Articles Posted in Negligence

historical-medical-devices-3-1566087-1024x678Upon entering a facility for medical treatment, we all hope that we will be treated properly. However, what happens when a medical or health care professional deviates from the profession’s standards? What happens if there is a mistake in the diagnosis or treatment? Such victims certainly have an opportunity to seek redress however sometimes a jury verdict can prove disappointing.  This case out of Jefferson Parish demonstrates what happens when a trial court jury does not get the proper instructions necessary for deciding a complex medical malpractice claim in Louisiana.

Doris Greathouse was admitted to East Jefferson General Hospital on June 2, 2008 for elective heart surgery. Shortly after Dr. Cougle and CRNA Wilkinson intubated Mrs. Greathouse, she suffered cardiac arrest and her brain was deprived of oxygen. Mrs. Greathouse was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit with fatal brain damage until her family removed her life support. Mrs. Greathouse’s children then filed a wrongful death and survival action against Dr. Cougle and Ms. Wilkinson alleging that they committed medical malpractice resulting in their mother’s injuries and death.   

Pursuant to La. R.S. 40:1299.47(B)(1)(a)(i), health care providers in Louisiana cannot be sued for medical malpractice under the the Medical Malpractice Act (“MMA”) unless the plaintiff submits a complaint to a Medical Review Panel (“Panel”), composed of three healthcare providers and an attorney. The Panel’s sole duty is to express its expert opinion as to whether the evidence supports the conclusion that the defendants complied with the standards of care. See La. R.S. 40:1299.47(G). The Panel may not render an opinion on any disputed issue of material fact that does not require its medical expertise. See La. R.S. 40:1299.47(H).

concert-1436178-1024x768What starts out as an entertaining night out for a concert with friends, ends with painful injuries.  Instead of enjoying your favorite music with companions, you must go to the hospital to treat injuries sustained due to negligent maintenance of the concert venue.  You are now recovering from your injuries and are faced with medical expenses.  You know that you shouldn’t be responsible for the medical bills; after all, you are hurt because someone failed to do their job.  But who exactly is responsible?  Determining the party responsible for personal injuries was a recent issue in a case out of Baton Rouge.

In March of 2006, Ms. Shannon Rodrigue went to a concert with her friends at the Riverside Performing Centroplex in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  As Ms. Rodrigue and her friends waited in line to enter the Centroplex, a Spectator Management Group (“SMG”) employee instructed the group to go around the side of the building and go down a flight of stairs in order to get their seats.  As the group proceeded to head down the stairs, Ms. Rodrigue missed a step and fell down the flight of stairs.  The fall was the result of a poorly lit stairwell.  Ms. Rodrigue sustained several injuries to her head, back, neck, knees, and wrists.

Ms. Rodrigue filed a lawsuit against several parties whom she believed were responsible for the poorly lit stairwell that ultimately led to her injuries.  The parties included the Centroplex, the Centroplex’s insurer, and the City of Baton Rouge-Parish of East Baton Rouge; SMG and its insurer.  In response to Ms. Rodrigue’s filing of the lawsuit, SMG and its insurer filed a motion to have Ms. Rodrigue’s lawsuit against them dismissed.  SMG asserted that Ms. Rodrigue had no claim against them and their insurance company because they did not have custody of the stairwell where Ms. Rodrigue fell.  SMG further claimed that even though Ms. Rodrigue and her friends were directed to the stairwell by one of its employees, SMG was not aware of the lighting situation of the stairwell before her fall. The  District Court for the Parish of East Baton Rouge granted SMG’s motion and Ms. Rodrigue’s claims against it were dismissed.  Ms. Rodrigue appealed to the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal.  

management-school-3-1524193-1024x348School bullying is a commonly discussed problem in our generation.  Parents are often faced with dilemmas on how to protect their children and instruct them in dealing with bullies at school.  In earlier eras perhaps this was considered a problem for the individual family to bear alone.  In a recent case out of Plain Dealing, Louisiana however, the Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed that school teachers and the school board can now be held liable for such bullying and its effects.  

On December 10, 2012, a fourth-grade boy, J.B., at Carrier Martin Elementary School in Plain Dealing, Louisiana broke his arm during playground recess when three boys knocked him to the ground to keep him from tattling. J.B.’s parents filed a lawsuit on behalf of their son against the Bossier Parish School Board (“Board”), and teacher Tricia Huckaby seeking damages. After a trial before the Judicial District Court for the Parish of Bossier, Louisiana, the jury found in favor of the parents and awarded $125,000 in general damages, $12,674.14 in special damages, and $25,000 to the mother for the loss of consortium for a grand total of $166,784.63 with legal interest. The Board appealed the finding of liability and argued that the award was excessive.

A school board, through its agents and teachers, owes a duty of reasonable supervision over students pursuant to La. C.C. art. 2320.  For liability to be imposed on a school board for inadequate supervision of students, there must be (1) proof of negligence and (2) proof of a causal connection between the negligent supervision and the resulting damage to a student. See  Creekbaum v. Livingston Parish School Board, 80 So. 3d 771 (La. Ct. App. 2011).   The standard of care required by the school supervisors over the students is only what would be expected of a reasonably prudent person in same or similar circumstances. The risk of injury had to be both foreseeable and preventable if a requisite degree of supervision had been exercised.  In awarding damages, a jury is empowered with great discretion and the award will only rarely be disturbed on appeal if an abuse of discretion is found.  

semi-truck-4-1518489-1024x651During litigation, a party may attempt to claim some form of privilege as an avenue not to produce certain evidence.  There are various types of privileges that may be asserted.  One that is familiar to many is attorney-client privilege.  One that is not as familiar is work-product privilege.  Work-product privilege is claimed in civil cases and is used to keep materials that are created in anticipation of litigation from being discovered by opposing counsel.  However, to assert work-product privilege the party claiming it must be an adverse party in the lawsuit.  A non-party is not entitled to work-product privilege, as Louisiana State recently learned when the Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed that work-product privilege can only be claimed by an adverse party.

In 2011, Ramanand Naik was in a car accident on highway 84 in De Soto Parish, Louisiana.  Mr. Naik was driving a Ryder box truck when a semi-truck, driven by Nathaniel Anthony, hauling a flatbed trailer carrying a boom lift veered across the center line, jackknifed, and crashed into Mr. Naik’s truck.  The impact of the crash caused the boom lift to fall off the trailer and onto the cab of the Ryder truck essentially crushing Mr. Naik and his passenger, Norman Latcha.  Following the accident, Naik filed a lawsuit against various parties and their insurance company.  Mr. Naik did not name Louisiana State as a defendant and the named defendants did not bring Louisiana State in as a third-party defendant.

Despite being a non-party to the lawsuit, ORM was brought into the case during discovery when Mr. Naik filed a notice to have ORM produce all the documents that they had pertaining to the accident. The named defendants in the case did not oppose Mr.Naik’s request.  ORM did not produce the documents leading Mr. Naik to file a motion to compel: a request to have the court force ORM to produce the documents.  ORM filed a motion to quash: a request to invalidate the motion to compel and avoid producing the documents asserting the documents were protected by the work-product privilege. The First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana denied ORM’s motion, requiring the production of the documents based on ORM’s non-party status thus the lack of available work-product privilege.  

coke-1483373-1024x768When are you on the job? While seemingly a simple question, many personal injury cases revolve around the issue of whether an individual was acting within the scope of his or her employment. The ramifications of the answer to this question determine whether a business is on the hook for its employee’s negligence. Recently, a Louisiana Court of Appeal (“the Court”) addressed this question when determining whether a Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, Inc. (“Coca-Cola”) employee was working for the company at the time of an accident.

It all began when Ralph McFarland, a salaried employee for Coca-Cola, rear-ended a vehicle belonging to Darius Jack. Prior to the accident, Mr. McFarland had just finished meeting with his final Coca-Cola client for the day and was on his way home from work. At the time of the accident, Mr. McFarland wore a Coca-Cola polo shirt and was in possession of his Coca-Cola cell phone and laptop. Mr. Jack sued both Mr. McFarland and Coca-Cola. At trial, Mr. Jack insisted that Coca-Cola was vicariously liable for Mr. McFarland’s actions. Vicarious liability attributes the actions of a company’s employee onto the company itself. It is normally found when an employee’s action is closely connected to his or her employment duties. See LeBrane v. Lewis, 292 So.2d 216, 218 (La.1974). Courts usually consider many factors when determining vicarious liability like the payment of wages by the employer, the employer’s power of control over the employee, and the time, place, and purpose of the act in relation to service of the employer. See Orgeron on Behalf of Orgeron v. McDonald, 639 So.2d 224, 227 (La. 1994); see also Reed v. House of Décor, Inc., 468 So.2d 1159, 1161 (La. 1985).

Mr. Jack, in arguing that Coca-Cola was vicariously liable, emphasized that Coca-Cola paid for Mr. McFarland’s mileage, that Mr. McFarland met with a Coca-Cola client prior to the accident, and that Mr. McFarland wore a Coca-Cola polo shirt at the time of the accident. Coca-Cola argued against vicarious liability. It pointed out that Mr. McFarland was on his way home from work and that Mr. McFarland did not do any further work after leaving his final Coca-Cola client’s place of business. Coca-Cola also pointed to a statement made by Mr. McFarland where he said that he made a personal stop at a gas station after finishing his last appointment and that while it is possible that he could be called back to office before its closing at five o’clock he could count on one hand the number of times where that happened. Coca-Cola also emphasizes that Mr. McFarland’s typical work day was over by half past three. The trial court held that Mr. McFarland was not working within the scope of his employment with Coca-Cola at the time of the accident and that Coca-Cola was not vicariously liable for Mr. McFarland’s actions.

toes-1438916-1024x683As if having car troubles was not bad enough, imagine also losing your toe in the process. Well, that exact scenario happened to Valerie Babin. After her vehicle broke down in Gonzales, Louisiana, Ms. Babin called American Towing Enterprises to tow her vehicle. An American Towing Enterprises’s employee, Floyd Russo, arrived to help Ms. Babin. At this point, Ms. Babin’s day went from bad to worse. As Mr. Russo partially loaded the vehicle onto the truck’s flatbed, Ms. Babin went to turn off her vehicle’s emergency flashers. At the same time, Mr. Russo lowered the truck bed, which landed on Ms. Babin’s foot, crushing her big toe. Despite attempts to save her big toe, Ms. Babin eventually required surgery to remove it.

Ms. Babin filed a lawsuit against Mr. Russo and American Towing Enterprises. At trial, the court awarded $673,380.35 in damages, finding Mr. Russo and American Towing Enterprises 60% at fault and Ms. Babin 40% at fault. When the injured individual is found partially at fault for his or her injury, his or her damages are reduced by the amount he or she was at fault. In Ms. Babin’s case, her fault reduced the total amount of damages to $404,028.21. Ms. Babin appealed the trial court’s determination of damages, claiming that the awarded amount was insufficient. Conversely, Mr. Russo and American Towing Enterprises appealed the trial court’s determination claiming that the amount awarded was excessive.

The Louisiana Court of Appeals (“the Court”) was tasked with determining whether the damages were insufficient or excessive. The Court examined two types of damages, general damages, and special damages. General damages often include mental or physical pain, suffering, inconvenience, loss of gratification or intellectual or physical enjoyment, or other losses of lifestyle. McGee v. A C And S, Inc., 933 So. 2d 770, 774 (La. 2006). The goal of general damages is to make the injured party whole. In other words, put the injured party in the same position he or she was at prior to the injury. Special damages are damages that the injured person will experience in the future. Ms. Babin argued that at minimum she should have received $400,000 for general damages and $557,028 in special damages for future medical care. The Court found that the trial court’s determination of general and special damages was reasonable. When addressing the amount of special damages for future medical care, the Court noted that the trial court awarded Ms. Babin $223,77.00 based on the testimony of two doctors at trial. When seeking future medical expenses, “the appellate record must establish that future medical expenses will be necessary and inevitable.” Bass v. State, 167 So. 3d 711, 716 (La. 2014). In addition, future medical expenses will not be supported when there is not medical testimony. The Court found the trial court’s determination of special damages was reasonable and disregarded the defendants’ argument that the awarded amount was unsupported by evidence. Lastly, the Court examined the loss of future wages. The loss of future wages requires the trial court to determine how much work the injured party will miss in the future because of his or her injury. For Ms. Babin, the trial court determined that Ms. Babin will lose $81,735.00 in future wages. The Court also found this amount reasonable.

to-market-1510735-1024x768No legal case is without controversy, but some of the most controversial types of cases involve a slip and fall injury. For some, it is hard to believe that a “little fall” could actually cause substantial injury. Often times, those who bring a slip and fall action are seen as milking the situation to try to get money from a business. However, when a person is injured he or she must prove that the injury was the result of someone’s alleged negligence. This proof requires that the injured individual show that the facts surrounding the incident support his or her claim. When coupled with a stringent legal standard, a dispute of what occurred at the time of the injury complicates the matter. The following slip and fall lawsuit filed against the Albertsons in Shreveport, Louisiana, shows the difficulty in bringing such claims to trial.

Yvonne and Aristide Ton were visiting an Albertsons’s grocery store in 2013. Upon arriving at the store, Ms. Ton went straight to the display of pumpkins out front, while Mr. Ton went to get a cart. After looking at the pumpkin display, Ms. Ton looked around for her husband, took a step or two, and then fell injuring her shoulder. Ms. Ton could not identify exactly what happened when she fell, but she claimed in her lawsuit that the fall was caused by a “defect in the concrete.” Albertsons responded by claiming that the concrete area where Ms. Ton fell posed no reasonable risk of harm. Albertsons provided witness testimony stating that the area where Ms. Ton fell had no prior history of falls and that the store had received no complaints regarding the area around the pumpkin display.

Under Louisiana Law, a business must “keep aisles, passageways, and floors in a reasonably safe condition.” La. R.S. 9:2800.6. This duty imposes a reasonable effort on the business to keep its premise free of any unsafe conditions which may cause injury. To bring a slip and fall claim against a business, the injured person must prove three things: 1) the floor surface presented an unreasonable and foreseeable risk of harm 2) the business created or knew of the unsafe floor surface and 3) the business failed to use reasonable care.

lawnmower-1219945-1024x680When a case goes to trial, there are many nuances that a lawyer might have to address, including a motion for a continuance or a dismissal. A continuance is the postponement of a hearing, trial or other scheduled court proceeding at the request of either party or by the judge. A dismissal occurs when the court ends a legal action before completing the trial process. This case out of the Parish of East Baton Rouge demonstrates Louisiana’s requirements for a continuance or a dismissal in the district courts.

While Wayne Boyd was driving on Main Street at Regions Bank in Zachary, Louisiana, a rock was thrown from a lawnmower broke his window and struck his face, resulting in personal injury and property damage. Boyd filed a petition for damages against John Doe, who was operating the lawnmower, and Doe’s employer, BNL.

At the pre-trial conference on March 18, 2014, the District Court for the Parish of East Baton Rouge set a trial date of May 20, 2014. On the scheduled date for trial, Boyd was nervous, unstable and remained outside of the courtroom. Boyd’s attorney asked for a continuance of the trial because Boyd needed to think and discuss the problem with family. Boyd’s attorney also indicated that he could not proceed with trial because he had just taken the case over and did not have certified copies of records. BNL was present in the courtroom, with all exhibits and witnesses, and was ready to proceed with the trial. The District Court denied the motion to continue but stated that it would not entertain a motion to dismiss for at least 10 days. On July 9, 2014, BNL filed a motion to enforce the settlement, asserting that Boyd and BNL have reached settlement agreements. On August 28, 2014, the District Court granted BNL’s motion to dismiss. Boyd appealed the dismissal to the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal.

nice-bike-1547666-1024x768The majority of cases, civil and criminal alike, never make it to trial. The parties may settle the case out of court or the claims may simply be dropped by the plaintiff. A third reason why a case may not make it to the jury is if a judge grants a party’s motion for summary judgment; a fate that almost befell Orleans Parish citizen John Ludlow’s negligence claim in September 2015.

In September 2014, John Ludlow, Jr. was a bicyclist waiting for the ferry at the Canal Street Ferry Terminal. As he waited for the ferry, he sat on a concrete barrier and fell backward, hitting the rocks below the platform. Mr. Ludlow sustained extensive injuries because of his fall and in turn, filed a lawsuit against the State of Louisiana, Department of Transportation and Development, Crescent City Connection Division (hereinafter “the State”) in Orleans Parish District Court.

The State filed a few motions for summary judgment.  Summary judgment is when one party moves for the court to automatically rule in the moving party’s favor before a jury or judge has rendered a verdict.  A judge can grant a motion for summary judgment when the judge finds that there is “no genuine issue as to material fact and that the mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law” pursuant to La. C.C.P. art. 966(B).

phone-booth-1500964-1024x768Everyone has been in the awkward situation where, as soon as they leave the doctor’s office, a myriad of questions that they forgot to ask are suddenly recalled, leaving you with no choice but to call your physician and try to get some answers. Unfortunately, these calls are not always answered. Recently the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal found that if complications arise out of failing to answer or return the call, your doctor may actually be breaching the standard of care.

Mr. Henry Gaffney was diagnosed with an aneurysm of the aortic sinus in 1998 and began treatment with Dr. Thomas Giles through the Louisiana State University Medical Center and Health Sciences Center (LSU) in July 2000. On July 2001, Mr. Gaffney underwent surgery to treat his condition at University of Alabama-Birmingham School of Medicine. Mr. Gaffney’s surgeon, Dr. Albert D. Pacifico, informed him that although the procedure was a success, he would need to undergo Coumadin (a blood thinner) therapy managed by his cardiologist, Dr. Giles, for the remainder of his life.

Shortly after meeting Dr. Giles and getting all the information about his new therapy, Mr. Gaffney started suffering from temporary blindness and other ailments. Even though he tried contacting Dr. Giles multiple times, he never got a reply. Eventually, Mr. Gaffney had to be admitted into the East Jefferson General Hospital emergency room. His attending there, Dr. David Learned, informed him he was overdosing on Coumadin.