethley did not tell his wife about it. Simmons paid $180 directly to the hospital, but then stopped making the payments about a year later

In April 2015, Bethley filed suit against Simmons requesting damages for medical bills, lost wages, court costs and pain and suffering. In court, Bethley’s father testified about incident and told the court that Simmons agreed to “take care of it” and asked that his wife not be told. Simmons testified that he didn’t intend to cut Bethley, but Bethley got in the way. He denied promising the pay the medical bills but said he would help if he could. He agreed that he was at fault for the incident, but also contended that the statute of limitation had run out. He also filed an answer stating that over a year had passed since the injury, so the Bethley lost the right to sue. The trial court ruled in favor of Bethley, awarding him damages for pain and suffering, medical bills plus interest, and lost wages. Thereafter, Simmons appealed.

clearing-desolation-destruction-4451-1024x683Accidents can come from the most unexpected of circumstances and result in life altering consequences. Here, a man suffered severe injuries while driving to the local convenience store to purchase a cup of coffee, when a rotten tree from a resident’s yard fell and struck his vehicle.

The victim, 52-year-old Rodney Caldwell, filed a lawsuit against property owner Michael Jones and ANPAC Insurance Company, Jones’ insurance provider. The lawsuit was filed in Lincoln Parish. Caldwell was awarded special and general damages totaling $12,186. However, after being awarded damages for his claim, Caldwell appealed the amount he received in general damages, which totaled $4,000, claiming that the amount was not sufficient compensation for his injuries. On appeal, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to increase Caldwell’s amount in general damages to $15,000. 

Ordinarily, when assessing damages, the judge or jury have discretion to determine what is a sufficient amount to award the victim. La C.C. art. 2324.1. When determining general damages, the court takes into account the victim’s pain and suffering, loss of physical enjoyment, and other losses of life or lifestyle which cannot be definitively measured in monetary value. McGee v. A C and S, Inc., 933 So. 2d 770 (La. 2006)