Articles Posted in Louisiana Supreme Court

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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

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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

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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

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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

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In this workers’ compensation case, the issue presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the employer’s appeal, taken with devolutive appeal delays but outside of the suspensive appeal delays, was timely under the special provisions of La. R.S. 23:1310.5(C). While the Court acknowledged La. R.S. 23:1310.5 “is not a model of legislative clarity,” the Court broadly interpreted the statute to find nothing specified the time period in which this appeal have to be filed. The Court found the appeal should have been maintained as timely, but because the appeal was devolutive in nature, the judgment awarding benefits was subject to immediate execution. View "Jackson v. Family Dollar Stores of Louisiana, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Brandon Forvendel was injured in a multi-vehicle accident in 2013. At the time of the accident, plaintiff was driving a Chevrolet Equinox owned by him and insured under a policy issued by State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (“State Farm”), which included uninsured motorist (“UM”) coverage. Plaintiff recovered the limits of his UM coverage under his State Farm policy. At the time of the 2013 accident, plaintiff lived in the household of his mother, Deborah Forvendel, who was also insured by State Farm. Plaintiff also sought to recover under his mother’s State Farm UM policy, which carried significantly higher policy limits. State Farm refused to allow him to recover under his mother's policy, citing the anti-stacking provisions of La. R.S. 22:1295(1)(c). In this case, the issue presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the insurer waived its defenses to plaintiff’s current claim by paying on an earlier claim to him in error. The Court found the insurer did not waive its rights. Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgments of the courts below. View "Forvendel v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Kerry Maggio was injured in an automobile accident when his vehicle was struck by a vehicle operated by James Parker, an employee of The Sandwich Kings, LLC d/b/a Jimmy Johns (“Sandwich Kings”). The vehicle operated by Parker was owned by Brenda Parker and insured by Louisiana Farm Bureau (“Farm Bureau”). Plaintiff filed a petition for damages naming as defendants: Parker; Sandwich Kings (contending that Parker was in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident); Republic Vanguard (Sandwich King’s automobile insurer); and Metropolitan Property Casualty Insurance Company (plaintiff’s uninsured motorist insurer). Notably, plaintiff did not name Brenda Parker or Farm Bureau as defendants. Less than one month later, plaintiff entered into a “Final Release and Settlement of Claim” (“Release”) with Brenda Parker and Farm Bureau. In exchange for Farm Bureau’s $25,000 policy limits, plaintiff executed a release agreement. In this matter, which was at the summary judgment phase, the Louisiana Supreme Court was called upon to decide whether the settlement which purported to release “all other persons, firms, or corporations who are or might be liable” applied to defendants who were not direct parties to the settlement. The Court found that the defendants were not entitled to summary judgment, reversed the opinion of the court of appeal, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Maggio v. Parker" on Justia Law

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The defendant surgeon ordered pre-operative tests including a chest x-ray and an electrocardiogram (“EKG”) before performing non-emergency gallbladder surgery on the plaintiff. However, defendant did not review the results of these tests prior to performing the surgery, but had he done so, the tests would have alerted him to potential issues with plaintiff’s heart necessitating the ordering of a cardiac consult prior to surgery. Although the surgery itself was successful and uneventful, some thirty or so hours after discharge, plaintiff suffered a heart attack and eventually had to undergo a heart transplant. Plaintiff and his wife brought suit against defendant alleging medical malpractice. The defendant surgeon settled, and the Louisiana Patients’ Compensation Fund (“PCF”) intervened. After a trial against the PCF, the jury declined to find plaintiffs had proven the surgeon’s failure to review the test results and to refer his patient to a cardiologist before performing the surgery had caused the patient to suffer the subsequent heart attack that ultimately necessitated a heart transplant. Instead, the jury found plaintiffs had proven the defendant’s breach of the standard of care had resulted in the loss of a less than even chance of a better outcome. The jury awarded plaintiffs lump sum general damages, which the trial court in its judgment made subject to the Medical Malpractice Act’s limitation on the total amount recoverable by plaintiffs, La. Rev. Stat. 40:1231.2. The court of appeal found legal error in what it deemed to be a “patently inconsistent” jury verdict in light of the verdict form, but it nonetheless found the jury’s determination that plaintiffs had proven a lost chance of a better outcome was clearly supported by the record. The court of appeal then awarded general damages (affirming the trial court’s award), but it also awarded special damages, including past medicals, future medicals, and lost wages, which it did not subject to the Medical Malpractice Act’s limitation on the total amount recoverable. The Louisiana Supreme Court found the court of appeal erred in its decision, reversed it, and reinstated the jury’s verdict, the award of lump sum general damages, and the trial court’s judgment. View "Burchfield v. Wright" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court's review centered on whether the court of appeal erred in reversing the trial court’s ruling granting plaintiff’s special motion to strike defendant’s reconventional demand for defamation, pursuant to La. Code Civ. Pro. art. 971 (the "anti-SLAPP" statute), where the appellate court found that plaintiff’s petition did not involve a “public issue.” Philip Shelton, M.D. married Judith Shelton in 2001. During their marriage, the couple each owned a life insurance policy that named the other as the beneficiary. At some point, Mrs. Shelton was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and Hepatorenal Syndrome (as a result of alcoholism. In July 2011, Mrs. Shelton was admitted to Ochsner Baptist Medical Center for treatment and was soon discharged to Woldenberg Village, an inpatient assisted living facility. Mrs. Shelton died on December 31, 2011, at the age of 64. After Mrs. Shelton's death, Dr. Shelton learned that she had changed her beneficiary to her personal assistant/paralegal/friend, Nancy Pavon. In November 2013, Dr. Shelton filed a Petition to Nullify Change of Beneficiary, alleging Mrs. Shelton had lacked the capacity to execute a change of beneficiary form due to her poor health, including dementia, confusion, disorientation, and personality changes. Alternatively, he alleged Mrs. Shelton's signature on the change of beneficiary form was a forgery or had been obtained through undue influence by Pavon. In response, Pavon filed an answer and reconventional demand alleging Dr. Shelton's petition constituted defamation per se. Dr. Shelton filed a Special Motion to Strike pursuant to La. Code Civ. Pro. art. 971. Pavon opposed the motion, arguing that it should have been dismissed as a matter of law because Dr. Shelton’s petition to nullify did not involve a public issue. She also argued that a motion to strike was not the proper mechanism to dismiss her defamation claim. The trial court granted Dr. SHelton's special motion to strike. The Supreme Court found the court of appeal was correct in reversing the trial court’s ruling. The Supreme Court held that La. Code Civ. Pro. art. 971(F)(1)(a) required statements had to be "in furtherance of a person’s right of petition or free speech ... in connection with a public issue.” View "Shelton v. Pavon" on Justia Law

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Ron Warren, individually and on behalf of the Estate of Derek Hebert, filed a petition for damages seeking to recover for the wrongful death of his son in a recreational boating accident under general maritime law and products liability. A jury found the defendant, Teleflex, Inc. liable under the plaintiff’s failure to warn theory of the case and awarded compensatory damages of $125,000 and punitive damages of $23,000,000. The court of appeal affirmed. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari mainly to review whether the trial court properly granted the plaintiff a new trial and whether the award of punitive damages was excessive and resulted in a violation of the defendant’s right to constitutional due process. After reviewing the record and the applicable law in this case, the Supreme Court found no reversible error in the trial court’s rulings; however, the Court did find the award of punitive damages was excessive and resulted in a violation of the defendant’s right to constitutional due process. View "Warren v. Shelter Mutual Ins. Co." on Justia Law