Articles Posted in Negligence

hair salon slip fallA customer sustaining severe and permanent injuries from a slip and fall accident at a business can cause one to wonder about the potential liability of the business owner. This can become even more complex in a situation where the business owner has leased the unit from the party that owns the building. A building owner may be liable for the injury, even when the unit has been leased out. 

On October 24th, 2014, Ms. Greer visited Sportsman’s Hairadise in Ponchatoula, Louisiana. Ms. Greer claimed that a salon employee instructed Ms. Greer to park behind the building and then access the unit through the rear entrance of the building. Ms. Greer used this entrance and had to take a single step down to enter the salon. Unfortunately, as Ms. Greer navigated down the step, she fell down and hit the concrete floor. Ms. Greer alleged that the fall caused severe, permanent, and debilitating injuries. Sportsman’s Hairadise leased the premises from Railroad Square, LLC (“Railroad Square”), which owned the building. 

Ms. Greer filed a lawsuit against Railroad Square in the Twenty-First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Tangipahoa, Louisiana. Ms. Greer alleged that the premises contained several defects presenting harm. These harms included a step-down of greater height than allowed by building code, a surface made up of different gradients, an absence of handrails, a lack of adequately marked surface edges, and insufficient warnings of the step-down.

elevator lawsuit louisianaMost court cases do not proceed to actual trial. In the context of criminal cases, the defendants often accept plea deals. In the context of civil cases, however, parties often settle or the case is simply dismissed through motion practice.

For a plaintiff to succeed in a civil case, he or she must show that there are facts that can prove his or her claim. If there are no such facts, then he or she cannot prove his claim, thus rendering a trial unnecessary. In cases where the plaintiff does not have facts to support his or her claim, the opposing party often files a motion for summary judgment in order to dismiss the claim. 

Patricia Bowen worked at the Earl K. Long Medical Center (“EKL”) located in Baton Rouge. On October 10, 2012, Bowen suffered serious injuries at work when the elevator she used dropped and went up abruptly as she exited it. On October 9, 2013,  Bowen filed a lawsuit against EKL, alleging that EKL was negligent for not performing proper maintenance or maintaining preventive maintenance on its elevators.

abandoned school bus lawsuitHow much of an award or compensation could a parent expect when a school board is found liable for inflicting trauma on a child? A trauma to a child would have a profound effect on the parent as well as the child. Is it not reasonable to expect the school board to pay for the emotional damages the parent suffered? Unfortunately for a Baton Rouge mother, her failure to include in her written pleadings a claim for general damages resulted in a finding of no damages despite trial testimony supporting her emotional distress. A superior lawyer always includes all possible claims in written pleadings to avoid this unfortunate outcome.   

Demondre Morgan was a kindergartener at Westminster Elementary School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana when he fell asleep on his school bus one September afternoon. After the route was complete, the school bus driver parked and locked her bus without noticing little Demondre. Demondre’s mother, Shunquita Morgan, was waiting for her son at the school bus stop when the bus never arrived. Meanwhile, Demondre awoke to find himself on the bus alone, started to cry, and was heard by two passers-by who rescued him from the bus.  Morgan had reported Demondre missing to the police during this interval, and Demondre was returned to his mother about two hours after his normal drop-off time.  

Morgan filed a lawsuit against the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board (“School Board”).  Her pleadings included damages for her son as well as for economic loss for herself due to Demondre’s fears about riding the bus. She did not include a request for any other damages such as emotional distress for herself. The School Board admitted liability. The trial court awarded a total of $4,184.00 in medical and general damages for Demondre. Morgan was not awarded any damages because she did not present any evidence of economic loss and her attorney only sought emotional distress damages at the very end of the trial.  The trial court ruled that the pleadings had not been expanded to include emotional distress damages for Morgan.  

slip fall lawsuit louisianaThe following scenario is not uncommon. Person enters restaurant without incident.  Same person exits restaurant, fails to notice the one-step curb just beyond the door, falls, gets injured, and files a lawsuit against the restaurant.  When is a restaurant owner responsible for such an incident? A recent case out of Baton Rouge explored this question and provided useful guidelines for owners and patrons alike.  

Debra Williams was exiting Walk-On’s, a restaurant in Baton Rouge, when she fell from the sidewalk curb to the parking lot.  Williams was talking with a group of people when she fell and claims she did not see there was a step down. Williams sustained injuries from her fall and filed a lawsuit against Walk-On’s and its insurance company, Liberty Mutual. In support of her petition, Williams attached the affidavit of a forensic architect who stated the curb area did not contain any warnings or different paint color. The architect also cited numerous building codes but failed to demonstrate how the codes were applicable to the Walk-On’s curb. The trial court found that the architect’s affidavit did not factually support Williams’s claim and was unpersuasive. The trial court dismissed the case and an appeal followed.  

In Louisiana, a merchant owes a duty to persons using their premises to keep the property in a reasonably safe condition. La. R.S. 9:2800.6(A).  An injured party must prove that the condition causing the injury posed a foreseeable and unreasonable risk of harm and the merchant had actual or constructive notice of the danger but failed to exercise care in removing the danger. See Dupas v. Travelers Prop. Cas. Ins. Co., 762 So.2d 127 (La. Ct. App. 2000). In determining whether a condition is unreasonably dangerous, a court essentially will decide whether the social utility and value of the potential danger will outweigh and justify the potential harm to others. See Reed v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. 708 So.2d 362 (La. 1998). Moreover, if a condition is deemed “open and obvious” it will not be deemed to present an unreasonable risk of harm. No legal duty is owed when the condition encountered is obvious and apparent to all. See  Moore v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc., 186 So.3d 135 (La. Ct. App. 2015).  

green-car-2265634-1024x683Life can be upended in an instant. One person’s negligent act can change the trajectory of multiple people’s lives.  How much monetary compensation should this negligent, life-altering person be required to pay? Often after a trial court determines a damage award, the award stays the same. But what about when this award does not really compensate for the injuries?  Recently, the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal determined that an injured party was entitled to far more than the trial court awarded in a car accident lawsuit out of Iberia Parish.    

June Anupat was in a car accident along with her husband and four children.  Her vehicle was rear-ended by Gabriel Castillo after Castillo was rear-ended by Zachary Louviere.  At the scene, Ms. Anupat professed that she and her children seemed unharmed. While filling out paperwork for the police officer working the incident, however, Ms. Anupat started to experience dizziness and pain in her back, neck, and head, accompanied by vomiting.  She was taken to the hospital where she started to recover but remained in pain. For the six months following the accident, Ms. Anupat frequented the doctor’s office for medical treatment on her back, shoulders and arm.  

What Ms. Anupat could not receive treatment for was the complete disruption to her daily life as a result of the accident.  Prior to the accident, she was the primary caretaker for her four young children with her youngest child being just a year old.  Her husband was unable to work as a result of the accident, requiring Ms. Anupat to seek employment outside of the home. In turn, this required her grandmother to come to Louisiana all the way from Thailand.  Her grandmother could not indefinitely remain in the United States, so Ms. Anupat’s mother then also came from Thailand to care for the children. Once her family’s time in the United States was up, Ms. Anupat was still not able to quit her outside employment to return to caring for her children.  Sadly, Ms. Anupat was forced to send her youngest child to Thailand with Ms. Anupat’s family. Moreover, Ms. Anupat’s job as a restaurant cook aggravated the injury to her arm. One person’s negligence drastically altered several lives in this case.  

orange-and-gray-painted-roof-under-cloudy-347152-1024x684There’s a general understanding between a buyer and a seller that the seller will provide the good in an acceptable condition for a buyer. If the product is faulty, then the general understanding is that the seller will take responsibility for making things right as soon as they can. This is even solidified by warranties. What happens, then, when a construction company sells a New Orleans resident a roof that leaks so much it leads to a man slipping and falling? Is the danger created by the leak so obvious that the construction company shouldn’t be held liable for the injury?

This problem arose when Magnolia Roofing and Exteriors (“Magnolia”) installed a new roof at the home of Tammy Stewart. Ms. Stewart was never completely happy with the quality of the roof when it was installed in September 2011, but significant leaks didn’t appear until January 2013, a few months after Hurricane Isaac wrecked New Orleans. The leaks were so bad that water came through her second-floor attic, through the ceiling, and trickled down the chandelier in her foyer. Magnolia’s parent company, Sears Home Improvement Products, sent repairmen to look at the damage a few days later. Ms. Stewart was at work so her friend, Glenn Jones, let them in to the attic to see where the leak was. The attic was consistently described as “unfinished, unlit, [and] wet.” Since the attic was unfinished and without light, Mr. Jones was standing on a crossbeam between the sheetrock and using his cell phone for light. When he turned around to show the worker where the leak was, he slipped and fell 16 feet through the sheetrock into the first-floor foyer. Mr. Jones sustained multiple serious injuries as a result and brought a case of negligence against Ms. Stewart and Magnolia.

The core issue of this case before the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals was the open and obvious doctrine. If it is plainly clear to everyone that a danger exists, then a defendant is not liable for an injury that occurs. The defendant must show that the danger is open and obvious to benefit from this legal doctrine. See Scarberry v. Entergy Corporation, et al., N.V., 136 So.3d 204 (La. Ct. App. 2014). Magnolia claimed the wet crossbeams were a clear and obvious danger; the trial court agreed with them on summary judgment and found them not liable. The trial court explicitly limited the entire review of Magnolia’s petition to this one issue, so the Fourth Circuit did the same. See La. C.C.P. art. 2164. Mr. Jones refuted this claim by saying that the darkness of the attic was the obvious danger, not the wetness of the beams, and the darkness did not cause the injury, so Magnolia could be liable.

2-man-on-construction-site-during-daytime-159306-1024x683Construction is a necessary inconvenience. No one enjoys having their travel rerouted due to road construction, but nonetheless, drivers must follow construction signs to safely avoid the temporary hazards road work creates. What happens when a driver doesn’t see the construction signs and drives her car into a large hole in the street? Even if the path down the street isn’t clear, what’s clear to the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is that a trial judge isn’t allowed to determine which party is telling the truth.

A single car accident happened the night of December 6, 2012 around 10:30 p.m. when Eileen Maldonado, her daughter, Dana Williams, and their friend, Derrick Sykes, were heading to Harrah’s Casino in downtown New Orleans. With Ms. Maldonado behind the wheel, their vehicle went through the under-construction intersection of Elks Place and Cleveland Avenue. Since it was dark, Ms. Maldonado did not see the large hole in the road which had been dug by Archer Western Construction, and the passenger side of her car fell into the hole.

Ms. Williams and Mr. Sykes initially brought a lawsuit against Ms. Maldonado and her insurer along with Archer Western Construction and their insurer. They blamed the accident on the negligence of both Ms. Maldonado and Archer Western, claiming that there were no barriers around the hole or general signs saying to not go through that intersection. An amendment to their lawsuit added Ms. Maldonado’s negligent driving to the case.

grocery-cart-with-item-1005638-768x1024Dollar stores carry a wide variety of merchandise, and stacking these items on shelves saves space. When stocking, employees should always take reasonable care to stack items in a safe manner so they do not fall off the shelf and potentially injure shoppers. For one Slidell man, however, an everyday grocery trip to Dollar General turned into a 4-year, $50,000 lawsuit.

Charles Frazier went to Dollar General one August day to buy a quart of oil; however, when he went to grab the bottle, plastic tote lids on the shelf above him slid off, bumped him in the neck, and caused him to fall onto one knee. After getting up, he reported the incident to a store manager. Then, nearly a year later, he sued Dollar General for $50,000 in injuries, claiming that he suffered physical pain, mental anguish, medical expenses, and lost wages. According to his lawsuit, Dollar General was negligent in allowing its merchandise to fall off the shelf and onto customers.

These types of lawsuits are appropriately known as falling merchandise cases, and the statute that governs ensuing negligence claims is La. R.S.9:2800.6(A). The Louisiana law provides that a merchant, like Dollar General, must use “a reasonable effort to keep the premises free of any hazardous conditions.” When brought to trial, the Twenty-Second Judicial District Court of Louisiana ruled in favor of Mr. Frazier, but applied Section B of this statute. This section, instead of requiring an injured party to show that a hazardous condition existed, only requires a showing that the “condition presented an unreasonable risk of harm.” La. R.S.9:2800.6(B). The defendant, Dollar General, appealed this decision to the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal.

man-standing-on-parking-lot-163772-1024x576If you are a homeowner, the number of security measures you take to protect your house is likely largely influenced by the safety of your area. For example, if there’s a lot of crime in the area or a lack of good lighting on your street at night, you will probably more carefully guard your home. Contrarily, if you trust your neighbors and have a vigilant neighborhood watch group, you might even feel comfortable leaving your doors unlocked. Businesses think about many of the same factors when deciding how much security their store needs. One major difference between a home and a business is that a business’s lack of security can potentially make it liable for negligence if a crime happens on their property. 

Such was the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Jerry and Susan Simpson sued Dollar Tree after Mrs. Simpson was robbed in the parking lot of their Monroe, Louisiana, location. They brought the lawsuit to the District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, arguing that Dollar Tree failed to properly meet their duty to protect her and other customers from harm while on their property. The District Court didn’t think that the Simpsons had shown that there was a real question of material fact as to if Dollar Tree was negligent. As a result, the District Court granted Dollar Tree summary judgment and dismissed the case.

The Fifth Circuit then had to consider the Simpson’s appeal of this summary judgment. Like all other summary judgment appeals, the Fifth Circuit just needed to determine to if reasonable people could come to different conclusions on the facts of the case. If so, then it was inappropriate to grant summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).

architect-architecture-blueprint-build-271667-1024x678Sometimes, whether your case takes place in federal court or state court may be out of your hands entirely. Other times, it may be possible for the case to take place in either court. In such situations, it is important to understand possible differences and advantages between state and federal court. When one party wants the case in federal court and the other wants it in state court, things can get tricky, as a 2017 case from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit shows.

Plaintiff Howard Zeringue claimed he was exposed to asbestos in 1952 when he was deployed with the United States Navy. Though he did not provide a time period, he also alleged that he was exposed to asbestos when he worked a job selling insurance in Avondale Shipyard. He filed a lawsuit against Crane Company (“Crane”) and twenty others in state court in Louisiana. Zeringue alleged all were liable for asbestos-causing injuries based on claims of strict liability, negligence, and failure to warn; but specifically stated that Crane and twelve out of the twenty-one defendants were responsible for handling and sending the asbestos-containing products to the places he was exposed.

Crane removed the case to the Eastern District of Louisiana in accordance with the federal-officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1). Crane claimed that the products it provided for or made for the Navy were subject to the Navy’s requirements and federal officers had discretion about whether the product had asbestos and if it needed a warning label. With its removal petition, Crane supplied affidavits and sample military specifications to show that all asbestos-containing products could not be used in Navy ships without the Navy Machinery Inspectors determining they met the specifications.

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