Articles Posted in Negligence

image-for-post-68-from-email-5-14-19-1024x683What happens when a person is injured due to a company’s negligence and the company is based outside of the United States? The plaintiff generally must file a lawsuit in federal court, but there are certain jurisdictional requirements that have to be met. A plaintiff’s ability to file a lawsuit against an international company in a U.S. district court depends on how much “contact” the company has with the United States.

Danny Patterson, a U.S. citizen, was working aboard the Luxembourg-flagged vessel M/V Simon Steven off the coast of Russia when he was struck by a cable and sustained injuries. He sued his employer and the several other companies involved in the project, including Aker Subsea (“Aker”) and FMC Kongsberg (“FMC”), for damages in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Both Aker and FMC moved to dismiss the petition for lack of personal jurisdiction, and after jurisdiction discovery, the district court found that jurisdiction over the defendants did not exist and granted the motions to dismiss. Patterson then sought to have the district court’s decision certified as final so he could appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b). Meanwhile, FMC was dismissed from the case through a separate motion which went unopposed by Patterson.

Before the Fifth Circuit, Patterson argued that Aker had sufficient contacts with the United States to establish general personal jurisdiction. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(k)(2). He pointed to the fact that Aker had entered into multiple secondment agreements involving a U.S. location. Secondment agreements are used when an employee is temporarily assigned to work for another organization, or a different part of the organization, by their employer. In this case, Aker’s agreements spanned a three-year period of time, concerning employees working in Houston, Texas. Patterson argued that the employees assigned in Houston for a three year period established sufficient contacts for federal jurisdiction. 

image-for-post-50-from-email-5-22-19We often hear that insurance companies are stingy and heartless. Though some descriptions of insurance companies are exaggerated, it is nevertheless true that insurance companies are judicious in paying out claims. In some cases, an insurance company will attempt to avoid payment at almost any cost.  

Shawn Verges, a special education teacher at Fannie C. Williams Charter School in New Orleans, Louisiana, suffered injuries when she was repeatedly slapped and pushed to the floor by one of her students during class. Following the incident, Verges sent a text message to the school principal’s administrative assistant describing the attack and requesting an accident report. Verges made several more requests for an accident report, but the school never created one. Within a week, Verges began to experience back, head, and neck pain, at which point she sought compensation from her employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier, AmTrust North America. AmTrust denied her claim on the basis that the school did not file an accident report or report the incident to AmTrust.

Verges then filed a disputed claim form against AmTrust. The trial court determined that Verges was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits because the evidence showed that she suffered an injury while in the course and scope of her employment. AmTrust appealed, arguing that Verges fabricated the incident, pointing to the fact that that Verges returned to work after the alleged injury to bolster their argument. 

adult-bed-care-1498927-683x1024In personal injury cases, the plaintiff can only successfully prove the defendant’s negligence if a legal duty of care exists. Where there is no duty of care as a matter of law, a trial court can dismiss the lawsuit by summary judgment. So, when a defendant files a petition for summary judgment claiming that no duty exists, he is saying that even if all of the facts alleged by the plaintiff are true, there still is no duty of care owed by the defendant to the plaintiff. 

For several years in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Huey Chustz worked as an electrician’s helper at the Alma Plantation, a sugar mill in Point Coupee Parish, Louisiana. Chustz would routinely become covered in asbestos dust while working at the mill. He would return home in the evenings where his wife, Elizabeth Sutherland, would launder his clothing, a process which sent the dust into the air. In 2012, Sutherland was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. 

Based on her diagnosis, Sutherland filed a claim for damages against Alma Plantation. She died in 2013, after which her children were substituted as Plaintiffs. Alma filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it did not owe Sutherland a duty because her injuries were not foreseeable. The trial court granted Alma’s motion for summary judgment, which the Plaintiffs appealed the Louisiana’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal.

builders-building-construction-159306-1024x683The Louisiana statutory employer defense grants statutory employers the exclusive remedy protections of the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act. La. R.S. 23:1061. To become a statutory employer, a principal must enter into a written contract with a contractor for work to be performed in furtherance of the principal’s “trade, business, or occupation.” La. R.S. 23:1061 Moreover, where the principal pays compensation, it is entitled to indemnification from the contractor. La. R.S. 9:2780.1. Once an employer shows that they are a statutory employer under the law, they are entitled to immunity for tort liability that occurred in the course of the agreement with a contractor. The Louisiana Court of Appeal addressed the issue of whether a statute enacted in 2010 negates the statutory employer defense when a construction contract contains an indemnification clause or a hold harmless clause without paying for any of the cost of insurance. La. R.S. 9:2780.1.

In 2013, Christopher Michael Blanks (“Mr. Blanks”), was an employee of Wastewater Specialties, Inc. (“Wastewater”), the contractor, when he and some co-workers were assigned to perform repairs to a broiler at Entergy Gulf States Louisiana, LLC (“Entergy”), the statutory employer. Entergy issued a permit indicating the work area was safe for entry; however, they allegedly failed to inform Mr. Blanks and his co-workers of an unprotected open hole in a confined space where Mr. Blanks was working. Unfortunately, Mr. Blanks unknowingly stepped into the hole, causing him to fall approximately thirty (30) feet to the ground. He sustained serious injuries, and subsequently sued Entergy and its insurance.

Prior to the commencement of work at the Entergy facility, Wastewater and Entergy entered into an agreement that Entergy would be indemnified for personal injury claims brought by Wastewater employees. The trial court granted summary judgment on the grounds that the contract between Wastewater and Entergy was invalid and unenforceable because it provided an indemnity clause irrespective of fault. Additionally, the court noted Wastewater did not recover the cost of any insurance required under the contract.

architecture-asian-bird-s-eye-view-186537-1024x768When you are injured in an accident, it may be tempting to file a lawsuit against anyone and everyone who might have been even slightly involved in the chain of events. The pain and frustration of an accident leads some injured parties to try and make as many people pay as possible. This instinct, while perhaps useful, needs to be tempered with some common sense and a firm understanding of the law. And, if multiple defendants are going to be sued, sufficient evidence has to be presented to show each party’s involvement and their negligence in the accident. 

After an accident on the I-20, Mrs. Passon filed a lawsuit against not only the negligent driver and their insurer, but also the City of Ruston (“City”), the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (“Parish”), and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (“DOTD”). Clearly, she thought the intersection was inherently dangerous. After settling with the driver and insurance company, those two parties were dropped from the lawsuit. The City, the Parish and DOTD all filed motions for summary judgment to dismiss the case. The Parish asserted they had no custody or control of the area in which the accident occurred, while DOTD and the City stated the intersection posed no unreasonable risk of harm. DOTD and the City supported their motion with expert reviews of the intersection showing all traffic signals were in compliance with local regulations. They also presented the original construction plans for the intersection. Mrs. Passon countered the motion with a statement by an expert witness and newspaper articles about the intersection in question. 

Summary judgment is when the court decides for one party without a full trial. When the court examines all the information submitted for trial up to that point, such as the complaint, the defendant’s answer, evidence found during discovery, affidavits, depositions, etc., and finds there is no genuine dispute of fact between the parties, summary judgment is entered. La. C.C.P. art. 966. And though Louisiana state law allows a plaintiff to sue a public entity under La. R.S. 9:2800, the trial court granted the summary judgment motions. 

bus-locomotive-transportation-system-2261702-713x1024Once a trial court determines a judgment, it is difficult to obtain a reversal, especially if the judgment is one in which a jury awards compensation for a personal injury plaintiff. In the case below, the defendant appealed the amount the Trial Court awarded the plaintiff. The Appellate Court was deferential to the Trial Court’s judgment.

Joc-Kia Wilson suffered from cerebral palsy and thus moved around on a motor scooter. While she attempted to board a bus operated by Veolia Transportation Services in New Orleans, the wheelchair lift ramp had apparently malfunctioned and caused her to fall. When she visited a hospital, an MRI revealed that various parts of her body were sprained. Ms. Wilson filed a claim against Veolia Transportation Services for compensation. The Trial Court awarded a total of $19,879.00 to Ms. Wilson for her pain and suffering and medical expenses. This amount was reduced by forty percent because of Ms. Wilson’s fault in the accident. However, Veolia Transportation Services disagreed that Ms. Wilson was only forty percent at fault. Veolia also argued that the amount awarded to Ms. Wilson was faulty because she had not presented relevant evidence for her medical injuries. Veolia asked the Appellate Court to set aside the trial court’s decision.

An appellate court may cast aside a trial court’s finding of fact only if it is “clearly wrong.” Rosell v. ESCO, 549 So.2d 840 (La. 1989). In order to rule that a finding of fact is “clearly wrong,” the appellate court must first show that it cannot find any factual basis for its decision from the trial record. Second, the appellate court must determine from the record that the trial court’s finding is clearly wrong. Mart v. Hill, 505 So.2d 1120, 1127 (La. 1987). To put it simply, the appellate court must determine whether or not the decision made at the trial court level was a reasonable one. Cosse v. Allen-Bradley Co., 601 So.2d 1349, 1351 (La. 1992).

betting-casino-casino-machine-34201-1024x683Property owners have a responsibility to maintain safe conditions on their premises. However, if you are injured on someone’s property, there are still numerous elements you must prove in order to prevail on any lawsuit you may file for injuries arising from an unsafe premises. Establishing these elements can be especially challenging when you are injured from an activity that may be considered openly and obviously risky. This was this situation facing Mr. and Mrs. Marshall following Mrs. Marshall’s accident on an escalator at Jazz Casino in the Orleans Parish of Louisiana.  

Hyecha Marshall and her husband, Loyal, were frequent patrons of the Jazz Casino (“Casino”). Mrs. Marshall used a small wheelchair that the Casino provided her as a walker and cart. While walking in an underground tunnel connecting her hotel to the Casino, Mrs. Marshall discovered the elevator was out of service. Therefore, she decided to step onto the escalator, using her wheelchair as a walker. While riding the escalator, she lost her balance and fell to the floor. Her wheelchair subsequently fell down the escalator onto her. 

After Mr. and Mrs. Marshall filed a lawsuit against the Casino alleging that the Casino failed to warn about the risks of using the Casino-issued wheelchair as a walker and failing to maintain safe premises, the Casino moved for summary judgment. The Casino argued that Mrs. Marshall had not shown that there was an unreasonably dangerous condition in the Casino that caused her accident. Additionally, the Casino argued it did not have a duty to warn Mrs. Marshall about using its wheelchair as a walker while riding the escalator because the risk of injury was obvious and apparent. Summary judgment is appropriate when all the submitted pleadings and evidence show that there is no genuine issue of material fact. La. C.C.P. art. 966. The trial court granted the Casino’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the Marshalls’ lawsuit because it found that Mrs. Marshall had not established the Casino owed her a duty, which was an essential element of her negligence action. 

advertisement-architecture-big-2380891-683x1024Around 9am on Saturday, October 12 the Hard Rock Hotel partially collapsed over Canal Street in New Orleans after the top six to eight floors buckled onto the structure. According to New Orleans Fire Department Superintendent Tim McConnel, the remaining structure of the building remains unstable and could possibly collapse entirely. In response, nearby buildings have been evacuated as the two construction cranes are also unstable. Currently, one person has been reported dead, eighteen have been taking to the hospital in unspecified conditions, and two workers are still reported missing. In terms of the next steps to be taken, it is unknown just how long it will take crews to clean up the piles of debris and get the project back on schedule. This is particularly stressful for the city of New Orleans considering the site of the collapse is a major transportation hub for the city – consisting of bus and streetcar lines in addition to the major traffic arteries of the city. An accident such as the Hard Rock Hotel accident will impact much more upon closer inspection spanning to issues such a personal injury, workers compensation, wrongful death, and much more. Considering the complex litigation that can arise out of an incident such as this one it is important to have a good attorney at the ready.

         Personal injury lawsuits can arise out of many different circumstances – car accidents, slip and falls, and even injuries on the job. When filing a personal injury case it is incredibly important to have a knowledgeable attorney because filing a personal injury claim too late or even waiting too long to collect damages can result in having your personal injury claim denied.  It is important to be persistent in personal injury cases and staying on top of filing deadlines and dates and having a diligent advocate can makes a difference in your case.

         Workers compensation is intended to pay for the medical expenses of injured workers and provide a remedy for lost wages. However, workers compensation claims are often complex from start to finish. There are cases in which it can be difficult to determine if someone is considered an ‘employee’ despite being injured while working on a project. This is especially prevalent if a contractor hires subcontractors in order to complete a project. Moreover, it can also be difficult to receive your workers compensation payments with companies often being uncooperative in the workers compensation process.

14-Picture-05-22-2019-1024x683When an unexpected accident occurs, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly who is responsible for the injury. In the absence of direct evidence of a violation of a duty, the existence of multiple possible parties who might be responsible can preclude recovery. 

Mr. Baraki Tsegaye (the Plaintiff) filed a lawsuit against the City of New Orleans and Royal Engineers & Consultants, LLC (the Defendants) for negligence because of an injury suffered by the Plaintiff. When Plaintiff was outside the W Hotel on Poydras Street, New Orleans, a light pole owned by the City of New Orleans fell on him, thereby resulting in grievous injuries to his arm and other limbs. In response, the defendant Royal Engineers & Consultants, LLC filed a motion for summary judgement to dismiss the case against him on the basis that the alleged negligence was not directly caused by the Defendant. The Plaintiff urged the Civil District Court, Orleans Parish (the trial court) to dismiss the motion for summary judgment filed by the Defendants to the original petition applying the principle of res ipsa loquitor. 

What then is the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor? It simply is a Latin phrase referring to circumstantial evidence that the negligence of the Defendant is the probable cause of the injury suffered by the Plaintiff in the absence of other evidences to the contrary in the case. See Montgomery v. Opelousas Gen Hospital, 540 So. 2d 312, 319 (La. 1989). The trial court refused to consider the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor and granted a partial summary judgement in favor of Royal Engineers & Consultants, LLC.

26-Picture-05-22-2019-1024x687The doctrine of peremption can prevent someone from bringing legal action against someone should that action be brought after a certain amount of time. Peremption is a period of time fixed by law for the existence of a right. La.Civ.Code art. 3458. This period is defined by an applicable statute. Arthur Gibson’s case contains two instances of peremption extinguishing a party’s right to bring a claim.   

Arthur Gibson was performing manual labor in the hold of a ship in 2004. While at work, he suffered injuries to his neck and blamed the company who made the materials he was moving. This company was Louisiana Rice Mill (“LRM”). For the next ten years, he attempted to bring two civil actions against LRM for negligence and product liability. Mr. Gibson received workers compensation during this time, pursuant to the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. He was represented by Raleigh Newman, for his civil claims, and J. Lee Hoffoss, Jr., who handled his worker’s compensation claim. 

However, after a visit to a neurosurgeon in 2010, Mr. Gibson’s workers’ compensation benefits were discontinued. Mr. Gibson was never informed of the suspension of his payments. He continued to receive regular payments from Mr. Newman, his attorney, during this time to help cover his living expenses. Therefore, Mr. Gibson was unaware that his workers’ compensation benefits had been suspended. He did not discover this until 2014, when his civil actions against LRM ran dry. Mr. Gibson filed a petition for damages against his attorneys. He claimed that they had performed legal malpractice by failing to appeal the suspension of his benefits. The trial court granted the defendant attorney’s exception of peremption, as the claim was brought more than three years after the alleged injury occurred. Mr. Gibson appealed the trial court’s decision.