Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Louisiana Supreme Court
Farrell v. Circle K Stores, Inc. et al.
In July 2019, Plaintiffs Suzanne Farrell and her husband, Joseph Farrell, were traveling to Galveston, Texas, when they stopped to refuel at a Circle K Store in Pineville, Louisiana. While Mr. Farrell pumped gas, Mrs. Farrell decided to take their dog for a walk. She ultimately chose a grassy area located at the edge of the Circle K parking lot. In order to reach this area of grass, Mrs. Farrell had to traverse a pool of water. The water extended approximately the length of a tractor-trailer and was draining to the low spot of the parking lot. Mrs. Farrell walked to the narrowest part of the water—approximately one foot across— and attempted to step over the water. She was unsuccessful, and she fell and sustained personal injury. Mr. and Mrs. Farrell subsequently filed this personal injury lawsuit against Circle K and the City of Pineville. Defendants jointly moved for summary judgment, arguing that they were not liable on the ground that the alleged hazardous condition was open and obvious. Plaintiffs opposed the motion, arguing that the hazard was not the pool of water, but the slippery substance hidden in the water, and that made the hazard not open and obvious. The trial court denied Defendants’ motion for summary judgment, finding “that there exist issues of material fact regarding whether a reasonable person should have seen the mold/mildew/algae/slime present in the water puddle at issue.” The Louisiana Supreme Court disagreed with the district court's decision, reversed and rendered judgment in favor of defendants. View "Farrell v. Circle K Stores, Inc. et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Louisiana Supreme Court, Personal Injury
Jones v. Market Basket Stores, Inc.
The district court awarded damages to plaintiff Lashondra Jones who was allegedly injured when she stepped on a wooden pallet with an attached pallet guard, holding a bulk watermelon bin, to reach a watermelon in the bottom of the bin, and the pallet guard collapsed. Defendant Market Basket Stores, Inc. appealed, and the appellate court reversed the award, finding manifest error in the factual findings of the district court requiring de novo review and concluding that the watermelon display did not present an unreasonable risk of harm to plaintiff. After review, the Louisiana Supreme Court concluded there was no manifest error in the district court’s finding of negligence on the part of the defendant; therefore, the appellate court erred in its ruling. View "Jones v. Market Basket Stores, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Civil Procedure, Louisiana Supreme Court, Personal Injury
Tisdale v. Hedrick, et al.
Matthew Morgan, an inmate assigned to the Concordia Parish Correctional Facility and under the supervision of the Sheriff of Concordia Parish, escaped from his trustee work assignment at the Concordia Parish courthouse. Morgan walked to a nearby Wal-Mart parking lot where he attempted to carjack and kidnap Sharon Tisdale. Tisdale was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the incident, and filed suit against Morgan and the Sheriff. Following a trial, the district court found both defendants liable, apportioning 90 percent of the fault to the Sheriff and 10 percent to Morgan. The district court awarded Tisdale $250,000 in general damages. The issue this case presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court's review was whether the district court erred in its apportionment of fault, and whether the court abused its discretion in awarding damages. The Supreme Court determined fault should have been reallocated, decreasing the Sheriff’s fault to 50 percent and increasing Morgan’s fault to 50 percent. However, the Court found no abuse of discretion in the award for general damages. View "Tisdale v. Hedrick, et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Louisiana Supreme Court, Personal Injury
Spencer v. Valero Refining Meraux, LLC
In 2020, an accident, fire, and explosion occurred in the hydrocracker unit at a Valero Refining-Meraux, LLC refinery in Meraux, Louisiana. No significant levels of chemicals were detected as a result of the explosion. Multiple residents in the vicinity of the refinery filed suit for the negligent infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff Brittany Spencer and her two minor children, Chloe LaFrance and Lanny LaFrance III, were at home sleeping when the explosion occurred. Their residence was approximately 2,000 feet from the epicenter of the explosion. Spencer and Chloe were unexpectedly awakened by a loud sound of unknown origin and a significant shockwave and vibration of unknown origin. Lanny was not awakened. The sound and/or shockwave shook Spencer’s bedroom window. Spencer went outside and observed a large flame of the fire coming from the refinery, and the sky was lit up. Almost immediately after the explosion, Spencer began to hear police vehicles, fire trucks, and ambulances as part of the emergency response that lasted for several hours. Spencer went back inside, and she and Chloe went back to sleep. On the morning of the explosion, Spencer and her children left their residence out of an abundance of caution and did not return until two days later. Spencer eventually returned to her normal sleep schedule, albeit with some trouble; she did not allow her children to play outside due to concerns for their safety. Thereafter, Spencer and her children began staying at their residence less and later moved away from the refinery in June 2020. Spencer, individually and on behalf of her minor children, and Lanny LaFrance, Jr. on behalf of his minor children, filed suit against Valero alleging damages for emotional distress, but did not allege physical injury, property damage, or financial loss. Valero appealed when a trial court awarded damages to plaintiffs for negligent infliction of emotional distress. The Louisiana Supreme Court found no Plaintiff met their burden of proving they were entitled to such an award, and reversed the trial court. View "Spencer v. Valero Refining Meraux, LLC" on Justia Law
Berkeley Assurance Co. v. Willis, et al.
This dispute over UM coverage arose from a motor vehicle accident wherein an uninsured motorist struck and killed Macy Lee Alvey, III, who was in the course and scope of his employment with Rony’s Towing & Recovery, LLC (“Rony’s Towing”). The Louisiana Supreme Court granted this writ to determine whether the failure to include the insurer’s name on an uninsured/underinsured motorist (“UM”) coverage selection form rendered it invalid. Because inclusion of the insurer’s name was an express requirement on the face of the UM form itself, the Supreme Court agreed with the court of appeal that the failure to include such information resulted in an invalid waiver of coverage. View "Berkeley Assurance Co. v. Willis, et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Contracts, Insurance Law, Louisiana Supreme Court, Personal Injury
George v. Progressive Waste Solutions of Louisiana, et al.
Plaintiff Walter George was standing at the roadside of his home in Houma, Louisiana, at the same time defendant Progressive Waste Solutions of La., Inc. (“Progressive”) was picking up garbage on plaintiff’s street. While plaintiff was picking remnants of garbage left behind, he was struck by the hydraulic arm of a garbage truck and sustained injuries. Plaintiff and his wife Janie petitioned for damages against Progressive and ABC Insurance Company. Champion Medical Center entered into a “Professional Service Agreement” (“agreement”) with Ascendant Healthcare (“company”), which identified itself in this agreement as being in “the business of arranging for the provision of professional medical services to persons whose health care costs are paid by liability insurance companies and/or attorneys that enter into arrangements with [Ascendant] for the provision of such services....” The agreement also stated that “[p]rovider agrees and hereby appoints Company as its agent for purposes of filing a medical lien for the services rendered by Provider. Plaintiff’s former counsel at the law firm of Spagnoletti & Company executed a “Letter of Guaranty and Protection.” The document, signed by Marcus Spagnoletti only, identified “the undersigned attorney and law firm” as the “GUARANTOR,” “ASCENDANT HEALTHCARE, LLC” as the “Company,” and the patient as Walter George (who received medical treatment resulting from an “ACCIDENT” in 2015). After the parties engaged in initial discovery, defendant Progressive filed a Motion in Limine on March 10, 2020, seeking to exclude or strike the medical bills related to plaintiff’s surgery and charged to Ascendant Healthcare. Defendant asserted the collateral source rule did not apply for these charges because they were "simply amounts charged," and plaintiff has not diminished his patrimony in order to receive his medical care. The motion was ultimately granted, but the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed. "In the absence of any evidence that plaintiff is not liable for the full billed medical charges in this matter, defendant cannot benefit from any reduction as a result of the subject medical factoring agreement." The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "George v. Progressive Waste Solutions of Louisiana, et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Louisiana Supreme Court, Personal Injury
Carollo v. Louisiana Dept. of Transportation & Development
Certiorari was granted in this case to resolve a split in the decisions of the Louisiana courts of appeal regarding the relationship between La. C.C.P. art. 425 and the res judicata statutes, La. R.S. 13:4231 and 13:4232. Particularly, the Supreme Court considered whether Article 425 was an independent claim preclusion provision apart from res judicata such that identity of parties was not required to preclude a subsequent suit, or whether Article 425 merely referenced the requirements of res judicata and thus a claim could not be precluded unless it was between the same parties as a prior suit. After reviewing the law and the arguments of the parties, the Louisiana Supreme Court found Article 425 functioned simply as a measure that put litigants on notice at the outset and, during the course of litigation, all causes of action arising out of the transaction or occurrence that is the subject matter of the litigation must be asserted. "Rather than have independent enforcement effect, Article 425 operates in tandem with and is enforced through the exception of res judicata. Because Article 425 is enforced through res judicata, all elements of res judicata–including identity of parties–must be satisfied for a second suit to be precluded." View "Carollo v. Louisiana Dept. of Transportation & Development" on Justia Law
Kazan et al. v. Red Lion Hotels Corporation, et al.
Lia Kazan (“Lia”) visited an Alexandria, Louisiana motel to meet some friends. During the course of her visit, she went went to the motel parking lot to retrieve something from her vehicle. Anthony Murray, another motel guest, exited his room and approached the vehicle with Lia inside. Audio from the camera footage recorded Lia screaming “stop,” “no,” and calling for help accompanied by repeated honking of the vehicle’s horn. Murray then started the ignition and, with Lia in the passenger seat, reversed out of the parking lot onto the service road. The vehicle was later found submerged in Lake Dubuisson – the bodies of Murray and Lia were recovered in the water. Lia’s death was classified as a homicidal drowning. Ali Kazan and Ebony Medlin filed suit, individually, and on behalf of their daughter, Lia (collectively “Plaintiffs”) against several parties, including the motel’s owner, Vitthal, LLC, and its insurer, Great Lakes Insurance Company SE (“Great Lakes”), seeking damages for Lia’s kidnapping and death. In response, Great Lakes filed a petition for declaratory judgment averring it had no obligation under the operable commercial general liability policy (“the CGL Policy”) to defend or indemnify the other defendants. Great Lakes moved for summary judgment on its petition arguing the CGL Policy contained an exclusion – specifically defining “assault,” “battery,” and “physical altercation” – which barred coverage for Lia’s kidnapping and death. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review in this case to determine whether an insurance policy, by its own terms, excluded coverage for damages arising from a kidnapping resulting in death. The Court found the clear and unambiguous language of the relevant policy exclusion barred coverage. View "Kazan et al. v. Red Lion Hotels Corporation, et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Insurance Law, Louisiana Supreme Court, Personal Injury
In re: Medical Review Panel of Mason Heath
In 2018, plaintiffs Isiah and Chrishanna Smith filed a medical malpractice suit on behalf of their minor son, Mason Heath. Dr. Robert Russell, Minden Medical Center and staff, and Dr. Cristal Kirby were named defendants. The complaint alleged malpractice in connection with Mason’s circumcision performed by Dr. Russell at Minden Medical Center on August 18, 2015. Dr. Kirby subsequently treated Mason on September 2, 2015 and September 23, 2015. The child experienced complications with the circumcision site. After a second opinion, plaintiffs filed suit against Dr. Russell and the medical center. Dr. Russell and Minden Medical filed an exception of prescription, contending they only rendered care to Mason on August 18, 2015. Because the complaint was filed August 14, 2018, beyond the one-year limitation of Louisiana Revised Statutes 9:5628(A), they argued plaintiffs’ claim was prescribed on the face of the pleadings. Moreover, they urged that plaintiffs continually observed problems with the circumcision site, which required prescription steroid cream, and these facts constituted discovery, triggering prescription more than one year before the August 2018 filing. Dr. Kirby filed a separate exception of prescription. She asserted September 23, 2015 was her last contact with Mason; thus, the suit filed August 14, 2018 was prescribed on its face. Plaintiffs challenged the lower courts' ruling that their claim was prescribed. The Louisiana Supreme Court reversed, finding "plaintiffs did not sleep on their rights. They persistently cared for their child by bringing him to wellness visits and asking questions to ensure the circumcision site was properly healing. ... medical professionals assuaged their concerns and a reasonable explanation of post-circumcision healing existed. Plaintiffs filed their complaint within one year of discovery and within three years of the alleged act, omission, or neglect, making their claim timely pursuant to Louisiana Revised Statutes 9:5628(A). We reverse the granting of the exception of prescription." View "In re: Medical Review Panel of Mason Heath" on Justia Law
Martin v. Thomas et al.
Plaintiff Reginald Martin named truck driver Rodney Thomas, his employer Greer Logging, LLC, and its insurer National Liability and Fire Insurance Company as defendants in this personal injury case. Plaintiff alleged he and defendant Thomas were involved in a collision: Thomas was operating a 2016 Peterbilt tractor truck owned by Greer Logging and was backing into a driveway. Plaintiff alleged that following the accident he suffered from several injuries including head/facial contusions, multiple broken ribs, a fractured sternum, an open fracture of the tibial plateau, an open comminuted fracture of his left patella, and open wounds of the left leg, knee, and ankle. At issue in this motion for partial summary judgment was whether a plaintiff could pursue both a negligence cause of action against an employee for which the employer was vicariously liable, and a direct claim against the employer for its own negligence in hiring, supervision, training, and retention as well as a negligent entrustment claim, when the employer stipulated that the employee was in the course and scope of employment at the time of the injury. The Louisiana Supreme Court held that a plaintiff could maintain both claims even if the employer has stipulated to the course and scope of employment. The Court therefore reversed the partial summary judgment in favor of the employer which dismissed the claims asserted directly against it, and remanded to the district court. View "Martin v. Thomas et al." on Justia Law