Articles Posted in Motorcycle Injury

It is vital to know proper court procedures at the outset of litigation or else an otherwise valid claim might be thrown out of court without ever being heard. One prime example is the need to send initial court documents to a defendant within a set deadline (sending such documents, such as a citation or summons, is known as service of process). Case in point, the Lafayette Parish Court of Appeal, in Boka v. Oller, recently upheld the dismissal of a claim without even considering the merits because service of process was delivered too late. Therefore, it is important to know the rules before bringing a lawsuit or a good claim might be lost due to a mere technicality, such as delivering papers too late. For a non-lawyer, an attorney can be instrumental in making sure proper procedures are followed so that the party has a chance to present their case in court.

In Lafayette Parish, Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Article 1201 requires that service of the citation must be requested within a deadline of ninety days from commencement of the action. Article 1201 also notes that service of process on defendants is “essential” and “without them all proceedings are absolutely null.” The deadline for service is to ensure that defendants are aware of an action and have enough to prepare. Therefore, as a delay in service is deemed unfair to the defendant, a court may dismiss a claim if service of process is sent too late.

There are some limited exceptions to the rule, but, due to the risks involved in these exceptions, generally a party should attempt to serve process on time. For example, one exception permits late service if there is good cause for the delay. However, as the court is unlikely to accept run-of-the-mill excuses for delays, proving a good cause for failure to serve process on time can be difficult. As noted below, the court in Lafayette Parish found that there was no good cause for late service as the plaintiff knew the defendant’s address.

Throughout Louisiana there are many roads that do not have marked center lines. When an accident occurs on one of these roads, a careful investigation must be made to determine which side of the road the accident occurred on. Then, if a lawsuit is filed, the trier of fact can determine which driver was responsible for the accident. A recently decided case that was affirmed by the Court of Appeal for the Third Circuit serves as an example of how such fault determinations are made and how the law plays into these accidents.

In that case, a woman was on an unmarked road getting ready to turn left into a private driveway. From the other direction, another vehicle crossed the center of the road in order to pass cars parked along the side of the road. By doing so, the second driver failed to re-enter his lane before reaching the first vehicle. The second car slammed into the first, causing serious injury to the first driver and severe damage to her vehicle. An investigation of the crash, particularly of skid marks, showed the accident did indeed take place in the first driver’s lane and that the second driver was driving much faster than the posted speed limit. The first driver filed a lawsuit against the other driver and won compensation for her damages. To find the second driver at fault, the judge in the case examined existing statutes to determined the second driver broke the law by moving into the other lane to pass vehicles when the other lane was not clear for a reasonable distance and f or traveling at excessive speed.

As evidenced by this case, when one is injured in an accident, a lawsuit may be filed against another driver in an attempt to recover damages. To succeed on such a claim, the plaintiff must show the other driver was negligent and that negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries. If a driver is speeding, crosses the center line, or is drunk, for example, the driver is likely to be found negligent. If injuries are sustained as a direct result of that negligence, then compensation may be obtained to cover medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages. Then, the plaintiff can focus on moving past the accident and getting life back to normal.

The term wrongful death refers to cases in which the decedent’s death was the fault of another. The other “person” could be one individual, such as someone driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol; it could also be a group of people or a business, such as the decedent’s employers or the manufacturers of a product whose defect or malfunctioning resulted in the user’s death. Wrongful death lawsuits may be initiated by family members of the decedent in order to obtain monetary benefits, such as for wages the decedent would have earned if he were still alive. Before filing a lawsuit, it is important to establish whether the person bringing the case has standing to do so. Standing indicates that the moving party has a sufficient connection to or is substantially affected by the harm being alleged, in this case the wrongful death of the victim.

In order to bring a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff must have standing as a close relative of the deceased. The first family members who would be favored to have standing would be the decedent’s spouse and children. Louisiana Civil Code states that the surviving mother or father of the deceased may only have standing if there is no spouse or child surviving the decedent. If the deceased had no surviving parents, spouse or child, then his or her brothers or sisters would have standing to bring a lawsuit. Finally, if the decedent had no surviving siblings, spouse, parents or children, then his or her grandparents would have standing to file a wrongful death claim. Note that a mother or father who abandoned the decedent while he or she was still a minor would not have standing.

Though children are the first to have standing in a wrongful death case, standing may be challenged when the parentage is called into question. A Louisiana court stated that “a filiation action inherently accompanies an illegitimate child’s wrongful death and survival action.” Thus, children born out of wedlock, that is, to parents who were not married at the time of birth, must be able to prove paternity in order to have standing. According to Louisiana law, a husband will be presumed to be the parent of a child when the child is born within 300 days of the termination of a marriage (300 being considered the maximum possible time of gestation). Outside of this exception, proceedings must be conducted to establish standing.

When a legal issue goes to trial attorneys on both sides must abide by the rules of evidence. These rules pertain to how witnesses may be questioned and which evidence may be admitted. An error in any of these areas may lead to an objection which may be upheld by the judge. However, sometimes the judge allows evidence that the Court of Appeal finds inappropriate. When this happens, the entire case may have to start over again. This is the situation for one case arising out of an accident in Lafayette.

In Cawthorne v. Fogelman, an accident occurred when the defendant turned right out of a drive and into the road’s outer lane, but struck the plaintiff’s vehicle. The plaintiff suffered severe neck and back injuries as a result of the collision. This lawsuit was subsequently filed. According to court documents, the defendant checked the road before turning out of the drive, saw no oncoming cars in the lane he was turning into, and saw no vehicles in the inside lane with their blinker on. After hearing testimony from expert witnesses the jury found for the defendant.

On appeal to the Court of Appeal for the Third Circuit, the plaintiff asserted the trial court erred in allowing the defendant’s deposition to be admitted into evidence in place of the defendant’s live testimony. In other words, a written transcription of the defendant’s statements was made available to the jury, but the defendant was not physically present to be questioned by the plaintiff and to be seen and heard by the jury.

Put simply, summary judgment is a decision rendered by a court for one party and against another without the litigation of a full trial. According to the Louisiana Supreme Court, summary judgment is appropriate when all relevant facts are brought before the court, the relevant facts are undisputed, and the sole remaining issue relates to the legal conclusion to be drawn from the facts. As you can probably understand, arguing for or against a party’s motion for summary judgment is not only a complex process, but also one that carries much risk.

On September 2, 2008, Daniel Milbert fell off of a roof and broke his ankle. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Milbert received surgery to repair his ankle at the Lafayette General Medical Center and was placed on a pain pump. After speaking to one of his doctors about an increase in pain following his discharge from the hospital, Mr. Milbert was instructed to call if the pain worsened. After attempting to contact doctors at the medical center, Mr. Milbert and his wife were required to leave messages with Dexcomm, an answering service in Lafayette. After Mr. Milbert was diagnosed with compartment syndrome and had to undergo surgery, he and his wife filed suit against Dexcomm on December 23, 2009. Accordingly, Dexcomm filed a motion for summary judgment alleging that the right of recovery had expired. At trial, the court agreed with Dexcomm and granted the motion for summary judgment.

Mr. Milbert and his wife appealed.

In May 2004, an employee (Dauzat) of the City of Marksville backed an emergency fire department vehicle into another car containing Daisy Marcile and multiple passengers. Ms. Marcile and her passengers were injured and filed suit against the City of Marksville for damages.

Per La. R.S. 13:5105, a political subdivision of Louisiana cannot be tried by a jury unless it waives this prohibition and either the plaintiff or political subdivision requests a jury trial in the time provided by law. According to Arshad v. City of Kenner, any waiver must be a blanket waiver covering all cases, not a specific suit.

This statute has come under fire before. In Beauclaire v. Greenhouse, the Supreme Court of Louisiana ruled that the waiver provision (section D) of La. R.S. 13:5105 met the standards of the equal protection clause of the constitution, “as the statute allowed either party to demand a jury trial in accordance with the law once the political subdivision waives the the prohibition” and denied either party from seeking a jury trial when the prohibition had not been waived.

Under Louisiana law, there are very specific rules about how to properly serve someone, and one of the important aspects of service that an attorney has to get right is the timing of it. Furthermore, not only does the service have to be carried out in a timely manner, but it also has to be perfected properly.

This particular Supreme Court of Louisiana case dealt with service on a state entity, and it is important for your attorney to be aware of any differences that exist with regard to service requirements depending on who the other party is. According to the applicable state law, La. R.S. 13:850, “perfecting” a service request requires that the appropriate filing fees and transmission fees have been received by the clerk of the court and that the original signed document has been received by the clerk. All of this must be received within the proper timeframe. As stated in La. R.S. 13:850, the proper timeframe for perfection in this case is seven days.

In this case, the service request was received within the required ninety-day timeframe (ninety days since the filing of the petition), and the service request was perfected five days later once the requisite documents and fee payments were received by the clerk of the court. The question then is whether or not this counts as proper request for service: Was the request for service properly received within ninety days even though perfection of the request was outside of that ninety-day timeframe?

Filing a Motion for Summary Judgment in Louisiana

Can a trial court properly grant a motion for summary judgment when material issues of fact still remain? According to Louisiana law, a motion for summary judgment is not properly granted if material issues of fact still remain. Summary judgment is only properly granted if pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions on file, and affidavits show that no genuine issues of material fact exist.

The purpose of summary judgment is to circumvent a full-scale trial if there are no issues of fact. At trial, fact finders determine what the genuine facts are, and in the case of dispute, the fact finders have to decide what proposed facts are the most plausible in the context of the case. If no issues of fact exist, then this costly and time-consuming process can be avoided by granting a motion for summary judgment.

If you feel like your attorney has engaged in malpractice, what can you do? First, you should have a basic idea of what actually constitutes legal malpractice. In Louisiana, the plaintiff has to prove (with evidence that is strong enough to convince a reasonable trier of fact) three things. 1) That an attorney-client relationship exists. 2) That there was negligent representation by the attorney. 3) That there was actual loss caused by that negligence. What constitutes negligence? The plaintiff would have to prove that the attorney did not use the same degree of care, skill, and diligence which other prudent practicing attorneys exercise in the same locality.

In order to prove that the attorney did not exercise an adequate level of care and diligence, normally the plaintiff will hire an expert witness in order to establish what the standard of care in that locality is. The plaintiff also has to establish that the attorney’s actions did not live up to this standard of care. If the attorney was particularly negligent or the malpractice was obvious, then it might not be necessary to call in an expert witness to establish malpractice. If the malpractice or negligence was not gross, however, then bringing in an expert witness is almost essential.

A recent case in Louisiana is a great example of a legal malpractice claim. In early 2000, a woman filed suit for injuries she sustained in an automobile accident with another man. The attorney she retained never filed an opposition to the Motion to Limit the Ad Damnum (a motion that would limit her amount of recovery), which was filed by the other party. Because the attorney did not oppose the motion, the motion was granted and the woman’s claim was limited to recovery in the amount of $30,000.00. According to the woman, her attorney also went ahead and settled the case without her authority while she was still being treated for her injuries. He settled the case for only $22,000.00. The woman then went ahead and settled her case and dismissed her attorney, filing a petition claiming legal malpractice.

Understanding the distinction between a final judgment and an interlocutory judgment is crucial to making sure your case does not get dismissed as untimely. A final judgment determines the merits of the case in whole or in part while all other judgments are interlocutory.

Interlocutory judgments are intermediate rulings decided by the trial court. These judgments do not dispose of the merits of the claims. Usually, an interlocutory judgment cannot be appealed immediately; only final judgments can be appealed. However, in Louisiana, the Court of Appeals allows for individuals to file a writ for supervisory review within 30 days from when the trial court makes its interlocutory ruling. If the writ was filed in a timely fashion, the appellate court will review the merits of the claims that were decided by the trial court. If the writ was not filed in a timely manner, the appellate court will dismiss the case.

The 30 day period to file the writ is a steadfast rule. Countless cases have been dismissed because writs are filed after the given 30 day time period. Many fail to realize that the 30 day period begins right when the trial court makes its ruling. Filing a writ after this 30 day time period results in a complete dismissal of the case.

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