Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Louisiana Supreme Court
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This litigation arose from a medical malpractice suit brought by plaintiffs, individually and on behalf of their minor daughter, against Dr. Daryl Elias, Jr. and his insurer. Plaintiffs alleged Dr. Elias committed malpractice during the child’s delivery, causing a separated right shoulder and a broken clavicle. Plaintiffs also alleged the child suffered permanent injury when the five nerve roots of her brachial plexus were completely and partially avulsed from the spinal cord, causing her to lose the use of her right arm. At the conclusion of trial, a jury returned a verdict in favor of defendants, finding the treatment provided by Dr. Elias to the child did not fall below the applicable standard of care for an obstetrician gynecologist. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case for the primary purpose of addressing two narrow issues: (1) whether any errors in the district court’s evidentiary rulings interdicted the jury’s fact-finding process; and (2) if so, whether the court of appeal erred in reviewing the record de novo. The court of appeal found the district court committed prejudicial legal error in excluding the child's treating orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Kozin’s testimony in part and permitting defendant's retained expert, Dr. Grimm, to testify. The Supreme Court found no error in the judgment of the court of appeal insofar as it reversed the district court’s ruling limiting Dr. Kozin from testifying as to the cause of the child’s injuries: "a review of Dr. Kozin’s excluded testimony reveals he did not render any opinions on whether Dr. Elias breached the standard of care or was otherwise negligent. Rather, he simply testified as to the cause of the child’s injury, explaining that based on his expertise, he was 'certain the force applied by the delivering physician led to this injury.'" The district court erred in restricting his testimony. However, the Supreme Court concluded the district court did not abuse its great discretion in finding Dr. Grimm’s testimony was admissible under the standards set forth in La. Code Evid. art. 702 and Daubert/Foret. The court of appeal erred in reversing the district court’s evidentiary ruling. Furthermore, the Court held the court of appeal abused its discretion by undertaking a de novo review of the record rather than remanding the case for a new trial. In all other respects, the judgment of the court of appeal was vacated, and the case was remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "LaBauve, et al. v. Louisiana Medical Mutual Ins. Co., et al." on Justia Law

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In 2015, plaintiff Ronald Hicks was a passenger in a heavy-duty flatbed truck when it was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by Robert Harger, Jr., who was traveling at approximately 60-65 mph and did not brake before impact. Plaintiff was treated on 79 occasions with several orthopedic and pain management specialists and surgeons and underwent 13 separate procedures. Relevant here, plaintiff was initially examined by Dr. Jason Smith, an orthopedic spine surgeon, to whom he was referred in conjunction with his worker’s compensation plan. Dr. Smith examined plaintiff and found no evidence of obvious trauma resulting from the accident. Instead, he determined the condition of plaintiff’s lower back was indicative of preexisting degenerative disc disease that was aggravated by the accident. While Dr. Smith did not believe plaintiff exaggerated his pain, he also did not believe plaintiff was a candidate for surgery. Plaintiff ceased treatment with Dr. Smith on January 6, 2017. Plaintiff was thereafter referred by his attorney to Dr. Jorge Isaza, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in spine surgery. At the time of his 2017 deposition, Dr. Isaza recommended cervical surgery but had difficulty identifying the primary source of plaintiff’s lumbar pain and did not definitively suggest lumbar surgery. Dr. Isaza linked the collision to plaintiff’s injuries. In November 2017, defendants moved to compel an additional medical examination (“AME”) under Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure article 1464. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted the writ in this case to examine the meaning of the requirement of “good cause” in Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure article 1464. The Court held that a showing of “good cause” under article 1464 required the moving party establish a reasonable nexus between the requested examination and the condition in controversy. The Court found the trial court abused its discretion in denying defendants’ motion to compel an additional medical examination in this case. Judgment was therefore reversed and the matter remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Hicks v. USAA General Indemnity Co., et al." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals certified a question of law to the Louisiana Supreme Court in Doe v. Mckesson, 2 F.4th 502 (5th Cir. 2021) (per curiam). The plaintiff in this personal injury case named as defendants the Black Lives Matter (“BLM”) organization1 and DeRay Mckesson (alleged to be a leader and co- founder of BLM). The plaintiff alleges that he was a duly commissioned police officer for the City of Baton Rouge on July 9, 2016, when he was ordered to respond to a protest “staged and organized by” BLM and DeRay Mckesson, which was in response to the July 5, 2016 death of Alton Sterling, who was shot by a Baton Rouge police officer when Sterling resisted arrest. The issues raised by the Fifth Circuit were: (1) whether Louisiana law recognized a duty, under the facts alleged in the complaint, or otherwise, not to negligently precipitate the crime of a third party; (2) assuming Mckesson could otherwise be held liable for a breach of duty owed to Officer Doe, whether Louisiana’s Professional Rescuer’s Doctrine barred recovery under the facts alleged in the complaint. The Court answered the former in the affirmative and the latter in the negative. View "Doe v. McKesson et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Calvin and Mary Landry filed a petition for damages, alleging they suffered injuries arising out of an automobile collision. Plaintiffs brought the action against defendant-driver Riyad Shaibi, his insurer Financial Indemnity Company (“Financial”), and Progressive Security Insurance Company (“Progressive”), as the insurer of the 2008 Toyota Sienna that Shaibi was driving at the time of the collision. Shaibi was bringing the 2008 Toyota Sienna to a tire shop to repair a flat tire as a favor to its owner, Aziz Ali. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review of this matter to address whether the court of appeal erred in finding public policy mandated liability coverage by a defendant driver’s automobile insurance policy for an accident occurring while operating a non-owned automobile. Under the narrow facts presented, the Court found neither statutory law nor public policy considerations required automobile insurance liability coverage related to a defendant driver’s negligent operation of a non-owned vehicle. Accordingly, the Court reversed the court of appeal and reinstated the ruling of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant insurer. View "Landry v. Progressive Security Ins. Co., et al." on Justia Law

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In September 2015, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played the New Orleans Saints in the New Orleans Superdome. In preparation for the game, the Buccaneers’ Director of Football Security Operations contacted the New Orleans Police Department (“NOPD”) to request motorcycle escorts, by off-duty law enforcement for officers, for the team’s buses traveling in the New Orleans area, which were to include an escort after the game when the team buses would travel from the Superdome to the airport. NOPD agreed to provide the necessary off-duty officers, along with officers from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office (“JPSO”), for the Buccaneer team buses. At issue on the motion for summary judgment filed in this case was whether the Buccaneers football organization was vicariously liable, as an employer, for the alleged negligence of an off-duty Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputy, who was part of the motorcycle escort for the team’s buses, when the motorcycle the deputy was riding collided with another deputy directing traffic on foot in an intersection. The Louisiana Supreme Court held that the unrebutted evidence presented by defendants moving for summary judgment showed there was no employee-employer relationship between the deputy sheriff and the Buccaneers under the facts and circumstances of this case; therefore, the Court reversed the denial of the Buccaneers’ motion for summary judgment and remanded to the district court for entry of a summary judgment in favor of defendants. View "Bolden v. Tisdale et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Cindy Planchard, filed suit against defendant, the New Hotel Monteleone, LLC. Plaintiff alleged that as she crossed the lobby of defendant’s hotel, she slipped on a foreign substance on the marble floor and fell, sustaining an injury. After discovery, defendant moved for summary judgment, relying on a surveillance video of the accident. The video showed a hotel employee dry mopping the lobby area at 8:36 p.m., approximately three minutes before plaintiff’s accident. Two “wet floor” signs are in place in the area. At 8:37 p.m., approximately one minute before plaintiff’s fall, two more “wet floor” signs were added to the area, and an employee continued to dry mop the area. Plaintiff was then seen to fall at 8:38 p.m. Defendant also submitted plaintiff’s deposition testimony. In her deposition, plaintiff acknowledged seeing the signs. Plaintiff also testified she “had to walk around” the signs because there “was no other path to the front door.” As a result, plaintiff stated she “walked to the side of the signs to get to the front door.” Plaintiff opposed defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Relying on her deposition testimony, plaintiff did not dispute that she saw the signs, but asserted that she thought they were “chalkboard” and did not read them. Plaintiff introduced pictures of the signs showing they did not have the traditional bright orange or yellow appearance, but were made of wood and brass. The district court denied the hotel's motion, concluding there were questions of fact concerning the “reasonableness on the part of the defendant” based on the visibility of the signs. The Louisiana Supreme Court reversed, finding that the undisputed evidence established plaintiff saw the warning signs in the area prior to her fall. "Any failure of plaintiff to read these signs was a product of her own inattentiveness and not a result of the defendant’s failure to take reasonable precautions." View "Blanchard v. New Hotel Monteleone, LLC." on Justia Law

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In 2015, Dr. Robert Easton performed a left total hip arthroplasty on Mrs. Cheryl Mitchell, who had dislocated her hip. Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Mitchell re-dislocated her hip and Dr. Easton performed a revision surgery. While Mrs. Mitchell was in the recovery room, Dr. Easton observed that she had "foot drop;" Dr. Easton performed a second surgery that same day. During the surgery, he discovered that Mrs. Mitchell’s sciatic nerve had been lacerated. Dr. Easton advised Mrs. Mitchell’s family of the situation and consulted with Dr. Rasheed Ahmad, a hand surgeon who handled nerve repairs for Dr. Easton’s medical group. Dr. Easton further advised Mrs. Mitchell that “time would tell how much, if any, function and sensory perception she would get back.” Unfortunately, Mrs. Mitchell’s foot drop never improved and she was left with sciatic nerve palsy. In 2017, Mrs. Mitchell and her husband Michael, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Easton, his employer, the Baton Rouge Orthopaedic Clinic, L.L.C., and their insurers, Physician Assurance SPC. Defendants filed a peremptory exception of prescription, which the trial court granted, dismissing the action. The court of appeal affirmed, reasoning that, although Mrs. Mitchell continued to treat with Dr. Easton for more than a year after the alleged act of malpractice, that treatment was unrelated to the alleged act of malpractice. The Louisiana Supreme Court found no question the Mitchells, knew of the alleged act of malpractice within a day of its occurrence. "It is equally certain that suit was not filed against the treating physician, Dr. Robert Easton, within a year of the alleged malpractice. ... The sole issue, therefore, is whether prescription was suspended during this time period pursuant to the continuing treatment rule." The Court determined the record supported the lower courts' determinations that Mrs. Mitchell did not receive any specific care from Dr. Easton designed to correct or otherwise treat the injury related to the alleged act of malpractice. Even had Mrs. Mitchell received continuing treatment of her injury, the Court did not find Dr. Easton’s statements regarding her questionable prognosis to fall within the scope of the continuing treatment rule. Accordingly, under the specific circumstances of this case, the Supreme Court found the continuing treatment exception of contra non valentem did not apply to suspend prescription in this case, and affirmed the judgments below. View "Mitchell v. Baton Rouge Orthopedic Clinic, LLC et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Anne Marie Auricchio and Patrick Hogan, and defendant Lynleigh Harriston, owned neighboring properties. Harriston’s brother lived in a rental apartment on her property. Plaintiffs sued Harriston, contending she refused to stop her brother’s drug use on the property, which interfered with the peaceable use of Plaintiffs’ property. Ultimately, Plaintiffs claimed they moved due to the drug activities. Plaintiffs then moved for summary judgment, asserting no genuine issues of material fact existed with regard to the following: Harriston invited her brother to live in the apartment despite having full knowledge he was a drug addict who had been repeatedly incarcerated for heroin use, that the brother’s occupancy and drug activity was causing harm to Plaintiffs, and that Harriston did nothing to prevent or eliminate the harm. Harriston moved for a continuance and, alternatively, a motion to file opposition evidence after the Article 966(B)(2) fifteen-day deadline. Harriston’s motion explained her counsel had “some difficulties with COVID-19.” Ten days before the hearing, Harriston filed an opposition to the summary judgment motion. Plaintiffs opposed both the motion for continuance and the motion for leave to file the late opposition. The trial court denied the motion to continue, but allowed the late opposition. The motion for summary judgment was denied, with the trial court finding the late-filed opposition raised genuine issues of material fact. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari review to resolve a split between the courts of appeal relative to the interpretation of Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure article 966(B)(2). The Court held that, in the absence of consent by the parties, a trial court has no discretion to extend that article’s fifteen-day deadline for filing an opposition. This case was remanded for the trial court to rule on the motion for summary judgment without the late-filed opposition. View "Auricchio v. Harriston" on Justia Law

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In late 2018, plaintiff Teresa Kelleher began to experience pain in her thoracic spine. Plaintiff was ultimately found to have an abscess in her thoracic spine with positive marrow infiltration around the T2 and T3 vertebrae. A 2019 bone biopsy confirmed acute and chronic osteomyelitis (bone infection). Plaintiff alleged she was neurologically intact and ambulatory at that time. Plaintiff’s treating orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Felipe Ramirez, referred her to an infectious disease specialist, Dr. Julio Figueroa, who was affiliated with the LSU-Health Sciences Center-New Orleans, who recommended "prompt" treatment with antibiotics. Plaintiff alleged, however, she was told that defendant University Medical Center Management Corporation d/b/a University Medical Center New Orleans (“UMC”) would contact her to schedule an appointment for treatment at its Infectious Disease (“ID”) Clinic. Having not heard from anyone for several days, she called UMC to inquire about her appointment status and was told to “be patient” because “it was Christmastime.” In January 2019, plaintiff was taken to Touro Infirmary with lower extremity paralysis. Her osteomyelitis had progressed to the point that she lost neurological function of her lower extremity. Despite treatment at Touro, plaintiff was rendered paraplegic due to the progressed osteomyelitis. In August 2019, plaintiff filed a medical malpractice complaint against UMC, Dr. Figueroa, and the State of Louisiana through the Board of Supervisors of the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College and LSU Health Sciences Center-New Orleans (“LSU”). Two months later, plaintiff filed suit in district court against Dr. Figueroa and UMC for, inter alia, “failing to properly train administrative personnel to schedule appointments [and] failing to arrange for the promised prompt appointment for [plaintiff].” Defendants responded with dilatory exceptions of prematurity asserting the claims were not solely “administrative,” and were therefore covered by the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act and had to be submitted to a medical review panel. The trial court, without giving reasons, granted Dr. Figueroa’s and LSU’s exception, but denied UMC’s exception. The Louisiana Supreme Court found plaintiff did not qualify as a “patient” of UMC under the definitions in the Act. The Court therefore affirmed the trial court’s denial of the dilatory exception of prematurity and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "Kelleher v. University Medical Center Management Corp." on Justia Law

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The issue presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court's review in this case arose after plaintiff sued for injuries sustained when a cylinder that formed part of a fire-suppressant system discharged while the plaintiff was moving the cylinder after it had been offloaded from a jack-up boat onto an oil production platform. Specifically, the issues in this case were: (1) whether the company hired to inspect the platform’s fire suppression systems owed a duty of care and, if so, whether it breached that duty; (2) whether the inspection company’s actions were the cause-in-fact and legal cause of the plaintiff’s injuries; (3) whether the inspection company was solely at fault; and (4) whether the general damage awards and the loss of consortium award are excessive. The Supreme Court found the trial court did not err in finding that the inspection company was liable for the plaintiff’s injuries; however, because there were multiple causes of the accident, the trial court manifestly erred in allocating all of the fault to the inspection company. Furthermore, based on the evidence of plaintiff’s injuries, the Supreme Court found the trial court abused its discretion in fixing plaintiff’s general damage awards for physical and psychological injuries and the loss of consortium award of plaintiff’s son. The trial court’s judgment was amended to allocate fault to the operator of the platform and plaintiff ,and to reduce the challenged damage awards. As amended, the trial court’s judgment was affirmed, and the matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Malta v. Herbert S. Hiller Corp. et al." on Justia Law