Articles Posted in Miscellaneous

28-Email-06_24_19-pictureCan a court reinstate a former city employee’s job after being wrongly terminated? Well, fortunately for Mr. Turner, the answer is yes. 

In 2003, Ron Turner began work as the Director of Public Works for the City of Opelousas. Eight years later, the Board of Alderman had a meeting, and Item 7 on the agenda was a “discussion regarding Turner’s employment.” During the meeting, Mr. Turner specified that they failed to notify him that his employment was up for discussion, and they removed the item from the agenda. Once they removed the item from the agenda, Mr. Turner left the meeting and did not stay for the rest of it.

As the meeting progressed, the board got to Item 16 of the agenda, which discussed the mayor’s appointments for 2011. The mayor presented an organizational chart that included all the departments and their appointments, and the box for Public Works had a replacement for Mr. Turner. The board approved the new appointments, and the mayor presented a termination letter to Mr. Turner.

55What would it take for an appellate court to overturn an award of damages? According to the Louisiana 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal, the bar is set high and very rarely does an award for damages get overturned as long as it’s reasonable. Lafayette Motors employed Mr. Menard as a service advisor. In August 2003, Dr. Stroy came to Lafayette Motors to obtain a copy of the repair estimate for his wife’s car. While Menard made a copy of the estimate, the shop manager instructed Menard not to give the estimate to Dr. Stroy. Menard crumpled up the estimate to place it in the trash; however his right wrist was grabbed and twisted by Dr. Stroy. Dr. Story proceeded to take the estimate and leave the premises with it. Menard had injuries to his wrist and arm and was later diagnosed with tendinitis by an orthopedic surgeon. Almost ten years later, Menard testified he still had pain in his wrist.

A year after the incident occurred, Menard filed a petition for damages. His petition alleged that Dr. Stroy’s actions were the proximate cause of his injuries, and he wanted damages for the medical bills he incurred at the time of the incident. Dr. Story filed an answer to the petition, as well as petitioning for reconventional demand alleging Menard made public statements that were slanderous and defamatory. He further alleged that these statements caused him to suffer embarrassment, humiliation, and mental anguish. Menard filed a motion to strike or dismiss the reconventional demand, and the court granted the motion. Menard then added Dr. Stroy’s insurance company as a defendant, and they responded by saying that the police did not provide coverage for that particular incident. The insurance company filed a motion for summary judgment, and the trial court denied it. A bench trial was held, and the court ruled in favor of Menard and awarded him $3,000 in general damages and $3,048 in special damages for the medical expenses from August 2003 to November 2003.

The standard of review, in this case, is really what this case turns on and, in this case, there is broad discretion owed to the trier of fact when it comes to fixing awards for general damages. See Hollenbeck v. Oceaneering Int., Inc., 685 So.2d 163 (La. 1997). Unless the record shows that a factual and reasonable basis does not exist and the finding is wrong or erroneous, an appellate court should not disturb a finding of fact. See Thibodeaux v. Comeaux, 69 So.3d 674, 679 (La. App. Ct. 2011).

36-Email-06-24-19-PHOTO-1024x569Terms of Sale commonly include an “escape clause,” which gives the buyer a way out of a contract if unplanned circumstances arise. It is often a lawyer’s obligation to ensure that this clause is present in a contract, because if the lawyer fails to include one, this could result in malpractice.  However, in order to receive recovery from the malpractice, the aggrieved party must promptly bring a lawsuit. The Longs family of Long’s Preferred Products, Inc. in Alexandria, LA, learned this the hard way when they sued their lawyer in the Ninth Judicial District Court Parish of Rapides for not including an escape clause in a stock purchase.

 Charles Elliot represented the Longs in a stock purchase of $500,000 worth of shares from Linda Minton. On March 28, 2011, both parties agreed to the Terms of Sale and on April 29, 2011, the Longs signed the $500,000 promissory note that promised payment to Linda Minton. The Longs relied on receiving loan approval in order to pay on this note, but on August 11, 2011, the Longs’ loan was denied. Twelve days later, they discovered that they were sued to enforce the promissory note. The Longs hoped that an escape clause in the Terms of Sale would relieve them from the duty to pay; however, their lawyer, Elliot, failed to include one.

 In May 2013, the Longs spoke with a different lawyer, and on April 28th, 2014, the Longs sued Elliot for malpractice in the Ninth Judicial District Court. The District Court ruled that this lawsuit was perempted, which means that the Longs lost their right to bring a lawsuit.

55For some people, getting fired from work is like receiving the death sentence.  In the following case, an employee was fired without any reason by his employer. The employer also tried to shortchange him by not giving him his earned wages. However, the employer fought back and, more or less, was vindicated under Louisiana law.

Ralph J. Hanks worked at Louisiana Companies as an insurance producer for more than two decades. However, on November 10, 2009, his employer terminated him without any explanation. As part of his termination, he was given a Separation Agreement (“Agreement”) to sign, which stated that Louisiana Companies would pay the wages he had thus far earned. The Agreement also stated that Hanks would sell his Louisiana Companies stocks to Louisiana Companies. Furthermore, Hanks would agree not to sue Louisiana Companies or solicit current Louisiana Companies employees. If Hanks were to sue or solicit customers, then Louisiana Companies stated that it would not pay the wages he had earned.

Hanks signed the Agreement on December 1, 2009. In February 2010, Hanks began working for another employer, First Federal. First Federal shared that it had hired Hanks through a local billboard and newspapers. As a result, some of Louisiana Companies’ customers moved to First Federal for their business. Soon after, Louisiana Companies notified Hanks that he had violated the Agreement and stated that it would not pay his earned wages. Hanks sued Louisiana Companies. The district court found that Louisiana Companies’ Separation Agreement was null and void because Louisiana Companies, by making Hanks sign the Agreement, violated Louisiana’s wage payment statute. Louisiana Companies appealed. 

62-Email-06-24-19-picture-1024x768Running a small business is a challenging endeavor that can prove even more difficult if someone publishes false information about your company.  This is situation is exactly what happened to husband and wife Robbie and Susan Arnaud, owners of Robbie’s Wrecker Service, a towing business located just outside Eunice, Louisiana.

In fall 2010, Ronald Dies was elected Police Chief for City of Eunice, effective January 1, 2011.  Eunice Police Department’s rotation list for situations needing a wrecker service had previously included Robbie’s Wrecker Service. However, after being elected, Dies took action to remove Robbie’s Wrecker Service from the list. In a letter dated December 31, 2010, Dies told the Arnauds that their business would be removed from the list effective January 1, 2011, and that only wrecker services headquartered inside Eunice City limits could be on the list. On January 3, 2011, Dies spoke with a reporter for a local newspaper, The Eunice News, and stated that there had been numerous complaints about the company’s selective response to calls. This claim of “numerous complaints” formed the basis of Arnauds’ defamation claim. 

The required elements in a defamation claim are (1) a false and defamatory statement involving another, (2) an unprivileged publication to a third party, (3) fault (at least at the level of negligence) of the publisher; and (4) resulting injury. See Costello v. Hardy, 864 So.2d 129 (La. 2004).  At trial, the court held that the Arnauds had not proven either defamation or damages and dismissed all of the Arnauds’ claims against Dies. The Arnauds 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)

auto-automobile-blur-532001-1024x683When you think of an interrogation, you may think of a cold, plain room. You can imagine the two-way mirror and the rough metal chairs. You’re probably picturing some menacing looking criminal across from a police officer. It’s likely a high-pressure situation, and one party clearly holds most of the power. The police officer is calling the shots, asking all of the right questions, and knows all of the protocols. But what if it was another officer sitting across from them in the interrogation room?

On August 8th, 2013, Davin Miller was arrested by the Ascension Parish police for counts of simple battery and domestic violence.  It was alleged that Miller, an officer for the City of Gonzales, had an altercation with his wife leaving her with injuries and had also threatened his father-in-law while in uniform. Following an investigation and citing ten possible violations of the Department’s standard operating procedures, the Chief of the Gonzales Police Department fired Miller. Miller appealed this decision, citing errors including not being able to record interrogations and not having assistance of counsel during interrogations.

Mr. Miller alleges that he requested that the questioning be recorded and to have counsel present but was denied twice. He was then made to sign two waivers or else be terminated. The first waiver, a “Warning of Rights and Consent to Speak,” stated that Mr. Miller could speak to counsel and have them present when being questioned. The second waiver was consent to a polygraph test. During the questioning, Mr. Miller was asked by the Chief of the Gonzales Police Department multiple times if he was lying. 

boy-elastic-rope-exercise-equipment-176794-683x1024Typically, the scary aspect of surgery is over when the procedure ends and the person wakes up from the anesthesia. The last thing most people expect is to get injured after the surgery is already over. Unfortunately for one Iberia Parish woman, her troubles were only beginning even though she had a successful surgery. That being said, can you claim medical malpractice while you are recovering?

Mrs. Rachel Broussard underwent a surgery replacing her left knee, and was subsequently to be transferred to Lafayette Rehab following the surgery. A Lafayette Rehab employee arrived in a company van to transport her from the hospital, and Mrs. Broussard was loaded into the van in her wheelchair by the employee. On the ride to the rehabilitation center, the driver suddenly braked to avoid a car wreck, whereon Mrs. Broussard allegedly fell out of the wheelchair and on the floor of the vehicle, causing severe pain.

After the incident, Mrs. Broussard filed a lawsuit for the damages of the injury, naming Lafayette Rehab as defendant. Further, her husband, Mr. Broussard, sought money from loss of consortium. Lafayette Rehab responded with a Dilatory Exception of Prematurity, arguing that the lawsuit was filed too soon. Lafayette Rehand contended that the Broussards’ allegations had to be reviewed by a Medical Review Panel before they could bring the lawsuit, because they fell under the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act.

abandoned-abandoned-building-architecture-1687067-819x1024State of Emergency conditions and evacuations seem to have become increasingly more common in this state over the years. Floods, hurricanes, and other extreme weather conditions can force a whole neighborhood to relocate for a few weeks. At times the evacuation protocols remain voluntary, meaning you may stay in your home at your own risk. Residents choose to weather the storm for a number of reasons, be it to avoid an expensive relocation or to protect their property from looters. Whatever the reason you stay behind, be aware that a State of Emergency prompts law enforcement to be more vigilant in their safety patrols.

One late night Neil Rabeaux was walking down the side of the road in Butte La Rose when he was stopped by police officers. There was a State of Emergency in effect at the time, and many residents had voluntarily evacuated the town due to a looming flood warning. While speaking with Rabeaux, officers noted Rabeaux appeared intoxicated and that his waistband contained a handgun. A radio call to dispatch erroneously indicated Rabeaux had multiple felony convictions on his record. They arrested Rabeaux for Possession of a Firearm by a Felon and Illegal Carrying of a Firearm. Officers later discovered Rabeaux did not have a record, and dropped all charges. Rabeaux then filed a lawsuit against the two officers for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment.

The officers filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming immunity under the Louisiana Homeland Security and Emergency Assistance and Disaster Act (“the Act”). They asserted that since there was a State of Emergency at the time, their actions were immune from suit. The Trial Court agreed and dismissed the lawsuit. Rabeaux appealed.

couple-investment-key-1288482-1024x684Carrying a great deal of debt is a liability, and it may lead to some disastrous consequences. In the event of a default, your creditors can take you to court to recover the amount owed. If a judgment is made against you, your finances come under a microscope. Large transfers of money or property are strictly monitored and may even be reversed if your creditor feels the loss of the property may lead you to become more insolvent. So, what do you do when you have a large debt but need to transfer property? You need a good lawyer to navigate high debt situations, and to help you decide whether bankruptcy is the best way to avoid misfortune.

In the case of River Parish Financial Services, LLC v. London and B.W. Gill, River Parish won a money judgment against London Gill for a past due debt. River Parish was displeased to learn that London had gifted some of her property to B.W. Gill. Consequently, River Parish filed a revocatory action. The “revocatory action” entitles a creditor to annul a gift made by a debtor, if that creditor believes making that gift increases the debtor’s insolvency. See La. Civ. Code art. 2036. B.W. Gill claimed the action was barred by preemption. This simply means the period in which to contest the gift had lapsed. The gift was made in 2005, and River Parish did not file its action until late 2011. The trial court agreed, dismissing the action. River Parish appealed, arguing the prescriptive period should not have begun until the gift was recorded, and here the gift was not recorded in the public record until September of 2010.

On appeal, the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal had to determine whether River Parish’s claim was indeed time-barred or not. The court looked at La. Civ. Code art. 2041, which states that the creditor must take action within one year of learning of the transaction, but no more than three years from the time of the transaction. River Parish’s argument was that the prescriptive period should begin running on the date the transfer was recorded, rather than the date it actually occurred.