Articles Posted in Pain And Suffering Claims

person-grilling-sausage-and-meat-1857732-1-1024x683The interests of justice are best served when the evidence in a lawsuit is new. This is because any potential witnesses can corroborate or deny evidence presented at trial with a fresh memory of the events or documents. Personal injury cases in Louisiana follow this principle with a one year deadline called the peremptory exception of prescription. A recent lawsuit between New Orleans family members demonstrated the value of having an excellent attorney who knows when these deadlines begin to run.

On April 20, 2014, Cynthia Dent attended an Easter party at Genevieve Willis Dent’s home in New Orleans. While walking in the backyard, Ms. Dent stepped into a hole. This hole was covered by outdoor carpet and was not visible. As a result of the accident, Cynthia Dent experienced pain and swelling in her left foot and ankle. Two days later, on April 22, 2014, Cynthia Dent went to the doctor for x-rays and eventually found out that she broke her left foot.

One year and three days after the original accident and one year and one day after her diagnosis, on April 23, 2015, Ms. Dent filed a lawsuit against Genevieve Dent and Genevieve’s home insurance company, State Farm Fire and Casualty Company. In response, Genevieve Dent and her insurance carrier filed a peremptory exception of prescription. This peremptory exception of prescription is used by defendants for a variety of reasons, which basically argues that there is no legal remedy for the plaintiff’s alleged injury because the lawsuit was brought too late. In Genevieve Dent’s case, she raised the peremptory exception of prescription because Cynthia Dent filed her lawsuit past the one year deadline. The Trial Court held a hearing on the peremptory exception of prescription and agreed with Genevieve’s argument. The lawsuit was dismissed. Cynthia Dent then appealed.

blue-and-silver-stetoscope-40568-1-1024x683To many who contemplate filing a lawsuit for an automobile accident, it may seem sufficient to show that the other driver was at fault – show he ran the red light, she failed to signal, and then it’s all downhill from there. But one element of all negligence cases is causation. You must prove that the injuries you have were caused by the accident itself. Normally this is pretty simple, but preexisting conditions can muddy the waters. Wayne Bouchon found out the hard way that proving causation was critical to his case. 

Wayne and his wife, Roberta, were driving down Highway 22 near Mandeville on their way to get lunch when their vehicle was struck from behind. The Bouchons told the officer who came to the scene that they were not hurt, but later that day, Wayne started experiencing lower back pain. Despite the pain, the Bouchons did not file a lawsuit until nearly twelve months after the accident. 

Of the evidence presented at trial, Wayne’s medical records showed he had been treated for a back injury a few years before after lifting a heavy box. Also, the Trial Court heard testimony that Wayne had taken a job at Office Depot a few months after the accident, which required standing for long periods and occasionally moving furniture. His doctor testified to a correlation between his Office Depot job and the worsening of his symptoms. As a result, the Trial Court found that the Bouchons had not proved the accident was the cause of Wayne’s injuries, and awarded only $5,000 in minimal pain and suffering. The Bouchons appealed. 

gasoline-station-during-night-time-92077-1024x489The five factor Daubert test is used in federal courts to determine if the methodology used by medical and other experts is reliable. The five factors that may be considered under the Daubert standard to determine whether the methodology is valid are: (1) whether the theory or technique in question can be and has been tested; (2) whether it has been subjected to peer review and publication; (3) its known or potential error rate; (4) the existence and maintenance of standards controlling its operation; and (5) whether it has attracted widespread acceptance within a relevant scientific community. See Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993).

In this case, Natalie Konrick (“Ms. Konrick”) worked as a security guard at a refinery in Louisiana that was owned by Chalmette Refinery, L.L.C. (“Chalmette”) and operated by Exxon Mobil Corporation (“Exxon”). She, unfortunately, had a stillborn baby, allegedly as a result of the toxins to which she was exposed to while working at Chalmette. Ms. Konrick obtained experts Dr. Robert Harrison, Dr. Cynthia Bearer, and Dr. Lauren Waters to testify regarding the general causation of her having a stillborn baby.

The District Court granted Chalmette’s motion to exclude the three expert’s testimony because it found that their opinions were based on unreliable methodologies. As a result of the grant of the motion to exclude expert testimony, summary judgment was granted in favor of Chalmette because there was no evidence of general causation as to the stillborn baby.

pexels-photo-1028742Sometimes, car accidents happen. Someone speeds, gets distracted, or makes a mistake that causes an accident. Crashes can be unexpected. No one gets to decide what time of day it happens, where it happens, or who gets injured. Instead, you have to take the whole situation as it is. 

Jay Schwartzberg (“Plaintiff”) was a 23-year-old law student on April 25, 2013 when the driver of an armored van failed to yield to Schwartzberg’s vehicle and caused a collision in East Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Prior to the accident, Schwartzberg suffered from a bulging of the C3-C4 and C6-C7 intervertebral discs and chronic neck pain. In the lawsuit, he argued that the collision on April 25, 2013 exacerbated these previous injuries. Schwartzberg filed against the defendants seeking damages for his neck injury due to the collision. The trial court awarded Schwartzberg $49,999.99 worth of damages, plus legal fees. 

Miller Guillory and his employer, Garda CL Southeast, Inc. (collectively “Defendants”) appealed the trial court’s award for two reasons. First, the Defendants argued that the trial court erred in finding that the collision caused an aggravation to the Plaintiff’s pre-existing neck injury. Second, the defendants argue that the trial court erred in the amount of damages awarded because the court relied on Schwartzberg’s expert witness that was contradictory to the medical records and other evidence admitted at trial. 

clouds-crane-drill-414936-1024x384Everyone gets injured, but what happens when you are injured on the job and had been in an accident in the past? Does the court take that into consideration if you file a lawsuit, or does the court presume an accident was work-related? In one local case, the workers’ compensation judge found that the injury at issue was not caused by the work accident. The injured party, Todd Porche (“Porche”), appealed this determination. 

Generally, when reviewing workers’ compensation cases, the appellate court must determine whether the commission’s conclusions are reasonable using the clearly wrong standard. Richardson v. North Oaks, 91 So.3d 361, 365 (La. App. 2012). If there are two acceptable views of the evidence, the fact finder’s decision may not be found manifestly erroneous, or clearly wrong. Here, Porche alleged that the workers’ compensation judge erred in denying the reopening of the case, which is within the discretion of the court. Reopening the case would have allowed Porche to prove causation.

On September 11, 2013, Todd Porche (“Porche”) was working for Guichard Operating Co., LLC (“Guichard”) when he fell between eight to fourteen feet onto a steel rig floor, where he allegedly injured his back and head. As a result, Porche received workers’ compensation benefits from the date of the accident through March 13, 2014. When Guichard terminated Porche’s benefits, the company alleged that Porche violated La. R.S. 23:1208 and 23:1208.1. If true, it would mean Porche forfeited all benefits and would owe the company restitution, interest, and costs. After a four-day trial, the workers’ compensation judge denied Porche’s claims.

24A 2016 case demonstrated the importance of making sure our universities remain safe and secure. While one would like to think our schools would be free from the dangers of larger society, Tulane learned the necessity of vigilance.

While a student at Tulane University, the Plaintiff, Stephanie Boyd, shared a dorm suite with shared bathroom. One of her suitemates guests, Defendant Andrew Cebalo, took advantage of the shared bathroom to sneak into Stephanie’s bedroom at night and molest her.

In the initial trial, Ms. Boyd alleged Tulane University was negligent for failing to properly secure the premises, provide safe housing, and comply with industry standards regarding door locks and security. In response, Tulane filed an exception of no cause of action. Boyd filed an opposition to the exception of no cause of action, and an amended and supplemental petition alleging a failure to implement measures protecting students from foreseeable criminal harm. The trial court sided with Tulane, and dismissed the case with prejudice (meaning the lawsuit could not be filed again in the future).

48-Email-06-24-19-Part-II-PHOTO-768x1024When writing leases, it is important to pre-determine who is at fault if an accident or injury occurs on the rented land.  Yet, this determination can become complicated when the border of the leased land comes into play. Other issues can involve the exact lease language which states whether one party is indemnified, or is free from having to pay damages. A case out of western New Orleans shows how damages and fee allocations for a horrific accident involving a loose metal gate depends on which lease governs, what clauses are met, and where fault should be allocated.

On July 1, 2010, Lisa Plaia dropped off her daughter at a daycare run by the First Baptist Church of New Orleans (“FBCNO”). As she drove away, a metal gate suddenly swung into the road, crashed through the windshield, and hit her in the face, causing permanent facial and brain damage. Ms. Plaia then sued the following three parties: Fireman’s Charitable & Benevolent Association (“FCBA”) which owned the land the gate was located on; Stewart Enterprises and its subdivision SEFH, a funeral home company which mowed the grass around the gate and leased property from FCBA; and FBCNO which subleased land from SEFH and leased land from FCBA. Each of these parties subsequently filed indemnity claims against one another in order to avoid paying Ms. Plaia for any damages related to her injury.

In the Civil District Court of Orleans Parish, the jury allocated fault between these parties as follows: 15% for SEFH and 42.5% for both FCBA and FBCNO. Due to indemnity claims, the District Court ruled that FBCNO owed indemnity (reimbursement) of defense fees to FCBA as well as reimbursement of defense fees to SEFH. FBCNO subsequently appealed to The Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, arguing in part that the District Court used the wrong lease and incorrectly ruled that it was required to defend FCBA.

48-Email-06-24-19-Part-I-PHOTO-1024x676Freak accidents can happen in the most unexpected ways. When these life-altering events occur, it often affects more than the injured person. Depending on the circumstances, family members can receive compensation for non-physical injuries, such as loss of consortium (companionship).

On July 1, 2010, Lisa Plaia dropped off her young daughter, Carolina, at a Baptist Church daycare and drove away with her other daughter, Petra, who was sitting in the backseat. As she left the facility, a hinged metal gate swung into the road, crashed through the windshield, and hit Ms. Plaia in the face. While Petra received no physical injuries, Ms. Plaia alleged that she suffered, among other injuries, partial facial paralysis, permanent facial disfigurement, traumatic brain injury, memory damage, and hearing loss. To recover for these injuries, Ms. Plaia sued three defendants potentially responsible for the loose gate.

The case required a trial by jury which the Civil District Court, Orleans Parish, scheduled for April 15, 2013, but then rescheduled for April 22th. The District Court also reserved a trial period of two weeks with the possibility of a third if necessary. Due to a lack of jurors available, the District Court rescheduled again, this time for the trial to begin August 5, 2013. Additionally, the District Court only set aside ten days for this trial, as opposed to the originally granted two to three weeks.

46-1024x685In the workplace, providing a safe environment through training, communication, and safety standards can help create an injury-free workplace. Yet, despite every precaution, accidents can still happen and then the situation becomes one of determining whose negligence caused the injury. This issue was explored in a maritime action filed on May 9, 2012 in the Twenty-Ninth Judicial District Court for the Parish of St. Charles. 

On November 11, 2011, Jeffrey L. Soudelier, Jr. was aboard the towboat M/V Steven M. Bryan as its captain. The towboat was one of many vessels owned by the defendants: PBC Management, Inc., Florida Marine Transporters, Inc. and Florida Marine, LLC. On this day, Soudelier was instructed to move a big, steel-reinforced, cross-over hose from a barge to the towboat. The hose was heavier than it should have been due to material inside it that was supposed to be removed. Soudelier and four others were in the process of moving the hose when a painful pop in his hip forced him to stop. Soudelier tried to wait and see if the pain would go away but it did not and though he finished moving the hose, he was injured. 

Soudelier filed a lawsuit against the defendants, seeking recovery and claiming unseaworthiness in accordance with the general maritime law, as well as a claim for maintenance and cure. He claimed that his injury required surgeries and caused permanent and disabling problems, and that the required heavy physical work caused even more trauma. Soudelier stated that the defendants’ boat was unseaworthy and defendants were negligent because they did not offer alternative ways to move the hose and failed to train workers about this safety issue. 

50-Email-1024x683Sometimes it is easily apparent when one party is liable in a car accident, such as when the facts leave little room for dispute. However, it may not be as easy to determine the amount of damages the plaintiff should receive. How should pain and suffering be calculated? And how much of this pain and suffering is a result not of the accident but of natural course of aging or a preexisting condition? This issue of calculating damages was recently explored in a DeSoto Parish, Louisiana, lawsuit.

Following a three-vehicle accident, plaintiff, McLawrence Fuller, underwent a three-level lumbar fusion with instrumentation as a result of injuries and pain in his neck, lower back, and leg. However, at the time of the accident, Mr. Fuller was 70 years of age with pre-existing, asymptomatic, degenerative disc disease and congenital spinal stenosis. After treatment following the car accident, Mr. Fuller complained of pain and limitations to his mobility and ability to carry out day-to- day activities. Mr. Fuller tried to go as long as he could without having surgery, even after he had gotten a recommendation from several physicians to do so, but went through with it when he was no longer able to dress himself or participate in volunteer positions in his community.

 Mr. Fuller filed a tort action due to injuries on September 20, 2011. The defendants, D.L. Peterson Trust Company, it’s insurer National Union Fire Insurance of Pittsburgh, Adam Keys, and National Oil Well Varco all agreed to their liability. The only job for the jury as fact-finders was quantum, which is to calculate the amount of damages.

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