What is a “dilatory exception of prematurity,” and how does it change the course of a case or controversy?

toronto_skyline_early_morning-1024x577A dilatory exception for prematurity is defined in the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Article 926(A). There are many reasons why a lawsuit may be premature, or in other words, ripe for a dilatory exception of prematurity. A case may be premature when it is too early in a dispute for the court to have the authority to rule on it. A lawsuit may be premature if there is another administrative body that the case should go to beforehand. The legal issues of prematurity and dilatory exceptions are shown below in a lawsuit from St. Tammany parish.

A Nestle Holdings employee was injured during his employment, and Nestle received a large bill from Lakeview Regional Medical Center (LRMC) for surgery on the employee. Nestle responded by sending back about 10% of the original price, expecting LRMC to initiate an administrative action, which would give Nestle a chance to argue for a lesser price. However, when LRMC did nothing to protest the partial payment, Nestle filed a complaint with the Office of Worker’s Compensation (OWC), a judicial body. OWC rejected the complaint and granted LRMC’s claim of a dilatory exception of prematurity; Nestle appealed the OWC decision to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. 

The First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the OWC decision to dismiss the complaint due to prematurity. The court first examined Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Article 926(A)(1), reasoning that it allows for a dilatory exception objection of prematurity to be brought before the litigation commences. The court held that this objection may be used in lawsuits where the law or contract allows for a procedure for the party to seek out administrative relief before resorting to filing a lawsuit. If this exception is raised, the person who raises it bears the initial burden of showing that another remedy or procedure applies, and therefore the lawsuit is premature. For example, this can be done by filing a copy of the contract between the parties into the record, assuming the contract discusses a prelawsuit procedure. After the existence of the alternative remedy is established, the burden then shifts to the other party to show that the specific remedy or procedure has been exhausted.

The appeals court reasoned that because LRMC has a right to initiate an administrative review of the billings before any judicial action, the OWC filing by Nestle was premature. The court relied on Southern Framers of LA, LLC v. Doctors Hospital of Slidell, where similarly, an employer was not allowed to bring judicial action about hospital bills while a hospital chose to address the dispute through administrative proceedings. 202 So.3d 1135 (La. App. 1 Cir. 2016). 

The doctrine of prematurity is used to keep cases out of court until the court is best equipped to handle them. There is an order of procedure followed in every case or controversy. This series of compounding deadlines and timetables must be adhered to save time and win cases. An experienced lawyer is necessary to get over these hurdles toward your goal. 


Written by Berniard Law Firm Writer: Ethan W. Seitz

Additional Berniard Law Firm article: Louisiana Court of Appeal Highlights Procedure for Workers’ Compensation Claims

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