Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Louisiana Supreme Court
Caldwell v. St. Charles Gaming Co d/b/a Isle of Capri Casino-Lake Charles
Plaintiff was employed by defendant Grand Palais Riverboat L.L.C. as a technician on the Grand Palais riverboat casino, and was injured when the gangway attached to the boat malfunctioned and collapsed. Plaintiff filed a petition for damages, alleging that the Grand Palais was a vessel under general maritime law, 1 U.S.C. 3, and that he was a seaman under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. 30104, et seq., at the time of the accident. The Grand Palais was built as a riverboat casino in conformity with the requirements of Louisiana law which authorize gaming activities to be conducted on riverboat casinos that sail on designated waterways. In 2001, the Grand Palais was moored to its current location by nylon mooring lines and steel wire cables, pursuant to La. R. S. 27:65(B)(1)(c), which allowed riverboat casinos to conduct gaming activities while docked if the owner obtained the required license and paid the required franchise fees. The Grand Palais had not moved since March 24, 2001. Necessary services for the Grand Palais’s operation as a casino were provided via shore-side utility lines, which supply electricity, water, sewage, cable television, telephone and internet services. These utility lines have not been disconnected since 2001. Additionally, the casino computer systems, including the slot machines, are located on land. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari to review an appellate court's decision granting plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and holding the Grand Palais Casino was indeed a “vessel” for purposes of general maritime law. The Court determined this decision contradicted the court’s earlier decision in Benoit v. St. Charles Gaming Company, LLC, 233 So. 3d 615, cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 139 S. Ct. 104, 202 L. Ed. 2d 29 (2018), which held the Grand Palais was not a vessel. After a de novo review of the record, the Louisiana Court concluded the Grand Palais was a not vessel under general maritime law. Therefore, it reversed the judgment of the court of appeal and granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment, dismissing plaintiff’s suit. View "Caldwell v. St. Charles Gaming Co d/b/a Isle of Capri Casino-Lake Charles" on Justia Law
Joseph v. Huntington Ingalls Inc. et al.
The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine the preclusive effect of a written compromise agreement. The agreement was executed by a tort victim in settlement of an action for damages resulting from occupational exposure to toxic materials. At issue was the effect of the compromise on a subsequent survival action brought by the La. C.C. art. 2315.1 beneficiaries of the tort victim, who contracted mesothelioma and died after entering into the compromise. Finding the intent of the parties to the compromise to be clear, unambiguous and unequivocal, and the elements of the res judicata plea satisfied, the Supreme Court concluded the compromise should have been accorded preclusive effect. Accordingly, the Court reversed the district court judgment that declined to give res judicata effect to the compromise and sustained the exception of res judicata with respect to the survival action. View "Joseph v. Huntington Ingalls Inc. et al." on Justia Law
Smith vs. Citadel Insurance Company
This litigation arose from a suit filed by plaintiff Beverly Smith against Darlene Shelmire and her insurer, GoAuto Insurance Company (“GoAuto”), as a result of an automobile accident in 2010. In 2015, following a trial on the merits, the district court entered judgment in favor of plaintiff against Shelmire and GoAuto in an amount in excess of the insurance policy limits. GoAuto appealed that judgment, but Shelmire did not. The court of appeal ultimately affirmed the district court’s judgment in March 2016. Thereafter, Shelmire assigned her rights to pursue a bad faith action against GoAuto to Smith. Through that assignment of rights, Smith filed the underlying suit against GoAuto on March 10, 2017, and amended her petition on September 27, 2017, asserting a bad faith claim based on GoAuto’s violation of its duties under La. R.S. 22:1973(A) as well as the recognized duty of good faith pre-existing the statute. GoAuto answered the petitions, asserting the prescriptive period for a bad faith claim against an insurer was a delictual action, and subject to a one-year prescriptive period. Plaintiff opposed the exception arguing a bad faith claim against an insurer was a contractual action and subject to a ten-year prescriptive period. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted this writ application to determine whether a first-party bad faith claim against an insurer was indeed a delictual action subject to a one-year prescriptive period, or whether it was a contractual claim subject to a ten-year prescriptive period. Finding the bad faith claim arose as a result of the insured’s contractual relationship with the insurer, the Court held it was subject to a 10-year prescriptive period. View "Smith vs. Citadel Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Soileau v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
In a workers’ compensation matter, the Louisiana Supreme Court was presented with the question of whether an employee’s motion to compel her employer to choose a pharmacy other than the pharmacy at its retail stores to fill her prescriptions was premature in the absence of any claim that she has not been furnished proper medical attention or that there have been delays or deficiencies in filling prescriptions. Elizabeth Soileau filed a disputed claim for workers’ compensation benefits alleging she injured her right arm and hand in the course and scope of her employment with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (“Wal-Mart”). Pursuant to a 2012 consent judgment, Soileau received medical treatment, including prescriptions, some of which she filled at a Wal-Mart pharmacy. In 2016, Soileau obtained a judgment against Wal-Mart ordering that she was entitled to receive certain prescriptions, as prescribed by her physician. Soileau began filling her prescriptions at Falcon Pharmacy. Following the Louisiana Supreme Court's opinion in Burgess v. Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans, 225 So.3d 1020, which held the choice of pharmacy belonged to the employer, Wal-Mart notified Soileau in writing that she could only use “a Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club Pharmacy” for her future prescriptions needs. Wal-Mart further advised Soileau it would not issue reimbursement for medications dispensed to Wal-Mart workers’ compensation patients from any pharmacy other than a Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club Pharmacy. Soileau moved to compel, arguing she “should not be forced to obtain medications from her employer directly and cannot go without her medication.” The motion proceeded to a hearing before the Office of Workers’ Compensation (“OWC”). At the hearing, Soileau testified that in September 2017 (after she filed her motion), Wal-Mart’s pharmacy denied two of her workers’ compensation prescriptions, but admitted she had no written documentation of the denial. The workers’ compensation judge explained that in the event Soileau experienced any delays or deficiencies in the filling of her prescriptions, she “has a remedy under Louisiana Revised Statute 23:1201E.” Soileau appealed. A divided panel of the court of appeal reversed, finding that a conflict of interest would be created if Wal-Mart were permitted to designate its own pharmacy as the only pharmacy Soileau could use for her workers’ compensation prescriptions. The Supreme Court found the matter was indeed premature and did not present a justiciable controversy. It therefore vacated the judgment of the court of appeal. View "Soileau v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc." on Justia Law
Gotch v. Scooby’s ASAP Towing, LLC et al.
Plaintiff Terry Gotch filed this suit for damages against defendants Joseph Derousselle and his employer, Scooby’s ASAP Towing, LLC (“Scooby’s”). Plaintiff alleged he was a guest passenger in a vehicle driven by Alydia Menard. According to plaintiff, Derousselle, an employee of Scooby’s, backed his vehicle out of a private driveway, causing Menard to make an evasive maneuver to avoid a collision. Menard’s vehicle subsequently left the roadway and struck a ditch, causing injury to plaintiff. The issue this case presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court's review centered on whether the district court erred in denying plaintiff's request for a mistrial based on evidence that the jurors violated their instructions by discussing the case prior to deliberations. The Supreme Court concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff's motion for a mistrial: there was no indication the jurors disregarded the evidence presented at trial. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal and reinstated the district court's judgment. View "Gotch v. Scooby's ASAP Towing, LLC et al." on Justia Law
Boothe v. Louisiana Dept. of Transportation & Development
On December 11, 2008, the Baton Rouge area experienced a snowstorm. The storm was of sufficient magnitude to result in the issuance of a winter weather advisory and closure of area schools. The schools reopened the next day as the weather improved. At approximately 8:00 a.m. on the morning of December 12, Sherry Boothe was operating her vehicle eastbound on Greenwell Springs Road, after bringing her daughter to school. As Boothe crossed the Comite River Bridge to return home, she lost control of her vehicle. Her vehicle crossed the median, flipped, and came to rest in the opposite lane of oncoming traffic. According to Boothe, after exiting her vehicle, she believed she had hit either ice or oil because the road was slippery. Boothe ultimately sued the Department of Transportation and Development (“DOTD”), seeking personal injury damages arising from the accident, for not adequately sanding the bridge following the snowstorm. The Louisiana Supreme Court found the uncontroverted evidence in the record revealed there was ice on the roadway at the time of the accident, and DOTD failed to take proper measures to address this condition. This evidence pointed "so strongly in favor of the moving party that reasonable persons could not reach different conclusions." Accordingly, the Court found the district court did not err in granting the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of plaintiffs. View "Boothe v. Louisiana Dept. of Transportation & Development" on Justia Law
Murphy v. Savannah
Robert Murphy was operating his motorcycle on a two-lane stretch of Louisiana Highway in a southerly direction. At the same time, Shauntal Savannah was driving her Nissan Maxima in the northbound lane. As she pulled into the southbound lane with the intent to turn, she entered Murphy's lane of travel. Murphy’s motorcycle struck the passenger-side door of Savannah’s vehicle, causing him injury. Murphy and his wife (plaintiffs) filed the instant suit against the State of Louisiana through the Department of Development and Transportation (DOTD), alleging DOTD failed to warn of a dangerous condition and failed to remedy the defective design of the intersection. After discovery, DOTD filed a motion for summary judgment, relying on the affidavit of a DODT civil engineer who averred that at the time of the accident, DOTD did not have a record of any repairs, maintenance, or construction projects that were being performed in the section of the roadway located at or near the intersection. The engineer stated DOTD had no record of any complaints within 180 days prior to the accident with respect to the intersection. Additionally, DOTD attached Savannah’s deposition testimony in which she said she was familiar with the intersection, and admitted she was at fault for the accident because she did not see Murphy’s motorcycle before making her turn. Savannah also denied that a curve on the road prevented her from seeing the oncoming motorcycle. Plaintiffs appealed when DODT's motion for summary judgment was granted. The district court determined they failed to establish any genuine issues of material fact regarding whether the intersection at issue was unreasonably dangerous. Finding no error in the district court's judgment, the Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed, reversing the court of appeal's judgment to the contrary. View "Murphy v. Savannah" on Justia Law
Simmons v. Cornerstone Investments, LLC
Plaintiff Kerry Simmons worked for Cintas Corporation No. 2, (“Cintas”), at its warehouse in Pineville, Louisiana. Plaintiff was working in the course and scope of his employment when he was injured while attempting to close a roll-up rear bay door that had become jammed. Plaintiff received workers’ compensation benefits from Cintas, including disability and medical expenses. The medical bills charged by Plaintiff’s healthcare providers totaled $24,435; this amount was reduced to $18,435 in accordance with the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act Medical Reimbursement Schedule. Thus, there is a “written off” amount of $6,000 at issue. Specifically, the issue this case presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court's review was whether, in a tort case against a third party tortfeasor, the lower courts erred in prohibiting a plaintiff from introducing the full amount of medical expenses billed and allowing only evidence of the amount actually paid by the employer through workers’ compensation. The Court granted certiorari to determine the applicability of the collateral source rule to the facts of this case, and concluded the amount of medical expenses charged above the amount actually incurred was not a collateral source and its exclusion from the purview of the jury was proper. View "Simmons v. Cornerstone Investments, LLC" on Justia Law
Guffey v. Lexington House, LLC
Plaintiffs, two of the decedent’s children, brought wrongful death and survival actions under the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act against a nursing home, alleging that injuries the decedent received when the nursing home’s employee dropped her while transferring her from a bath chair to her bed caused her to suffer injuries that ultimately resulted in her death. The decedent’s granddaughter, rather than plaintiffs, initially filed a request for a medical review panel ostensibly as the representative either of the decedent or her estate. The lower courts found that the granddaughter was a “claimant” within the meaning of the Medical Malpractice Act, namely La. R.S. 40:1231.1(A)(4) and (A)(16), and that her timely request had therefore suspended prescription with regard to the medical malpractice claims of the plaintiffs, even though they had not been named as claimants in the original request for a medical review panel. However, the Louisiana Supreme Court found the lower courts erred in concluding the granddaughter was a proper “claimant” under the language of the Act on the basis that she was a succession representative for the decedent’s estate. Because the initial request for the medical review panel was not made by a proper “claimant,” prescription was not tolled. Accordingly, because defendant’s exception of prescription should have been granted, the trial court’s ruling denying the exception of prescription was reversed. View "Guffey v. Lexington House, LLC" on Justia Law
Griggs v. Bounce N’ Around Inflatables, LLC
Bounce N’ Around Inflatables (“BNA”) is a party rental business that rents a variety of inflatables for social events. BNA hired Austin Griggs (“Austin”) as a helper to assist in the delivering and cleaning of the inflatables. Austin, then age fifteen, was standing on an inflatable as it was lifted to the rack by a forklift. Austin fell to the ground from the forklift, and was further injured when the inflatable fell and hit him on the back. Following the injury, BNA’s workers’ compensation insurer paid Austin workers’ compensation and medical benefits. Austin eventually returned to work at BNA, with his mother’s permission. The underlying litigation arose when Austin’s mother, individually and on behalf of Austin, filed suit against BNA, its owner and insurer, seeking to recover tort damages arising out of the injury. At the conclusion of trial, the district court awarded plaintiffs $125,000 in general damages and $24,517 in special damages, plus legal interest and costs. The district court found defendants illegally employed Austin because they failed to obtain an employment certificate, and that he was engaged in an illegal task (working with power-driven machinery) at the time of the accident. In finding the exclusive remedy provisions of the workers’ compensation law did not apply, the district court relied on Ewert v. Georgia Casualty & Surety Co., 548 So.2d 358 (1989), and Patterson v. Martin Forest Products, Inc., 787 So.2d 311, for the proposition that workers’ compensation exclusivity provisions did not control over child labor laws, and a minor’s illegal employment did not amount to an election of remedies under the workers’ compensation law. Defendants appealed. The Court of Appeal, First Circuit reversed in part and affirmed in part, dismissing plaintiffs’ tort claims with prejudice. The court of appeal found Austin’s claims were subject to the exclusive remedy provision contained in the workers’ compensation law. In reaching this conclusion, the court of appeal explicitly declined to follow the holdings of Ewert and Patterson, instead relying on Noble v. Blume Tree Services, Inc., 650 So.2d 252, which held that an illegally-hired minor was subject to the exclusivity provisions. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve this split in the circuits, and held that a minor who is illegally hired and engaged in a prohibited task at the time of his injury is subject to the exclusive remedy of the workers’ compensation law. View "Griggs v. Bounce N' Around Inflatables, LLC" on Justia Law