Articles Posted in Litigation

businessmen-shaking-hands-1240995-1024x643A non-compete agreement often takes the form of a clause in an employment contract whereby an employer seeks to restrict a former employee’s ability to compete with the employer after the employment relationship is terminated. These types of clauses are usually valid if they are reasonable in scope, time, and area and line of business. But, what happens happens when someone ignores a non-compete agreement in Louisiana?

In the present case, four investors formed a company in Shreveport, Louisiana, called Endurall, Inc. to manufacture and sell rod guides to local businesses in the oil and gas industry. The four investors signed a non-compete agreement, which stated that, if any of them were to be terminated as shareholders, they would not establish another business to compete against Endurall for at least two years after termination.

Billy Joe Edwards was terminated as a shareholder of Endurall on July 31, 2013. Less than a year after his termination from Endurall, in March 2014, Edwards and his son formed a new company, DHE, LLC in Benton, Louisiana, which posed competition for Endurall in the manufacture and sale of rod guides. As a result, several Endurall sales representatives left Endurall to work at DHE, and some of Endurall’s customers switched from Endurall products to DHE products, causing Endurall’s sales to decline.

no-entry-1311573-1024x768Filing dates and deadlines often add an extra layer of stress to an ongoing case. When poor health contributes to the challenges in meeting these deadlines, persistent advocacy can sometimes make up the difference. So how can being persistent help you in a workers compensation case?   

 After an unfortunate work-related accident involving an exposed electrical wire, Christopher Gilley (Mr. Gilley) initiated a disputed claim for compensation against his employer, Gilley Enterprises, Inc. (Enterprises) on September 10, 2014. Mr. Gilley suffered from numbness and regular pain in his back and neck following the incident. He continued to work for Enterprises, a company Mr. Gilley’s uncle owned, after the incident, albeit on a less regular basis, due to his condition.  

Mr. Gilley claimed entitlement to indemnity benefits, including penalties and attorneys’ fees. Enterprises asserted doubts regarding whether Mr. Gilley actually experienced an injury in the course of his employment. In response to Mr. Gilley’s amended answer, Enterprises submitted a fraud defense pursuant to La. R.S.23:1208. Enterprises not only alleged Mr. Gilley did not suffer any injuries, but that he gave false testimony as well. Overall, Enterprises’ defense cast doubt over the sincerity of Mr. Gilley’s attempt to collect benefits.

the-graduate-1543243-802x1024There are many reasons why someone can be fired from a job. In order to succeed in a claim for wrongful discharge because of discrimination, a plaintiff must satisfy various elements and provide sufficient evidence.

Plaintiff-Appellant Arthur Moghalu sued his former employer, the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System for Northwestern State University (the Defendant), alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Moghalu claimed that he was improperly fired from his job because of his race and national origin. At trial, the district court granted the Defendant’s Rule 50 motion for judgment as a matter of law after Moghalu presented his case. The issue on appeal was whether the district court properly granted the Defendant’s Rule 50 motion.

Moghalu applied to be an Assistant Professor of criminal justice at with Northwestern State University (NSU) in 2006. Moghalu, a dual-citizen of Nigeria and the United States, interviewed with the head of the department, Joe Morris. Under Mr. Morris’s recommendation, Moghalu was offered employment beginning in August 2006. The offer for employment provided Moghalu a contract based on a 9-month term, which was subject to annual review and potential renewal. At the time, Moghalu had achieved ABD (all but dissertation) doctoral status, which meant that he only had to complete his dissertation to reach Ph.D. status. Moghalu, based on his projections, anticipated completing that dissertation by December 2006 and represented as much to the head of the department. However, as time would tell, the projection was inaccurate, and though Moghalu continued to work on it, he did not finish the dissertation as an employee of NSU.

bedroom-bliss-no-3-1542621-1024x768Workers’ compensation claims can be very stressful for the injured employee. Because of this, the law in Louisiana will help offset the legal costs of workers’ compensation claim denials by employers by awarding penalties and attorney fees ( PA&F) if the employer is found to have improperly denied the employees claims for medical treatment. This was the case for a Calcasieu Parish employee who experienced trouble sleeping due to pain from her injury. So, what do you do when your employer denies your workers compensation benefits?

Stephanie Lemelle Ardoin was injured while working for the Calcasieu Parish School Board at the beginning of 2013. After the injury, she was awarded workers’ compensation benefits and received treatment for her back injury. Ms. Ardoin’s treatment included a laminectomy. She also had a fusion of her L4-5 vertebrae performed by Dr. Chris Gunderson.

Following the surgery, Ms. Ardoin received care from Dr. Gunderson and was also provided with care from Dr. Daniel Hodges to deal with pain. She received care from Dr. Hodges because she was still experiencing pain and was having problems sleeping. Eventually, both doctors gave a prescription for an adjustable mattress to help with the sleeping issues. The adjustable mattress request was sent to WellComp Managed Care Services for review. WellComp denied this request on the grounds that it did not meet the Workers Compensation insurance guidelines. WellComp stated the claim was inadequate because there was no medical rationale to support the need for the adjustable mattress.

slot-machines-1417312-704x1024There is a strong public policy reason for voiding all contracts that concern illegal activity. A Shreveport casino used the help of an excellent attorney to rely on this principle when a customer brought a lawsuit against it because his use of a preferred slot machine was discontinued. Because there was no possible way for a contract to be formed there was not a legal avenue to bring the lawsuit under. Thus leaving the question, can you sue for never hitting the jackpot?

Matt Master alleged that he was given the exclusive use of their preferred slot machine for a 16 ½ month period by Red River Entertainment, LLC which does business by the name Sam’s Town Casino. Both Mr. Master and his wife were given the exclusive use of a slot machine. When they weren’t using it, the machine was “capped” by the Casino’s management, this prevented others from using the machine while he and his wife were taking a break. This “capping” period started off for periods of a couple of hours and eventually would be granted for periods up to a whole day.

The machine was selected by Mr. Master because the jackpot was around $101,000 and it had not hit a jackpot for 2 years. Over 16 ½ months, the jackpot of the machine increased to $155,300. Mr. Master alleged that the Casino’s management told him that the machine was probably close to hitting another jackpot. He also alleged that in 2013 he lost over $500,000 on the machine. After failing to hit the jackpot over 16 ½ months Mr. Master filed a complaint with the State Gaming Commission to investigate why the machine had never hit a jackpot. Once the Casino’s management learned of the complaint, Mr. Master was banned from the slot machine and the casino. Mr. Master filed a lawsuit based on his dismissal from the Casino as well as the slot machine never reaching a jackpot. The Casino responded by arguing that there was no cause of action. The Trial Court agreed and dismissed Mr. Master’s claims.

pills-pills-pills-3-1326912-1024x683In the aftermath of suffering injuries from medical malpractice, filing a suit might not be at the top of your list. However, in order to maximize your chance of recovery, it is imperative that you timely file your claim without delay. So what happens when you do not file a suit quickly enough?

Brian Snavely was a patient of Dr. Rice and her affiliated entities. Snavely sought care from Dr. Rice for chronic pain that started with an industrial accident in 1999. That care included being prescribed narcotics. In 2010, Snavely was involved with an automobile accident with Kayse Vincent. Following this accident, Snavely received further treatment from Dr. Rice. While Snavely was seeking damages against Vincent for that accident, he died of a drug overdose. The plaintiff, Linda Snavely, was Brian Snavely’s mother. Ms. Snavely first filed a Request to Convene a Medical Review Panel, which is an initial malpractice hearing against qualified healthcare providers, against Dr. Rice and her entities under the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act (LMMA), La.R.S. 40:1299.41-.49. Dr. Rice, as a licensed physician, could be subjected to a Medical Review Panel. However, her affiliated entities could not be. Dr. Rice responded to the Request to Convene a Medical Review Panel by filing an Exception of Prescription, which is a pleading seeking delay or dismissal of a lawsuit or other action because the time period to bring that action has expired. The exception and dismissal were subsequently granted. Ms. Snavely then sought damages against Dr. Rice’s entities as she alleged their treatment led to Brian’s death. The Rice entities filed an Exception of Prescription and it too was granted.

The exception of prescription is laid out in La. C.C.P. art. 927. The burden of proof lies on the requesting party. When Appeals Courts review it, they use a manifest error standard of review, which means no deference is given to lower courts. The time limit for filing claims is one year; which means an Exception of Prescription is proper if a lawsuit or other action is filed after one year. La. R.S. 9:5628(A). However, that rule is only valid from when damages are immediately apparent. See In re Medical Review Panel for Claim of Moses, 788 So.2d 1173, 1178 (La. 2001).

64-photo-3_26_19-1024x684If you believe you are eligible for retirement, disability, or other benefits from the Social Security Administration (“SSA”), it is imperative that you understand how prior events, including those that may have led to overpayment of prior benefits, can affect your ability to collect these benefits.

In 2010, Johnson applied for retirement insurance benefits with the SSA. He was then advised that he had been overpaid disability insurance benefits from 1974 to 1976 and that any retirement insurance benefits would be withheld until the $4,535.90 prior overpayment amount was satisfied. Johnson requested a hearing before an administrative law judge and testified that he didn’t receive disability benefits in 1976, 1977, or 1978. He did receive disability benefits in 1970, but those benefits were discontinued in 1974 or 1975 after advising the SSA that he had returned to work. He also specified that he didn’t recall getting a notice of overpayment and demanded that they provide proof of the alleged overpayments. The administrative law judge ruled against Johnson and ruled that he was liable for the full amount. Johnson requested a review of the decision but was denied by the Appeals Council.

Three years later, Johnson filed an action in the district court seeking a review of the decision made by the administrative law judge. The SSA moved for summary judgment, and the magistrate judge issued a Report and Recommendation and recommended that the matter be remanded to the Commissioner of the SSA for a determination supported by substantial evidence regarding the overpayment allegedly made to Johnson. The district court adopted the Report and Recommendation and ordered the case to be remanded. They further specified to Johnson that they were affirming the decision that Johnson received overpayments, but reversing the determination concerning the amount of overpaid benefits, and remanding for a determination of benefits owed with supporting evidence.

paper-family-1186206-1024x676Summary judgment is a legal standard many courts use when there are not enough facts in dispute to even proceed with a lawsuit. When applicable, this is a good strategy for a defense attorney to use because it purges claims that have no merit, saving time and money. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal demonstrated this principle within the context of an employment discrimination lawsuit. The following case demonstrates how an employer can use the Courts to deny a Family Medical Leave Act Claim.

Michelle Calderone was an employee of TARC in Hammond, Louisiana. While she was employed, Calderone was involved in a car accident where she was initially diagnosed with a chip fracture to her ankle. Nine days after the accident, she returned to work. About a month later, Calderone was further diagnosed with a crack in her sternum and was instructed to remain on bed rest. TARC’s CEO, Kathleen Abels, gave Calderone permission to work from home. A month later, Calderone proposed splitting up her time equally at home and at work, and Abels agreed. Calderone submitted a doctor’s note allowing her to work the split schedule, which specified no lifting, climbing, or travel and warned of the injury’s existence for 6 months or more. After the split schedule began, Abels gave Calderone a document that characterized her split schedule as temporary and only in effect until March 31, 2012. She did not sign the document, but she submitted a written response opposing some aspects of the document, such as her disability characterization, the revocation of the split schedule, and the failure to inform her of FMLA rights. Abels denied Calderone request.

After Calderone’s doctor gave the release, Calderone returned to a full-time schedule. Calderone did not request any leave thereafter or object to resuming her split schedule. Seven months after returning to a full-time schedule, Calderone resigned stating that she cannot successfully complete her duties under Abels’ management but failed to mention any issues regarding her leave, injuries from the car accident, or timing of her return to work from those injuries.

to-sign-a-contract-2-1236630-1-1024x683Final judgments are usually final. However, not all civil judgments are actually final. In a legal malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff can attempt to seek relief from a final judgment. However, this remedy is only available under a narrow set of circumstances where the losing party may request the court to reopen an otherwise final judgment.

Ms. Narissa Bradford hired certain attorneys (collectively as “GHW”) to represent her in an Italian civil suit. After the suit was unsuccessful, Bradford sued GHW alleging legal malpractice during the course of their representation. The Eastern District Court of Louisiana granted GHW’s motion for summary judgment. A motion for summary judgment asks the district court to decide a case prior to it going to trial if no material facts are in dispute La. C.C.P. art. 966. Bradford’s claims were dismissed with prejudice, meaning she was prohibited from suing under the same claims in the future. On May 15, 2015, Bradford filed a Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) motion seeking relief from an earlier judgment, but the district court denied the motion. Bradford, disagreeing with the district court’s ruling, timely appealed. 

The district court has the discretion to grant or deny relief under FRCP 60(b) and will only be reversed for abuse of discretion. Bradford argued that the district court abused its discretion by denying her relief on the grounds of newly discovered evidence, fraud, and other reason that justifies relief. Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(2)-(3), (6) On the ground of newly discovered evidence, Bradford must show that she exercised due diligence in obtaining the information at the time of trial and that evidence is controlling enough to have clearly produced a different result if presented before the original judgment. Johnson Waste Materials v. Marshall, 611 F.2d 593, 597 (5th Cir. 1980). Hesling v. CSX Transp., Inc., 396 F.3d 632, 639 (5th Cir. 2005). The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s granting of summary judgment, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion on three grounds.

school-yard-1550938-1024x682When someone reports misconduct, they might expect the wrongdoer to be reprimanded. They don’t generally expect to be punished themselves. That’s why Ronald Bias at Amite High School was not happy when he was retaliated against after reporting a colleague’s misconduct.  

Mr. Bias was a senior Marine Corps instructor for the Tangipahoa Parish School Board’s junior ROTC program. When he overheard that fellow ROTC instructor Carl Foster was misusing funds to pay for a non-ROTC cross-country team trip in September 2009, he promptly reported it to the school’s principal. The principal approved the funding anyway. Mr. Bias reported a second misappropriation of funds in April 2010, which also had the principal’s stamp of approval.

During the same time period, Mr. Bias claimed that his colleague, Mr. Foster, though subordinate to Bias, worked with the principal, Michael Stant, to undermine Bias in his ability to perform his job duties. Together, they harassed and spread rumors about him in retaliation for his reporting of misappropriation. After Bias reported the second misappropriation of funds, he alleges that the two men convinced the Marine Corps to transfer him to another high school an hour away. He claimed this would have a negative impact on his career and place a strain on his family, so he decided to retire from the Marine Corps.