Articles Posted in Miscellaneous

grey-steel-grill-1687067-819x1024In a civil case, you do not have the classic “speedy trial” right. Instead, courts will seek expediency by granting summary judgments when appropriate. The purpose of summary judgment is to avoid frivolous and unnecessary trials, or at a minimum, to simply reduce trial time by dispensing of some claims. A motion for summary judgment may be granted upon a finding that there is “no genuine issue as to material fact and that the mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” La. C.C.P. art. 966(A)(3).

In this case, Danny Givens (“Mr. Givens”) was released from prison and subsequently sued James LeBlanc, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (collectively, “DPSC”) for false imprisonment. Mr. Givens alleged that DPSC improperly calculated his release date from prison and that he should have been released earlier; thus, he was falsely imprisoned by DPSC.

DPSC proceeded to file a motion for summary judgment, and as a result, DPSC became the “mover” under La. C.C.P. art. 966(A)(3). When filing for summary judgment, the mover has the burden to show there is no genuine issue of material fact. However, the adverse party in this case, Mr. Givens, has the burden to produce factual support to establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact. La. C.C.P. art. 966(A)(3).

man-wearing-black-officer-uniform-1464230-1024x683It’s almost impossible to watch a movie or TV show about the police or crime without hearing the phrase “Miranda Rights.” Even if most viewers don’t know the U.S. Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, which outlined those rights, viewers are aware that upon arrest, a person has multiple rights which they are entitled to have read to them. This same concept is present in Louisiana law as well. If an arrestee isn’t read his rights in full, the arrest could be invalid. 

Brian Litton alleged that he was not read his rights in full when he was arrested under suspicion of drunk driving on July 13, 2015, in Bossier Parish by Deputy Tim Wooten. In Louisiana, there are multiple things a police officer must do after he arrests a person under suspicion of DUI. See La. R.S. 32:661(C). After officers determine there are reasonable grounds to arrest someone for drunk driving, they can subject the arrestee to a test to determine what their blood alcohol percentage is. However, they must first read to the arrestee a form stating both the rights he has, but also that if he refuses the chemical test his driver’s license can be suspended for a year just for refusing the test. See La. R.S. 32:667. Once those rights and consequences are read to the arrestee, he must sign the form as well. Mr. Litton signed the form but refused to take the test. Although Mr. Litton signed the form, he claims he was unaware that his license would be suspended for refusing the test because the officer did not read to him that part of the form.

When this case came before the Second Circuit Court of Appeal of Louisiana, a trial court had agreed with Mr. Litton and reinstated his license. The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Correction, Office of Motor Vehicles, appealed to the Second Circuit. The decision was a fairly black and white affair. Deputy Wooten himself testified at the initial trial that he gave Mr. Litton the form but was unsure if prior to that he had read the entirety of the form to Mr. Litton. Mr. Litton took it a step further by saying he was sure that Deputy Wooten had not read to him the portion of the form relating to the potential loss of his license. There was no paper trail or any other proof that Deputy Wooten read the form to Mr. Litton in full. Because of that, the Second Circuit affirmed the trial court’s decision that the suspension of the driver’s license was invalid since Deputy Wooten did not fully follow the legal procedure for such an arrest. 

aged-alarm-clock-antique-background-552774-1024x762When a lawsuit is filed for an injury, most people assume that the claim will be sorted out in court in a timely manner.  Sometimes, however, a case can get significantly delayed by years, even before a trial has occurred. In these instances, it is also possible that the case becomes “abandoned” if neither side takes any action towards furthering the course of the lawsuit.  For one West Feliciana woman, the defense tried to do just that and claimed case abandonment.

In September 2005, Sheryl Cummings filed a lawsuit individually and on behalf of Shedrick Cummings, alleging that Shedrick became a quadriplegic after sustaining severe injuries from a football game at West Feliciana High School Stadium.  Cummings named the West Feliciana Parish School Board (WFPSB), West Baton Rouge Parish School Board (WBRPSB), and several insurance companies, including AIG Insurance (National Union), claiming that there was insurance accident policy coverage of $1,000,000. 

The district court judge dismissed claims against several insurance companies and severed the claim from WFPSB from the claims against National Union.  In July 2009, all of Cummings’ claims against WFPSB were dismissed. In January 2016, National Union filed a motion to dismiss Cummings’ claims, alleging abandonment because of no steps taken on the case in over three years.  The trial court granted the motion and dismissed the claims. Shedrick Cummings appealed the decision to the State of Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal.

person-grilling-sausage-and-meat-1857732-1-1024x683The interests of justice are best served when the evidence in a lawsuit is new. This is because any potential witnesses can corroborate or deny evidence presented at trial with a fresh memory of the events or documents. Personal injury cases in Louisiana follow this principle with a one year deadline called the peremptory exception of prescription. A recent lawsuit between New Orleans family members demonstrated the value of having an excellent attorney who knows when these deadlines begin to run.

On April 20, 2014, Cynthia Dent attended an Easter party at Genevieve Willis Dent’s home in New Orleans. While walking in the backyard, Ms. Dent stepped into a hole. This hole was covered by outdoor carpet and was not visible. As a result of the accident, Cynthia Dent experienced pain and swelling in her left foot and ankle. Two days later, on April 22, 2014, Cynthia Dent went to the doctor for x-rays and eventually found out that she broke her left foot.

One year and three days after the original accident and one year and one day after her diagnosis, on April 23, 2015, Ms. Dent filed a lawsuit against Genevieve Dent and Genevieve’s home insurance company, State Farm Fire and Casualty Company. In response, Genevieve Dent and her insurance carrier filed a peremptory exception of prescription. This peremptory exception of prescription is used by defendants for a variety of reasons, which basically argues that there is no legal remedy for the plaintiff’s alleged injury because the lawsuit was brought too late. In Genevieve Dent’s case, she raised the peremptory exception of prescription because Cynthia Dent filed her lawsuit past the one year deadline. The Trial Court held a hearing on the peremptory exception of prescription and agreed with Genevieve’s argument. The lawsuit was dismissed. Cynthia Dent then appealed.

chairs-classroom-college-desks-289740-1024x683Most American’s have experienced some type of driving school, either during school or after school at a private driving school. Regardless of whether you took driving classes during school or after school, the individuals teaching the classes and the organization sponsoring the classes had licenses. In Louisiana, the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Office of Motor Vehicles (“OMV”) provides licenses for two types of courses – a fourteen-hour course for individuals over eighteen who have never had a license, and a thirty-eight-hour course, for individuals under eighteen.

This case asks whether an appellate court may review a case that is not per se a final judgment. Typically, appellate courts only have jurisdiction to review a final judgment, which is a judgment that determines the merits of a case. La. C.C.P. art. 1841. While not all claims may be reviewed by an appellate court, a final judgment is appealable in all causes. Here, we deal with a case in which not all of the claims had been adjudicated in lower courts.

Bosley’s Driving was licensed to instruct the fourteen-hour courses. Additionally, it had applied and been denied the license to teach the thirty-eight-hour courses in both 2012 and 2013. While Bosley’s Driving never obtained a license to teach the thirty-eight-hour courses, it issued certificates of completion to nine students in 2013 and 2014. As a result, in March 2014, Bosley’s Driving was issued a cease and desist as a driving school and a third-party tester due to instructing the thirty-eight-hour driver course without approval. Bosley’s Driving appealed the revocations to the Division of Administrative Law, alleging that the OMV’s treatment of him violated the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act because it was shutting down his business.

1-us-bank-note-47344-1024x724Benjamin Franklin had good reason to make the statement, “neither a borrower nor a lender be.” The potential for risk on either side of the transaction is significant. Be it the likelihood of not getting paid, or the possibility that you will not be able to repay the debt, many find that it is better to avoid the perils of money lending altogether. But that is just not practical. The way big plans are realized is often with money we do not yet have. And loaning money at interest is usually a great short-term investment, if you have the cash to spare. How do we assure our debt agreements will hold up in court?

On February 24, 2014, New Orleans resident Lois Guillory made a $40,000 loan to Percy Goulette and Alan Sagely, with interest totaling $5,000 and due in one year’s time. The parties signed a promissory note memorializing all the terms. But once February 24, 2015 came around, Goulette and Sagely refused to pay the obligation. When Ms. Guillory filed a lawsuit to recover her investment, Mr. Goulette tried to have the claim dismissed, stating that his business Goulette Ice actually borrowed the money. Goulette claimed he and Sagely did not borrow the money individually, but signed the note in their capacity as agents of Goulette Ice. In fact, the note identified the men as owners of Goulette Ice in two places, one of which was below the signature line. This, in Goulette’s eye, meant he and Sagely were not personally guaranteeing repayment, and not liable for the loan. The Trial Court granted Goulette’s peremptory exception of no cause of action, and Ms. Guillory appealed. 

A peremptory exception for no cause of action is essentially one party asking the court to dismiss the case because there has been no offense for which to sue. These exceptions are judged solely on the pleadings, and neither party may introduce evidence to support or object to the exception. La. C.C.P. art. 931. Ms. Guillory’s original petition contained a copy of the promissory note, and the Appellate Court closely reviewed that document. 

architecture-brick-building-construction-259957-1024x667It is difficult to fully know and understand the law. This is why lawyers attend law school for three years, and then complete continuing education for the rest of their careers. Many times a party to a lawsuit will try to carry on without a lawyer, but the unfortunate truth is that this can actually lead to more headaches and financial woes than expected. 

In Iota, Louisiana, a woman was allegedly blind-sided by eviction. An unemployed single mother, Erica Scott was accustomed to paying her rent a few days late from time to time. But her apartment company, Southern Apartments, owned by MAC-RE, LLC, had changed their payment policy. Although they kept the first-of-the-month due date and 10-day grace period, they declared that any tenant who has not paid rent by the 11th day of the month will automatically have his or her lease terminated and eviction procedures would begin. The manager of Southern Apartments, Sherry Hebert, went door-to-door with a memorandum stating this change, either handing it to those who answered their door, or leaving it with a note requesting that tenants come to the office to sign. Ms. Scott alleged that she never received this notice, and attempted to pay her rent to Ms. Hebert on the 13th of the month. This payment, however, was refused, and Ms. Scott was given five days to voluntary vacate her apartment. 

Ms. Scott did indeed find a new residence at the end of the month and began to move her things. However, when she returned on the 6th of August, she stated that her locks were changed. Ms. Hebert disputes this, as she was personally unable to do change the locks and the maintenance man was on leave. Ms. Scott declared that $20,000 worth of property remained in the apartment, but Ms. Hebert disputed this as well. She states that when she went in to survey the property, all that remained was garbage, rotting food, broken toys and furniture, an old mattress, and dirty dishes. 

close-up-photography-of-silver-sports-car-1236809-683x1024Exceptions exist everywhere in law. Although people in their normal and daily lives are expected to stop at a red light and follow the speed limit, police officers need not do so when responding to emergencies. Of course, this exception makes sense. Imagine what would happen if a police officer has to respond to a shooting but has to sit in traffic. But should police officers be free from any liability for the damages they may cause while responding to an emergency? 

Near a convenience store situated on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish, Kim White met a man she knew from the neighborhood. The man asked White whether she could help him purchase heroin. White agreed and got into the man’s car, and the two drove around in search for heroin. Little did White know, the man’s car was stolen. A short while later, White and the man noticed that a police car was tailing them. Rather than stopping, the man accelerated, and a high speed chase ensued. Eventually, the man stopped the car at a parking lot. Though the man ran away, White was struck by a police cruiser. White filed a lawsuit against the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. At trial, White testified that, upon exiting the vehicle, she had her hands up and surrendered to the police. On cross-examination, however, a prior deposition revealed that White had not raised her hands at the time of crash. 

Deputy Paul Gegenheimer was the officer whose vehicle crashed into White. He testified that White appeared to be running away and that he did not intentionally run his vehicle into White. He stated that he was going around five to ten miles per hour when he hit White. Deputy Johnnie Petit, Jr., another officer who was involved in the chase, testified that he did not see Deputy Gegenheimer’s vehicle strike White. Deputy Mike Tisdale arrived at the scene two minutes after the crash and noted that White was in considerable amounts of pain. However, he did not notice any error in Deputy Gegenheimer’s driving. Major Kerry Najolia, director of training for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, testified that officers were immune under La. R.S. 32:24 from liability for any accidents they cause during pursuits of a stolen vehicle. The Trial Court denied relief for White. White appealed, arguing that La. R.S. 32:24 did not apply in her case. 

close-up-court-courthouse-hammer-534204-1024x569After a hard fought jury trial, an appeal can be expected. But, what cannot be anticipated is a transcribing error by the court that renders the judgment as invalid and makes any appeal impossible. Excellent attorneys can catch errors by other parties and avoid multiple extra steps before a lawsuit can be resolved. That was the case here as mismatching damage award classification labels extended a lawsuit well beyond its anticipated end.

Willie Brown, Jr., was a customer at the Silver’s Casino in Breaux Bridge. After a power outage at the casino and at the direction of an employee of the Casino, Mr. Brown tripped over a sidewalk while he was entering the premises. Mr. Brown suffered injuries to his right knee, left shoulder, and also his head.

Mr. Brown saw a doctor for his injuries and was diagnosed with a cervical disc issue. The doctor recommended surgery to repair the injuries and estimated that the surgery would cost $85,000. Mr. Brown also saw a doctor at the request of Silver’s Casino and received a much lower medical cost estimate. Silver’s doctor suggested that Mr. Brown did not need surgery and instead only needed an injection for pain that would cost $1,000.

gasoline-station-during-night-time-92077-1024x489The five factor Daubert test is used in federal courts to determine if the methodology used by medical and other experts is reliable. The five factors that may be considered under the Daubert standard to determine whether the methodology is valid are: (1) whether the theory or technique in question can be and has been tested; (2) whether it has been subjected to peer review and publication; (3) its known or potential error rate; (4) the existence and maintenance of standards controlling its operation; and (5) whether it has attracted widespread acceptance within a relevant scientific community. See Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993).

In this case, Natalie Konrick (“Ms. Konrick”) worked as a security guard at a refinery in Louisiana that was owned by Chalmette Refinery, L.L.C. (“Chalmette”) and operated by Exxon Mobil Corporation (“Exxon”). She, unfortunately, had a stillborn baby, allegedly as a result of the toxins to which she was exposed to while working at Chalmette. Ms. Konrick obtained experts Dr. Robert Harrison, Dr. Cynthia Bearer, and Dr. Lauren Waters to testify regarding the general causation of her having a stillborn baby.

The District Court granted Chalmette’s motion to exclude the three expert’s testimony because it found that their opinions were based on unreliable methodologies. As a result of the grant of the motion to exclude expert testimony, summary judgment was granted in favor of Chalmette because there was no evidence of general causation as to the stillborn baby.